M-Audio Venom Review – A ‘Dirty Little Synth’

Sonic State takes a look at the new M-Audio Venom keyboard synthesizer, and reckons it to be a ‘dirty little synth’.

Their bottom line on the Venom?

Venom certainly has its faults – the average keyboard with no after-touch, the lack of front panel controls, the need to use the not particularly brilliant editor for much of the programming, plus the quite literally show-stopping program change glitches when in multi-mode, mean that for some people this will not be the synth for them.

But – and this really is quite the biggest of buts, its almost all forgivable coz it sounds pretty darned good to me. In a synth of this price, I wouldn’t expect to be getting many ‘in your face’ usable signature sounds, but Venom comes up trumps.

At $499 retail, M-Audio’s ‘dirty little synth’ is going to get a lot of attention.

See Nick’s full take on the M-Audio Venom synthesizer at SonicState.com.

And if you’ve used the M-Audio Venom, let us know if you think it’s a wicked and dirty beast, too.

21 thoughts on “M-Audio Venom Review – A ‘Dirty Little Synth’

  1. Great walk through, Nick's videos are always informative. He's not the first person I've seen that's impressed with the sound of the Venom, but everyone brings up the same interface and key quality issues. Given it's M-Audio and the relatively low price I guess it's to be expected. Too bad they didn't adopt Roland's philosophy with the Gaia interface, the knob resolution on the Venom is great though.
    I think with the low quality keys and the need to use the GUI editor anyway, they should release a desktop version at around $399. I think they'd sell a bunch, I can't be the only one with no more space for full keyboards.

  2. I said before I picked this over the Novation Ultranova and I am still happy a week or so later.

    I totally agree with Nick on the bottom end. It kicks my Virus TI to the curb as far as bass sounds go.

    It does feel a little cheapish but I love the keyboard! But that is just me.

    You can sell your microkorg and be much more happy with this thing.

  3. I hadn't even thought about it in context to a microkorg. That really puts it in perspective as Venom certainly sounds more than $100 better than the microkorg, and you saved $200 by not going with the Ultranova. Thanks for the Virus TI comparison, wow that says a lot about the Venom.

  4. Bass better than a Virus TI? That is a bold statement.

    I would love to see a desktop model also, room is limited in my studio and seems that the software plays such a major role in the tweaking of sounds due to the lack of hardware controls I think it would be a logical move.

  5. Hhhhhmmmmm…As Shultz from Hogan's Heroes use to say: verrrrrrrrry intrestingk! (OK I'm showing my age here). I have to say Nick is AWESOME-always does a great job-unbiased critique. His authentic enthusiasm sold me as he puts his 'ears' on many a product!

  6. Not really. The virus has never been known for "amazing" bass sounds. My virus always sits really well in the middle of any mix. In the low end it gets buried by anything pretty much.

    I do wish it had more controls. Editing is pretty pointless outside of the software.

  7. Can this do more traditional virtual analog emulation well?

    All the demos I've heard have a metallic edge about them. Great if that's what you want, but I'd be interested in hearing some more meat and potatoes analog sound demos.

  8. I'm curious how this amazing 10~bit filter cutoff reacts to midi which only has 127 points. I mean is the benefit only based on actual knob twists or does it fill in the gaps with midi? Great ideas behind this though. Very innovative with this high resolution and wave based oscillators.

  9. Part 1:

    I'm quite impressed by the Venom and the Vyzex editor. First off, the Venom engine does receive aftertouch. So using it with your DAW or any other MIDI controller, you can utilize aftertouch in your Venom patches. The limitation is that the Venom keybed doesn't transmit aftertouch. I'm sure this helped keep the price down. With the Venom not being my primary keybed, that's not that big of a deal.

    The synth has found it's perfect spot in my keyboard aresenal. And that includes sitting along side of my Virus TI. They compliment each other so well.

  10. Part 2:

    I am very thankful that M-Audio has supplied such a 'thorough' editor with the Venom. There some amazing surprises in the editor that make you tweak in it for hours. Merging 2+ patches to create entirely new patches never heard before. Patch management has been well thought out. The integration is so tight, I forget that I'm not working directly on the face of the Venom. I've used some pretty robust editors before. Vyzex Venom actually ends up being one of the more 'brilliant' synth editors available – even when put up against ones that cost 20% of Venom's purchase price. Midi Quest XL, Access Virus TI Virus Control, Korg's M3 editor, and others.

    The Venom is gonna be one of those classic synths that will be sought after for many years for it's uniqueness. The Venom doesn't seem to be trying to compete with anything out there. It's a Venom.

    Nice job M-Audio & Psicraft. Quite impressed.

  11. I tried one at the guitar center having never heard of the Venom. I kept looking at the speakers and thinking "are these speakers amazing or is it this cute little synth?". I was truly amazed. It blows the virus out except for instant contol and polyphony. But at 500 bucks WHO CARES. I would rather play with this little Bully than a Prophet 08. God forgive me but it's the truth. I love it, truly different and again it's only 500 BUCKS!!!

  12. I got the Venom because, other than my EMX, all I had was a microKORG XL, which was hard to program and I wanted something with more keys (the small size meant it couldn't really do much more than my EMX). The Venom has really good sounds, but 80% of the programming can only be done in the editor (whose workflow is like rush-hour traffic), and I absolutely hate working with soft synths. And the fact that you can't hear the patches in the editor unless you have your Venom plugged in bothers me.

  13. I demo'ed one at the local music store briefly yesterday. Really impressed overall. While there is the "metallic" aspect to the sound, the stock sounds are VERY usable. While it seems a pain in the ass to program, I can only imagine what can be done by those who really delve into the soft side of its interface.

  14. I am only adding more to an already growing number of happy Venom owners. i have a Korg Kronos, a Waldorf blofeld, A Moog Phatty and the Venom and i use the Venom at least as much as anything else. in fact, its usually the first synth i reach for when looking for something to SET ME OFF on a new idea-tangent. its the best CURRENT sounding synth i have tried, It has a quality that other synths dont have…a MEAN SMART ASS quality, editing isnt immediate but its awesome nontheless. WISH LIST……I WISH AVID WOULD RELEASE A 2000 dollar Venom with KNOBS and SLIDERS. i would buy TWO Of them! this thing has BIG BALLS. i was SHOCKED when i sat down at the guitar center and played this cheap looking little toy. WAS I WRONG!!!! it blew me away. i highly recommend it!

  15. what about using this thing for a live show? didnt the guy say there was a glitch with swtiching to a different programme? would this effect playing live atall? im just wondering wether to save up for this BEAST. thanks please reply to my email

  16. I own a M-Audio Venom. It’s my first and only HARDWARE synth. Since I’m a noob, take this with a grain of salt. but… I really like my venom. The sounds are inspiring. The audio interface part didn’t do it for me, but who doesn’t already have an audio interface right? The editor doesn’t work for me all that well either, but, I’m not gonna ever sell my Venom unless I get REALLY desperate. Why?
    Because the Venom inspires me to write new tunes all the time!
    Don’t expect “bread and butter” sounds from the Venom.
    Pretty much all the patches have some amount of distortion.
    I think this synth has a distorted oscillator? (if that makes sense)
    Anyways, if you make any type of Electronic Music, you should at least CONSIDER the Venom.
    I heard Sweetwater sold 3,000 of them for $199 each! Wow!

  17. I too own a Venom from Thomann, Germany at €180. I’m new at the home studio game and at the price I thought why not. Some of my gear is a bit left field. Casio XW-P1, Arturia Keylab 49 and V-Collection, Yamaha DJX PSR-D1 goes nicely with Korg Karma, Roland XP-30, Yamaha S30, Akai miniAK and Roland SH-01 Gaia. They provide essential relief from “same”. Most of my percussion I leave to Arturia’s Spark range of products. Also the Keylab and the Venom are two (four) less inputs to the mixer or the audio interface to worry about, six plus if you include the percussion.

    Forget about the keybed and aftertouch as I can play the Venom from either my master or the Keylab or any number of sources. The Venom is different, nasty or subtle whichever way you want it. The Vyzex Editor can keep me fiddling for hours if I want, or get used to it and it will do the job in minutes.

    I’ve never been too impressed with M-Audio’s hardware but the Venom is a cut above the usual plastics. I’m so impressed that I’m sourcing a second to leave in it’s box in case the first goes west or it does become the classic I expect it will. I’ve seen these second hand NOT selling on E-Bay for £120, but why bother when they can be bought new for £150 or so from Thomann.

    At these prices you would have to be mad not to include it in your armoury of sound, after all sound is what we live on and the Venom has it in spades. Look deeper and it will stare back challenging you to do more with it than you’d think it’s price would say.

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