Futuresonus Parva Synthesizer Combines Warmth Of Analog With Digital Convenience


Designer Brad Ferguson let us know about his new synth, the Futuresonus Parva, a polyphonic analog synthesizer that he says ‘combines the classic warmth of an all-analog signal chain with the modern convenience of digital control in an elegantly designed tabletop package’.

Key Features:

  • Eight voice polyphonic synthesizer with flexible voice assignment
  • Three oscillators per voice
  • Flexible dual filters
  • 4 LFOs
  • 100% analog signal path
  • Digital patch management and control
  • USB master port so you can connect USB MIDI controllers directly to it
  • Aluminum case and knobs

“I designed Parva from the ground up with the intention of producing a completely new synth, while still maintaining the character of the classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s,” says Ferguson.


The Futuresonus Parva Synthesizer

Each of Parva’s eight voices features three digitally-controlled analog oscillators, producing sawtooth, triangle, and PWM waveforms with accurate pitch and tuning stability.

A pair of two-pole state-variable filters can be configured for a 12dB or 24dB low-pass or high-pass response, or split for bandpass or notch filtering. Four four-stage envelope generators and four multi-waveform low-frequency oscillators feed a flexible modulation matrix, allowing for virtually limitless sound design options.

Here are official audio demos:

Parva is the first analog synthesizer to feature a USB Master port, which lets you connect any class-compliant USB MIDI keyboard — or other controller — directly, without the need for a computer. Analog potentiometers provide immediate access to the most commonly used parameters, while an OLED display on the front panel show additional settings, making it simple to dial in patches.

The design features an aluminum enclosure and custom-machined aluminum knobs on panel-mounted potentiometers,

Pricing and Availability

Parva is expected to ship in Summer 2015. Pre-orders will begin in February, with the standard polyphonic Parva retailing for under $1000. An expandable monophonic version will also be available for under $500.

43 thoughts on “Futuresonus Parva Synthesizer Combines Warmth Of Analog With Digital Convenience

  1. A 3-oscillator, 8-voice analog poly with 2 filters for under $1000? Alarms are ringing inside my head. Something’s just not sitting right with me. I will reserve judgment until I have further information.

  2. There are some pics on the guy’s facebook page. I like the fact that he’s using 8 fully stuffed voice cards controlled by a digital motherboard – at least that’s what it looks like to me. Probably having 8 identical PCBs in his machine will bring the costs down but I’m still not trusting that low price…

  3. Electronics are cheap, nowadays.

    This guy is keeping things affordable by putting it in a small, straightforward module.

    Looks like a nice design. I want to hear some more demos, but so far this looks sweet!

  4. sounds good on paper, but the demos sound pretty flat and uninspiring to me. my virus TI snow can do these kinds of sounds without breaking a sweat, and a whole lot more.

  5. Three oscillator poly for less than $1K? Bring it on… please… no really, *please*… Whilst I gladly concede that a little more imagination could have gone into the demo sounds, I’ll wait to see the real thing in music stores before I get too excited. This could be something in which I’d be really interested.

  6. The specs are totally amazing. The sound demo I am skeptical of and sounds sort of dull. 8 oscillators at 3 oscillators per voice is 24 analog oscillators and 16 analog filters for $1000 in a small box! Maybe possible using new analog chip technology no one else knows about. Or perhaps it’s a digital mock up and the designer is engaging in wishful thinking. Like desktop cold fusion power generators, we’ll have to wait and see what can actually be demonstrated to and examined by third parties before deciding what is actually happening here. To my ears the filters in the demos do not sound analog.

  7. Based on the demos, this thing sounds dull and flat. Can’t hear the 3 VCOs per voice nor the “flexible” filters, sorry. And the price tag smells fishy. I’d love to be wrong

    1. It’s not VCO’s, it’s DCO’s, hence the stable tuning.

      It does not drift like a Juno 106, but I think it is still clear that the signal patch is all analog. You don’t get that sharp, punchy (for lack of better words) sound from a VA.

      1. “It’s DCOs.”

        I see. I was misled by the “All analog signal chain” description, which I personally would not ascribe to a synth with digital oscillators. But good to know that my Prophet VS has an “all analog signal chain” since it also has digital oscillators feeding analog filters. It wasn’t considered to have an all analog signal chain before, but times they are changing.

          1. It’s quite fair to say it’s got digital oscillators, and control signals, with a two stage analog filter per voice.

            It’s not accurate to say it’s an “all analog signal chain”, or “100% analog signal path”. It’s also misleading. It’s actually fraudulent to make this claim in an advertising context since the oscillators are certainly part of the signal chain.

            1. A DCO isn’t the exact same as a digital oscillator. Like in the Roland Juno-106, these would use a reference clock to keep the frequency stable. “A DCO can be considered as a VCO that is synchronised to an external frequency reference. ” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitally_controlled_oscillator#Operation). I think everyone considers the 106 an analog polysynth (albeit without VCOs).

              From my understanding a Prophet VS uses completely digital oscillators, with an analog signal path after this point. In this case I would also agree that a Prophet VS does not contain an all analog signal chain.

              1. If it’s an analog oscillator it doesn’t matter if it’s Voltage Controlled (VCO) or Digitally Controlled (DCO). It’s still an analog oscillator. Check the website.

              2. Hi zeitpolizei, you are correct and I was wrong. Thank you. I withdraw my previous comment. I do have a 106 and what it calls DCOs are indeed analog oscillators with digitally generated control signals. The Parva site does show it has 3 discrete analog oscillators per voice, so it does have a 100% analog signal chain, as the 106 does.

        1. DCO’s are not digital oscillators. They are analogue oscillators which are digitally controlled to provide accurate tuning. Same as Juno 60/106.

        2. A DCO outputs an analog waveform. The “digitally controlled” part is a series of timing pulses usually generated by a digital counter IC or microcontroller. The timing pulses are used to generate an analog ramp (sawtooth, in other words). A separate analog current is applied to the circuit to control the ramp rate.

          Once you have a ramp, it’s trivial to generate a square or variable pulse wave.

          DCOs have a bad reputation for two reasons: 1. Polyphonic DCO based systems in the 1980s used synchronized clock pulses, which resulted in inferior sound to free-running VCOs, and 2. Companies like Casio started using the term DCO to refer to digital oscillators – an error.

          1. This is a great explanation. I would say there does seem to be a difference in sound though. I wonder, is it just that the oscillators are not “discrete”? Or is it something about the digital control that makes them kind of… “Aliased” sounding? For instance, my Tetra sounds great, but there is still something slightly missing in the sound compared to the raw oscillators of my analogs (voyager, odyssey, cs-15)

            1. There are a couple of things that can cause a DCO to sound sterile.

              1. Because it’s digitally clocked, a DCO’s tuning will always be precise and remains exactly in tune across many octaves. Analog oscillators will drift and don’t track perfectly.

              2. Your Tetra probably uses the same timing source for each oscillator voice. An analog VCO will retrigger completely independently. Whether that makes an audible difference is something that would have to be tested in the lab.

              3. As a DCO’s pitch increases, the slope of the sawtooth waveform it generates also has to increase. The control voltage used to generate the slope may be created using an 8- or 12-bit DAC that doesn’t have sufficient precision to generate a perfect ramp wave across a five or six octave range.

              4. The trigger timing pulses used to drive the DCO may suffer from clock jitter that *might* be perceptible as a slight shimmer.

              The reality is that a well-designed DCO can sound fantastic, while a poorly designed VCO won’t.

              1. interesting thanks. I suppose, then, it probably mostly has to do with the overall design of the circuit rather than whether it’s Digitally controlled or not.

  8. Prophet 08 module is 1500 bucks, but has over 50 knobs for direct tweaking and a decent step sequencer on board….so people would still need to think about it at that price, and the sound demos currently posted don’t make me want to rush out and buy it……

    800 bucks price point is realy needed to shake thinks up…..

  9. Wow, so many negative thoughts already in the reply thread.

    The project is already there, case, knobs, PCB has already been designed, all the data is on the site, so I think they have a pretty good idea of the cost.

    I, for one, am stoked about this. 8 voices for around 1000$, that’s insane!

  10. He should loan me a module to play with for a week. I’ll make him some nice demos.

    It would be great if this was multi-timbral. Given that it’s using individual voice boards, it should be possible.

  11. Funny how everybody’s idea of price/cost is blow out of proportion due to retailers and distributors charging thier 2 or 300% markup.

    1. A typical distributor markup is 10-15%. For that, the distributor handles shipments and returns and works as the main point of contact for dealers. The dealers usually purchase for 40%-50% off the MSRP, but will often discount their price by 10-15% (how much they’re allowed to discount is governed by the MAP – the minimum advertised price that a dealer will allow you to publish in print or on the internet).

      There are no 200-300% dealer markups in this industry. Support your local stores that bring in new instruments for you to try out in the store, and don’t try to nickel and dime them.

  12. I’m with the people unimpressed by the actual sound. Some kind of “slop” would be nice, though the LFOs may do the trick if they’re independent per voice. Filter seems decent on the pad example.

    Also, some kind of oscillator interaction, like sync, ring, cross modulation, whatever to make it achieve more than the simplest of waveforms, please. (edit: website says there’s hard sync and filter FM, cool)

  13. I, for one, am really excited about this! Kudos to this apparently smaller US-based studio for creating a (hopefully) solid synth for a reasonable price. I think the module itself looks B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L . . . LOVE the OLED displays! Love the idea of being able to use a USB MIDI controller directly with the unit!

    I’m curious about many things: I hope the knobs are solid, I hope the sounds are flexible. I wonder if we can control things like pulsewidth, etc. Interesting to see there are 4(FOUR!) LFOs . . . 4(FOUR!) Envelopes . . . the website mentions they’re each routable to >40 destinations, and the blog mentions a modulation matrix . . . I wonder how that works and hope it’s easy to edit via the top panel. It’d be a shame if we have to run this thing through a VST editor to open up the routing.

    Their blog mentions syncable oscillators and Filter FM . . . I wonder if one of the three DCOs can be routed to modulation like a MiniMoog.

    I have to say, even with all the questions, I’m much more excited about this than anything I saw come out of NAAM

  14. 1000$ ? Want to know how this is possible?
    The box looks amazing, minimal design… i like this very much…
    is the filtertopology only a parallel-design or is it possible to arange them serial

    the only thing which breaks my mind will be the pricing in europe…. in my country i have to calculate >30% extra at the customs

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