Future Retro Revolution

Future-Retro has announced that The Revolution, an innovative new analog synthesizer, is now in production.

Future Retro RevolutionThe Revolution is Future-Retro’s latest “concept synthesizer”. Future-Retro is best known for its killer 777 synthesizer.

According to FR’s Jered Flickinger, The Revolution provides “an intuitive interface which we feel most accurately represents the principles of time and music. From ancient sundials to modern day analog clocks, time has been represented as the circle, a cycle which never ends. For time itself is nothing more than our perception of the revolution of planets as they journey through their celestial orbit. It is this motion we call time which can be measured, divided, and arranged to provide the foundation of music. This circular cyclic theme can furthermore be found throughout music in everything from song structure, and repeating rhythms, to the fundamentals of sound itself, being the sin wave. With this understanding we must conclude that music is cyclic, and should so be represented in its natural form.”

Flickinger had more to say about the new synth in his recent interview with Synthtopia.

“I had been studying the natural patterns which occur in numbers, and the ways in which patterns can affect patterns to generate more patterns. I adapted this process to create the Remix feature found in the Revolution which will provide 256 variations for each pattern a user creates. Interestingly enough, the selection of steps generated by each remix creates symmetrical geometric patterns when the circular layout is used.”

The Revolution

A true analog monophonic synthesizer with an easy to use step-based digital sequencer, analog and DSP effects processing, and various interfacing for controlling MIDI, CV/Gate, and Din Sync devices.

The unit is housed in a rugged aluminum chassis, with aircraft grade aluminum side panels, white UV finish for superior viewing of controls in black-light environments, and bright blue LEDs all around.

The Sequencer

The sequencers interface is circular, which has several benefits over the traditional linear style step sequencers. Visually it is easier to divide a measure of music into equal parts. It also provides a more intuitive way of displaying patterns playing as cyclic loops, either forwards or reverse, and will help you better understand the underlying geometric symmetries used throughout the Revolution’s Remixing process. This design also allows the user to carry out all sequencing functions with a single hand.

There are 256 recordable patterns available. Each recording note duration, pitch, accent , glide, loop point, time signature, and swing amount. Pattern editing features include copy/paste, pattern shifting, pattern transposing, multiple pattern cueing for chaining patterns together live, and LED chase. In addition, all pattern editing and recording can be done while the sequencer is running, and it will automatically save all your edits so you don’t have to stop creating.

The Revolution also provides the ability to play patterns forwards or backwards, and remotely select patterns to play using MIDI program change messages.

There are 16 songs to arrange the patterns in, each recording its tempo, the bank/pattern for each step, the transposition of each step, and the song’s loop point. Each of the 16 songs contains up to 3580 measures, and multiple songs may be chained together so they play sequentially.

In addition, the Revolution provides a unique Remix feature which provides 256 variations for every pattern and song, for more than 65,000 possible patterns right out of the box.

The analog section…

The Revolution uses true analog synthesis throughout its entire sound engine. Only the DSP effects are digital, and if these are bypassed the signal remains true analog through every stage right to the output. According to Future-Retro, the Revolution is fully capable of the most accurate replication of the original TB303’s sound, and in many ways surpasses its signature liquid tones and capabilities.

The Revolution has a new oscillator design which provides superior note tracking and temperature stability, as well as providing the exact same waveforms found in the original TB303. The revolution also provides the correct 3 pole filter design, gated amplifer, accent and glide circuits which are all crucial to the TB303’s sound. In addition to the original controls of the TB303, the Revolution also has a CV Modulation amount control which allows the filter’s cutoff frequency to track either the internal control voltages generated by the Revolution’s sequencer, or external control voltages may also be applied to modulate the filter.

There is an Accent Decay time control for varying the duration of filter and amplifier modulations by the accent circuit. This control provides everything from tight zap-like accents to much longer sweeps of the filter resulting in a very funky sound. All in all it’s one tricked out acid machine for creating everything from warm deep basses, silky smooth liquid chirps and bleeps, to the more aggressive ripping overdriven lead sounds.

The effects…

The Revolution uses both analog and digital effects to process its sound. The overdrive stage is true analog and can be activated by a switch on the rear panel. The overdrive stage is a dynamic process related directly to the filter’s resonance amount, so that as the resonance is increased, so is the overall gain of the overdrive section. This preserves the shape of the oscillator’s waveform at lower resonance levels instead of just clipping them into a square waveform as a typical distortion stage would. This also provides a much smoother transition from the original bubbly liquid sound, into those ripping lead sounds more common in todays electronic music.

The DSP section provides true 24 bit stereo effects processing, arranged as 16 preset effect which include: chorus/room1 and 2, delay 1 and 2, chorus, flange, plates 1, 2 and 3, rooms 1, 2, and 3, halls 1 and 2, rotary speaker, and a low pass muffler. In addition, wet/dry controls are provided for both left and right output channels. These controls can be used to help place the sound within the stereo field, or create two different mixes of wet/dry amount.


Though the Revolution’s analog signal is mono, the DSP effects provide movement through the stereo sound field, and there is a stereo master output, as well as a stereo headphone output using standard 1/4″ jacks.

Also provided are separate 1/4″ jacks for both CV out (1v/oct standard), and Gate out (positive type, 0 to +12v) for playing other analog equipment using the Revolution’s sequencer. Or if you prefer, the Revolution can act as a MIDI to CV converter when it is not playing its internal patterns.

1/4″ jacks are also provided for CV in to modulate the filter’s cutoff frequency with external control voltages, and Audio in for processing external sounds through the Revolutions filter, amplifier, overdrive and DSP effects sections. The Audio in jack can sum the external signal with the internal oscillators, or completely override the oscillator signal so that just the external sound is processed.

Here’s where things get even more interesting… by connecting these outputs and inputs in various ways other sounds are possible without any additional equipment. For instance you can route the signal from the headphone output back to modulate the filter’s cutoff for some unusual self modulation effects. Or route the output back into the Audio input, which can produce everything from self resonant sounds, to bizarre feedback loops, and remember the effects section are included in this processing chain.

MIDI In/Thru/Out are all provided for syncing playback with external sequencers, playing MIDI sound modules, or having external sequencers or MIDI keyboard controllers play the Revolution’s analog section.

Din Sync out is included for syncing up the playback of the early Roland TR and TB type devices to todays MIDI sequencers.

The Revolution has a list price of $650, and is available through the Future-Retro site.

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