The John Bowen Solaris Synthesizer

Saturday Synth Porn: Here’s a look at the John Bowen Solaris synthesizer – a sampling of the factory presets and some of the range of the synth.


The John Bowen Solaris offers accurate models of the components of vintage synthesizers, which can be mixed and matched to create new combinations:

Do you want to have the sounds of a vintage Prophet 5, Rev. 3 or go for a completely unique Prophet 5 with the CEM oscillators but the earlier SSM filters? How about trying out completely different, unheard of combinations like the digital waveforms from a Prophet VS routed through that Oberheim state variable filter or the digital PPG wavetable sweeps feeding into those warm MiniMoog filters? With the Solaris synthesizer, you really can have it your way.


  • 4 Oscillators, each with several types available:
  • MultiMode, WaveTable, CEM, WAV (sample playback),
  • VS (single cycle waves), Mini
  • 4 Filters, each with selectable Inputs. Filter types are:
  • MultiMode Lowpass, 24, 18, 12, 6 dB, Highpass 24, 18, 12, 6 dB, Bandpass 24 dB, Comb (2 types), State Variable 12 dB LP, HP, BP, & BR,SSM Lowpass 24 dB , Mini (Ladder) Lowpass 24 dB, Vocal Formant
  • 2 Vector Mixers, 2 Rotors (special 4-step waveshape sequences),
  • 2 AM sections (includes Ring Mod)
  • 6 DADSRs, 1 8-stage loopable envelope
  • 4 free LFOs, 1 Vibrato LFO. Each LFO features delayed start,
  • fade in and fade out times, key sync and Phase control
  • Phaser, Chorus/Flanger, Phaser, Delay, 3-band EQ effects

Video via zibbybone.

11 thoughts on “The John Bowen Solaris Synthesizer

  1. Oh goodness me. *fans self* I didn’t realise it would sound so, dare I say it, digital.
    And I mean that in the best possible sense of the term. The patches have that sort of 80s-style overly bright character to them, and I absolutely love that. I’m pretty sure I just heard my credit card cry out and beg for mercy pre-emptively.

  2. By now, we all pretty well know that the Solaris is the result of John’s entire synth-life and it shows, with bells on. I find the formant aspects especially intriguing. But… this is the first time I’ve seen someone play the ribbon right above the keyboard. I’m not big on numerous little boxes strung together, but an INTEGRATED alternate controller like this? I could get behind assigning that in various ways, because the base operation is consistent with the platform. Whether or not I am clever enough to make full use of a Solaris is another debate.

    1. The Origin is mainly a mix-&-match collection of vintage modules. They did a good job of it, but the Solaris is a lot more. There’s very little that compares with features like the assignable rotors. Don’t lose track of it being a boutique synth that’s really a colossal modular under the hood.

  3. This is from the Description of the Arturia Origin from Arturias website

    Create your own synthesis patch by connecting independent modules. These modules are either innovative modules we introduced (such as Galaxy) or taken from the best synthesizers ever made (such as the Moog Modular, the Yamaha CS-80, the Roland Jupiter-8, the Minimoog, the ARP 2600, the Oberheim SEM, the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and Prophet VS).

  4. Nice video on the Solaris. I received one of the very first Solaris keyboards and have found it fits, and distinguishes itself, extremely well in my already very crowded studio. I have the Arturia Origin Keyboard, as well. It’s fine, certainly decent models of the pieces it’s made to emulate – not to the point it’d ever replace the real thing, but a bunch of good approximations in a single keyboard). That said, its nowhere in the ballpark of the Solaris for clarity, power under the hood (the Solaris responds smoothly, the Origin is a little slow on the uptake when programming); In the studio, on the poly analog side (will forgo getting into mono synths), for direct comparison, I also have a bunch of popular-with-clients synths : Roland (MKS 10-80, Jupiter 4/6/8, Juno 60/106, Alpha Juno, etc.) , Sequential (P5, PVS, P10, T8), Elka Synthex, Oberheim OBXa/OB8/Xpander/M12/OBMx, all of the DSI pieces including P12, Andromeda, Moog Source/Memorymoog, ARP Omni/Quadra/Solina, PPG Wave 2.2/2.3, a bunch ARP/Rhodes Chromas and Polaris, Marion MSR2, and very near every VA made since the NL1/JP8000, as well as lot of other cool programmer’s synths like the Hartmann Neuron, Z1, K5000S, Microwaves, etc. – not to get into software – and in my opinion the Solaris is 1) just about as complete a synth as you could hope for in a hardware box 2) the Analog Models the oscillators are using are absolutely spot-on and 3) the digital stuff is killer, as well. As nice as the Arturia is, I don’t feel compelled to use it in many situations given the real pieces are right there next to it – only when Im in a hurry and am under deadline and need to lay down some approximations without running around the room. The Solaris is the first piece in many years that Ive been able to sit in front of, program for hours, get truly unique sounds from, and never feel like Ive gotten to a place where Ive learned “the sound” of the instrument. Obviously, that’s a big part of the attraction – varying oscillator models beyond the discreet single type offering in most pieces, varying filter models, etc. True, they’re not “real”, butits the end resukt that matters. The rotors are an insanely useful tool, and given the fact it is essentially a modular synth in a discreet hardware box with 10 (or more) voice polyphony, I don’t know any other single synth that can come close. I love all the various keys that I have for their own reasons, but I haven’t fallen in love with a new synth in years (since the Andromeda, and that was never quite complete/debugged). It’s VA, and as such, many people feel it’s too expensive, but once you have one and start working on it, Ive found it was money well spent, much much much more so than the Arturia Origin. I really am enjoying my Prophet 12 as well (can let go of the mass of Dave Smith pieces I have currently – they probably won’t get much use) but, it doesn’t directly compare with the Solaris. If I had to choose only one, well, …

  5. >> The Solaris is the first piece in many years that Ive been able to sit in front of, program for hours, get truly unique sounds from, and never feel like Ive gotten to a place where Ive learned “the sound” of the instrument. << (J. Lewis)

    That's just how I feel about the Origin. Programming it is a dream…fluid workflow, no slowness on the uptake whatsoever. It is a true modular VA synth. The workflow on the Origin is so good that I can have a very complex 20-module patch wired together in about 30 minutes. And you can have four different 20-module patches going on at the same time…

    The thing is the Origin is so deep that most of the dismissive comments (and unfortunately there seem to be many in various forums) come from a place of not having spent enough time delving into its programming. Most of the factory sounds don't do it justice. In my opinion "enough time" on the Origin is way more than other synths. I've spent around 300 hours programming the Origin and as you would expect with a true modular, the possibilities are so vast that there still are years of exploring. That said I would love to also own a Bowen Solaris, I start drooling every time I see or hear one online…

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