21 Years Of Novation Synthesizers

Novation is celebrating their 21st anniversary this year and they stopped by Sonic State to talk with Nick Batt about the history of the company’s synths and other gear.

In this video, Novation’s Nick Bookman discusses the history of Novation synthesizers, from the BassStation to the BassStation 2. Along the way, he talks about some of their other devices and showcases a few.

Here’s are some of the product highlights from Novation’s last 21 years:

Novation Milestones

  • 1993 –  Novation Bass Station – offers a pair of digitally-controlled analogue oscillators (DCOs) with pulse and sawtooth waveforms, plus an LFO with random, triangle and sawtooth waveforms. One of the key features is its filter, designed by Chris Huggett (who has been associated with Novation ever since) and based on the unique filter he had designed for the OSCar synthesiser a few years before.
  • 1994 – Bass Station Rack. In addition to changing the form factor, Bass Station Rack added a number of features. Bass Station Rack included dual ADSR envelope shapers, 12/24db per octave filter, oscillator sync, and LFO – all the elements of a traditional analogue synthesiser, but with DCOs for stability. In addition to the ability to store 60 patches, Bass Station Rack included a built-in MIDI/Control Voltage (CV) converter.
  • 1995 to 1996 – DrumStation used Analogue Sound Modelling (ASM), featuring digitally-synthesised models of the original waveforms, which could then be shaped and controlled. DrumStation included all the sounds of the TR808 and its successor the TR909, and the same tone controls for each sound, including tone, attack, decay, tuning, snappiness and distortion (depending on the sound). The unit included DIN sync sockets to synchronise units like the TB303, TR808 and other DrumStations to it. In addition to reproduction and control of the original sounds, DrumStation featured a full MIDI implementation with control of all parameters, 40-memory programmable drumkits, and eight assignable outputs.
  • 1997 – Super Bass Station – this took the original design and added an arpeggiator, noise source, ring modulator, an additional LFO bringing the complement to two, a sub-oscillator (an octave below Oscillator 1), analogue chorus and distortion effects, keyboard filter tracking, stereo outputs and panning, enhanced memory, analogue trigger signal output and more.
  • 1998 – SuperNova – Supernova originally featured 16-note polyphony, later expanded to 20 with a new operating system, and three DCOs with ASM to recreate the classic analogue synth sound. A comprehensive filter provided low-, high- and bandpass filtering with 12, 18 and 24dB/octave, with resonance and self-oscillation, plus overdrive and key tracking, where the filter tuning could follow the keyboard. Two LFOs and two ring modulators completed the sound modification capabilities and the Supernova specification was rounded out with eight analogue outputs and full MIDI implementation.
  • 1999 – Nova was released in 1999, and essentially repackaged the Supernova into a desktop performance module based around the same synthesiser engine.
  • 2000 – Supernova II was available in 24, 36 and 48-voice models with additional 12 or 24-voice expansion boards. Available again in a 3U rack-mount format, the Supernova II was also available in a 61-note performance keyboard version with velocity and aftertouch, enabling sound tweaking during live performance. FM synthesis capability was included along with ring modulation, dual analogue inputs and a 42-band vocoder. An 8-part arpeggiator was also on board and in its full version this British-designed and built supersynth offered 8-part multitimbrality and 48-voice polyphony, with 57 and 2304 oscillators running simultaneously.
  • 2001 – The 1U rack-mounting Novation A-Station, released in 2001, can be thought of as a cross between the Bass Station and the Supernova. The voice architecture was based on the Supernova, featuring ASM (Analogue Sound Modelling) digital oscillators instead of simple DCOs. A-Station added 8-voice polyphony and overall although the unit looks like a Bass Station from the outside, inside it has a number of Supernova capabilities. There are three oscillators offering sawtooth, triangle, sine and PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) plus noise, and there is a basic FM synthesis engine that can be used for a more edgy sound. There are also dual LFOs with sample and hold and MIDI synchronisation. The filter is a lowpass resonant type with 12 or 24 dB/octave slope. As far as effects are concerned, the A-Station includes reverb and delay, plus a 12-voice encoder for processing external sounds – which can also be used as an oscillator source and processed via filter and envelopes. An arpeggiator is also provided.
  • K-Station was a 2-octave keyboard version of the A-Station with 8-voice polyphony, three ASM oscillators providing a range of waveforms plus FM synthesis and a noise source, a 12-band vocoder, arpeggiator, dual ADSR envelope shapers and two LFOs, reverb and delay effects It also featured a large LCD display and 25 knobs for realtime control, all of which generate MIDI controller messages, plus 400 memories.
  • 2002 – The KS Series (, KS5 and KS Rack) used enhanced versions of the K-Station engine with a range of additional features. The KS4 was a 4-octave keyboard, while the KS5 offered five octaves. Keyboards are semi-weighted and include aftertouch, and all 33 control knobs on the ergonomic control section send MIDI. The KS Series included four-part multitimbral operation with multiple assignable audio outputs and a separate effects processor for each part, as found on the Supernova. The KS Series saw the introduction of Hypersync, allowing the musician to automatically match rhythmic effects to MIDI clock.
  • 2003 – Remote 25 MIDI controller keyboard was conceived in 2003 to bring back “hands on” tweaking to the computer musician. In addition to the Remote 25, which was MIDI based, the Remote 25 Audio provided the same facilities with the addition of a built-in USB audio interface and later developed into the X-Station.
  • Also released in 2003 were the V-Station and B-Station. These software products, still available today, provide virtual emulations of the K-Station and synth classic Bass Station respectively. Both are available for Macintosh and Windows platforms, in both VST and AU formats.
  • 2004 – X-Station – this brought together a Novation class 8-voice ASM-based synth engine, powerful template-based ReMOTE style MIDI control and a high quality 2-in, 2-out stereo audio interface and multi effects engine. It featured a semi-weighted aftertouch keyboard, too. The two separate multi-effects units could be used independently, offering Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Compression, Distortion and EQ, all of which could be used simultaneously.
  • 2007 – XioSynth, a keyboard synthesiser with USB audio interface and template-based MIDI controller, available in 25- or 49-key versions. Like the X-Station, it featured Novation’s X/Y touchpad (the ‘X-Pad’) and included a synth engine based on that in the X-Station with the addition of filter overdrive and the X-Gator patch programmer, which can be configured to gate each patch to create expressive 16-32-step rhythmic patterns synchronised to MIDIclock. The units featured three oscillators with analogue classic waveforms and wavetables plus the ability to sync oscillators 1 and 2, pulse-width modulation and dual LFOs. The 2/4-pole filter offered high- low- and bandpass operation and there were twin envelopes. Six effects were provided: Delay, Reverb, Chorus/Phaser, Distortion, 3-Band EQ and Stereo Pan. Synth programming was via a matrix-style front panel with 11 knobs, each with a button.
  • 2009 – Launchpad – a multi-button controller for Live. The unit consists primarily of a grid of 64 (8×8) brightly illuminated square buttons, with additional round buttons along the top and on the right. Apart from the USB port, there are no other controls or connectors (the unit is fully USB bus powered).
  • 2010 – UltraNova is a Nova-series analogue-modelling synthesizer with a powerful effects processor. It is a single-part synth taking the Supernova II synth engine as a starting point and updating with new features, including wavetable synthesis, more powerful filters, a software editor and a new touch-sense performance mode. Ultranova provides up to 18 voices, 14 filter types, 36 wavetables, and 5 effect slots, while Patch Browse enables you to browse 300 sounds by type & genre. Touch-sense controls enable totally new sound-shaping & performance possibilities, for example triggering envelopes, LFOs, filters or FX by just touching the encoders. A large rotary control instantly allows fine control of any parameter. Featuring 37 full-sized keys and aftertouch, a 12-band vocoder and maximum control, Ultranova also includes a built-in 2-in 4-out USB interface and can be bus powered. It can also be used to stream audio to and from a host computer. Both analogue and digital stereo outputs are provided. The Ultranova includes a software plug-in editor and patch librarian for full visual editing.
  • 2012 – MiniNova is a micro synth with 37-note keyboard based around the same synth engine as the UltraNova, capable of creating and editing sounds with up to 18 voices and effects. The VocalTune function can recreate urban and hip hop vocal sounds, as well as classic house and techno voice effects with the onboard vocoder. MiniNova is a live synthesiser, allowing sounds to be tweaked and modified in realtime. Eight animate buttons enable warping and twisting off sounds alongside a dedicated filter knob, four further editing knobs and oversized pitch and modulation wheels. The 256 onboard sounds can be searched instantly by type or genre, and there is room for another 128 user presets. MiniNova can add up to 5 effects to each voice including distortion, reverb, chorus/phase, delay, compressor, EQ and Novation’s own gator ‘stutter’ effect. A line input allows instruments to be routed through the effects engine or the vocal effects.
  • 2013 – Bass Station II – an analogue monophonic synth, based on the classic Novation Bass Station from two decades ago, Bass Station II has been updated, with two filters, three oscillators, patch save and a fully-analogue effects section. There’s a step-mode sequencer, arpeggiator, a dual octave (25-note) velocity-sensitive keyboard with full-sized keys, and a comprehensive modulation section. There’s also full MIDI I/O and USB connectivity. The Bass Station II signal path is all analogue, including the effects section, with three analogue oscillators (two independent oscillators plus a sub for rich bass sounds) and a noise generator; two discrete filters, Classic and Acid, with built-in overdrive; Distortion and Osc Filter Mod effects; dual ADSR envelopes and LFOs, and powerful Arpeggiator and Step Sequencer. Bass Station II’s traditional control layout breaks everything into modules for easy and familiar access, with dedicated pots, switches and sliders. But unlike a traditional analogue synth, there’s plenty of storage for custom sounds – there are 64 factory presets plus 64 more user slots in the hardware – and more can be stored on a computer.

5 thoughts on “21 Years Of Novation Synthesizers

  1. I had a bass station, it was fun, so I bought an A station and sold it pretty quickly as it wasn’t very user friendly. Then I bought a KS4, lovely to use but sonically dull, so no more Novations for me….

  2. The SuperNova is still one of the most fwap-worthy synths on Earth. You could fight the zombie apocalypse to a standstill with it.

  3. Very interesting review of a company with great ideas. I wonder what they will come up with next… a mega real analogue super-duper-nova with lots of knobs and switches? We’ll see…

  4. I have Novation Remote SL25 and Novation X-Station 49. These things are pretty old but despite age they are still useful. <3 Novation.

  5. I love Novation gear. It’s built to last, it’s easy to use and above all they’re BRITISH! Woo!

    God save the Queen and all that chaps, pip pip!

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