Polyend + Dreadbox Medusa Synthesizer Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUjvnW83KBI’

The latest loopop video takes a look at the Polyend & Dreadbox Medusa synthesizer – a new hybrid synth that combines Polyend’s sequencing and digital background with Dreadbox’s experience with analog synths. 

Video Summary:

Medusa is an innovative new synth, the result of a collaboration between Dreadbox and PolyEnd. The core of what’s new with Medusa is the GRID – a multi-mode expressive interface that can be used as an instrument, a sequencer, a modulator, or any combination of the above.

Medusa combines Dreadbox’s great sounding analog synth capabilities with PolyEnd’s experience in making SEQ – its powerful and yet easy to use sequencer.

They call it a Hybrid Synth and it is indeed a combination of a few things – it has both analog and digital oscillators, it’s both a monophonic and polyphonic or paraphonic depending on your definition of those terms, and of course its main feature, the grid makes it a hybrid synth/controller that does things very differently than other synths.

Each grid pad can be programmed to have up to 6 notes, any combination of modulation parameters, or a mod and note combined. Pads on the grid can be played live, sequenced, or operated in combinations thereof.

On the synth side, Medusa has three analog oscillators and three digital oscillators, each with their strengths. The analog oscillators have FM, hard sync and a modifiable duty cycle for the square wave, enabling PWM. The digital oscillators have basic wavetable skills – with 20 included wavetables with up to 30 different waveforms in each table. Currently the motion between the waveforms doesn’t include interpolation and you can’t load your own wavetables, but PolyEnd have indicated that this capability may be added in the future.

Medusa’s filter has three modes – 2 pole low pass, 4 pole low pass and high pass – all with resonance that doesn’t impact the bottom end, which is always welcome.

On the modulation side, Medusa has 5 LFOs and 5 envelopes, and while initially that may seem excessive, it actually makes sense because each has just one assignable destination – simplicity’s sake (two of the 5 envelopes are pre-assigned to the filter and VCA) – which is a great way to avoid a complex mod matrix. Medusa also goes the extra mile with its envelopes and LFOs – adding an initial delay stage and looping capabilities to the envelopes, and morphing wave-shapes to the LFO, which is a rather unique feature.

Medusa is a paraphonic synth with three play modes – monophonic aligns all the oscillators with one note as typical with mono synths, and modes P1 and P2 let you play three and six separate notes respectively. All the notes will share the same filter, and hence cannot be called truly polyphonic, but each gets their own VCA envelope, getting very close to sounding polyphonic.

Summary:

In my communications with PolyEnd while creating this review, bugs were fixed quickly and it seemed like missing features were almost always a matter of prioritization rather than possibility. If I had to list my “cons” or feature wishlist it would be custom wavetables, wavetable interpolation, a random LFO, MPE support, pattern chaining and transposition of sequences.

On the “pros” side, it’s always great to see innovation in synths, especially in terms of innovative and expressive control. The grid’s ability to combine sequencing and live playback with comprehensive note and timbre control brings to life a truly a new way to play synths.

Medusa is a very refreshing and interesting hat thrown into the synth ring and well worth taking a closer look.

Topics:

0:00 Intro

0:55 Overview

2:20 Grid hardware

3:00 Note mode

5:00 X/Y/Z axis expressive control

5:55 Grid mode

7:15 Parameter modifications

7:45 Assigning presets to pads

8:40 Assigning modulation to pads

9:55 Modulation sequences

10:20 Oscillators

11:00 Analog vs digital sound test

13:15 PWM, FM & sync

14:15 Wavetables

16:30 Filter modes

18:30 Envelopes and LFOs

22:40 Play modes (mono and para-phonic)

24:35 Connectivity

25:00 Pros & cons

30 thoughts on “Polyend + Dreadbox Medusa Synthesizer Review

      1. the point i´m trying to make is that i find it very annoying that in the course of roland´s silly “performance” mantra re aira virtually every hardware synth/sequencer manufacturer on the planet decided that implementing a display is not that important anymore. what a joke.

        1. Have you used it? No. Then how do you know you’ll even need one? Most synths don’t need a screen so why should this one?

          1. Wish there was a Synthtopia policy to ban people who post the same thing over and over again knowing full well that their lonely gripe on some random forum isn’t gonna see the light of day on any developer’s must have feature list and instead just fills up the comment section with replies like mine and above or worse cuz someone just cant understand “their workflow” isn’t “all our workflow”.

            Nor do these types of gripes take into account the give and take developers go through to keep costs relative. A screen or another LFO? A screen or add a BP filter too.. I for one would like all the audio bells and whistles if it meant I cant see the shape of my LFO or the cutoff frequency of my filter in digital text versus knob position..

            Maybe some would be better at being a politician/religious leader instead of a musician/artist.. they seem keen on the “my beliefs should be your beliefs” or else I’ll throw a tantrum circus train of weird human behavior.

            1. Obviously this will just cause certain people to climb higher on their “boo hoo why don’t people use their time and money to make things for me that cater to my personal workflow” but… I had a bit of time at work looking at my big old screen that makes no sound.

  1. It just has to be impossible that for all these years musicians have been playing musical instruments without screens. I mean, how can you hope to do anything in this world without your brain tethered to a display… you might actually have to keep track of multiple pieces of information at the same time

  2. > for all these years musicians have been
    > playing musical instruments without screens.

    okay, so the roman empire lasted approximately 1,500 years. people wore sandals during that time. feel free to wear sandals now and forever. i prefer my nike airmax 360 III. *facepalm*

    1. look, you’re pretty alone on this, and it’s fine to talk about what you wish was different but your comments don’t send the message that you would buy if there was a screen, how much more you’d be willing to pay if a screen was added, what you even want on the screen, how big is big enough, etc. I don’t even care that your tone is snarky and indignant, at least be constructive!

      1. i own an electribe 2s. its display is nice. i also have a mc-808. its screen is okay, reminds me of those red ones of both the jd-xi and and jd-xa. the same red. why companies like roland and novation decided to develop products without displays (almost everytthing of aira, circuit, circuit mono station) is beyond me.

  3. Ok – that’s the version for left handed people. When is the right hand version coming out (i.e. with the pad on the right hand side)….?

    1. Yeah, I wish they were flipped too. But I guess we’ve got to let the leftys win once in a while. After all, they put up with all the right-handed only gear.

  4. Well, I think the synth is nice, about the screens, i see its a knob-function synth, so apart from saving presets, and some other staff i do not think a screen is that necessary.. I do not even get why it has 2 of them..

  5. In Internet slang, a troll (/tro?l, tr?l/) is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.

  6. Dear Synthtopia. You have a good thing going. It is in your business interest to moderate contributions from community members to sustain the genuine interest of the greater community. You have a single member of your community continually posting off-topic comments to try to stitch together a broader story over the course of time. Each of those comments are already off-topic on an individual basis. Add them together and you end up with the real potential to loose the very members of your community that create quality conversations. Why don’t you invite this person to write their own article or produce their own video that tells their own story, share it here on Synthtopia and allow the community to discuss. It will be an on-topic debate that people will choose to interact with. In the meantime, allowing this type of deviation on half of the discussions of many different posts degrades the quality of your product and your brand, and undermines how you want your audience to feel about what you are creating.

  7. While I completely support the ability of everyone to share and discuss whatever they like about a topic, the contributions of one member, always devoted to a single topic, often sour my enjoyment of the content being discussed. It is a weird situation, to be honest. I actually thought it was funny for the first 20 or so threads, then it started affecting my enjoyment of the threads. My complaint is trivial. How much distress does it really cause me? Not much, in the grand scheme of things. It is just one person with a singular agenda on a platform I don’t have to visit. It is easy to avoid the situation so it seems petty to call this person out for constantly negative comments. But I enjoy reading the constructive opinions and comments on this site and I would like to be able to read through an entire thread without encountering the same negative criticism ad infinitum. I suspect that this member has made this quest a mission and any attempts to change this behavior will be futile, however I’d just like to let this member know that their constant posts about lack of screens bum me out. I support their right to post whatever they want, wherever they want; I’d just like them to know that the “no screen, not interested” posts negatively affect my enjoyment of every thread in which I find them, kind of like finding a fly in every bowl of soup.

    1. whoa. your request approach was very kindly done. kudos. for the sake of peace i therefore decided not to post about displays and screens (or the lack of them) anymore. by doing so i want to assure you that i am not a troll.

      ADMIN [loud cheers]

  8. Wait, someone complaining about lack of screens, and then they don’t actually read any other comments, but comments the same old b.s. shocked. shocked I say!

    Ragnchild, have you considered an ipad? All screen, all data, no keys! it would be like a dream come true and a problem solved…you might actually stop commenting.

  9. This synth has 2 screens, and ragnchild=still complaining. It’s like they didn’t even read any of the article, skips right to comments, to troll lol lol again.

  10. It’s not a troll’s comment but when we respond to it that makes life suck.
    if no-one responded it would have been over when it started.

    1. I understand what you mean about responding to a troll and how that elevates their goal… but if you and some friends are sitting outside chatting and a bird craps on your head, you can ignore it all you like, but it will stink nonetheless.

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