The Ashun Sound Machines (ASM) Hydrasynth – a new hardware synth that features a deep and flexible sound engine, polyphonic aftertouch and a four-octave ribbon controller – is now available.
The Hydrasynth is an 8-voice polysynth, with an architecture that features (per voice): three oscillators, offering 219 different waveforms; five ADSR envelope generators that offer delay and hold; and five LFOs that offer a total of 11 waveshapes, plus delay, fade in, and smoothing.
If features an extensive array of controls, a full-size keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch (which allows for more expressive performance), a ribbon controller and CV/Gate connectivity.
- Polytouch keybed – The new ASM Polytouch keybed allows not only the standard velocity and aftertouch found on other keybeds but also fully polyphonic aftertouch.
- Oscillators – The 3 oscillators allow you to choose from a selection of 219 single cycle waveforms.
Oscillators 1 & 2 a our WAVELIST mode. This mode allows you to pick and choose 8 waves, arrange them in the order you want, and then morph from one to another.
- Mutators – Oscillators 1 & 2 are routed into MUTATORS. The Mutators allow you to modulate, bend and sculpt the sound. Each MUTANT allows you to choose from the following processes:
- FM-Linear – for making classic FM sounds. Choose multiple FM sources, including external inputs.
- Wavestack™ – creates 5 copies of the incoming sound and allows you to set a detune amount.
- Hard Sync – This gives you those classic hard sync sounds.
- Pulse Width – This will pulse width modulate ANY input sound.
- PW – Squeeze – This is a different form of pulse width mod that creates a smoother sound.
- PW-ASM – this mode divides the incoming wave into 8 slices and allows you to set how much pulse width mod will happen in each section.
- Harmonic Sweep – this will sweep the harmonics of the incoming sound.?
- Mixer/ filter routing – The 3 Oscillators are fed into a mixer along with the Noise generator and Ring Modulator. The Mixer allows you to mix levels as well as pan the input source. There is a balance control that allows you to choose how much signal of each source is routed to filters 1 and 2.
- Filters – The Hydrasynth has two filters that can be configured in series or parallel. The first filter has 11 different filter models, giving you multiple options for tailoring your sound. The second filter is a 12db per octave has a continuous sweep from Low pass to bandpass to high pass, similar to the way the classic SEM filter worked.
- 5 Low-Frequency Oscillator – The Hydrasynth LFO’s feature a STEP mode that allows you to create patterns with up to 8 steps. Having 5 mini step sequencers gives you an amazing amount of possibilities for further shaping your sound. There are also 10 standard waveforms to choose from. The LFO’s all have delay, fade in, 3 triggering modes, smoothing, start phase, one-shot mode so that they can act as envelopes and BPM sync.
- 5 DAHDSR Envelopes – 6 stage envelopes feature Delay, Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain and Release stages. The time settings for the stage can be set in seconds or in time divisions, giving you envelopes that play in sync to your song. You can also loop the envelopes to create LFO’s whose shape can be voltage controlled in the modulation matrix.
- Modulation Matrix – With 32 user definable modulation routings, you will have plenty of ways to use the 29 modulation sources and 155 modulation destinations. Almost everything in the synth engine can be a modulation destination including the effects and arpeggiator. The Modulation matrix points themselves can also become modulation destinations. Modulation sources & destinations include the CV Mod In & Out jacks as well as MIDI CC’s
- Arpeggiator – The arpeggiator allows for standard note arpeggiations but also has a phrase arpeggio built-in. Parameters like RATCHET and CHANCE will generate other rhythmic patterns with some randomness to add life and spontaneity to your performance.You can also modulate most of the parameters in the arpeggiator so imagine using LFO’s, Envelopes, Polyphonic Aftertouch or the Ribbon controller to modify your arpeggios in real time.
- CV/GATE – MIDI – USB – Standard MIDI and USB/MIDI interfaces, plus CV/GATE interfaces for connecting to the modular world.
- Main Controls -The Main system controls are where you navigate your patches, configure system settings and see parameters like the envelopes, waveforms, filters in the OLED screen.
- Master controls – The Master Control section is where all parameter editing, patch naming, and Macro performing is done.
- Macros – The patch MACROS are designed to allow the user deep control over the engine in live performance. The 8 assignable encoders and buttons can each be routed to 8 destinations. Complete sound transformations can take place with the press of a button or turn of a knob.
- Patches – The Hydrasynth comes with 4 banks of 128 patches in total.
- Effects – Pre-effects and post-effects give you some unique ways to process your sound. The delays and reverbs were modeled on some of the most popular effects on the market.
Pricing and Availability
The HydraSynth is available now with a street price of $1,299.
34 thoughts on “ASM Hydrasynth Now Available, Features Polyphonic Aftertouch And Ribbon Controller”
It will become bestseller… After the street price reach USD950.
im wondering why so many modern polyphonic synths are not multi-timbral…
it used to be very standard stuff
When a syth is multi-timbral its way more interesting to me because it can be used more like a grove box in a sens that it can play a bigger part of the song without having to do multiple recordings. I never like to record when i’m creating a song.
Maybe its more expensive to make if you have to address the different voices, i hope developers will include this feature more in the future.
A few reasons. The simplest one is that multitimbrality means more hardware, you need at least 6 and preferably 8-12 outs, each of which requires its own d/a converter, output levels and so on. The cost of that adds up.
Second, the extra complexity is a pain to manage – effects routing, channel mixing, preset recall, MIDI assignment – the more of a recording studio you squeeze into a synth, the more user interface compromises you have to make. Hence the need for big screens on workstations, and without criticizing workstation keyboards that’s generally not the place you look for dramatic new sonic innovations, but rather reliability and ease of use for stage performance.
I’ve always had my doubts about the format; you watch world-class bands, and the keyboard players with big workstations are generally using one patch per song. In my 25+ years of synth geekery, I’ve never heard anyone say they made a whole album on their giant workstation keyboard, indeed not even a track. The closest I can recall is DJ Shadow who made Endtroducing entirely on an MPC2000. I mean, it’s great if you want to lay down some drums, bass, and pads quickly and then develop your main melody on top without ever getting up from your piano stool, but I really wonder if anyone has ever used 16 or 32 tracks on a workstation out in the real world. Chances are if you own a fancy workstation you also own good quality recording gear and a good mixer…
For non-workstations, the user interface suffers a lot. Emu gear had huge polyphone (16 tracks! 64 voices! Maybe even 128!!) but tiny screens used to be the bane of keyboards. It’s possible to manage multitimbral synth programming on a 2-line LCD, but it’s freaking painful even with an external sequencer. And if you want to do mixing or sequencing onboard, then you’d better have a masochistic streak. Even the fairly large screens on Emu and Kurzweil’s pro gear were Not Great to work with unless you were willing to spend a lot of time pushing buttons and twirling alpha wheels. I’d go so far as to say it was the limitations of tiny screens that caused so much music production to migrate out of synths and into computers.
Another issue, also hardware-related, was that once you start trying to cram multitimbral data down a MIDI cable everything turns to mud. It’s kinda-doable for rock or pop arrangements where you have a melody, chords, and drum setup, but as soon a you get into deep programming and want to start messing around with continuous controllers and program changes your timing goes out the window. I spent years trying to sequence things on the computer and get all my sounds out of one or two pieces of hardware like a Virus or Emu module and while it was fun it also meant constant struggles with MIDI’s limited data rate and you absolutely had to have patch librarian software as well as sequencing software or your patches and projects would get hopelessly jumbled.
Lastly, the sounds themselves. People buy synths based on big power basses, leads, etc. But if you’re going multitimbral, you’ll never be able to mix all those sounds properly inside the synth (ask any Waldorf owner), plus they use lots of voices, so you also needed a bunch of good basic sounds that ‘play well with each other’. The problem is that those sounds seem thin or weak by comparison to the ‘standout sounds’, and so people would often make unfair judgements of gear based on such differences without appreciating the need for such sonic compromises. A lesser but related problem with multitimbral synths is that every synth has a sort of characteristic sound, and if that sound is on every track of your composition it tends to make the whole thing sound smaller than a properly multitracked recording, no matter how good the synth.
It’s less of a problem with samplers, which don’t depend on their filters and are obviously not tied to particular oscillator or wavetable sounds, and you could say the same about PCM-based synths which are basically sample-playback devices.
Easy there bucko, I gave up after your first two sentences. Novation Summit is multi-timbral and has 4 outputs (two of which don’t even need to be used if you don’t care to). You arbitrarily went to 6 to meet your agenda.
That’s a great analysis. I had an Ensoniq MR-76 (later bought by EMU) about two decades ago. This ROMpler with a 16-track sequencer was great for writing music. It had a small screen, and two jog dials but lots of buttons. The sequencing interface was quite easy to use, but the sound editing interface was nonexistent. I also think that the difficult part was polishing the tracks for the final mixdown. At the same time there was nothing easier for laying down the tracks in the first place. I miss that keyboard…
Agreed. Every digital synth from the 80s until recently ALWAYS had multitibrality. Even the new Modal synth is monotimbral. Laziness?
Multi-timbral operation demands CPU that can be exploited in other ways. So in this case, adding multitimbral capability would reduce the amount of horsepower available for its current synthesis method.
Seems like with advent of MPE, some people are shifting from multi-timbral priorities.
Also, a synth like this is geared toward people who are wanting a pure synthesizer and not a workstation. But I think it would be a great addition to a more complex setup.
By that logic.
are not pure synthesizers because they all had split and layer capabilities.
That’s one thing I love about the DSI Tetra. Poly chain a few of them and you have a flexible poly, mono, and multitimbral synth. Only minor inconveniences are a) not enough knobs (though you can use a prophet ’08 or rev2 to control the Tetra, which can also poly chain from those synths) b) clunkiness of multiple boxes, wires, and power bricks, and c) needing a mixer or multichannel audio interface for poly chain mode, but having flexible outputs (either stereo per module or individual per voice) is worth it. Each voice can also accept independent channel aftertouch, so you can (for example) get polyphonic aftertouch using a controller like the KMI QuNexus. With different patches per voice you can also play it Four Voice or Mono/Poly style. Great box.
Dropped my GAS for this in a heartbeat when I saw Osmose and the early bird pre order price. When both Osmose and hydrasynth reach final price, things might be different…
As far as synths go, they aren’t even remotely similar….
They aren’t really similar other than both having polyphonic aftertouch, and a built in synth.
For the keyboard, the Osmose looks more impressive, and offer side-to-side wiggle. Though I would have liked to see a ribbon on it as well.
When it comes to the synth engine, this offers more hands on programming. Some menu diving, but all can be done on the front panel. And the enginge this has, seem to be more complex than anything similar on the Osmose, but the Osmose has several of voice engines, so it can do things this cant.
The Osmose needs the computer editor, the controls only seem to be pre-defined macro knobs.
In both cases though, a powerful computer, could run either synth, if they made it in plugin format, or other similar things that are already out there.
And then looking at them as interfaces, this still offers more hands on control over parameters plus a ribbon, but the osmose has that more advanced keybed (and that would be my personal pickm but I do like a lot of sounds I’ve heard from this, and would love to have them in software or hardware).
I’m sure I have a vst somewhere that does all this.
But apparently since you aren’t sure, you obviously are not using it.
Has there EVER been a year where TWO synths with polyphonic aftertouch have been introduced?
New startups are currently creating the most interesting synthesizers. When it comes to polyphonic aftertouch, the Osmose or the HydraSynth look a lot more attractive than vintage alternatives.
I wonder what sort of sensor the ASM uses. Ensoniq probably sold the most polyphonic-AT keyboards of any manufacturer. They were known though to often develop problems and stop working after a few years. The mechanical design wasn’t robust enough. Even with mono-aftertouch from other manufacturers, many of my older instruments the AT simply don’t work after a while. My Yamaha and Roland mono-AT instruments though still work.
I like the Osmose sensor because it’s got no moving parts on the sensor itself, it looks like that sensor will last forever. Hopefully the delivered mechanical keybed will be a very solid and long lasting design as well.
In addition to good long lasting sensors how the AT is handled in the firmware is always critical. Z axis pressure on KMI instruments for example sucks, their firmware guy is crappy. This is why it was so annoying when they reneged on their promise to open source certain designs since we would have been able to fix it for them.
Ensoniq is a very sad example of a company that was hugely innovative done by its manufacturing costs/lack of quality control. I still love their DP/4 despite its now-antique user interface. I share your nervousness about the Hydrasynth as it’s such an ambitious first product and the company doesn’t have a track record yet, but the design is so good and modern electronic manufacturing has come so far over the last decade that I’m cautiously optimistic.
I doubt very many companies would open source a revenue generating product, unless it was designed and licensed for it from the beginning.
Yep, every year between 1988 and 1995. 😀
Wow this thing sounds absolutely terrible, cold, digital, sterile, worse than electronic instruments from the Cavemen era. Oh oh oh! But it’s got sweet Chinese poly after touch and a ribbon for my sweet expression moves.
The Hydrasynth is a strange beast – pretty much everything on it has been seen before on other gear, and it’s facing some really stiff competition – amazing budget gear, exciting offerings from established players, and innovative new offerings from companies like modal and all that’s going on in the world of modular synthesis, not to mention music software.
But there is something compelling about it. I had the same ‘nice, but so what’ feeling as many other people when I first read the specs, because there are so many synths with great specs. But every sound demo has been a real treat for the ears. I’m really looking forward to trying one.
It’s easy to dismiss features on instruments because you’ve seen them before on other instruments.
But you don’t buy or play features, you buy and play instruments, and it’s the quality of the whole package that makes or breaks a synth design.
I look at this and see literally no competition.
What was the last synth with poly after touch, a ribbon controller and a hands-on interface? There’s not a lot since the Yamaha CS-80, which everybody recognizes as a classic.
There are of course cheaper synths, but most of them are interesting only because of their price. This is interesting as an original synth design and I’d be surprised if they don’t sell a lot to people that just want a good expressive keyboard controller.
This is one of the most exciting synths in a long time (along with the Osmose) and its great that tech has evolved to make these sorts of expressive synth designs possible.
I’m not sold on the programming interface. The advantage of drop-down menus on a computer screen is that they offer overview of parameters, here, one has to go through pages and pages, due to the complexity. But I guess it is better than many other menu driven hardware synths, with those quick keys.
A lot of great sound potential in it though. But the complexity comes at the price of a lot of pages or parameters.
Interesting points all around.
Re: multitimbrality – I agree that I’d like to see (in a perfect world) a 5 octave version of this with at least a split and/or layer available a la a Prophet Rev 2 or 12, or Novation Summit. That said, for the format and the interface, and for this being their first product, I think they’ve made strong choices. A lot of synths (as opposed to do it all workstations) tend to suffer in multitimbral mode. I’d rather see them focus and lead strong, which I think they have done.
Re: build quality – I remember the old Ensoniqs being failure prone, especially the key bed on certain models like the VFX, etc. They sounded really good and were ahead of their time in a lot of ways. I think the ASM uses a custom keybed that they designed and built themselves. All of the reviews I’ve seen on it so far make extra mention of the build quality, so I’m optimistic that it will be good. There are some very experienced people behind this thing.
Re: workstations – I have to disagree with the above statement that touring artists only use workstations for one sound at a time. I back up major artists a lot and what I find is that I’m using Combi mode (I lean towards Korg for live work) all the time because I need and appreciate the flexibility of being able to split or layer a lot of sounds across the keyboard, or assign them easily to a pad controller. Most keyboard players I know that do the kind of work I do seem to live in whichever version of Combi mode their chosen instrument calls it. There is definitely a difference in the kind of experience I get from using a Kronos (which actually is a killer VA, among other things) and a dedicated mono or bi timbral synth that I can more easily vibe out on, like an OB-6 or a Prophet 12. In a perfect world, I’d have both on stage and use the Hydra for things that allow me to stick out or bring a unique vibe to the gig.
ASM said they didn’t announce the Hydrasynth until it was ready to ship. That’s an encouraging change. Its also a matter of actually needing a hardware wavetable synth. Its a type, like analog or FM. There are plenty of wavetable options, but not with poly AT and a ribbon controller. At least one split would be nice, but its a soloing instrument more than almost anything else that’s come along in a while. I don’t think multitimbrality is a direction this one needs to take.
What are you on about? This thing was announced months ago and just started trickling in.
You know what’d be cooler in this saturated industry? For a synth company to create something original, not a clone, and that something would be open to preorders for a single week and shipped the very next week. Something utterly and completely done, no day one firmware update, no waiting months for it to arrive in stores and sellout, so complete the only thing that would need anymore time is the logistics of getting it to the individual in its pristine condition.
I played it at Knobcon, so about 3 months before it started to ship.
ps. there is a module version in the manual:
Also, Microtonal request?
But the module doesn’t have poly at or ribbon so no one cares.
Also I think they prioritized keyboard version for aforementioned reasons and module isn’t actually available yet.
You apparently don’t know anything about these devices and are making things up based on your incoherent thoughts.
The module’s pads have poly AT built in.
Only keyboard players care for the key version, most people into sequencer music will prefer the module as it’s cheaper and takes up less space. And while polyphonic aftertouch and ribbon controllers are fancy for ambient noodling and cinematic music, many people don’t really need them. However, the desktop version does support both, so you can simply hook up a controller.
Do all its knobs and other controls send regular MIDI CC data? If so, a good part of its value could be as a MIDI controller.
This will be my next synth….Oh Yeah…..sat down with this synth the other day at a friends house…after 3-4 hours I was in love…there is a wealth of capability and so accessible……and the sound…it’s build….and it will par well with my analog gear….I’ll be getting the Keys model….