Stuck in a synthesis rut? Tired of patching the same old sounds? Analogue Solutions have got just the thing...
'Thrilling' is a good word to describe my first experience with Analogue Solutions' Impulse Command. It responds to general intuitive knob fiddling with a wide range of sound and a surprising amount of movement. It's fat, fierce and fabulously fizzy. There's a lot going on and the sound field is so full that you start questioning whether this really is just a monosynth.
The Impulse Command is imposing on the desktop. It's in a wedge-like, laid–back console style with a black panel on a red base, where the top is ever-so-slightly wider than the bottom. The layout is a not–quite ordered scattering of red, yellow and glowing pots with two big knobs in prime position that hint at the duality of this synthesizer. And then, just to finish off the impressive physicality, a fan of three light beams spills out on either side from vents laser-cut into the case. This is one solid and inviting piece of synthesizer.
But Analogue Solutions don't want to call it a synthesizer, they prefer the term 'sonic realiser', and now that I've spent some time with the Impulse Command I'm starting to understand where that idea comes from. The Impulse Command is at a basic level a subtractive, semi-modular monophonic analogue synthesizer. But Analogue Solutions designer Tom Carpenter is not content with adding another monosynth to their range or to the crowded monosynth market. Instead Tom has woven a sense of adventure and discovery throughout the device. He's made creative decisions that push you in different and often unexpected directions. And as with any thrill ride, you have to go with it or risk losing limbs.
But first, the facts. The Impulse Command is a dual–oscillator, dual–filter analogue stereo synthesizer with two LFOs and two ADSR envelopes. The first oscillator offers sawtooth, triangle, pulse (with PWM) and noise waveforms. The second oscillator remains resolutely square and you'll also find a square–wave sub-oscillator. There's an analogue and a MIDI sequencer and at the end of the signal chain you'll find some digital effects. Not an unusual combination of features to find in a synthesizer, but perhaps some of the duality is beginning to raise your eyebrows. But it turns out that every section has its own level of surprise and playful weirdness.
The oscillators don't use a traditional form of mixing. The level of VCO 1 is fixed and hard–wired to a VCA controlled by EG 2. VCO 2 and the sub-osc are routed to the same VCA but are dynamically controlled. They have an IL or 'Initial Level' (like that found on the Yamaha CS synths), which acts as a volume knob, but from that point further level is added via MIDI velocity. VCO 2 can also be switched to use EG 1. Both have Amount knobs to dial in how much of this dynamism you want to use. Pulse-width modulation is available on both VCOs but only as a combined control over the intensity of modulation from LFO 2 rather than control over the pulse width itself. Analogue Solutions don't want you to get hung up on details like...
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