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Modal Electronics SkulptSynth SE

Virtual Analogue Synthesizer By Rory Dow
Published September 2021

Modal Electronics SkulptSynth SE

Modal’s SkulptSynth SE packs an awful lot of synth into a very small package.

Modal came out with the Craft 2.0 and Skulpt synthesizers during 2019. They represented a way to get some of the powerful synthesis in Modal’s flagship products, such as the 002 and 008, without the flagship price tag. The SkulptSynth SE is an updated version of Skulpt, with a new look, slightly smaller dimensions, fresh factory soundset and, perhaps most importantly, a lower price. The Craft 2.0 is a monophonic, dual‑oscillator wavetable synth, which I reviewed in January 2020. The SkulptSynth SE is similar in looks and  build, but is a four‑voice, virtual analogue synth that boasts eight unison oscillators per voice, a sequencer, arpeggiator, modulation matrix and effects.

Both share the same backpackable design. The SkulptSynth SE is slightly larger, measuring 255 x 135 x 68 mm. It weighs just 0.62kg and can be powered by six AA batteries or the mini‑USB port on the rear. For its size, there is a generous scattering of knobs and buttons, all of which cover dual uses via a Shift button. Then there’s a 16‑key touch‑sensitive strip, which can be used to play the synth (no velocity sensitivity, mod wheel or aftertouch though) and access other functions, mostly for the sequencer.

Connections on the rear of the Skulpt SE include MIDI in and out on 5‑pin DIN, Sync in and out, stereo line and headphone outputs on 3.5mm jacks; micro‑USB for power, MIDI, and connection to the MODALapp editor/librarian. Finally, there’s a switch to select between battery and USB power.Connections on the rear of the Skulpt SE include MIDI in and out on 5‑pin DIN, Sync in and out, stereo line and headphone outputs on 3.5mm jacks; micro‑USB for power, MIDI, and connection to the MODALapp editor/librarian. Finally, there’s a switch to select between battery and USB power.

Oscillators

The SkulptSynth SE’s synthesis revolves around two morphable oscillators. Oscillator 1 can morph smoothly between sine, triangle, sawtooth, square and pulse waveforms. The second oscillator replaces the final pulse waveform with a noise source. Oscillator 2 can be ring‑modulated by Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 1 can be frequency modulated by Oscillator 2.

Despite only having four voices, Skulpt SE can generate up to 32 oscillators — each of the four voices can use up to eight‑oscillator unison. It’s a flexible system that not only covers the usual spread‑and‑detune but also allows some common chords, intervals and octave stacks. The synth can work in monophonic, duophonic or polyphonic modes. When using unison, the 32 oscillators will be assigned intelligently depending on the mode — monophonic patches can use 32‑voice unison, duophonic patches, 16 voices, and polyphonic patches, eight voices.

Filter & Modulation

Modal’s filter is a 2‑pole resonant design that can morph between low‑, band‑ and high‑pass modes. At in‑between values you get low or high shelving, so the morphable aspect opens up tonal possibilities. The filter doesn’t self‑resonate, but as it’s impossible to silence the oscillators (it’s a simple mix control to blend between them), maybe that doesn’t matter so much.

The filter has a dedicated ADSR envelope, as does...

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