The original Polivoks is rare, iconic, nasty and fabulous in equal measure. So how does a modern-day reincarnation compare with the classic?
The original Polivoks was a remarkable synthesizer, which I covered in some depth in the July 2010 issue of Sound On Sound. Although sometimes dubbed ‘the Russian Minimoog’, there’s little or nothing about its architecture that’s reminiscent of the Moog (that honour belongs to the rarer and, to be polite, less original Estradin 230) because it offers two VCOs with cross-modulation, a dual-mode VCF, two ADSR contour generators with AD looping modes, and a dedicated LFO. And, while it can sound fantastic, its gnarly character is quite different from the creamy smoothness of the Minimoog or, for that matter, almost any other monosynth.
Unfortunately, it has at least two significant deficiencies: despite looking like it could survive an encounter with a medium-sized tank, parts of it are very fragile, and it has the shallowest and possibly the worst keyboard action ever to have had the misfortune to find itself attached to the front of a professional synthesizer. I was therefore rather excited when, a couple of years ago, I heard about a project to recreate the old beast as a desktop module. Called the Polivoks Pro, this promised to be neither a modern interpretation nor a virtual analogue emulation, but a genuine reissue of the original with the same facilities, layout and, of course, sound.
My first reaction when the Polivoks Pro arrived was amazement at how small it is (it’s approximately 17 x 7 x 3 inches and weighs around 3kg) and I wondered how the manufacturers could claim that it’s based upon the original schematics and recreated using original Soviet components. Clearly it can’t be using the back-plane architecture of the Polivoks nor the original board layouts, so I...
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