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Sonicware ELZ-1

By Rory Dow

Sonicware ELZ-1

FM synthesis, virtual analogue synthesis, 8-bit wavetable synthesis, noise synthesis, granular synthesis... The Sonicware ELZ‑1 has got it all!

Sonicware are a new company from Japan. Their debut into the electronic world of sonic exploration comes in the form of a small digital desktop synthesizer, which their website calls a "synthesizer reinvention laboratory". Perhaps that sounds better in Japanese, but there's a great deal of promise in the ELZ‑1, and it's all proudly digital.

The 399 × 133 × 50mm chassis is solid metal and looks stylish and clear. A bright multi-colour OLED screen sits in the centre. Five endless encoders and a smattering of buttons are used for preset and menu navigation. There's a three–octave arrangement of buttons in place of a keyboard. It isn't velocity-sensitivity and the keys clack when you play them, so not a keyboard for virtuoso playing, but it's adequate for sound–design purposes.

Round the back, a 5V DC input means the unit can be powered via USB — a USB to 5V input cable is included. Power can also come from four AA batteries. A mini-USB Type B connector provides MIDI In and Out, but can also serve as a USB host, meaning you can plug in and use a USB MIDI keyboard or interface. A USB to 5-pin DIN MIDI in/out converter cable is included for those who like their MIDI the old-fashioned way. A pair of TS unbalanced jacks supplies stereo output alongside a stereo mini–jack for headphones. Each has a separate volume control (oddly placed on the rear). The headphone volume pot doubles up as a volume control for the internal speaker. Finally, there's a mini-jack aux input for sampling to the internal flash memory.

So Many Oscillators

The oscillators are clearly the heart and soul of the ELZ‑1. A press of the Oscillator button puts the screen into oscillator edit mode and a quick twist of the Type knob scrolls through the various oscillators available. Each has a set of parameters which can be adjusted using the four encoders marked 1-4, and the OLED screen shows what each encoder will do. Further pages of parameters can be accessed by pressing the Oscillator button again. This basic workflow is the same for other synth sections. For example, press the Filter button, select the filter type with the Type control and adjust parameters with encoders 1-4. If there are more parameters available, this will be indicated on screen, and they are accessed simply by pressing the Filter button again.

The ELZ‑1's rear panel features a  3.5mm headphone port with volume control, a  pair of quarter-inch audio outputs with volume control, a  3.5mm aux input and a  mini-USB port.The ELZ‑1's rear panel features a 3.5mm headphone port with volume control, a pair of...

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Published August 2019