Evolver

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A Wickedly Powerful Synergy of Analog and Digital

The Evolver marked Dave’s Smith’s triumphant return to hardware synths and still sets the standard for sheer sonic ferocity in a monosynth. It features a plethora of Dave’s best ideas packed into a monstrously powerful instrument with a sound like no other.

The Evolver’s unique tonality comes from the synergy of its two analog oscillators and two digital oscillators (which feature the waves from the legendary Prophet VS). Classic Curtis analog low-pass filters and real analog VCAs add warmth and girth to the analog section while the digital high-pass filter, tuned feedback, and digital distortion provide sizzle and grit. But what really sets the Evolver apart is the way in which the analog and digital sides of its personality mesh—in a true stereo signal path. Massive doesn’t even begin to describe the sound of the Evolver.

Imagine being able to move effortlessly from thick analog smoothness to crisp digital edge—or anywhere in between—and you begin to get the picture. The LFOs, step sequencer, and three separate delays can all be synced for complex, evolving, rhythmic, time-based effects in true stereo.

It’s a sound designer’s dream that can go from ultra creamy to ultra aggressive with the turn of a knob. If you need convincing, just listen to the demos.

  • Monstrous four-oscillator voice architecture
  • True stereo signal path with separate Curtis analog low-pass filters in each channel
  • Dedicated onboard effects (feedback, delay, distortion, high-pass filter, etc.)
  • 16 x 4 step sequencer really brings the Evolver to life with evolving “pseudo-polyphonic” sounds – you won’t believe it’s mono!
  • Stereo audio input for audio processing of external stereo or mono signals, enabling the synth to act as a unique stereo effects processor
  • Everything (sequencer, LFOs, and delay) syncs perfectly to MIDI.
  • Easy-to-navigate matrix-style interface for quick editing and real-time control of 8 parameters simultaneously
  • Multiple Evolvers can be daisy-chained for more polyphony.

 

Evolver Specifications

Oscillators
  • Two digitally controlled analog oscillators (DCOs) with selectable sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle mix, and pulse waves (with pulse-width modulation), and hard sync
  • Two digital wavetable oscillators with Prophet VS waves and wave sequencing capability, FM and ring modulation.
  • White noise generator.
Filters
  • One low-pass analog Curtis filter per channel, selectable 2- and 4-pole operation (self-resonating in 4-pole mode)
  • Digital high-pass filter
Envelopes
  • Three Delay + ADSR envelopes: filter, VCA, and Auxiliary envelope
  • Envelopes freely assignable to multiple modulation destinations
  • All envelopes can repeat/loop
LFOS
  • Four syncable LFOs
  • Glide (portamento): separate rates per oscillator.
  • 512 fully editable programs (four banks of 128)
Modulation
  • 4 x 2 modulation matrix with 24 mod sources and over 75 mod destinations
Feedback and Delay
  • Tuned feedback
  • Three-tap syncable delays with feedback and amount controls per delay
VCA
  • Analog VCAs
Effects
  • Stereo analog distortion
  • Output Hack
Sequencer
  • Step sequencer provides up to 16 steps per sequence and up to 4 tracks.
  • Supports real-time input, rests, and variable-length sequences
  • Syncs to MIDI clock and external audio
  • Sequences can control not only oscillator pitch but any parameter in the modulation matrix.
Controls
  • Eight knobs and thirteen buttons enable deep editing.
Memory
  • 512 fully editable programs (four banks of 128)
In/Out
  • MIDI In, Out, Thru, and Poly Chain
  • Stereo audio input: 1/4″ unbalanced
  • Stereo audio output: 1/4″ unbalanced
Physical Specs
  • Dimensions: approximately 10.75″ L x 6″ W x 1.9″ H (27.3 cm x 15.24 cm x 4.8 cm)
  • Weight: 3.18 lb. (1.49 kg)
Included
  • Power supply for 110V – 240V AC operation (13-15 VDC, 500 mA)
  • Operation Manual
Are the Evolvers analog or digital?

Both. Each Evolver voice has two analog oscillators, two analog low-pass filters (one per channel), and analog VCAs. It also has two digital wavetable oscillators with the waveforms from the Prophet VS, a digital high-pass filter, digital distortion, syncable stereo digital delays, and “bit crushing.”

What is the resolution of the digital side?

The internal converters are 24 bit and run at 48 KHz.

How long is the delay?

One second, uncompressed, at 48 KHz. Pure and simple.

Can I load my own samples into the Evolver?

Yes, but calling Evolver’s digital waveforms “samples” might be a bit of a stretch. The waveforms are 128 word, single-cycle waves, some of which are based on samples. There are 32 user-programmable locations. You will need to create the 128-word wave and then transfer it via MIDI to the Evolver using a third-party utility

Does the Evolver's sequencer transmit MIDI note messages?

It can. One of the many modulation destinations for the sequencer is MIDI note number.

Can I use a MIDI controller/control surface/sequencer to control or automate an Evolver's parameters?

Many of an Evolver’s parameters can be controlled by MIDI continuous controller (CC) messages. (The desktop model must have OS version 3 for this to work.)

All of the parameters can be addressed with SysEx messages, so knob turns and the like can be recorded with a sequencer. And there are at least a couple of MIDI controllers/control surfaces capable of sending SysEx messages.

What is poly chain?

The various Evolver models have a special MIDI implementation that allows 2 or more Evolvers to be connected for expanded polyphony. Any Evolver can be poly chained to another, regardless of model. The monophonic Evolvers do have hotter (that is, higher level) outputs than the polyphonic Evolvers, so you will want to use a mixer to balance the levels. When poly chaining Poly Evolvers only (a keyboard and one or more racks), a mixer is unnecessary, as the Poly Evolver Rack has a special Mix Input for that purpose.

Can I poly chain a Mono Evolver Keyboard with a Poly Evolver Rack to make a 5-voice synthesizer?

Yes you can, and the Mono Evolver Keyboard makes a great control surface for the Rack, as well. There are a couple of things you should be aware of before taking the plunge, though.

You won’t be able to control Combos from the Mono Evolver Keyboard. Since it’s a monophonic (that is, one-voice) synth, it doesn’t have the ability to do Combos and so doesn’t have those controls.

The monophonic Evolvers (desktop and keyboard) have hotter outputs than the polyphonic Evolvers (rack and keyboard), so if you use the Mix Input on the Poly Evolver Rack, the one voice contributed by the monophonic Evolver may be noticeably louder. We recommend using a mixer to combine and balance the outputs of the instruments.

What is the difference between a Prophet '08 and an Evolver?

There are significant differences between the voice architectures of the two product lines. The most obvious difference is that the Evolvers are analog/digital hybrids. In addition to the two analog oscillators, the Evolvers have two digital wavetable oscillators. Then there are digital signal processing functions that are tightly integrated with each voice. These include a multi-tap stereo delay that is syncable to the clock, the LFOs, and the sequencer, a modelled distortion, a high-pass filter, tuned feedback, and “bit crushing.”

Can an Evolver sound like a Prophet '08?

The analog oscillators and the analog low-pass filters are the same in both product lines, so it’s possible to make an Evolver sound very much like a Prophet ’08. Of course, there are a lot of things an Evolver can do that a Prophet ’08 can’t do. The Evolver’s strength is really in what it can do beyond purely analog sounds. They’re two different beasts.