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A new toy


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Today I've received a new instrument, and I want to share my joy.


A premise: In these times of financial tightness, about a month ago a thousand bucks took my direction unexpectedly. Instead to use them to fix the car or something, I decided to get something *analog* (my analog lust has grown lately, with the Voyager, seeing Wakeman in concert, and everything).

Well, sadly, an used Mini, a Voyager or an Andromeda were out of reach. I considered various possibilities:


- An Evolver... very nice, but it doesn't have THAT sound. (I've listened to a lot of demos).


- A Pulse... ditto. I spent some time with it, and the sound of the raw oscillators was enough to make me run away. The filter is very nice, though...


- The MFB Synth II (the new one) seemed to have all the right features, and it's only about $500 new. But features aren't all... Again, I listened to a lot of mp3s, and it didn't convince me at all.


So what the hell did I buy...


An used Studio Electronics SE-1 off Ebay.

I was a little worried about the shipping and everything, but all went smoothly.

I've played it for a couple of hours, and folks, very seldom I've been so happy with an instrument! It has a wonderful sound. I intend to use it mainly for leads, and it play rings around any VA or software I've ever tried. In short, I LOVE it!


Now the big question: Does it sound *exactly* like a Mini?

The honest answer: Not *exactly*. But for my purposes, it's 95% there.

First - The envelopes and LFOs are digital, so it doesn't have that snap. But I'm not going to use it for dance basses anyway, and I generally don't like instantaneous attacks, so I don't care. Besides, I'm told the Voyager doesn't have the Mini snap either...

Second - The sound. If compared with a Mini with the original oscillator bank, the SE-1 sounds slightly well-behaved and 'straight' (although very fat). If the comparison is with a later Mini, I'd say it's pratically indistinguishable. I hope to verify this direcly soon. :)


Those are the main differences... But the SE-1 also has three LFOs and four envelopes, the modulation matrix is not exhaustive but very complete, you can choose beetween single (legato) and multi trigger, you have a choice of linear and exponential envelope curves, it has a second filter with 12db/octave, and of course it has MIDI, programs, etc.


Negatives? It has the worst presets I've heard in my life. Fortunately, they're all overwritable (I've started to do it already :) ) And I don't like the OS. It's very easy to understand (my unit came with no manual) but it's far from having buttons or knobs for every function; more than half of the parameters are in the display menu. In my view, they didn't always make the right choices; why they chose to hide the oscillator mix function is beyond me. The rate and depht control for the LFOs are on the panel, but unlike other parameters, they don't have visual feedback on the display! This is crazy too - The three LFOs share the same two knobs (and two switches), so when switching from editing n.1 to n.2, for example, you have no idea where the latter is set, as it doesn't have any relationship with the knob position. I see no reason for this.


But these negatives are few and very minor. I love to program this thing!

I also compared it with my AN1x. I had bought it mainly for moog-type leads, which my Matrix-12 couldn't do, and I bought it after comparing it with most other VAs - so I have programmed a lot of those kind of sounds on the AN. Well, the Yamaha holds quite well! Of course, I did those sounds by layering the two 'scenes' and detuning 20 oscillators, then adding EQ and effects, while the SE-1 played with its three oscs and one filter... But that said, I'm not going to sell the AN1x now that I have the SE-1. It's still gonna be very useful, especially for live use.


(Hint: If you need moog-fat leads from a VA, get the AN1x - NOT the AN200, or the plug-in card for Yamaha workstation. You really need to layer those two 'scenes'.) :)


In short - again, I love this instrument. The sound of the Mini is always in my blood, and the SE-1 give it to me in a manageable format.

I'm back to programming now... :D In the next few days, I hope to compare it with some real Minis, so I'll be back with my impressions. :)


Needless to say - please post your experiences with either the SE-1 or the Mini, especially if you've had the chance to compare them.



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Very cool, Carlo. Congratulations.


Needless to say, I can't wait to hear this new toy in action. I was relieved to hear you say that the Yammy didn't perform so badly ... since I've reconciled myself to it as my source of moogyness ... and I trust your judgement. :D


I do the two scenes thing myself. Amp feedback at about 25-30, and I drift the oscillator pitch with the Free EG. I also (sometimes) use some very mild osc sync with slow modulation from LFO2 ... not to create anything radical but to create some timbral variation over time. I'd love to hear more about your comparisons as you go forward.





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Cool. :thu:


I have a question. How does the digital LFO respond when driven to a high rate? Will it go up into the audio range and remain smooth like a Mini or does it succumb to that gurgle that most VA's and VSTi's do? What is the upper limit? Are the LFO's assignable so that you can direct two different LFO's to the osc's, then use one at a high speed for growl and one at a slower speed for virbrato?



This post edited for speling.

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Originally posted by Tusker:

I was relieved to hear you say that the Yammy didn't perform so badly ... since I've reconciled myself to it as my source of moogyness ... and I trust your judgement. :D

You shouldn't... only trust your ears! :D


Robert: Sadly, the LFOs don't go up there as far as I can tell, so oscillator modulation is strictly subsonic (vibrato). Strangely, there is not even the possibility to FM the analog (audio) oscillators.

But there's a ring modulator, so not everything is lost.

Other limitations I've discovered include only one destination parameter each for mod wheel and aftertouch... But I'm told they are coming up with a massive update to complete the MIDI implementation. However, to my understanding, this would involve to send the thing to the USA again, so I'm afraid it won't happen soon... :)


The biggest limitation, in my view, is the lack of an external input, but this can be remedied with a mod, too. After doing that, I'll have to split the main out if I want to do the Mini feedback trick - there's only one output jack on the instrument.


It sounds like I'm going to have an intense relationship with this instrument... :D



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Congrats, Carlo. As a newbie Evolver owner I must say I'm happy with my new box too, but back to the point:


If the presets are really that terrible, perhaps they are not really the presets! You did say you bought it used, right?


Fun fun fun.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Originally posted by Magpel:

If the presets are really that terrible, perhaps they are not really the presets! You did say you bought it used, right?

You're absolutely right. They could have been programmed for specific songs (Dance/Hiphop material, as far as I can tell), so they don't fit my use of the instrument at all.


And yeah - it's fun, fun, fun. :D

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A little update...


Just to reaffirm that I LOVE the SE-1. It's alive! :D The sync screams, the PW rolls, the resonance whistles, the filter farts, and the oscillators pulse and sing. The oscs overdrive the filter in an extremely musical way.

Did I mention that I *love* it? :)


Again, the only thing that I'm missing is the ext input - but that will be remedied soon. But now that I got a feel for making the sounds I'm after, I'm almost worried to get the ext input and try the Mini feedback trick - how in the world could this synth make sounds *bigger* than the ones it's making right now?! :D


I spotted another negative: The Filter Cutoff knob steps VERY evidently. But I'm told that when I upgrade, that's remedied. The cutoff doesn't step when controlled via MIDI, though.


The 2-pole filter is very, very useful, and good-sounding. I never heard a 2-pole with such a screaming resonance! I thought I'd used it mainly for ethereal SEM-like lines, but it's good for fat leads, too. I guess a big difference is made by the sound of the raw oscillators.


The SE-1 seems to demand reverb (as most synths without onboard effects do), but you know what's strange - I've always tended to save the Lexicon reverb for real (ha ha...) instruments or "natural" samples, knowing that for synth sounds, something 'colder' like the SPX900 or Quadraverb generally works better. Well, the SE-1 makes love with Lexicon.

And generally speaking, it sound soo good that a touch of *any* reverb on it sounds huge and beautiful.


I had hoped to compare it with a real Mini or two, but due to conflicting schedules, this won't happen for another week or two. Then, I'll be back with more impressions.


Oh, and rereading my previous posts, I noticed that some sounded a bit rough and/or silly. Let me apologize for that - it wasn't my intention. I was just over-excited..! :D


And a last thing - I LOVE this synth!! :cool:



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Congrats on your new toy Carlo. I divide up my keyboards/modules into those I think of as performance "toys" and those that serve as tools to accomplish a certain sound, effect etc (my sampler, Wavestation and mayabe FS1Rs fall in to this category for me). It sounds like you've discovered a new performance toy. There nothing more fun and to me thats what its all about. No offense to you or the other pros on this forum.
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