HYDRASYNTH: Full Review // Keyboard vs Desktop // Poly aftertouch tutorial

OMG, I thought I was through with GAS. This thing looks like a real performance device. It’s strangely limited in some ways but gorgeously designed so it kind of makes up for it.

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Looking forward to checking more of it. I already have the Linnstrument, so I don’t need the keyboard version, and from what I’ve seen desktop one is a no-brainer in terms of “amount of synth for your buck”. Hope it supports full MPE at some point.

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There’s more info at the website but the manual isn’t available yet.

It would be really weird if it didn’t have MPE out of the gate though, since even the desktop version has poly aftertouch.

What I like is how they basically made a fixed architecture synth out of virtual modules and designed the flow chart so you can jump to any module to adjust specific parameters. It’s a really interesting approach that I’m not sure I have seen before.

Nice looking poly synth with a lot of features for the projected price. It’s similar to the UltraNova in many respects, although certainly much more advanced. As much as I like the flexibility of the UltraNova, particularly with an on-screen editor to simplify some of the menu diving, I found the assignable knobs and mod matrix somewhat unsatisfying to use in practice. It also has a pretty well laid out control system, but I often find myself flipping through presets rather than starting from scratch. Still a polyphonic synth covers a lot of territory you just can’t get to with a mono synth. I wonder if there is any provision for multi-timbral operation. That’s one feature I wish the Ultranova had.

full MPE support wasn’t mentioned anywhere, so it seems there’s “only” poly aftertouch so far.

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Forgive my ignorance, but what is the difference?

If it doesn’t have MPE eventually I will be super shocked. The long-time Arturia Product Manager Glen Darcey is behind this device in collaboration with Medeli Musical Instruments. They even head hunted Daniel Troberg of Elektron fame! So I have hope.

Polyphonic aftertouch as opposed to channel aftertouch allows the controller to send aftertouch data for each held key rather than a single value for the entire keyboard. The information is sent on a single MIDI channel as a series of MIDI messages. MPE however uses a separate MIDI channel for each note so things like pitch bend and other modulation can be sent on a per note basis. Implementing MPE is a more complex undertaking than poly aftertouch so even if the Hydra offers one there’s no guarantee that it will offer the other. Still it’s all software so it’s certainly possible.

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MPE is: poly aftertouch, poly pitchbend, one poly midi CC (usually 74) via vertical position on a MPE surface, plus on and off velocity.

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The big difference is the use of multiple MIDI channels to carry the information rather than a single channel. Poly aftertouch and note on/off velocity can be carried with a single channel but for per note pitch bend and CCs it’s necessary to use a separate channel for each note.

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Every time I think I am free of GAS for this synth some new demo will come out and I’m back to thinking about what I can sell to buy one.

I have never seen an enveloped whose stages can be independently tempo synced.

I have the opposite. I make a coffee look at some new gear and get motivated to work with what I have.

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