Mads Heldtberg, Denmark
November 4th 2001
I just wanted to say that the DROID is up and running and that it's just too cool!!!
Mads is a member of the band Dureforsog and he told me they are going to use DROID-3 on their next CD. He is also a sound designer and is using DROID-3 to create robotic sounds which plays a big role in an upcoming Danish TV-series COVAC #0009 by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Peter Erlich, USA
November 4th 2001
Oh man, I was just playing with the DROID and now I definitely wanna keep both of them :) - Hope the other guy can't come up with the money ;)
Peter actually came to Denmark and bought two DROIDs - one for himself and one for a friend. He uses Mac and the MIDI editor for MacOS9.
Sune Munkholm Pedersen, Denmark
March 30th 2001
Over the last six decades synthesizers has developed rapidly; from being very primitive to "state of the art" polyphonic killer-machines.
However, for some reason the development has drowned itself by gazing only forward. Alas, today some very useful features have been forgotten, by the larger companies (but not, I feel, by the users).
In the mid / late 80s synthesizers sounded great but often lacked processing power - or maybe it was just bad programming. In '91 Kurzweil launched their K-2000, which was a new milestone because of its many synth-features such as hardsyncing and resonant filters. This brought back some of the old charm in a new design. Nowadays all the huge companies have made a large number of retro analogue products which are great. However (apart from rare exceptions such as Yamaha AN1x) LFO/envelope speeds and widths are not optimal like in the old days.
Why these harsh words? Well, because this is where DROID-3 stands out!
Originally the "DROID-1" was intented as a simple pitch modulating mini synth, which would emulate the extremely fast LFO sweeps from the EMS Synthi-A (V.C.S3) and Korg PS-3100 (like heard on Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygen), but the team (thank God) decided to make it a more complex programmable effect synth and here it is ;O)
What will it do?
First of all I have to mention its overall sound which defines its personality. It runs at mere 7340 Hz (in normal mode) and has a homemade 8 bit D/A converter that gives it a full thrust, uncensored and dark kind of tone. "Dark" doesn't mean that it's dull at all - but actually rather analoguesque. You can always gain the high end to get the desired treble (it's dirty, but it's there).
• 2 DCOs with on/off key trig and keyfollow. Also DROID-3 can hardsync DCO1 (slave) to DCO2 (master) in a rather unique way as unlike regular sync the pulsewidth in the master DCO will affect the slave - never seen on any synth before.
• Both DCOs can be set to saw up, saw down, square (0-100% dutycycle on the pulswidth), triangle, digital noise, S&H noise (like the SID6581), digital (at lower keys it sounds like a very short grand-piano loop) or silent (sounds like outa space :) - this wave creates pauses when modulating the waveforms). The waveform setting can be modulated for wave-sequencing effects.
• Waveform offset with four different overload modes which makes it possible to create new waveforms. This too can be modulated. Each DCO can be set to play in logarithmic or linear tuning mode. Logarithimic is ordniary detuing, linear creates similar interference/detune cycle all over the keyboard-range (never heard on any synth before). - Well, actually the idea came from a soft synth using the SID chip Rolf Asmund made on the Commodore 64 many years ago... I wonder if Rolf knows anyone at Elektron ;)
• Both DCOs are present in the matrix controller list and of course the pitch can be modulated thus creating very expressive FM patches.
2 ENVs with ADSR, level, offset and optional loop. Envelope 1's loop mode works like a very fast retrig LFO with variable ramp fade in/attack. It loops between decay and release as long as you hold down the key. If decay and release are set to equal values it will act as a triangle wave LFO. If decay to 255 and release is set to 0 you will get a slow saw down. Get the picture? In short terms: Full ramp versatility - with super fast rates. Envelope 2's loop mode on the other hand uses freerun mode and just keeps looping regardless of the notes played.
The DROID-3 filter can act as a single low pass, band pass, band rejection or high pass filter. Or it can run as two parallel filters: high and/or low pass. No resonance is present, but similar effects can be achieved with hardsyncing. There is a profound structure-system letting you route each DCO through and/or bypass the filter(s). Aslo with structures including both DCOs there is a boost feature which will give you that classic sub-oscillator or divider like sound.
The overall legato mode makes soft overlaps possible. The extremly fast 4-note buffer arpeggio can be used for regular broken chords or even a kind of LFO effect dependending on how you play it. Naturally, the arpeggio speed can be modulated.
The easy-to-use PC-editor will make it possible to store patches on your PC and convert them into Standard MIDI Files. DROID-3 comes with preset sounds in this editor's format as well as MIDI files. Actually DROID-3 doesn't use slow SysEx messages but regular MIDI control changes for all of its parameters. That means you can actually control every parameter in real-time from your sequencer or mother keyboard.
For programming on the unit itself DROID-3 has buttons for both right and left handed sound designers - nothing left out, that's right :)
So far I am very impressed by what this little synth will do with its relatively few parameters. The "sound" of the DROID-3 and the matrix-modulation is definately its secrets. As I see it, DROID-3 has grown into being more than just an effect synth. I have made everything ranging from very thick PWM basses, deep Moog-like basses, animated sync textures and techno squares to crazy effect sweeps, even wooden drums, a steam engine, a cool gunshot, complex wave-sequences and much more... so my advice is this: Go get one! :)
Just be aware of these facts:
It's not a hi-fi product,
it's not polyphonic,
it's not what you imagined,
it's made for synth-lovers (though it won't satisfy all your sexual needs),
it makes you into an android,
it's cheap and
it's super cool...
C U around
Sune M. Pedersen ( http://sonnymaestro.com )
DROID-3 preset sound programmer
Sune lives in Denmark and is a devoted sound designer and composer. For the past 10 years he has been programming all kinds of synthesizers making himself a name in the business. His exceptional skills come not only from years of dedicated synth exploring and numerous studio sessions but also from an inborn talent for audio perception. He has been involved in Danish projects such as DJ-Alligator, Hit'n'Hide, ETA, Malk de Koijn, Den Gale Pose, Danser med Drenge and many more.
Sune has a considerable collection of old and younger synths and he composes all sorts of music. His own collection of unpublished works counts more than 10 full CDs of classical, drum'n'bass, new-age and filmesque music - just to name a few of the genres.
Daniel Viksporre, Sweden
October 2nd 2001
Review of the great sounding new Danish synth DROID-3
I was lucky to get my hands on the first Export copy of DROID-3. So I am the first one outside Denmark to give a review of this new hope for a Danish synth industry. DROID-3 is mainly something for you who look for a new synth for making of electronic music.
So what is DROID-3? It is a monophonic sound source with 2 Oscillators and 2 Envelopes. It doesn't have any LFOs but you can make Env. 1 and Env. 2 to act like LFOs and envelopes at the same time. It has 2 non resonant filters that can be combined to one multimode filter if you like. There is many different ways to change the filter section. One of the more odd functions is the possibility to set the roll-off on the filters. There are over 20 different waveforms to chose from for the oscillators [actually there are 7 but a wide range of new waveforms can be created by changing the offset and have the waveform distorted in one of the four different distortion modes, ed.]. You can also sync osc1 with the period of oscillator2. It has a arpeggiator with settable speed. You can set a so high value that it will go beyond the chord like sound to a FM like sound. This is the fastest arpeggio I have ever sounded. One feature that would be cool would be if you could sync the arpeggiator to MIDI clock, but you can't. You also have a modulation matrix as in the old and expensive Oberheim Matirix 12. But the modulation matrix in the DROID3 is maybe even more versatile. It can be used for making the most bizarre and cool sounds.
The following controller outputs:
En1 = Envelope 1
En2 = Envelope 2
DC1 = Digital Controlled Oscillator (DCO) 1
DC2 = Digital Controlled Oscillator (DCO) 2
Pb = Pitch bender
Pb2 = Pitch bender scaled down so that in standard tuning mode the range is +/-2 notes.
Mod = Modulation wheel (control change 01)
Vel = Note on velocity (stays the same until new key is pressed)
VlG = Note on velocity with gate (stays the same only when a key is hold down)
Gat = Gate - outputs max. value as long as a key is hold down, otherwise it outputs 0.
Aft = Aftertouch
KF = Key follow
KF2 = Key follow scaled up so that each interval means more.
Hld = Hold pedal (control change 64) - outputs max. value as long as it is hold down, otherwise it outputs 0.
Exp = Expression pedal (control change 11)
Bth = Breath control (control change 2)
...can be used to control the following inputs:
Arpeggio speed ('Arp' in the MAIN menu)
DCO 1 amplitude ('Amp' in the first DCO1 menu)
DCO 1 pitch ('Frq' in the first DCO1 menu)
DCO 1 waveform ('Wav' in the second DCO1 menu)
DCO 1 pulse width ('PW' in the second DCO1 menu)
DCO 1 offset ('Off' in the first DCO1 menu)
DCO 2 amplitude ('Amp' in the first DCO2 menu)
DCO 2 pitch ('Frq' in the first DCO2 menu)
DCO 2 waveform ('Wav' in the second DCO2 menu)
DCO 2 pulse width ('PW' in the second DCO2 menu)
DCO 2 offset ('Off' in the first DCO2 menu)
Envelope 1 offset ('Off' in the first ENV1 menu)
Envelope 2 offset ('Off' in the first ENV2 menu)
Filter cutoff ('Cut' in the FLTR menu)
Filter width/cutoff2 ('Wid' in the FLTR menu)
You can also make some wave sequencing with DROID-3. It is done by setting the oscillator waveform to be changed by a dynamic value in the modulation matrix, this is a really cool feature for making some rhythmic changes of the sound. If you would like to know more about the specs for DROID-3 I would recommend that you go through all the material about it that you can find on www.droid.dk
On top of DROID-3 you will find a display, a endless knob and 2 exit buttons and 2 enter buttons, one set for right handed and one set for left handed. Three cool LEDs: Output (red), MIDI input (green) and DCO2 rate (yellow). It is a very small synth. It is as big as a CD-cover, it is only a bit higher in the back to fit one MIDI in, one audio out, a power switch. The fact that it is very small makes it fit well on top of most synths. It also look a bit handmade. It has a thick layer of lacquer, so the lacquer is a bit wave-like, it doesn't look to good. If you look at the back you will see that they have had some problems to get the switch and the MIDI connector to be fitted in line with the holes in the casing, that doesn't look too good either.
It's hard to not compare DROID-3 with SidStation. The similarities are many as well as the differences. But what are the main differences then? SidStation is not expensive, but with a compare you will get 2 pieces of DROID-3, for the price of one SidStation. The biggest difference beside of the price is that DROID-3 won't remember any of your patches, but SidStation will. Now you will ask, how do I save my new sounds. You can't do it with the DROID so how do I do it? The answer is the PC sound editor. There is no way to download sounds made on the DROID-3 to the PC, so you are stuck with the editor. The least you could ask for is a patch sheet that you could print out so that you could write down your lucky numbers. If I would like to toy with DROID-3 and come up with a killer sound, a sound patch sheet is what I would like to have. There isn't much parameters in DROID-3 so it would be easy to write them down on a paper. So please give us a patch sheet Denmark! [we now have a patch sheet as part the manual in the supplementary materials sections, ed.]
One of the first problems that will arise is to merge the MIDI signal from your master keyboard and your PC editor. Pardon my French, but wouldn't it be possible for the DROID-3 PC-editor to do this for me? This is a problem you will have to solve, bare this in mind when you buy your DROID. I hope that whey will make this feature available real soon. I had a MIDI-merger at home, so it was not a big problem for me, but maybe it will be a big problem for you! Bare in mind that you will have to use the PC editor to load DROID with sounds. It won't even remember your last patch when you turn of the power, so this isn't the first synth you will have in mind to bring on tour.
So the PC editor is most important for your DROID. This makes it very hard to understand why they haven't used this possibility. There isn't a step sequencer, or other cool things like that in the PC-editor. In fact, you will find it very hard to listen to all the ready made sound patches that goes with the editor. For each new sound you want to listen to, you will have to go through a dialog box. This is very time consuming. This is a thing that must be changed, as this make you think twice before using DROID for a new music project. Another thing on the wish list it to tie drawers in the PC-editor to different control change numbers, so that you can move these drawers with some real hardware. One thing I have problems to understand is how you can come up with the idea to make a synth that needs to be connected to a PC? DROID-3 is now more like a software synth with a great copy protection. You can edit sounds on your DROID so why can't you save any patches in it? I think it would be a great idea for the DROID team to think twice and change the hardware so it will be possible to save sounds onboard the DROID.
DROID-3 is probably the most digital sounding synth you will ever come across. There is only one synth that come close in sounding digital, and that is SidStation. But personally I think that you will get wider range of cool and unexpected sounds with DROID-3. This mainly because of a wider range of sound possibilities and the matrix modulation. It will also get you to a more wider range of sounds faster. With SidStation you will have to be a little bit more calculating when your making your sounds. Ok! SidStation has loads of more weird parameters and loads of more detailed control. But you will get cool results faster with DROID. There is a lot of things that you can do on DROID-3 that cant be done on SidStation, and a lot of things that can't be done on DROID-3 that can be done on SidStation.
I was very impressed with the dynamic in frequency of the oscillators in the bass register. There is more bas in a DROID-3, than there is in a overgrown monsters burp. In the higher note register DROID won't sound clean, it sounds more crisp and digital, even SID-station sound dull and mainstream in compare in the higher notes.
One of the first things that you will come familiar with, is the menu system. You will learn to navigate it in a few seconds. A few minutes later and you know every part of the menu system. It's hard to think that a menu system can get much easier than this. But there is one obvious problem when you come to the bit menu. This is the place where you change things like oscillator sync and other things. A list of the options in the bit menu follows:
Bit 1 = Sync slave mode for DCO 1
Bit 2 = Legato envelope mode
Bit 3 = Retrig for DCO 1
Bit 4 = Retrig for DCO 2
Bit 5 = Key follow for DCO 1
Bit 6 = Key follow for DCO 2
Bit 7 = Envelope 1 loop (with fade in and retrig)
Bit 8 = Envelope 2 loop (free run)
Now to the bad part, you can't change these options one at a time. I think that it would be cool to be able to set all values as one big value, if I also was able to change one value at a time. But when this is the only possibility it don't feels like a cool thing. It is a problem! This is too much experimental, you will get the feeling of not having any control. This is really bad! A possibility to change one option at a time is the least that you could ask for.
The resolution on the endless knob is very low, If you want to change the filter cut-off from bottom to top, you have to get a new grip on the control to make it sweep all the way. A greater resolution on this knob would be to prefer, but on the other hand this synth has no resonance so cut-off sweep won't sound cool anyway. But bare in mind that SidStation don't have any real resonance either. The resonance in SidStation is more like some sort of dist. Talking about dist, there are a few ways to get a cool disted sound with DROID also. For example there are four different types of dist can be chosen in the oscillator mixer.
One of the reason that you would like to buy this synth is the matrix modulation. The idea of being able to modulate what you want with what you would like, is something that will gives the DROID-3 it's big sound possibilities. When did you last route the output of a oscillator to the pitch for a oscillator? You will soon understand that the matrix modulation is very important when it comes to create those sound that are cool and unique for DROID. The main reason for buying a DROID must be to get hold of these unique sounds. There is a few things that could be better with DROID, but with the very low price and the unique DROID sound it is well spent money if you would like a synth that can sound hard and aggressive, funny, soft and unexpected. If you like weird sounds this is the synth for you.
DROID has one big change to go through before you could call it a real synth. You have to be able to save your sound patches on it. One other thing that could make it feel like an analogue synth, was if there was [the possibility of having matrix] controllers for every parameter on the synth, but that is possibly to ask for too much.
// Daniel Viksporre
Daniel lives in Sweden - he too came to Denmark and bought his DROID.