Poly Evolver Keyboard

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Poly Evolver Keyboard is no longer in production, but you can still access this page for information and support.

A Wickedly Powerful Synergy of Analog and Digital

The Evolver series marked Dave’s Smith’s triumphant return to hardware synths and still sets the standard for sheer sonic ferocity. The Poly Evolver Keyboard features a plethora of Dave’s best ideas packed into a monstrously powerful instrument with 4-voice polyphony and a sound like no other.

An analog/digital hybrid, the four-voice Poly Evolver Keyboard features four oscillators per voice—two analog and two digital (the digital oscillators feature the waves from the legendary Prophet VS). Classic Curtis analog low-pass filters and real analog VCAs add ample 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 Poly Evolver Keyboard apart is the way in which the analog and digital sides of its personality mesh—the digital processing doesn’t simply add effects at the end of the signal chain, but is tightly integrated with the analog electronics in a  true stereo signal path with tuned feedback, distortion, bit crushing, and synced delays. It can also process external audio and has separate stereo outputs for each voice. Massive doesn’t even begin to describe its sound.

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.

  • Each voice is a complete Evolver with four oscillators per voice, two analog and two digital.
  • True stereo signal path with separate Curtis analog low-pass filters in each channel for each voice. Each voice has its own independent effects (feedback, delay, distortion, high-pass filter, etc.).
  • Highly accessible sound control for easy, intuitive operation: 78 knobs and 58 switches.
  • Clocked, pulsing blue LEDs and hardwood end-panels.
  • Each voice has an independent 16 x 4 step sequencer. Everything (sequencer, LFOs, and delay) syncs perfectly to MIDI.
  • In Program mode, all four voices play the same sound. In Combo mode, voices can be allocated however desired: stack all 4 for a huge unison sound, split or layer the keyboard in any configuration, and/or play one or all sequences at the same time. Each voice can respond to a different MIDI channel.
  • Each voice has its own stereo output in addition to the mix and headphones outputs.
  • Stereo audio input that can be routed to any or all of the voices, enabling parallel audio processing of external stereo or mono signals. The output of one voice can be routed to the input of another for interesting double-processing effects.

Poly Evolver Specifications

  • 5-octave, semi-weighted keyboard action with velocity and aftertouch.
  • Spring-loaded pitch wheel and assignable mod wheel.
  • 512 fully editable Programs (4 banks of 128) and 384 Combos (3 banks of 128).
  • Numeric keypad for direct access of Programs and Combos.
  • Oscillators per voice: 2 digitally controlled analog oscillators (DCOs) with selectable sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle mix, and pulse waves (with pulse-width modulation), and hard sync; 2 digital wavetable oscillators with Prophet VS waves and wave sequencing capability, FM and ring modulation.
  • White noise generator.
  • 2 Low-pass filters per voice: 1 analog Curtis filter per channel, selectable 2- and 4-pole operation (self-resonating in 4-pole mode).
  • 3 Envelope Generators per voice: filter, VCA, and assignable (four-stage ADSR).
  • 4 LFOs per voice.
  • Glide (portamento): separate rates per oscillator.
  • Analog VCAs.
  • Digital high-pass filter.
  • Digital delays: 3 separate, syncable, stereo delay lines per voice.
  • Tuned feedback with “Grunge”: use feedback as a pitched sound source.
  • Distortion and “Output Hack.”
  • 16 x 4 step sequencer per voice.
  • Dimensions: 14.00″ (35.56 cm) W x 38.5 ” (97.79 cm) L x 5.09″ (12.95 cm) H (2.84″ at front edge; the feet account for 0.625″ of the total height)
  • Weight: ~28 lbs. (12.7 kg)
Ins and Outs
  • MIDI In, Out, Thru, and Poly Chain.
  • Stereo audio input: 1/4″ unbalanced.
  • Main stereo audio output: 1/4″ unbalanced.
  • Separate stereo outputs (per voice): 1/4″ unbalanced
  • Sustain pedal input: accepts normally on or normally off momentary footswitch.
  • Pedal/CV1 and Pedal/CV2 inputs: responds to expression pedals or control voltages ranging from 0 to 5 VDC (protected against higher or negative voltages).
  • Headphone output: 1/4″ stereo phone jack.
  • Power supply for 110V – 240V AC operation (15 VDC, 1300 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.

15-Volt Power Supply

15-volt power supply for legacy products including Prophet ’08 keyboard and desktop, Tetra, Mopho series and Evolver series. Also Tempest.

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