Bastl Softpop SP2
With a radical design, this subtractive synth is digitally controlled in an unconventional way. It's unique sound, ample patchbay, and unique fader controls, the Softpop SP2 is a powerhouse for the mobile musician
On the surface, the Softpop SP2 seems to be just another analog monosynth with a unique interface, but upon closer inspection you can see the SP2 has a few aces up its sleeve. With its 8-step sequencer, Scale Quantizer, play modes, and trigger effects, the SP2 is way more than meets the eye.
Its heart is an analog oscillator with a triangle waveform featuring a pulse width modulation input and pulse and triangle wave outputs. Its automatic oscillator tuning feature ensures that you are always in tune, and the pitch fader allows you to input notes by simply sliding it up or down. The variable state resonant filter with lowpass, bandpass, and highpass modes can also self-oscillate and can be used as another oscillator. The envelope is a simple attack / decay shape with a simple control for rate and shape. However, it can be cycled and will act as a low frequency oscillator (LFO). It can also be triggered with each step of the sequencer. The Soft / Pop / Pixel slider is another interesting feature that takes synthesizer technology full circle, using the pure analog signal of the oscillator to emulate glitchy digital sounds.
Bastl creates instruments that are quirky and surprising and the SP2 is no exception. The 8-step sequencer is the brain of the synth. By cleverly using the Scale Quantizer with the pitch fader, you can quickly input a sequence of notes by simply sliding the fader up and down. The notes automatically conform to one of eight programmed scales. If you aren't happy with the sequence and would like to edit the notes, you can do so by using the plus and minus buttons to choose a higher or lower note. Each step in the sequencer can record 3 different components: oscillator pitch, slide, and envelope. Each 8-step loop can be saved as a pattern. Up to 8 patterns can be saved in a bank and you have 8 banks of storage. Up to 16 patterns can be chained together to create longer patterns.
The SP2 expands on the traditional step sequencer in a number of creative ways. One way is by adding Scales. There are 8 default scales that can be applied to your patterns, and you can create your own scales as well. Scales can be chained to create chord progressions.
The SP2 also features Play Modes, which are alternative ways to playback the sequence and add variation or randomness. 8 Play Modes are available, including forward, backward, first 4 steps, last 4 steps, first 3 steps, last 3 steps, first 4 steps random, and all 8 steps random. Interestingly, the chained patterns still advance every 8 steps, so you can create some interesting polyrhythms.
Possibly the most interesting feature in the sequencer section is the Temporary FX feature. Similar to a Pocket Operator, these FX are applied to the sequence as it plays and includes tremolo, re-trig, fast re-trig, arpeggio, pitch envelope, long slew, noise, and silencer. FX can be added and combined in various combinations to create variations to the FX. Up to 64 step loops of FX can be programmed. FX can be added on the fly and removed as well, allowing you to create a unique performance.
Patterns, Scales, Play Modes, and Temporary FX all run separately from each other. Patterns and Scales can be stored in banks. The Play Modes and Temporary FX are not stored, and their length can be set independently, allowing for varying sequences. Patterns and Scales can also be loaded while the sequence is playing, and it will not affect the Play Modes or Temporary FX playback.
This is just a quick view of the possibilities with the sequencer. When you add all of the possibilities you have with the patchbay, MIDI implementation, and X and Y pad, it is hard to imagine how powerful the SP2 can be. Honestly, without experimenting with the SP2 it is hard to fathom all of the possibilities. The interface and unique features of the sequencer can yield immediate results, but deeper exploration can yield the amazing treasures that await the dedicated user.
For the mobile musician, the small form factor and quick interface, combined with its performance possibilities and patchability, represent a winning hand that is hard to beat. The SP2 would be right at home as part of your mobile rig or Eurorack and might be just the device that you have been looking for.
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