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CraftSynth 2.0 is portable, fun and a bit poor



Before we come to the victims, let's go through the features. The Craft 2 is a monophonic wavetable synthesizer. Theoretically, you can only play one note at a time. However, a "Spread" function detunes the eight oscillators to amplify the sound or play full chords. Although there are eight oscillators, they are stacked, so you only select two different waveforms at a time (each played simultaneously on four oscillators). This is not necessarily a scam; It's part of what makes the sound of Craft 2 so full and thick.

These oscillators are also what makes Modal's instrument so unique. There are a number of battery-powered synthesizers that cost less than $ 200, but to my knowledge, none of Craft 2's top models have 40 selectable waveforms or 1

6 oscillator modifications. That is, you can not only use the two different waveforms to create sounds, but also to modulate the other waveforms and create entirely new textures and tones. There are well-known options such as frequency modulation, hard sync and ring modulation, as well as more exotic options such as window sync, de-Rez and scrunch phase shaper.

The waveforms themselves are equally exotic. While there are your standard virtual analog rectangular, saw, and sine waves, there's also a selection of sounds from Modal's High-End 002 Synthesizer ($ 4,495), a bank of math waveforms, and a vocal-derived sound. They all sound great too: there is really no dud to be found here. And frankly, it's great fun to get lost in sound design and find new and interesting ways to play the oscillators against each other. With the former, you can add a little bit of crunch to a bass or an abrasive edge to a lead. The latter helps to mask his monophonic flaws when playing pads. It would have been nice if a reverb had been added, but honestly, I'm probably a bit greedy. Most of the competition has only one built-in effect.

There are also two audio rate LFOs that allow you to give some movement to your newly created synthesizer sounds, as well as a modulation envelope, all of which can be assigned for different changes. Parameters on the Craft 2, from the waveform over the delay time until the resonance of the filter. Incidentally, the filter can be morphed from the low pass to the high pass to the band pass. It does not have much personality, but it does the job.

Now for the bad news: As powerful as all these features are, it's confusing to use them on the synthesizer itself. On the front there are 12 threadbare buttons, each with at least two – most with three – different functions. The only indication of what you are doing is a series of LEDs on the keyboard that light up or go out when you turn a knob. This is fine for things like volume or cutoff where you're dealing with a lot of something (more lights = more of whatever). But it's basically useless to try to change wavetables, scales, or oscillator modulation schemes. I will never remember that the fourth light is "triangularly wavy".

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Honestly, it's best to plug in an external keyboard or sequencer – especially because there's no real quencer like on a Volca. There is a programmable arpeggiator, but that's it. Luckily, there are five full-size, five-pin MIDI in and out ports. In addition, the Craft 2 supports MIDI via USB so you can control it from your computer. It's also worth noting that there are ⅛-inch sync jacks for connecting to Volcas, Pocket Operators and other devices, making it really easy to integrate the Craft 2 into your portable music setup.

It's weird to keep Modal Electronics "CraftSynth 2.0 in your hands, if you know what's under the hood. It is modest and frankly it feels a bit threadbare. However, once you connect it to a decent headphone or speaker, it comes alive. The fact that these sounds come from something that weighs just 12.5 ounces with three double-A batteries is amazing. I would not accidentally throw this into a sports bag or be too far away from your phone just in case you need the app to make something out of something. But if you're adding a collection of Volcas or wanting to immerse your toes into the world of hardware synths, the Craft 2 is probably worth considering.


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