A Surprisingly Affordable New Analog Synth
By James Grahame
Dave Smith's Tetra analog synthesizer stands out in a world of me-too computer-based soft synths. The tabletop instrument retails for $799 (street price), while somehow cramming four analog voices into a surprisingly compact case.
The Tetra features the same Curtis analog low-pass filter chips used in many classic synths, along with four-part multi-timbral capability, four discrete outputs and the ability to chain with other Dave Smith instruments for expanded polyphony. A free patch editor is available for both Mac OS and Windows.
Each synth voice includes two DCOs, a resonant low-pass filter, three envelope generators, four low frequency oscillators and extensive modulation routing. If that's not enough for you, there's an arpeggiator and analog-style step sequencer for each voice, along with extensive feedback possibilities to dirty things up.
To keep costs down, the simplified front panel offers four assignable parameter controls, along with five dedicated controls for the most frequently used parameters. Nevertheless, Smith & Company managed to cram in a headphone output, standard MIDI in/out jacks and a USB connector.
Back in the early 1980s, the distinctive sound of the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesizer graced nearly every pop album. It was the first programmable polyphonic synth, capable of playing a whopping five notes simultaneously. It was also unbelievably expensive, retailing for almost five thousand dollars. Sequential founder Dave Smith released a range of groundbreaking instruments throughout the 1980s before jumping successfully into the world of software synthesis. The software market quickly became overcrowded, and he opened Dave Smith Instruments a few years later.