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XILS Lab PolyKBII: Overview, One Patch Performance, Video Review Roundup, and Player Edition


Update: Get 25% off XILS products till July 31 by using code "modulatetihs" during checkout. Note I don't benefit from sales.

I just started using the XILS Lab PolyKBII synthesizer. There have been some great reviews on this synth so rather than cover that ground again, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the synth with some first impressions, share a one patch performance video I just shot using only this synth, and I’ll include some video reviews from others.

Get 25% Off
Before I go any further I also wanted to let you know about a 25% off coupon XLS has extended to Modulate This! readers till July 31, 2011. Click here to learn more. This coupon also includes the XILS3 synthesizer.

XILS PolyKBII is a virtual analog modeled synthesizer that “captures the sound and spirit of the obscure RSF PolyKobol Analog synthesizer, including one of its most stunning features : A continuous morphing Oscillator, which can be fully modulated by many sources.”  This is also a great case for modeling as this synth is extremely rare. There were only 30 ever made as his synth came out as the same time as the Yamaha DX7 – and the rest is history.

So, when you play the PolyKBII your playing a piece of history. Here is a video of one of the remaining hardware models.

Watch embedded video

Features from XILS’s Web Site

  • Continuously Morphing Oscillator : Morphing is controlled by all modulation sources. Triangle to Saw to Double Saw to Square to Pulse for endless possibilities.
  • Self Oscillating capable filter, with pre-post drive module, direct Keyboard tracking and Envelope 2 knobs for immediate tweaking.
  • Full modulations tools for expressive instruments : Offering a standard hardwired Modulation Matrix , then another fully customizable Modulation Matrix wasn’t enough, the PolyKobol also provides an exclusive XY bidimentional pad to control all parameters.
  • The PolyMYX is controlled by the Polyphony, this means that each note you play or sequence in real time on the PolyKB can sound from slightly to vastly different.
  • The 8 part Polysequencer brings the concept of step sequencers one step beyond. You can record 8 parts in real real time, or in step mode.
  • Stereo Scene and Unison : The PolyKB's gorgeous analog character can be reinforced by different features, like the custom number of Unison voices, and our very special Drift knob (Which randomly adds a more or less drastic distinct character to each voice).

First Impressions
I’ve spent quite a few hours with PolyKBII over the last two weeks and I find that the quality of the oscillators and filters combined with the unique X/Y modulation interfaces inspired me to explore patches more deeply than with many synths. The PolyKBII draws you in and rewards you with interesting sonic results when you tweak.  The modulation matrix implementation makes PolyKBII extremely expressive as well. Overall, PolyKBII has real character and is extremely fun to play! It’s taking me forever to get through the factory patches as I keep stopping to tweak and play.

Mark Mosher "Journey to Kobol" - One Patch Performance Series
Of course all this makes the PolyKBII a perfect synth for one of my one patch performances. I recorded one of my improvisations with full fidelity output. Give it a view/listen with some good headphones or speakers.

Watch embedded video in HD

One thing I want to point out in this video is some of the organic analog-like drift that occurs. At the 1:42 mark I turn off the arpeggiator and when I do you’ll hear a slight detune. Cool.

Review: Sonic LAB: Xils Lab PolyKB Software Polysynth
Nick Batt over at Sonic State (@sonicnick) did this fantastic video review of PolyKB. Note he is reviewing V1 and since this video PolyKBII has released other features have been added, like more Phaser and EQ effects.

Watch embedded video

The text review is here.

Review: XILS-lab PolyKB - What Torley likes
Torley gave PolyKB a spin as well and takes you on a tour of some of the patches.
Watch embedded video


XILS Lab has also launched a player for only 25€. The player can load 3rd party patches from PolyKB meaning you could share patches with those with only the player!

  • Same Hi Quality Sound Engine than the PolyKB II.
  • Compatible with PolyKB II Add On Soundbanks.
  • 8 user selectable parameters can be customised.
  • Midi Control Automation of all player parameters, including the 8 user selectable parameters.
  • Full control of Arpegiattor settings
  • Full control of Polyphony Settings
  • On/Off toggle for the 4 effects.( If you want to use an external Delay for example )
  • On/Off toggle for the Stereo effect.
  • Selectable control of effects settings ( To adapt the FX to the groove of your tracks for example )
  • Advanced Preset Browser, which enables you to search a preset with multi-criteria operation.

I’m generally not into emulation synths per se, but PolyKBII is interesting to me because the original hardware interface was quite innovative and really holds up – especially the mod matrix and morphing waveforms. Kudos to XILS Lab for not only saving this synth from obscurity, but going beyond emulation to blend in innovative modulation features that make this virtual synth relevant. If you are looking for an analog modeled synth with unique character the PolyKBII is worth a look. For me it’s a fantastic compliment to the other digital virtual instruments in my rig.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO