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June 27, 2011


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Side Brain

Wow cool thanks man! That's an awesome table really helpful


The Gaia doesn't really look so good in this list... Good choice on the Ultranova.

Mark Mosher

Yeah Ronnie,after you take the time to compare at this level of detail, it's clear that even thought Gaia is at some price point as UltraNova, it's really apples and oranges and the Gaia doesn't stack up well. I think based on marketing a lot of people are drawn to Venom - yet when you look at the features UltraNova rocks in comparison. For me the show stoppers on Venom are no modelling, no wavetables, no aftertouch.

Hannes Pasqualini

I would have gone for the Ultranova as well! The only thing it lacks imho is FM, for the rest it just totally rocks compared to the venom. Which also has the downside of being from m-audio, which does not speak for its reliability and sturdiness. I mean, I've tried it and it didn't seem that bad, but who knows how long it can survive being dragged from one to the other...

Mark Mosher

Yeah I wish it had FM as well. There are some FM wavetables. Another cool thing is you can add density and detune per oscillator as well as sync without cutting polyphony. The effects processor kills. Checkout this post http://ultranova.modulatethis.com/2011/06/novation-ultranova-synthesizer-effects.html.

With only 300ish factory sounds it doesnt' represent what is possible, especially when you get into controllerism with it.

I have a Blofeld which has FM and comb filter and sample ROM, I feel like it's a nice compliment.


I view the Roland GAIA much as I do my VW GTI automobile--on paper, the specs don't match to the competition, but as a whole it is just way more fun to drive!

James Miller

Great synths. If I could add to the list, I would add the Alesis Ion, the big, bad, and discontinued cousin of the Micron. It's got all the knobs, filters, options and usability to compete. It also has FM synthesis. As I've seen them go on Ebay for between $200-$600, it's a great option.

I run mine wet and dry, with the wet mix going through a line 6 pod xt with a volume pedal. Both channels run through a Peavey Tube Sweetener (also awesome for the price), through a compressor, into a little line mixer, and into my amp.

Capt Fumo

"Audio Input Can Be Processed by Synth Engine" - I think that should be a Yes for the Venom and not a No...

Mark Mosher

Thanks for the comment Ebay pricing info for those looking for Ion.

Mark Mosher

Hey Capt Fumo,

I looked at specs, manual and even downloaded Vizex and don't see any option for routing audio-in to an osciallator. I might have missed it though. Can you explain how it works?

On UltraNova there is an Audio page. You can route audio to an osciallator. On the OSC on the waveform page I can just select Audio In 1 or two.


Dumeril Seven

Excellent work. One point though: It makes it look like the GAIA provide no modulation capabilities at all, which is not true. It does modulation and it has plenty of modulation sources and destinations, but it doesn't map sources to destination using a matrix.


Great read!
Very helpful.



Thanks! finally I have the Ultranova! ROCKS, MONSTER SYNTH. Thanks!

Sean Anderson

I was planning to get a Venom and reading this I was about to change my mind to the Ultranova...but the lack of multitimbral killed it for me. Though venom has low poly..mt is more important to me. Question... what does analog modeled mean? I know the venom has "sampled waveforms" but I thought that WAS what VA synths essentially were? What is the difference between sampled waveforms and analog modeled? And I am not very familiar with wavetable synthesis...anyone want to give a brief description? I think I might end up buying the Venom and the UN :p

Mark Mosher

Hi Sean,
I like the wikipedia definition for Virtual Analog “An Analog Modeling Synthesizer is a synthesizer that generates the sounds of traditional analog synthesizers using DSP components and software algorithms to simulate the behaviour of the original electric and electronic circuitry, in order to obtain the sound in a more precise manner from the simulated inner working of the circuitry, instead of attempting to recreate the sound directly.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_analog.

By this definition, the oscillators on the Venom are NOT VA. They are samples (simply recordings of analog synths). UltraNova, Blofeld, and Access Virus for example are true VA in that the oscillator circuits are modeled. There are also parameters that can radically change the output of the oscillator’s tone which can’t be achieved if you are simply playing back a recording of a synth. So the advantage of modeling is the sonic range and character of the oscillator is much larger than that of a set of samples and you can shape the sound more radically with parameters and performance.

Re: Wavetalbes, again wikipedia has a nice summary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavetable_synthesis – “The distinction to other synthesis methods employing single-cycle waveforms is twofold: 1) multiple single-cycle waveforms are used while 2) one or several wave modulators control the change between those multiple waveforms or mixtures thereof.” So with wavetables, you can add even more motion and character and sound by playing single cycles of waves but using envelopes, mod wheel etc… to move through a wavetable. This means your performance can change the output of the synth making the sound unique to your performance. This can’t be achieved by simply playing a sample back. UltraNova has wavetables, blofeld has more.

To use a guitar analogy, would you rather play back static samples of guitar strings being plucked in a lab by someone else, or would you rather have the ability to shape the sound of those strings with your intonation.

For many producers, the Venom is just fine. If you like it’s sound and love the samples they put in it and don’t care about the details I mention then it’s a good value.

If you are or want to be a synthesist then having true VA and wavetables is simply fantastic. If you are a keyboard player your going to want aftertouch. Venom does not have aftertouch. UltraNova and Blofeld do. If mutli-timbral is a show stopper, then I’d save up for a Blofeld (16 multi) or Virus (mufis depend on the model. Snow has 4). For me the UN’s touch encoders are just brilliant as well. Or as you say you could get a Venom and an UltraNova :^)

This help?


Mark, I know this is an older post, but I want to thank you for taking the time to research this. These are exactly the three synths I was looking at as well and had knocked it down to just the Novation and Venom. I agree. The Novation has better specs and that the quality of the Venom is simply not there. It feels like an old Casio.

What I did like about the Venom is the sounds are simply insane. If you like Industrial sounds à la Skinny Puppy/Gary Numan/NIN/Coil, then the Venom is likely your weapon of choice. I had a hard time creating sounds as wicked as the Venom's on the Novation. To be fair, I had more time in the store with the Venom (there was always a queue for the Novation at the local Guitar Center!)

To end this already long response, thank you Mark, for helping me make up my mind. The Novation is my next purchase.

Mark Mosher

Your welcome Dave. Have a blast with it. Since it's a modeled synth and not a ROMpler the more time you spend with it the more you'll get out of it.


Great read Mark,
One question, is this lack of FM big deal? Can be added with software update?
Anyway you convinced me to buy ultranowaalthough I was interested initially in gettingakai miniak
But it.s heavy, no USB etc. Sounds good though.

Mark Mosher

It has FM wavetables (not in synthesis). So you can approximate some FM sounds. This plus filter drive, OSC Sync, and distortion can result in some pretty nasty (in a good way) sounds. I'm sure it's possible to add FM in an update.


just bought this baby... :)

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