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Sound On Sound review: Rob Papen Blade

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In theory, additive synthesis is simple, yet the challenge to put it at the core of a musician?friendly instrument remains almost completely unanswered. Hoping to do exactly that are the team of Rob Papen and Jon Ayres, with their latest creation, Blade. This incarnation of additive synthesis generates its waveforms using 96 sine waves but remains true to the Papen tradition of being welcoming and easy to use. Might additive finally be ready to come in from the cold?

Blade is like a scalpel: so sharp it’s almost painless! Via a dozen knobs and a few menus and buttons, the Harmolator could be the gateway to widespread additive addiction. The spectrum display plays a big part in this, giving real?time insight into what each parameter does. I’d go so far as to say that Blade’s synthesis is easier to understand than FM and almost as fast to program as subtractive synthesis — no mean feat!

Putting the complicated stuff out of reach doesn’t automatically mean a lack of detail, either; it simply means you’re not bogged down with decisions about the amplitudes of every individual partial. Still, it would have been nice to occasionally dig a little deeper (and, who knows, that might come one day). For now, I think the balance is about right.

Admittedly, the inclusion of an XY pad is not radically new but this version is audibly different, due to the additive parameters and the synchronised pad motion. Other than the lack of a central patch database, there’s really only one aspect of operation to complain about: the glowing text.

Blade is quietly innovative, fairly?priced and a real palate?cleansing alternative to other synths. If you’re still unconvinced, why not download the demo version and give those partials a spin?

Read full review at Sound On Sound

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