COBALT8 is an 8-voice 64-oscillator sophisticated virtual analogue synthesizer with innovative concepts, complex modulations and morphable filters in a tidy blue synth.
This is the first in a new series of virtual analogue synthesizers. Perhaps it began with the Skulpt but Modal are definitely putting this forward as something completely different to that, although some concepts like the companion Modal app are carried across. They use terms like “extended virtual analogue”, “sophisticated synthesis concept” and “unparalleled modulation engine” which all sounds very exciting – new synthesizers are always exciting.
Virtual Analogue (VA) means that it’s not actual analogue synthesizer circuitry inside but virtual computer-based models of circuits based on some form of DSP or microprocessor. That often leads to assuming that it’s a hardware version of a plug-in VST Instrument which is certainly not the case. Classic VA synths like the Access Virus, Roland JP8000, Nord and Waldorf synths offer far more than a plugin could. COBALT8 wants to continue the trend of innovative ideas and creative avenues of sound within a dedicated hardware interface.
It has 64 high-resolution oscillators with extended drift for that authentic analogue experience. You can use up to 8 for each voice giving it 8 truly polyphonic voices. The oscillators are split into two independent Osc groups that are packed with algorithms of complex analogue synthesis techniques. Then you can pour on the cross-modulation, PWM, wave morphing, bit crushing and filtered noise. Each algorithm is revealed on the front panel as a pair of controls that are pre-patched to exactly the most pleasing parameters.
Moving into the filter section Modal has an all-new 4-pole morphable ladder filter with four switchable filter modes and a morph knob turning up next to the cutoff and resonance.
For modulation COBALT8 has 3 envelope generators to cover the filter, volume and modulation with switchable types. There are 3 LFOs, 2 of them are polyphonic, and can all go up to audio rate can be routed to 55 destinations. The routing is tackled by a sophisticated modulation matrix. It also has a decent effects system with 3 independent DSP drive engines and the usual roster of effects.
It also has an onboard 512-note sequencer with 4 animation lanes for messing about with parameters as you go. In polyphonic mode you get 64 steps per voice. There’s also an arpeggiator, multiple sequencer trigger modes, chord modes and all that jazz to give you a good time while staying in the COBALT8.
It’s made from aluminium with a Fatar 37-note keyboard and the look of the ARGON8 but with that striking blue colour that’s going to stand out in any scenario. The knobs are encoders, 29 of them, 24 buttons, a joystick and an OLED display. COBALT8 supports MPE but not via its own keyboard. It comes with 300 handcrafted presets and there’s room for 200 more.
COBALT8 will be shipping in November for a remarkably reasonable price of £579.99.