Doepfer Dark Energy Sparks NV

Soft synths with great modulation options often get compared to modular analog gear: “It’s got tons of LFOs! More envelopes than you can shake a stick at!” But have you ever actually played a real modular synth? Have you experienced true voltage control with patch cables and no digital parameter encoding? Once you have, you get spoiled.

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Doepfer Dark Energy

newkeybuy.jpg Mainstream Modular Synthesis Has Arrived

Soft synths with great modulation options often get compared to modular analog gear: “It’s got tons of LFOs! More envelopes than you can shake a stick at!” But have you ever actually played a real modular synth? Have you experienced true voltage control with patch cables and no digital parameter encoding? Once you have, you get spoiled. If you haven’t, it’s probably because modulars can be esoteric and expensive: You need multiple modules to make familiar synth sounds, for one thing. So when Doepfer announced the Dark Energy — a self-contained baby modular, with real patch cables, voltage control, USB, and MIDI — we thought it just might be the box that finally brings modular synthesis to the rest of the keyboard-playing world. In fact, it exceeded those expectations.

0210 Doepfer Dark Energy MAIN HANDS-ON

Click image at left for larger annotated version.

1. The oscillator blends a square wave with triangle and sawtooth options. To isolate either, turn the PW knob to a 0:100 ratio.

2. The 24dB-per-octave filter has a very Moog-like sound at low resonances.

3. Classic modular CV ins and outs, including VCO pitch, filter cutoff, pulse width, and LFO, are in this row of 1/8" mini jacks.

4. This 1/8" input lets you pump external audio through the filter and VCA. The mono audio output uses a 1/8" jack as well.

5. Dual LFOs work in low, medium and high ranges, with maximum frequencies in kHz — well into the audio FM range.

6. ADSR envelope includes multiple speeds for super-snappy transients.

PROS

Massive sound. Audio-range LFOs. Snappiest envelopes we’ve ever heard. USB-to-CV conversion for controlling vintage synths via MIDI or from your DAW. Fully analog knob pots mean no encoding artifacts.

CONS

No preset memory. Configuring and using arpeggiator and advanced MIDI functions is extremely fiddly. LFO waveforms are limited to triangle and square. Mono audio output only.

INFO

$625, doepfer.de
U.S. dist. by Analogue Haven, analoguehaven.com

NEED TO KNOW

Is it fully analog? Every component, from the audio signal path modulation, is completely analog, giving the Dark Energy a monster sound that virtual synths still can’t equal.

What makes it modular? CV ins and outs let you interface it with other analog, voltage-controlled gear.

Can I play it from a MIDI keyboard? Yes. You can also sequence it from your computer via USB, and it can even act as a MIDI-to-CV interface for your other analog gear!

How does it compare to the Dave Smith Mopho? Moog Little Phatty? Unlike those, Dark Energy can’t store presets, and has only one oscillator. On the other hand, its modular structure makes for utterly fresh and unique sounds.

Can it process audio? As an audio processing tool, the Dark Energy is extremely deep. In addition to CV ins and outs, an external audio input feeds the filter and VCA sections.

VOICE STRUCTURE

The Dark Energy’s architecture is deceptively simple: A single VCO feeds a 24dB-per-octave...

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