Ashun Sound Machines consists of a small and dedicated team of diverse talent and background. Their primary goal is to bring high-quality creative tools to musicians that seamlessly blend iconic sounds we’ve come to know and love with all of the advantages digital tech affords. Let’s take a closer look at their flagship Hydrasynth in this review, breaking it down for anyone who happens to be on the hunt for a brand new instrument.
Ashun Sound Machine’s Debut Synth Ups the Ante in a Big Way
With a tagline like “digital is the new analog,” we’d expect big things from the fine folks over at ASM. Their debut Hydrasynth is a digital wave morphing synthesizer with polyphonic aftertouch. It also comes in four unique configurations depending on individual taste and needs:
The 37-key Explorer with 8-voice polyphony; the 73-key Deluxe with 16-voice polyphony; the standard Hydrasynth with 49 keys and 8-voice polyphony; and the Desktop with 24 performance pads and 8-voice polyphony. The variety you get from a flagship synthesizer is remarkable, as you essentially have four quite different models that all share the same powerful sound engine.
ASM Hydrasynth Explorer vs. Desktop – What’s the Difference?
The Hydrasynth Explorer is the most portable version of the synthesizer that still has keys. It has a slim and trim profile and can even run on battery power. This is all with 37 keys and complete access to the standard Hydra’s deep sound generating abilities.
On the other hand, we have the Desktop version. This is a synthesizer module that ditches keys for 24 performance pads, though you can still connect to a keyboard if you’d like. With the pads, however, you can take advantage of different layout modes as well as scale modes, so playing it “nontraditionally” is actually intuitive. The Desktop can also mount in a 19″ rack.
Hydrasynth Review: How Does It Stack Up?
Build & Interface
One of the first considerations for any instrument is overall build quality and feel. We’ll consider the standard 49-key Hydrasynth to review its build. In a word, it’s sturdy. It weighs a beefy 22 pounds with an all-metal chassis and faceplate. All of the buttons and knobs feel nice to the touch, indicating no cut corners as far as assembly is concerned.
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The interface/layout itself can take some getting used to. That’s arguably one of the biggest challenges with a synthesizer like this. Users will more than likely need to spend a significant amount of time with this thing, perhaps consulting the dreaded manual or watching tutorials to truly fathom how deep the Hydrasynth can go.
Modulation & Effects
Hydrasynth offers a 32-slot modulation matrix with 29 sources and 155 possible destinations. Nearly everything in the synthesizer can act as a modulation destination, including effects and the arpeggiator. Needless to say, the modulation capabilities are dizzying in their possibilities.
Hydrasynth also sports eight insert effects and a total of 10: chorus, rotary, flanger, delay (five flavors), reverb (four flavors), tremolo, phaser, lo-fi, EQ, and compression. All of these serve to manipulate and put the finishing touches on your synth sounds for unlimited sonic possibilities.
Choose or Create Your Patches
The synth comes factory-loaded with a standard 256 presets. It also contains five banks of 128 presets for storing an obscene amount of custom patches should you wish. You can also utilize ASM’s Patch Manager plugin to search and organize the various patches, as well as load in new patch libraries as they become available.
Who Is Hydrasynth Built For?
The Hydrasynth is an impressively deep synthesizer at entry-level prices. Even experienced synth-heads will likely need a moment to wrap their head around its potential complexity, while beginners may want to experiment with the 256 built-in presets before embarking into the dark on their own.
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From a design standpoint, the Hydrasynth is built for anyone who wants a hardware synthesizer rivaling the capabilities of some of the top software synths on the market. Because it’s so affordable for how much power you get, it’s very accessible and would make a great studio addition for any musician.
Closing Thoughts: ASM Hydrasynth Offers Powerful Wavetable Synth at a Bafflingly Reasonable Price
Synthesizers of this caliber often carry a hefty price tag. Combining the best of digital and analog synthesis, the Hydra is an absolute powerhouse capable of endless sound creation. If you’re just starting out, the Explorer model offers a complete Hydrasynth experience in a portable format for an excellent value.