It's no secret that Analogue Solutions make excellent synthesizers, heck it's their namesake. They make "Analogue Solutions" for those who have some kind of obscure issue that's solved with a synthesizer acquisition, that issue is commonly known as GAS.
And my oh my, nothing got me quite GAS'ing like the brand new Analogue Solutions Fusebox. Teased in several YouTube videos through out early 2017, the Fusebox originally caught my attention because of Tom Carpenters choice of highly offensive orange livery (which I am coincidentally now a huge fan of).
As I continued to watch more videos and listen to more audio examples of the Fusebox I got more and more caught up in the idea of playing with one, thinking about how I could integrate it into my live setup and with my Eurorack. Fortunately I run the synthesizer department here at KMR, so I'm very lucky to be able to get my hands on the demo unit for the shop.
The nitty gritty | Technical Specs:
The Fusebox is an analogue semi modular synthesizer, featuring;
- 3 analogue VCO's
- 12dB state variable analogue filter
- Dual wave analogue LFO with fade in feature
- 5 channel audio mixer
- Sub octave and noise generator
- Two super fast envelopes
- Arpeggiator with MIDI sync
- MIDI to CV and MIDI Clock converter
- Patternator sequencer for creating unique rhythms
- Internal generator for making chords and pitch changes without a keyboard
- Fully patchable architecture with normalled internal signal path
Expectations vs. Reality:
When I first turned on the Fusebox I was greeted with a array of flashing LEDs, switches and a staggering array of controls, admittedly it took me a moment to take everything in and grasp how everything talks to each other.
After all, the Fusebox is a self contained modular synthesizer, so there's no presets to surf, all the decisions regarding the sound are down to you, you make the patches and define, ultimately how the final sound emerges.
For those that know me, you know me and keyboards don't gel. I might be able to make you the nastiest bass sound or program even the most complicated of FM beasts (looking at you DX7), but put the ol' back and white in front of me and I am lost.
Give me a synth that has some sequencing capabilities on board and I am set. That's where the Fusebox comes into it's own. No, really key free sequencing on the Fusebox is what it's all about.
The Fusebox takes some ques from some truly iconic machines, it's an excellent meld of different schools of synthesis.
It has three VCOs in the vintage Moog fashion, where VCO 3 can also be taken out of keyboard control and made to work as a modulation oscillator, providing thick, fat detune and soaring lead tones. With some simple patching between VCO 3 and the mixer, you can turn your run of the mill three VCO synth into a monster five oscillator system (since VCO 3 has three waveform outputs!).
Fusebox also takes some influence from synthesis legend Tom Oberheim, since it includes a 12dB state variable filter, which was heavily influenced by the SEM style filter. It's very well implemented in the Fusebox, since the oscillator and mixer section is VERY harmonically rich, the smooth brassy tone of this circuit helps mellow out the very aggressive raw tone.
And the next school of synthesis comes from West coast pioneer Don Buchla. Whilst the Fusebox is firmly set in its subtractive ways, it does take some influence from the additive school, in the form of the Patternator, which is a four stage CV source, which can both sequence the oscillators and control the the filter cutoff frequency, in a similar vein to the sequential voltage source found on the Music Easel.
I feel like this overview could easily be just about the Patternator, it's a very simple yet ingenious circuit, which by itself elevates the Fusebox above most of its peers, more on this later.
Fusebox more than lives up to my expectations of melding these schools of synthesis together, big fat detune, super smooth VCF and a highly playable pattern generator that makes keyboard free play very fluid and easy.
The Fusebox just begs to be tweaked, its knob encrusted front panel provides even the keenest wiggler with enough tools to built any sound your heart desires, but where it truly stands out is when you start to patch it with other modular gear.
Each VCO has its own pitch CV input with attenuator, which means each VCO can be independantly controlled separate from the incoming MIDI information, so if you want to run three different sequences, you can, and with my Ornaments and Crimes module in Turing mode (being driven by the patternator), that's exactly what I've been doing.
That "modular" theme carries across the whole synthesizer, you can patch and repatch all the aspects of the synth. If you're keen to get into modular, but are intimidated by all the cables, then the Fusebox is a perfect place to start. That said, it's equally a super addition to any serious modular system or user.
Working on the Fusebox is just easy, it has a really obvious layout, with really sturdy, positive feeling knobs (really good job on those by the way Tom!) and feels weighty in a mix and feels tanks in your hands.
Here's 11 mins of Fusebox jamming, probably more than you want to hear. But you get seriously lost on this synth, so 11 mins really was calling it short. No MIDI was used in the takes, this is all self generated sequences from the Fusebox. Sit back and enjoy.
In summary, I strongly believe the Fusebox is a future classic. Just like everything Tom Carpenter puts his hands to, his synths feel real, sound incredible and are a pleasure to use. There is more to this synth than one review could ever cover, it's so incredibly vast that you really need to play with it in person to get the full scope of what it can do.
We have the Fusebox on demo in our London showroom, if you wanna come down and have a go, give me a shout (Tom Lewis) and we can show you what it's all about.
In summary, I give the Analogue Solutions Fusebox 5 folded sine waves out of a possible 5. Top drawer stuff.