ASM’s Hydrasynth made a splash when it was announced in September of 2019. The company was fresh face on the market, but it included luminaries of the electronic instrument world who worked on Akai’s MPC line and Arturia’s ‘Brute line. So there was understandably some hype. And consensus is that it’s lived up to it.
Now the company is taking its unique wavemorphing engine, a keybed with polyphonic aftertouch, plus its full raft of sound design tools and putting them in the portable, battery-powered and more affordable Hydrasynth Explorer.
The Explorer has 37 semi-weighted, mid-sized keys. So it’s a bit more generous than your average mainstream synthesizer. And just like it’s big siblings — the $1,299 Hydrasynth and $799 Hydrasynth Desktop — it has eight voices of polyphony and three oscillators. It also has two “mutators” which can mangle oscillators one and two in various ways from pretty standard (FM and pulse width modulation) to more out there (PhazDiff and harmonic sweep).
There’s also two filters that can be combined in series or parallel and five — yes five — LFOs and envelope generators. And those envelope generators aren’t your standard ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) envelopes either. These are six-stage DAHDSR envelopes (delay, attack, hold, decay, sustain, release). There’s also built-in delay and reverb effects, a 32-slot modulation matrix and a pretty advanced arpeggiator.
All of that sound design power comes in an instrument that can be powered by eight AA batteries and costs just $600. Granted at 7.5 pounds it’s definitely pushing the boundaries of “portable”. You’re definitely not going to lug the Hydrasynth Explorer on your commute, but it’s not too much of a hassle to drag it to an impromptu jam session or set up in a park for an afternoon.
Alongside the Explorer, ASM also announced the Hydrasynth Deluxe which has 73 full-sized keys and bumps the voice count up to 16. Of course, it also comes at a premium with a price of $1,799.
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