The Septavox , from synthmakers Critter and Guitari , is a digital synthesizer with wooden keys and rich sounds. It has a very distinctive, almost analog sound, and can often times sound very much like an old video game! I hope to incoroprate the Septavox in to my own chipmusic, and so I thought others in the community might be interested to hear of its merits.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first: Unfortunately, the Septavox has a pretty hefty price tag... $395 to be exact (plus shipping), which is out of reach for a lot of music enthusiasts.
The good news is that gets you a pretty cool @$$ synth! This is a boutique, handmade (in the USA) synth with custom parts that is both unique and spectacular sounding. Worth every penny in my opinion!
Ease of Use
The Septavox is very simple to use. It has 7 different tones that you can choose from, and 7 different synth modes that you can play in. These are selected by the buttons on either side of the knobs. To make things easy to remember, each tone and mode is designated by the color of it's adjacent led. After playing with the Septavox for a day or so, you will have these memorized and will be able to quickly bring up the sort of sounds you want to create with it.
As for the knobs, the first two control parameters specific to each synth mode. The next knob controls tuning, and the last knob is a volume control. Simple!
The instructions are handily available on the back of the synth.
The Septavox is only available from (Jack White's) Third Man Records. I believe it is limited edition, though stock should last for a long time, according to Third Man staff.
The Septavox comes in 2 color combinations: a yellow enclosure with black knobs, or a black enclosure with yellow knobs. I prefer the black one, but the yellow one looks pretty rad too.
The wooden buttons are charming, though it is sort of an odd looking synth with them. Also fun, is how they sort of click and clack as you play. Personally, I find these buttons extremely easy to play... (Incidentally, they are about the size of Gameboy buttons) and they do not hurt my wrists to play like typical keys.
The 41 keys give you a nice range to play in, and this range can be extended with either the tuning knob, or you can even set up the pitch range at startup by holding down either the tone or the mode button.
It's size makes it fairly portable. Of course it's not as small as it's predecessor, the Pocket Piano
, but at about 3x18 inches with 41 keys and a built in speaker, it's pretty compact. Weighs about 2 pounds.
It can run on four AA batteries or the included wall wart.
Built like a tank. The aluminum enclosure is super strong so it will probably never break. I'm not sure what a drop to the ground would do to it's guts though, and I'm not going to find out! Knobs are sturdy, yet easy to tweak.
I might add some rubber feet to the bottom so It doesn't get scratched up and so it will have better table top traction.
There is also no battery cover, but I am okay with that. Batteries have not fallen out once.
It does come with a 1 year warranty in case anything should go wrong with it.
Sounds great. The built in Speaker gets really loud or you can use the 1/4" monophonic output jack if you want to plug it into your amp, mixer, or effects.
There are so many great sounds that you can achieve with different combinations of the modes, tones, and knob adjustments... It is really amazing and really inspires creativity. Each knob uses only 2 parameters and these limits can enhance creativity as well. Honestly, I find it to be the funnest synth I have ever had!
The tones range from very smooth sounding sine waves to dirty sounding square waves and even some FM synthesis sounds. The modes include 2 beautiful arpeggiators, a slicer mode which sounds sort of glitchy, a vibrato mode, a swell mode, pipe glide, and slide mode. The sounds vary widely within each mode as you use the 2 parameter knobs to craft your sound just as you want. You can easilly acheive traditional sorts of sounds as well as weird sounds and distorted noises with the twist of a knob.
Has midi in and midi out, if you're into that sort of thing.
In conclusion, I think a lot of chipmusic fans would enjoy this synth because of the different sounds it can create, and for the overall fun quality of it.
Now that you've learned a little bit about it I would recommend hearing it! I am going to try and post a video soon, but in the meantime you can check youtube for Septavox or Pocket Piano videos to get an idea of what they sound like (the 2 are very similar and even share some tones and modes).
I hope you've enjoyed this review and found it to be entertaining/useful. Thanks for reading!
Pictures by me except for the one depicting both colors of the Septavox, that one's from Third Man's site.