Analogue Solutions Fusebox
Analogue Solutions are back with the colourful Fusebox monosynth. Bruce Aisher grabs some cables and gets patching
Analogue Solutions, a fixture on the UK synth scene for years, have seemed somewhat immune to the vagaries of music-making fashion. Rather than simply being out-of-touch, they’ve stuck to what they do well – making all-analogue synths. Recently they’ve donned a few hipster accessories by moving into small-footprint synth and effects box territory, but their values remain the same. Their latest monosynth takes on the colourful interface designs and sonic flexibility of some of their SynthBlock units, while employing aspects of their earlier synthesisers.
Fusebox is a three-VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) monosynth which uses entirely analogue circuitry for all its sounds generation, modulation and internal control functions. The only design aspect that acknowledges the digital age is the inclusion of a MIDI interface that generates a range of CV and gate signals from the external world.
The three oscillators offer core features that overlap, but with some variation in each case. VCO1 is the most conventional iteration of the three, generating Square or Sawtooth waves simultaneously, with the detune and octave controls determining the pitch range. There’s also a knob for controlling Pulse Width, and a switch to engage Cross Modulation (a form of frequency modulation from the square wave output of VCO2). Pulse Width can be modulated via the PWM Control (that is hardwired to the main LFO, but that can also come under external control by plugging in a modulation signal to its dedicated input jack socket). There is a similar system for modulating pitch. Although there’ll be some overlap, this ability of the Fusebox to combine a decent range of hardwired connectivity with a plentiful supply of socket-based patching makes for a lot of flexibility.
VCO2 follows similar lines, but this time XMOD is replaced with Oscillator Sync (from VCO1) and Wide Tune instead of the octave switch. When in Wide Tune mode, the oscillator range expands to take the VCO beyond the audio range. This is especially useful when needing an additional LFO source. My only issue is that making fine adjustments to the oscillator pitch becomes pretty tricky, making the synth cry out for an additional fine pitch control. VCO3 follows the theme of VCO2 with the sync switch replaced by MIDI Pitch, making it possible to disengage this oscillator from MIDI pitch control – and allowing it to function as a true independent LFO. This is also the only oscillator that has a triangle waveform output. Unlike VCO1 and 2, VCO3 is not hardwired into the mixer section, though its square-wave sub-oscillator (one octave down) is.
The mixing section combines the outputs of the oscillators with a Noise source. However, unless you resort to using some of the included patch cables, your options are limited to choosing one waveshape from each of the first two oscillators and high/low/ off options for Noise and the sub. This seems a fair compromise as there are three spare inputs to the mixer section which can be used when required. The only issue I found here was a small amount of audio bleed from the sub even when muted.
It’s worth saying a bit about the dedicated LFO. This has both sine and square-wave outputs (via front
panel sockets). The Speed knob controls both, though the sine output also has a Fade In parameter (triggered by incoming MIDI notes), which is commonly used to create delayed vibrato effects. The sine output is also hardwired to filter cutoff and pulse width (of all VCOs) via the dedicated depth/amount pots. Although there’s no hardwired pitch modulation here, it’s a simple procedure to patch the LFO to all the VCOs via the Global Pitch CV input in the section above.
The Fusebox filter is of the 12dB/ octave multimode variety, similar to that found on Analogue Solutions’ recent Mr Hyde. Three of the filter types can be navigated using a single pot – from low-pass to high-pass via the combined notch shape. Bandpass is selectable as a separate filter shape.
Flexibility is again embraced by providing each of these filter outputs as separate patchable signals. This filter won’t proceed into full-on self oscillation, but it is very characterful, with decent bite when required. Some noticeable audio bleed of high frequencies into the llow-pass signal path was evident on the review unit (audible when trying to create sub-bass parts or longer sweeps). This may not be an issue for many: I’d urge you to judge for yourself.
The envelopes on the Fusebox are straightforward four-stage (shared Decay/Release) affairs, hardwired to filter cutoff and VCA level duties respectively. They both also have two separate output jacks. Each can be triggered via MIDI or from the built-in ‘Patternator’ (see above) or LFO.
The Fusebox is a great-sounding synth in its own right, but add the pattern generation, arpeggiation, MIDI control and patching and it takes on a character and style very much of its own.
OSCILLATORS I/O PATTERNATOR MIDI
As with many other aspects of the synth, certain aspects of the MIDI interfacing are hardwired.
A novel CV and gate sequencer with a power that belies it’s apparent simplicity.
A host of CV inputs/outputs allow the Fusebox to be rewired for unusual routings or connected to external gear.
The Fusebox features three very flexible all-analogue oscillators.