I learned synthesis on hardware polysynths, but they are not a thing I keep around for the most part. They have kind of become more utilitarian rather than inspirational, which is why I use modular and experimental synths more extensively in terms of hardware. When I need a polysynth, I usually do just fine utilizing the many virtual instruments at my disposal that do not take up valuable space inside my house in the city.
With that being said I missed having a hardware polysynth around, and the Futuresonus Parva caught my eye. It had the right combination of features that it made me long for it. So I eventually bought one, if only to add to my repertoire. Above all it was something different and new. What surprised me is just how deep it was, and how it was the first polysynth in years that felt inspirational to me.
So the Parva is an analog synth that has a flexible hardware from anywhere from 1-8 voices. This is in large part a result of the voice cards which the synth supports. In fact if there is a problem with a voice card, it is easy to remove and replace, which in terms of repair ability is pretty straightforward. The specs of the synth can of course be found on the website. The synth is digitally controlled using encoders. I would not knock the digital control though, this synth is without question an analog. It is a desktop synth with a reasonable footprint, especially in comparison to some desktops. It supports USB hosting as well as MPE controllers, and it was the first synth with both of these features. This has since become more common, but it should be credited that they saw the benefit of these features from the outset.
The sound of the Parva is without question analog and full of character. This is not a refined Dave Smith Instruments synth. It is something else entirely. Sometimes growly, sometimes out there, other times it is klangtangerous. Don’t let the “Digitally Controlled” aspect fool you, this is about as raw and warm as analog can get.
This is the thing, the only way to really pin it down is it has a character of its own that is distinct. It can often be bell like, but not in the same refined way as a digital synth. It can go very deep on the bass side, but it is also completely unlike anything I have heard. There is this lo-fi character that can come out in a beautiful way if pushed the right direction. There are many sweet spots with this synth in terms of sound design, and many strange an unusual places. It is one of the first analog polysynths that I have connected with in years as a result.
The reality is the demos out there do sound good, but they may very well be selling the synth short in terms of its overall depth in terms of what it can achieve.
With a synth with 3 oscilators, 4 LFOs and 4 Envelopes, one would assume the modulation options are interesting. Well, they did not disappoint me, in fact they surprised me. This is the first poly synth I played where one can modulate the various element of the ADSR envelope. Want to modulate the attack with a random wave…done. This allows for some deeply out there complex synthesis one does not usually find on a polysynth, but rather a modular. While there are some small shortcomings in terms of modulation, it goes much further than most analog polysynths which often have rather simplified modulation options, if there are any. The beauty of the parva is while that it seems simple in terms of its interface, it has a considerable amount of depth. The hardware design begins to make far more sense when one takes into account this aspect of the synth, there was no way to get that many knobs and switches on a device.
The Experimentalist Polysynth
The Parva is a polysynth for those who like to dive into synthesis rather than be content with presets. For me…this is its beauty, it forces you to program and find your voice with it. It is probably the closest analog polysynth to a modular in that respect. It has the ability to pull off simple beautiful sounds, but also complex synthesis. The thing is if you are one of those people who just does presets, this synth will punish you. There is not that many with it. It is really for diving into synthesis. As much as I love this synth, it is probably not the best one to start out on. This is not a Juno 106 or SH-101. This is for those that want to explore deeper programming, and maintain an analog sound.
There are not many companies where one can reach out and speak to the person who created the synth when there is a problem, but Futuresonus really does go out of its way to support the Parva. I was able to reach out regarding an issue, and had an almost immediate response.
Though I will be direct with a minor gripe, the two filters are used in combination rather than being able to adjust and modulate the parameters separately. If both filters were able to be controlled separately it would greatly enhance the sonic possibilities of the synth. A low pass to high pass parameter would have been nice too, especially since it is supposedly a state variable filter. Especially with considering the number of LFOs on this synth.
The other gripe is there needs to be a much more formalized page with the latest firmware. Tracking down the latest firmware updates in the forums was a bit of a challenge as it is hard to tell which page it is on. This firmware updates really should be on the page outside the forums, as well as the latest updates. This is a new company, so I am not holding it against them, especially considering the brilliance of the Parva itself. But it would be incredibly helpful, especially as the userbase grows. A nice seperate page with a list of all the firmware files and installers that is kept up to date would do a world of good.
The Futuresonus Parva, even with some minor gripes, is a deep polysynth that allows for the ability to dive deep into synthesis. It is a synth with a great deal of analog character, in an era where analogs have lately been a bit too refined in terms of both polysynths and monosynths.