Superbooth 21: PWM Malevolent is a compact two-oscillator semi-modular Synthesizer with character and a lot of patching options at a fair price.
Modular synthesis is a wild adventure. How to start in this depends on each musician. Either in software with VCV Rack, Voltage Modular … or in hardware, but then much more expensive. A simple and very good introduction to this world is a semi-modular Synthesizer. It gives you the modular experience by offering a fixed signal that can be broken at any time with patch cables.
Moog Mother 32 or Grandmother, Behringer Neutron, Pittsburgh Modular Microvolt 3900 … are good and affordable semi-modular synths. At Superbooth 21, the new British company PWM (Paul Whittington Music) presented a new pseudo modular synth that competes with these top dogs.
Superbooth 21: PWM Malevolent
Malevolent is a new portable semi-modular synth with a built-in keyboard. Its three key points make it exciting: a complete, well-equipped patchable analog synth engine, a built-in keyboard, and portable thanks to the USB-C connectivity. Thus, you can also power it with a power bank making it a semi-modular synth for the beach.
The synth engine, made in collaboration with Future Sound Systems, is very classic and straightforward: two VCOs, noise, multimode VCF, 2 ADSR envelopes, two LFOs (analog + digital), and a VCA + overdrive control.
Patchable Synth Engine
The VCOs are derived from the 4046-based core with unique waveshaping options. Each oscillator offers sawtooth, triangle, and pulse waveforms with shape control and modulation parameters. According to the developer, efforts have been taking to make this waveshaping behave non-uniformly across the pitch spectrum. resulting in oscillators that come to life tonally before hitting the filter stage. Each oscillator section has its own patching points and two inputs for frequency modulation.
Then, it has an audio mixer with an AUX input, noise generator, and noise output. The built-in VCF is an Opto-FET controlled 2-pole Sallen-Key filter with different filter states at independent inputs. In the sound demos that are currently available, it sounds very characterful. Especially at high resonance. Reminds me of the iconic Korg MS-20. The Malevolent has individual filter outputs as well as filter FM inputs making it very versatile.
On the modulation side, you have two classic ADSR envelopes (super snappy – long) with individual gate inputs and envelope outputs. An analog square/triangle LFO plus an additional digital “performance ” LFO via the joystick with patch outputs are also onboard for additional movement in your sound.
Lastly, you have a discrete transistor-based VCA with a built-in overdrive. Perfect to add more character/saturate your sounds. It also supports audio-rate modulation via both CV inputs.
Keyboard & Connectivity
A built-in keyboard with a USB-MIDI to CV interface completes the package. So you can use it not only to play the internal synth engine but also any other modular system. That’s a smart move.
On the backside, you have a power supply input, USB-C port, MIDI In/Out, analog clock in/out, headphones, and a line output. The USB-C port is a nice addition here. It transforms the synth into a mobile, semi-modular synth for the sofa, beach, just by plugging in a standard power bank.
First Look Video
I checked out the Malevovolent at Superbooth 21. Unfortunately, my audio recorder destroyed the instrument channel. Thus, I couldn’t use these in the video. Sorry for this.
Malevolent is a neat, semi-modular synth at a fair price. It offers many features, is beginner-friendly, and could be the next doop opener to your first modular synth adventure.
PWM Malevolent will be available in Q4 2021 for a price (MSRP) of 579,99 € incl. VAT / £499.99 inc. VAT. Retail prices may vary.
More information here: PWM