With the announcement of Venom, a hardware analog-modeling keyboard, M-Audio surprised everyone at the recent Winter NAMM Show. The company has offered software synths in the past, but this is their first hardware synth. Did they get it right?
You bet! Venom is a well-designed instrument. The front panel is laid out in a way that makes perfect sense. The back panel is loaded with the audio, MIDI, and other connections you need. There’s a USB port for connecting to a computer to use the Venom Vyzex editor/librarian software. You can also use Venom as a stereo audio interface. There are 49 keys and pitch and mod wheels, plus multiple control knobs, including four knobs that can control synth functions for outstanding expressive capability.
Venom packs 12 voices, each with three oscillators (41 waveforms, 53 drums), a resonant multimode filter with tube-style saturation, three LFOs, three ADHSR envelopes, 16 modulation routes, pulse-width modulation, FM, sync, and ring mod. There are four multitimbral parts, two global effects, one insert effect per part, and a powerful arpeggiator with tap tempo. Sounds include 512 factory patches plus 256 factory multipatches. Rounding things out is the Patch Collider, which can mash up different presets to create new patches.
So M-Audio loaded Venom up with tons of features and sounds. But how does it sound? In a word, rockin’. It’s all here, from lush pads to heavy synth bass to electronic drums to leads to industrial screaming – Venom can definitely get nasty! The arpeggiator is put to good use, especially in the multis, where it is often employed for rhythmic parts.
With Venom, M-Audio has delivered a smoking synth, and they’ve done it for less than $500 – and that includes a 2-in/2-out USB audio interface. It’s fun to play, with tons of hands-on real-time control, and the sounds are awesome. Definitely check it out!