The sequencing capabilities of the Tetra are astounding. When you hook this to the librarian software ($49.99 from Dave Smith) your entire idea of what you thought this synth was will change. The best part of the Tetra is that it is not a plug-in. This is hands on hardware, tweakable, adjustable and it will maintain its value.
All I can say is, "Wow." Dave Smith Instruments has just brought a serious analog polyphonic synth to a price point that I never dreamed was possible. Unbelieveable. Don't stress out thinking about it too much; just buy it. You won't regret it.
Dave Smith Instruments Tetra is the analog synth that I've been waiting for. Why, you may ask? This is the first ever multi-timbral analog synth at this amazing price point. Finally you can play a bass note and chords simultaneously! (4 note polyphony) You'll hear the amazing depth and rich, fat sound that only an analog synth provides. If you've always wanted an analog synth but haven't wanted to spend thousands of dollars to get one, Tetra is for you. I've been playing keyboard for over twenty years now and after playing the Tetra I can truthfully say I haven't been this inspired by a new piece of gear in a very long time. Get one and I believe you'll soon feel the same way!
Dave's Great Low-End Synth
First, Sweetwater is great as always. This little guy comes with me to school, church and even to bed from time to time. I'm having a lot of fun exploring sound design and making my own patches.
The Tetra is a good synth for live keyboardists. Plug into power, plug in midi keyboard of your liking and start playing. Basic parameters are right there for easy access and you don't need to scan a large area to find the knob of the parameter you want to tweak. This brings me to the controversy known as menu diving.
For accessing all of the synths capabilities, you really need a computer and editor. I'm used to this because I've been synthesizing in Propellerhead Reason for 5 years, but for others it won't be as inspiring as sitting in front of a Moog or Korg. Personally, it works just fine for me.
The sound quality is absolutely amazing, so if that is all you care about you will undoubtedly be blown away by the Tetra. Many patches pay homage to DSI's great synths from years past. I haven't used all four outputs yet, but having the pure analog goodness in stereo is sublime. The only gripe I have about this though is the digital volume control. Every time the patch is switched the volume will jump to starting position. Same goes for when you hit the program button to see the patch name after adjusting something. If you are using headphones, this can physically hurt your ears. If playing live, it could be an issue with your FOH guy.
Overall this is a great synth for the geeks who love modules, designing amazing sounds from scratch, and the portability aspect in the small form factor.
An Overlooked gem
I don't hear many people talking about this little guy. I picked one up a few days ago and I'm pretty blown away by the sound possibilities. For this amount of money, there really isn't any synth that delivers such a rich, polyphonic sound in true stereo. This is a sound designer's dream.
I've heard some complain about the lack of effects. I say that lack challenges the sound designer to think outside the box of onboard effects to get crazy with the filters, LFOs, envelopes, and sequencer. The Tetra is truly a great sounding synth, no questions asked.
I will make mention of a couple drawbacks. If you have never touched a hardware synth before, this might not be the best place to start. The editor is absolutely necessary to touch the surface of what the unit can do. If you are completely new to synthesizers, this might be a tad nerdy for you. Tweaking the sound effectively cannot be done without a computer.
The only other thing is the construction. Some knobs accidentally came off while I was turning them. I suppose this size and design was for the purpose of keeping the cost down, which I was thankful for.
Ordered this the day before DSI announced they were discontinuing all of their < $1000 synths (Mopho, Tetra, Evolver, etc.)
Blown away is an understatement, if you're researching the demos and such online, they don't do this box justice, there's an amazing amount of sounds in the presets alone.
There really is something about analog voices interacting with each other that just adds character and depth, and I'm not an analog snob by any stretch.
Warm pads, hard basses, old analog keys, drones, sequences, it's all in there and deeply configurable with a bit of commitment.
And yes, the software is buggy, but so far has been bearable.
Due to the lack of knobs, I wouldn't recommend this for a synth newbie to learn on, but if you know what you want to tweak in a sound, it's very doable with the editor.
Bottom line, there is nothing remotely close at this price point with this kind of tone and power.
The sacrifice of knobs is bearable and absolutely worth the savings over any comparable knobby desktop box in my opinion.
If DSI goes the modular route that the 'big' synth manufacters are (and who can blame them, a Eurorack/CV version of this would go for some serious loot), these things may quite well become sought after in the near future. It's a safe bet that there won't be a Tetra 2, ever.
Get it now, before they're gone if you're considering this, I doubt you'll regret it.
Menu Diving Not So Bad with the Editor
I will have to say that this little box is an absolute riot. It has enough presets for the preset only crowd. It has 2 different editors available, I just had to get both, for a discount at least. One is a standalone and the other is a VST (or Apple Equivalent) plug-in style. Both are great and offer the user absolute and total control of every parameter the Synth has to offer and that is a lot. If it had a multi-mode Filter and a couple of more wave forms like a sine wave etc. a trio of them would be like a OB Matrix 12. You can rout anything any where. No it doesn't use CV/gate technology but that was only a special order item on the Matrix and VERY few exist or were made. Two of them and a Prophet '08 makes for a knob laden 16 voice polyphonic powerhouse with separate outputs for all of the voices.(Editor available for the '08 also) If you really wanted the extra filters or other wave forms it could be done quite easily. It has enough knobs for interesting live performance, even better for live use when attached to an '08. While not made with discrete components the signal path is 100% Analog and it sounds like it. Had it been made with discrete components it would have been as big as a pair of SEM's and cost 2-3 times as much for very little gain in performance, if any. I would imagine that there is a Midi to CV/Gate convertor made somewhere, as there are CV to MIDI convertors for those die hard CV people, but why? A little extra noise maybe. At $850 it is a good deal, if only you could chain the sequencers together with the Poly Chain cable. At least I don't think it can be done. I also wish that my Tempest had a Poly Chain ability, that with the Sequencers being chained would be outright amazing. Oh well, over priced dreams... I am happy the way it is for what it cost. If you have a high end Digital keyboard like the Roland Jupiter 80 or the KORG KRONOS, it would fit right in when you want an ABSOLUTELY Real Screaming Analog Lead or real Analog sound for classic covers without spending a fortune. Not only that it is portable and fun. I read somewhere that DAVE Smith Instruments build quality wasn't good, it is on this. It is surprisingly heavy and the controls are solid as a rock. If you always wanted a real analog synth, this is a great place to start. It can do MUCH more than the Brute, the Bass Station, the Wolf, Etc. Get a 25 key MIDI board for travel or a 61 or bigger for home. It is a great amount of sound and entertainment for $850.
Synth programming dream!
There is a bit of negativity out there on the ui of this but coming from a guy who learned synthesis on an alpha juno ( one big data entry knob and lots of menu scrolling) this is quite perfect in terms of desk space saver and quick editing of the popular paremeters.
The software is helpful but I generally don't use it and instead have nrpn messages assigned out on my midi controller to give me the extra hands on capability that software lacks. Sure it takes some work but it is well worth it when you can edit the sequencer's, lfo's and eg's etc. on the fly. These are the things that make this synth stand above others.
If your looking for a great sound module and are savvy with programming and midi this will be a secret weapon for you but if you want quick hands on stuff then just get a prophet 08 at the higher cost.
I got this yesterday and I know this has been out for a some time now but wow I am digging all the grate sounds and the combos are awesome so glad I got this for my music style its great good job Dave Smith
In some respects more powerful than a modular
This synth should appeal to sound designers and or programmers that want to get deep into programming. I generally dislike presets that come with synthesizers and I found few presets on the Tetra that I liked, this is actually a blessing because I (over the good two years I have had it) have been able to create anything from a vintage Crumar performer string synth to strange third world percussion sounds to cheesy horror sound effects. Bar none, you will not get a better synth for the asking price anywhere else!
Great analog synth in a small package!
Great 4 voice analog synth. 4 vocie analog at this price is incredible! So much fun and sounds are suoer thick.This synth is really good and built like a tank! The screen is easy to read, knobs are nice and firm also. You need this! Buy it now!
Wish it was a little more user friendly, but sounds great!
This was the first synth module I had bought in probably 10 years. I've been writing acoustic stuff for a long time but decided to start incorporating some synths into my music. I was tired of the synths I had so I picked this thing up.
First off, I gotta say that it has huge bang for the buck. The presets are great and provide a great starting point. Hard to believe this thing only has 4 voices because of how thick it sounds. There must be some engineering trickery here to make it sound like there's more than 4 there, because it really isn't as much of a limitation as I was thinking it would be.
The filter sounds awesome, really beefy and has that real analog bite. The step sequencer is a bit of a hidden gem on here, which leads me to the one downside of this box...
Being that I have been out of the synth game for a number of years now, I think I lost some of my patience for navigating tedious and confusing menus. Fact of the matter is, there's a lot that this synth can do that I just will never take the time to learn how to do. That's not a detractor for everyone out there, but if you're like me and you just play acoustic guitar most of the time and don't like to fiddle with things too much you might feel a bit overwhelmed. It's kind of frustrating that DSI makes you pay for the premium version of their sound editor too, since I figured as a paying customer I almost had a right to that for free.
Can't complain much though, it does a lot of cool stuff for the money. Look up some videos online to see what it sounds like and if you like it I say go for it.
Biggest syth available in a tiny box
I was on the market for a while for a great analog synth. Recently, there have been more companies delving into this territory, but for mass production, there is only 2. Moog & DSI. I pondered for a while if I wanted to go with a Slim Phatty or the Tetra. Going on Youtube and watching as many demo vidoes I could. Ultimately I went with the Tetra. Good grief, this thing is powerful! Forget the fact that Dave Smith is responsible for Sequential Circuits Pro One & Pro 5, or the "Father of MIDI" or for the first computer based synthesizer, or the Korg Wavestation..... The synths he has been cranking out the past decade have been damned near unbelievable.
The signal path is 100% Analog. What that means is there is no digital conversion of the audio signal path. The oscillators are DCO which stands for Digitally Controlled Oscillators. Even though they are digitally controlled, they are still analog just like the standard VCO's (Voltage Controlled Oscillators). The difference is DCO's are digitally fired by electronic pulses that drive the oscillator and generate tone, where as VCO's are fired by capacitors, which, over time will not hold a charge as well as it did when it was new and cause the oscillators to drift out of tune and require regular maintenance to keep in tune. This actually gives the Tetra a leg up compared to some other analog synths.
Probably the biggest option that brought me to buy the Tetra was the fact that it was a 4 Voice Polyphonic Synth. An analog polyphonic synth for under $1000!!!!! WHHHAAAAAA???!!!??? And not only is it polyphonic, it can be treated as 4 independent monophonic synths (think 4 mopho's in one)!
It's biggest downfall is the interface, but, this is of course what keeps the cost down. On analog synths, the keys can make up a large part of the cost of the synth. But, if you get the SoundTower Editor, it is easy to access all of the features on the computer, which this thing has a ton of! But, if you absolutely need hands on control, just get a DSI Mopho Keyboard Synth and polychain it with the Tetra. Not only do you now have a 5 voice Polyphonic synth, but the Mopho becomes the control surface for the Tetra!
I did take one star off for the noticeable bugs with the software in the Tetra. Do keep in mind that this is manufactured by a small company of 6 people, including Dave and there is a possibility of bugs in anything digital. DSI is very helpful with any issues and they take all complaints to heart and will work on the software to eradicate all bugs reported. I know this from personal experience with them. All in all I am absolutely in love this this device. The sounds that come out of it are amazing considering it's size. Do not be fooled, if you are here searching for a new synth and you have read this review this far, hit that "add to cart" button now! Do it!
Best analog poly synth (currently) on the market
I've been through every step within the DSI product line, and have to say the Tetra is a homerun, the best thing they've done since the Evolver in terms of product capability, price point, and quality. It's a 4-part multi-timbral analog powerhouse with more modulation capabilities than a modular frankensynth at 4x this little guy's price. The editor has a few bugs, but nothing that you can't work around, and I'm sure this stuff will get ironed out as the product matures. Otherwise, I'm in love. The only thing I'd want more is a keyboard version!