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Novation: Reaches the Peak of Hybrid Analog/Digital Synthesis

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Novation has been producing professional-quality electronic instruments for over two decades. They were one of the first companies to create and perfect virtual analog technology with their “Analog Sound Modeling (ASM),” which, even by today’s standards, sounds incredible. Novation has left an indelible mark on the synthesizer landscape and their latest creation, the Peak 8-Voice Analog Synthesizer, offers a hybrid, digital/analog sound engine that is already turning heads.

The Peak’s sound engine is based on the Bass Station II analog mono-synth and features analog-sounding Numerically Controlled Oscillators (NCO), which include three new Oxford oscillators per voice, as well as a flexible digital wavetable with 17 waveforms. The instrument also features a multi-mode, analog state-variable OTA filter with high-pass, low-pass, and band-pass selections with 12/24 dB slopes. For effects, the Peak offers true analog distortion and digital effects including chorus, delay, and reverb.

At the heart of the Peak is a high-powered processor component called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). In contrast to traditional DSP chips, which often need to run in pairs or quads, the FPGA is a single processor on which many functions can run, from oscillators to the modulation matrix. The key benefit to an FPGA is that it runs at a much higher rate than DSP-based technology, and this has a direct impact on the clarity of sound. Additionally, each of the eight voices has an independent oversampling DAC offering 24 MHz (24 million times per second). This allows the Peak to generate waveforms at an oversampling frequency that is up to 512 times the traditional rate, ensuring the waveforms are pure at all frequencies and free from digital artifacts no matter how aggressively the pitch is modulated.

The front panel offers a variety of controllers for 1:1 control over most parameters. There are 42 control knobs, 8 sliders, 2 data encoders, 46 total function buttons, 2 animate buttons, 90 indicator LEDS, and a crisp OLED display. What’s more, Peak employs 8-bit controls for oscillator tuning, filter cutoff, LFO speed, and mixer levels, delivering ‘analog-smooth’ filter sweeps, LFO tweaks, and pitch and level changes. High-resolution data interpolation, which runs on the FPGA, ensures the sweet spot comes back accurately every time a patch is recalled. Interpolation ensures smooth transition of all parameters, many of which use logarithmic control law to ensure they feel naturally musical.

The rear panel offers a 1/4" headphone output, stereo (left & right) 1/4" outputs, two 1/4" pedal inputs, and an 1/8" CV modulation input for incorporating modular synthesizers. Additionally, the instrument features MIDI In, Out, and Thru via standard 5-pin DIN connectors. The on-board USB port is class compliant and transmits system and MIDI data.

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