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The Dave Smith Instruments Tetra Multitimbral Four-Voice Analog Synthesizer takes the award-winning sound and features of the Mopho, multiplies them by 4, and packs them in a box less than a 1/2" larger.
Tetra has multiple personalities. It is a 4-voice, analog poly synth, plus it's a 4-part, multitimbral synth with separate outputs-essentially 4 Mophos in one very compact box. In addition, Tetra is a voice expander for other Tetras or Dave Smith Instruments' Prophet '08.
Outside the box
Physically, Tetra is similar to the Mopho, with 4 assignable parameter controls per program and a row of controls dedicated to the most commonly used performance parameters. All of the parameters can be accessed from the front panel and Tetra is fully programmable. Dave Smith Instruments offers a free, downloadable editor for Mac OS and Windows to make more comprehensive tweaking availaable.
Most of the rotary controls on Tetra are detented encoders, but the cutoff and resonance are potentiometers, for full sweeps with a single turn. The "push it" button is a manual trigger to play notes and latch sequences on without the need for a MIDI controller.
Audio is output in mono, stereo, or per voice through the four audio output jacks, plus there's also a headphone out. MIDI communication is by standard MIDI in and out jacks or USB. Poly chain out is a special, dedicated MIDI output to chain multiple instruments together for increased polyphony.
Under the hood
The voice architecture is based on the Dave Smith Instruments' Prophet '08, but with the addition of a sub-octave generator for each oscillator and a fully programmable feedback loop for each voice. That breaks down to two DCOs (digitally-controlled oscillators), a resonant low-pass filter, three DADSR (delay, attack, decay, sustain, release) envelope generators, four LFOs (low-frequency oscillations), deep modulation routing, an arpeggiator, and a 16 x 4 analog-style step sequencer per voice. Feedback is capable of producing effects ranging from mild distortion to fairly extreme harmonic instability. (That's a good thing.) The possibilities are nearly endless, and the audio signal path is 100% analog.
Tetra a la mode
In program mode, the Tetra is a four-voice, polyphonic synthesizer with four banks of 128 programs. As with the Prophet '08, each program contains two layers-each layer is essentially a separate patch-that can be used to create keyboard splits or stacked sounds. Banks 1 and 2 are the Prophet '08 factory programs; banks 3 and 4 are a combination of Mopho and new programs.
In combo mode, a different program can be assigned to each of the four voices. Combos can be used for mammoth unison patches or for triggering up to four different 16 x 4 sequences, each with its own program, simultaneously. Combos can also be used to create modular-style polyphonic patches, where each voice plays a different program with a slight variation on the same sound, or even a drastically different sound.
In multi mode, the Tetra becomes a multitimbral sound module capable of playing four monophonic parts on four MIDI channels, with separate outputs for each voice. Coupled with a MIDI sequencer and DAW (digital audio workstation), the Tetra can play complex arrangements or analog drum parts with each part individually processed and recorded to its own track.
This one goes to 12...and 16
Up to four Tetras can be poly chained for eight, twelve, or sixteen voices total. When used with a Prophet '08, up to two Tetras can be poly chained for a maximum of sixteen voices. In addition, the Prophet's front panel controls map directly to almost all of Tetra's parameters, so the Prophet acts as a programmer and control surface. Plus, a Mopho can be connected to Tetra's poly chain out for five-voice operation.
A 4-voice poly synth and 4-part multitimbral synth in one, with 100% analog circuitry.
- Affordable, fully programmable poly synth with a 100% analog signal path
- Four-part multitimbral capability with four separate outputs
- Combo mode for huge unison patches, stacked sequences, and modular-style poly sounds
- Expandable: poly chains with other Tetras, Prophet '08, and Mopho for expanded polyphony
- Multitimbral four-voice analog synthesizer
- 100% analog signal path
- Two oscillators per voice (sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle, square with variable pulse width) with hard sync
- White noise generator
- One classic Curtis low-pass filter (switchable 2- or 4-pole) per voice, self-oscillating in 4-pole mode
- Analog VCAs
- Three envelope generators (ADSR plus delay) per voice
- Four LFOs per voice
- Two sub-octave generators (one octave down and two octaves down) per voice
- Feedback loop per voice with programmable level and gain
- Four assignable performance controls per program
- Gated 16 x 4 step sequencer (one sequence per program)
- Fully programmable (free downloadable software editor for Mac OS and Windows)
If you like constantly changing and morphing analog synth sounds times 4, the Tetra by synth legend Dave Smith is for you.
Tetra Multitimbral Four-Voice Analog Synthesizer
USB 2.0 (type B receptacle)
Poly chain out
Audio outs: 1/Left, 2/Right, 3, and 4 (1/4" unbalanced)
1/4" headphone out
Dimensions: 7.9" W x 5" D
Weight: 1.8 lb.
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Reviewed by 2 customers
Displaying reviews 1-2
- 4-voices In A Small Box
- Great Sound
- Tons Of Shaping Options
- Limited Knobs No Wheels
- May Be Difficult To Learn
Comments about Dave Smith Instruments Tetra Multitimbral Four-Voice Analog Synthesizer:
Love this thing. I got it after lots of research, videos, and audio samples time. More than other brands, Dave Smith Instruments was what sounded best to me.
The sound it makes is fantastic and 4 voices really opens up a lot of possibilities. Use the free editor for easier tweaking (with visual) and maybe get a control surface if you like knobs and stuff. If you already own a keyboard and do more studio stuff, this is the jam. Tiny and lots of fun. I know almost nothing about analog synths (this is basically my first) but even as such I can bend sounds to what I want. It's great for making tunes and learning about sound! Funducation!!
Comments about Dave Smith Instruments Tetra Multitimbral Four-Voice Analog Synthesizer:
I've owned a lot of synths over the years. Lately, it's been all virtual analog (VA) types. The best of them are fat and warm, 'almost as good as analog.' The Tetra *is* as good as analog, because well, it's analog! It's amazing how much reverb and layering it takes on even a really good VA to match the warmth of four, or even two oscillators on this box.
Not a lot of frills here. To keep the size and cost down, there are just seven dedicated knobs, and four 'soft' ones. The display is small, but well-lit. But inside, there are four warm analog voices, each with two oscillators plus two subharmonics. Also buried in there are a step sequencer, and arpeggiator, and a lot of useful modulation routings. The filters are only low-pass, but they can be set as 2- or 4-pole style, so they're quite flexible. The feedback path is nice for fattening up the tone; the feedback gain is a nice plus, although it takes some finesse to use it in a musical way. I've been able to coax Moog, Prophet, Roland, and even string machine sounds without much effort.
It has MIDI In and MIDI Out plus a USB port, and the Out can be changed to a Thru for larger setups. Up to four Tetras can be linked to make a 16-voice polysynth, or it can be cascaded with a Prophet 08 or MoPho in the same manner.
The lack of knobs shows up when programming. Fortunately, theres a free editor available as a download, which has visual modes for envelopes, or you can spring for the 'pro' version with a librarian and some advanced programming features for another $40. (I did; it was worth it.)
The case is nice, thick metal, and the knobs have a quality feel to them. Definitely a step up from most synth boxes this size. The finish is good, and it feels like it will last.
Value is a funny thing. If you're strictly talking about number of oscillators, voices, filters, etc. for the cost, the Tetra can be beat by many competitors. But if you're talking about the warm sound of a real analog polysynth for $800, there's nothing around in its class. I was considering the Access Virus Snow for more money, or the Waldorf Blofeld for a little less, but neither one makes quite the same dominating noise as the Tetra. (The Moog Slim Phatty sounds great, but it's still one note.) I've heard it described as 'four MoPhos in one box, and it is, but it's more than that, because it can do splits and layers like four monos, but without the wiring and mixing mess.
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