Behringer Deepmind 12 Review February 12, 2019 16:35 3 Comments
The DeepMind 12D is a 12 voice analog poly-synth featuring Unison and a true bypass digital effects section. Each voice features 2 analog DCO’s and an analog resonant lowpass filter, switchable between 2 and 4 poles. There’s also a noise source though this is global and not per voice. There are 4 FX blocks for each preset, with 35 effects modules to choose from. When used as sends these digital effects are mixed into the analog signal path where it meets the global high pass filters, which has an optional 12dB low end boost. This configuration preserves the analog signal path of the synth engine. The FXs can also be used as inserts however, in which case the analog signal is converted to digital and back before the high pass filter and the output jacks.
The core of any subtractive synthesizer is the of course the oscillator section. The waveforms on offer here are minimal, with SAW and or Pulse on oscillator one, or a pulse wave on oscillator 2. One has to be creative here, for example if you wanted the classic 2 saw configuration you’ll have to sacrifice polyphony, engaging 2 voice unison will give you two of everything but halve the voice count to 6, or 3 if you have the 6 voice model. To help matters though oscillator one features Pulse width modulation while osc 2 features tone modulation. Tone modulation is hard to place at first, it seems to be creating a mirror of the waveform at different points. It has many uses in sound design though, especially for odd and metallic sounds.
A single voice features just one Low pass filter, switchable between 2 and 4 pole. The resonance can go very high and allows for some gorgeous glassy tones. It tracks well too. There’s no bandpass, notch or resonant high pass, though if you needed to you could get something like these shapes using the digital effects section. If there was one thing I’d change about this synth, I’d add a bandpass mode to the filter, but you can’t have everything at this price point.
For sound shaping you get 3 envelopes with curve shaping, 2 audio rate LFO’s, an 8 slot modulation matrix and a 32 step modulation sequencer.
Modulation destinations are extensive and they include panning, effects parameters and parameters within the modulation matrix itself. I want to note here the voice number as a modulation source as it allows you to set individual parameter settings that scale across all the voices. This can be used to create some amazing filter effects in unison mode, as each voice can have multiple mutations all playing at once!
The modulation complexity here is comparable to that of the Access Virus and rivals many of todays soft-synths, and what’s more, changing the source or destination takes effect in real time, allowing you to scroll through all the different routing options on the fly. This can lead to some happy accidents!
There are 35 effects to choose from covering reverb delay, dynamics and modulation. These are highly customizable, but a few highlights for me are Gate and Reverse reverb, a 4band EQ, Chorus-D, Enhancer and Multi-band Distortion. There are no audio inputs though so you can’t make use of the filters or effects on external sources.
As I mentioned earlier the FX can be used as sends or Inserts, but some effects such as the EQ cause a slight phasing effect when used as a send. This was a source of some caution for me when we first got some audio examples of the synth as I could clearly hear the phasing problem in some patches, but I’m relieved to report that it’s not a problem in the synth engine itself. In a way sometimes this phase effect is interesting.
I want to pause for a moment and continue looking at the FX section, as there’s some superb engineering here. Deepmind provides no less than 10 FX routing options, with some configurations allowing you to use the different FX blocks as mixture of inserts and sends, or routing FX in parallel instead of serial, while others actually place modules in feedback loops. It’s would be easy to create an ungodly mess here, but thankfully there’s gain staging on each effect and even a 30Hz high pass filter to prevent out of control bass build up. It’s even possible here to move the FX blocks around in the chain, allowing for some truly unexpected results; more happy accidents!
This is very impressive, and shows the deep mind was designed to get as much as possible out of the basic analog synth engine. As a sound designer this kind of depth is sincerely appreciated. I should note though that there’s no way to save presets for these effects set-ups, though you can copy and paste them between the patches.
There are a ton of utilities packed away in the global menu, such as the velocity and after touch curves, sustain pedal and external CV routing. Theres even an alternative VCA mode, calls ballsy. It’s just a louder VCA though from what I can tell. The faders can be set to jump or pass through, you can disable dialog pop ups, set the remember page function and adjust the screen brightness and contrast. The ability to turn dialog boxes off in particular is much appreciated!
While we’re here, I wanted to bring up the fan, which I’ve seen some people complain about. By default, it’s set to full speed, which indeed is a little loud, though not obnoxious. The fact is there are actually 2 fans, and it’s the rear one you can hear the most. You can adjust these down to your preference and at settings below 40 the rear fan is off completely.
Finally, at least for my reviews, there’s also a highly capable arp, with programmable steps and chord modes. The chord mode is extensive, as you can create and assign unique chords to each key!
All of this is fairly easy to edit from the unit itself. So much so that I have barely used the excellent included editor. Each major area can be accessed with a button press and the display provides copious visual feedback, parameter visualization, original stored values and it even displays modulation amounts. There are even numerous short-cuts built in to allow you to adjust the most commonly needed parameters with the faders, without needing to menu dive. The only let down here is the low resolution and refresh rate of the screen.
There’s something appealing to me about faders, they are less common and provide tactile and visual feedback. The range of values is at once obvious, and when it comes to envelopes you can directly see the shape you’re making. There’s also something especially cool about the unison detune parameter being on a dedicated fader.
It’s astonishing just how much though and care has gone into this synth, and the sheer amount of features it has to offer, doubly so when you consider it’s price point.