Dave Smith Mopho Keyboard Review – Excellent Analog Bliss?

Dave Smith Instruments Mopho KeyboardWelcome to my Dave Smith Mopho Keyboard review. So, what you have here is an excellent modern analog synthesizer that is great for doing fat basslines and screaming lead lines. It also has built-in sequencing, so you can set that going and then play around with the sound parameters in real time, for example by adjusting the filter cutoff and frequency. This also has a tap tempo function so you can just tap in the speed that you want the sequencer to play at.

It has all the great hands-on sonic craziness of an analog synth, along with the ability to connect up to modern gear with MIDI or USB.


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Contents


A Quick Look at its Good and Bad Points

Good:

  • Full-featured analog synthesizer
  • Velocity sensitive keys
  • Aftertouch
  • Good sounding oscillators
  • A lot of modulation and routing possibilities
  • Great for creating fat sounds
  • Versatile step sequencer
  • Front panel is great for manipulating sounds
  • Great arpeggiator
  • Sequencer editing via computer software is easy

Bad:

  • Monophonic
  • Program change is a bit clumsy
  • Sequencer editing is fiddly via front panel
  • Sound editing software can’t be plugged into a DAW


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Video Review


So there you have it. All things considered, it is a great modern analog synth with lots of features. It has velocity sensitive keys that also have aftertouch, which is something that you don’t always get in analog synthesizers.

The oscillators sound good, and there are a lot of modulation and routine possibilities available. You will be able to create some great fat basslines or some really awesome lead lines with this synth. It has a versatile sequencer, although you may find it is a bit fiddly trying to edit the sequences on the synth itself. For that, you are better off using the editing software that comes with it.

One problem with the Mopho is that it is only monophonic, which means you can only play one sound at a time. In this modern era, this seems like a bit of a flaw really, especially since many of the sounds would sound great as chords. Also, you cannot use the sound editing software as a plugin with your DAW, which seems a bit restricting.

But if you can overlook those limitations, you could have a lot of fun with this keyboard.


Who is the Dave Smith Mopho Keyboard Designed For?

This synth is ideal for live performance. Maybe you are a bass guitarist in a band and you want to occasionally turn around and play a bit of synth bass. This would be great for that. It could also be really good as your go-to keyboard for doing synth lead lines, and could take its place in a rack along with other keyboards and synthesizers.

The arpeggiator and sequencer functions would also make it great for playing a lot of experimental electronic sequences. Set a sequence going, or play the arpeggiator, and then turn the knobs and make some great sounds. It’s also capable of creating some really noisy sounds, so if that’s your thing, go for it.

However, if you are looking for something that is more for creating whole pieces of music, it’s worth considering Propellerhead Reason along with some kind of MIDI controller.


FEATURES

Specifications

  • Monophonic analog synthesizer.
  • 100% analog signal path.
  • Two oscillators capable of producing sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle, and variable pulse width square waves, with hard sync.
  • One classic Curtis low-pass filter (switchable 2- or 4-pole) with audio rate modulation, self-oscillating in 4-pole mode.
  • Analog VCAs.
  • Three envelope generators (ADSR plus delay).
  • Two sub-octave generators (one octave down and two octaves down).
  • Feedback loop with programmable level and gain.
  • White noise generator.
  • 4 LFOs.
  • Gated 16 x 4 step sequencer (one sequence per program).
  • Arpeggiator.
  • Glide (portamento): separate rates per oscillator.
  • 32-note (F to C) semi-weighted keyboard action with velocity and aftertouch.
  • Spring-loaded pitch wheel.
  • Fully programmable with three banks of 128 programs (384 total).
  • Free downloadable software editor for Mac OS and Windows.

Input & Output

  • USB type B receptacle.
  • MIDI In, Out/Thru, and Poly Chain.
  • Audio input: 1/4″ unbalanced.
  • Left and Right audio outputs: 1/4″ unbalanced.
  • Sustain pedal input.
  • Expression pedal/control voltage (3.3 VDC max.) input.
  • Headphone output: 1/4″ stereo phone jack.

Psysical Specifications

  • Dimensions: approximately 18.65″ L x 11.1″ W x 3.6″ H (47.4 cm x 28.2 cm x 9.1 cm).
  • Weight: 9.4 lb. (4.25 kg).

In Detail: The GOOD

Velocity Sensitivity & Aftertouch

Many analog synthesizers don’t have velocity sensitive keys and those that do usually don’t have aftertouch as well. In case you don’t know, velocity sensitivity just means that they respond to how hard or soft you play them; aftertouch is the ability to get an extra bit of expression by pressing harder on the key after you have already played it. This might just increase the volume, or it may open the filter, but it means that you can get that extra bit of expression out of your playing. It makes a keyboard more like a traditional instrument in terms of the nuances you can include in your playing.

Arpeggiator and Sequencer

Most synthesizers include a sequencer and/or arpeggiator these days, so it’s really no surprise that the Mopho has them. This means that you can do more than just playing notes with your fingers. It takes it into the realm of modern electronic music making. Being able to set a sequence going and then play around with the sound adjustment knobs such as filter resonance and cutoff, mean you can get some classic electronic sequenced sounds going.

Editing Software

You can use the software to edit the synth sounds, but that’s not really necessary because the onboard controls do such a great job. Where the software is really useful, though, is in editing the sequencer. Because it is a bit fiddly when editing sequences directly on the unit itself, the software comes in really useful in this regard.

Front Panel is Great for Editing Sounds

You have got everything you want on the front panel controls. This is why the sound editing software isn’t really necessary for actually editing the sounds. Being able to just dive in and starting turning knobs and changing the sounds is a great fun way of making music. There are a lot of modulation and routing possibilities, too, so you are unlikely to run out of ways to change your sounds.


In Detail: The BAD

Monophonic

It’s a shame that they didn’t make this synth polyphonic. In the past, it was the limitations of the synthesizer technology at the time which prevented us from having more than one note at a time. However, Moog released their first polyphonic synthesizer in 1975, so why do we have such a limitation these days? It’s especially disappointing when you consider that many of the sounds that the Mopho makes would sound great as chords. You can do this if you use the PolyChain mode so that you can dump the sounds to the [easyazon_link identifier=”B002L3JXDE” locale=”US” tag=”google02a0-20″]Tetra[/easyazon_link] and then control them from the Mopho. But if you were going to do that, you might as well just get a [easyazon_link identifier=”B002D1AT0U” locale=”US” tag=”google02a0-20″]Prophet 08[/easyazon_link].

Program Change

The Mopho doesn’t have a very intuitive way of changing the program. Let’s say you are using the parameter knobs to switch between programs, then you start playing around with the other knobs like filter cutoff; if you want to change to a different program again, you have to click the “Program” button again to get back into it. It’s not a major problem, but it does mean you can’t switch between programs quite as quickly as you might want to in a live situation.

Sequencer Editing

Yes, you can edit the sequencer steps on the unit itself, but it is a bit of a cumbersome process. It’s fine if you don’t have it hooked up to a computer and that’s the only way of doing it. But if you do happen to have it plugged into your computer, why waste your time doing it the hard way when it’s much easier editing it using the software.

Software Can’t be Plugged into a DAW

Sometimes, when you get synth editing software with a synthesizer, you can use it with your DAW as a plugin. With the Mopho, you can’t do that, it’s just a standalone piece of software. This makes it a bit limiting, and not ideal if you want to centralize everything into your DAW to bring everything together.


Conclusion

Dave Smith Instruments are known for creating high-quality synthesizers that bring the best of the past into the modern era. The mopho keyboard is certainly no exception. However, it does have a few flaws. Ultimately, this is a keyboard for those who want a lot of hands-on control. It’s great for playing basslines or leadlines, and for having fun with sequences while twiddling the many different sound adjustment knobs.

There is clearly a lot of enjoyment to be had here, and the flaws that it does have may not matter to some people. And, to be fair, if you want a modern analog synthesizer as well-built as this, but with every feature you could possibly want, you are probably going to have to pay a lot more than this.


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I hope you found my Dave Smith Mopho Keyboard review helpful, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.

All the best,
Marcus.

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