Novation Ultranova Review: Awesome Sounds and Controls

Hi, welcome to this Novation Ultranova review. I saw that this was a really popular synth, so I decided to take a look at it and see whether it’s any good…

novation-ultranova-review

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Novation Ultranova Review Video

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Full of Awesome Sounds

As you probably heard in the above video, you can get a lot of weird and wonderful sounds out of this synth. It’s easy to see why once you see the capabilities it has. There are 18 voices, 14 filter types, 36 wavetables, and 5 effects slots.

Each of the 18 voices has 3 oscillator with wavetable and ring mod capabilities, 6 envelopes, 3 LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators), 2 filters that can be routed either in series or in parallel, 20 modulation routing slots, and 5 effects. So there is a lot you can do with sounds once they are generated.

But even just with the oscillator, you can clone up to 8 waveforms and detune them slightly. This gives it a fat hyper saw type effect. It’s just a shame these individual waveforms can’t be panned to different positions on the stereo spectrum, as this would give it a really fat sound.

Of course, one of the key parts of any synthesizer is its filtering capabilities. Here we have a whole bunch of different filter types – low pass 6, low red, low pass 12, low pass 18, low pass 24, plus various types of band pass and high pass filters. Sweeping the filter gives a smooth transition between the frequencies except when the resonance is all the way up in which case it does step a little bit. It also has something called “filter drive”, which has different drive types to change the sound of the filter.

The LFO has a variety of different settings. As well as te standard LFO waveforms, it also has sequences such as stepping up or down in 4th notes. You can also add a slew to the waveform for a portamento type effect. This all gets very interesting once you combine it with the 20 modulation slots, as you can set parameters to modulate other parameters. For example, you can set aftertouch to control the LFO 1 speed, or you can have LFO 3 affect the speed of LFO 2.

But once you have generated and manipulated such crazy sounds, it is the effects which give it all the final touch. With 5 effect slots per patch, you can do a lot to the sounds. You have EQs, compressions, distortions, delays, reverbs, choruses, and gater; and these can be routed in various configurations of series or parallel. Each effect has adequate editing capabilities. All in all, you can get some pretty complex things going on with the effects.

A Lot of Control at Your Fingertips

This is a 37-key synth action keyboard with aftertouch. The backlit mod and pitch bend wheels add a nice touch, and the octave switch button is easily accessible.

Across the top of the front panel, there are 8 rotary encoders that can be assigned to various parameters that are then shown in the long LCD display beneath it. They have a useful “touch mode” which enables you to quickly change parameters during performances. There is a nice big dedicated filter knob. The knobs are a bit wobbly, so you wouldn’t want to use too much force when playing around with them.

There is a useful patch browsing system which enables you to filter them by type, genre or category. In total, there are 4 banks each with 128 programs. The first 3 of the banks are full of preset sounds, but the 4th bank you can use for your own custom sounds.

When it comes to parameter editing, you can do this either via the front panel of the synth itself or the computer software that comes with it. Both are good ways to edit the sounds, it really depends on which you prefer. You can do it all from the front panel of the synth if you want to, but some people may really like the look and feel of the software.

The Ultranova could make a good performance synth, with the 33-pattern arpeggiator including all the classic patterns and also different modes for chord and gating type effects. Speaking of chords, the ability to program chords into single keys could be useful if you want to quickly transition between chords with just one finger.

As for the vocoder, well, you really have to hear it get a feel for what it can do. As you can hear in the video above, all you need to do is speak into the microphone and play the keys and you can get some classic vocoder sounds.

Works Well with Digital Audio Workstations

It has 2 inputs and 4 outputs, and can also route the audio from the synth. You can monitor it on headphones and the sound quality is very good. As for other ports, you have SPDIF, expression pedal, sustain pedal, MIDI ports, and a USB connection.

Overall this synth has a lot to offer. It has a very capable synth engine and has some truly unique and interesting parameters. It’s just a shame that it’s not multi-timbral, but we can’t have everything, can we?

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I hope you found this Novation Ultranova review helpful or even just interesting. If you have any comments or questions, please post them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.

All the best,
Marcus.

6 Comments

  1. Darren

    I’m in the market for a keyboard for some music production using FL Studio 12 and this one sounds like a cool little keyboard. I can’t play one very well, but enough to create some catchy loops for my productions.

    Is this a polyphonic keyboard? Will it sound more than one key pressed at a time?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, the Ultranova has 18-note polyphony, so you can play up to 18 notes at once. However, if you are planning to use this with FL Studio 12, you might not need all the sounds the Ultranova has. You might just need a MIDI controller keyboard.

      Reply
  2. Author

    Hi Marcus,

    I actually bought a Novation Ultranova last month. Even though i am not a professional music creator, I still would recommend this to a professional.

    In my opinion, it is awesome! I have created some really cool sounds using this equipment. The only problem i had with the Novation Ultranova was that it did not come with the microphone for vocoder, even though the synth was pretty good! Otherwise, super amazing

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      That’s strange that yours didn’t come with a microphone for the vocoder. I thought they came with those?

      Reply
  3. Johnny

    This really gives me some ideas on what I would need when I start my own home studio. With all the neat sound effects I can be creative even though I’m a church musician. And my children are musicians also and they would love this. This beats going to a studio and having to pay money by the hour to record.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, definitely, if you can build your own home studio then that will save you a lot of money in the long run. It’s worth taking a look at Propellerhead Reason too. That is pretty much a full music studio inside your computer, everything you need.

      Reply

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