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SOMA Laboratory Pulsar-23

Demo with Designer Vlad Kreimer

Ryan Gaston · 02/19/20

Vlad Kreimer from SOMA Laboratory came by our shop to talk about the Pulsar-23, his new instrument which is part drum machine, part modular synth, and part circuit-bent sonic laboratory. Capable of everything from straight-ahead beats to generative rhythms and chaotic soundscapes, the Pulsar-23 far exceeds the capabilities of the typical groovebox.

If you're not already familiar with Vlad and SOMA's overall mission, be sure to check out our interview here, in which he explains his approach to instrument design and more.

Inside the Pulsar-23

Information about the Pulsar-23 has been floating around for a while: it was first introduced some time ago, and immediately generated a lot of excitement. From the outset, the Pulsar-23 promised a much more organic (or organismic, as SOMA might say) approach to sound design and sequencing than the common drum machine—and the overwhelming popularity of their prior devices Lyra-8 and Pipe made it clear that the Pulsar-23 would turn out to be something quite special.

Pulsar-23 is finally in production—and while it isn't shipping to dealers quite yet, Vlad was kind enough to visit our store to give us an overview of its inner workings. Vlad describes the Pulsar-23 as a conceptual model of modern society, providing artists the ability to thoroughly express modern emotions and their relationship with the modern world. Less abstractly, Pulsar-23 is a semi-modular drum machine with 23 internal modules, ranging from synthesis voices and effects to more utility-based functions.

The internal looper/recorder is one of the Pulsar-23's most interesting features. Rather than offering dedicated internal step sequencing, the Pulsar-23 instead records user input from the dedicated touch pads and loops it, enabling the creation of much more complex, loose, and human rhythms than the average sequencer. Create rhythmless looped soundscapes, deeply swung beats, or tight rhythms—you decide. For those who need super tight control, there is MIDI and CV support—and you can even use these simultaneously, allowing for loads of options for creating patterns.

The Pulsar-23 features four synthesis channels, each different from the last—making for maximal sonic variation. The four channels are tailored toward bass drum, bass, snare, and hat sounds, though each can breach well beyond what you might expect from drum synthesis. Additionally, each of these channels can be used to process sounds...sounds from external sources, or from the Pulsar itself. By connecting these audio submodules together with the other utilities via alligator clips, you can create nuanced, complex interactions that affect the timbre of the drum sounds and the musical structure overall.

This combined with the shift register-based Shaos module, two LFOs, integrated distortion, CV-able digital delay processor, and several voltage utilities makes it easily possible to create patterns and textures far outside the range of mechanical, step sequencer-based drum machines...turning the Pulsar-23 into an uncommonly lively, organic means of creating rhythmic sound. Great for industrial chaos, generative soundscapes, and hard-hitting dance rhythms alike, the Pulsar-23 is like no drum machine that you've ever seen before.