Hollow Sun – Soviet Polyvoks (KONTAKT, NKI, WAV)

By | July 26, 2016


It’s 1982 in the Soviet Union. Obedient comrades in the state-run factories are churning out electronic goods for the proletariat at the diktat of the communist regime. These include tape recorders, TVs and radios, etc.. The Formanta factory in Kachkanar in the Ural mountains, however, is making electronic musical instruments – organs, amplifiers, speakers, etc. – and a decision is taken there to make a synthesizer, a proper synthesizer… the kind of thing we capitalist westerners have been enjoying for the best part of 12 years or more.

So an engineer called Vladimir Kuzmin is assigned the job (with his wife) of designing such a synth. Vladimir has had some experience in this area improving the FAEMI-M, an electronic organ with basic synth facilities so it makes sense for him to lead the project. The result is the ‘Polivoks’. It would probably have gone unnoticed here in the west had it not been for the internet. People started finding out about this and many other curious synths and electronic instruments from behind the Iron Curtain.

Despite some claims, the Polivoks is not a Russian MiniMoog and has many interesting and unique features. However, the basic voice architecture is fairly standard – two oscillators and a noise source into a filter (12dB/Octave Lowpass and Bandpass) into an amplifier and all controlled by an LFO and two ADSR envelope generators. The usual stuff we come to expect. Except…

It has a curious mixture of features. It can (sort of) play two notes at time (hooray) but it has no pitchbend control (boo); it has two filter types (hooray) but no PWM (boo); the envelopes can self-repeat to become programmable LFOs (hooray) but there’s no oscillator sync (boo)! A quirky and idiosyncratic electronic design with an equally quirky and idiosyncratic cosmetic design which has overtones of a cold war, militaristic CCCP by Mrs Kuzmin.

But how does it sound? It’s brash and unstable, easily prone to overdrive and distortion but also capable of some subtlety. It’s a very ’80s’ sounding synth and great for basses and leads. So what’s on offer here?

A modest collection of carefully multi-sampled Polivoks samples from Hollow Sun friend, Matthias Shuster, who owns a Polivoks in his studio in Germany. It’s a collection of some striking basses with real, quirky and oft-times unstable character. There are also some lead line sounds in there plus the polyphony offered by Kontakt allows the creation of some smooth and gentle pads.

It’s not a massive collection by any stretch of the imagination but the sounds are bound to spice up a track with their distinctive character! To my knowledge, this is the first proper sample set from this Soviet curio. Furthermore, the panel has been scripted with a design that resembles the original (without the Cyrillic parameter labeling, obviously!) to give you a good degree of control over this modest pool of samples to create your own variations quickly and easily.

The CONTROL PANEL gives access to a resonant lowpass filter with a simple envelope to control the sweep plus an amplitude envelope ADSR to shape the sound.

The MASTER section allows you to tailor the overall response of the instrument to your personal preferences with variable velocity curves, tuning, transpose and pitch bend ranges.

The EFFECTS section provides a phase shifter, chorus, delay and reverb in series to build complex multi-FX chains to augment the sounds.

Requires Kontakt 3.5 or Kontakt 4. It will work with the free Kontakt Player but only in ‘demo’ mode and the session will be time limited.

* Real analogue sounds
* Unique sounds from this rare Russian synth
* Basses, pads and leadlines.
* Kontakt 3.5 above
* Custom scripted panel featuring…
— Dynamic lowpass filter with simple envelope
— ADR amp envelope
— Phase shifter, chorus, delay and reverb multi-FX
— Variable velocity curves, pitch bend, etc..

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