The Polivoks is the most popular vintage Russian synth made in the early 80’s and it was among the first synthesizers produced in the USSR. It’s purely analog with two voices of polyphony, two oscillators each with triangle, square, saw, two types of pulse waveforms and one noise generator, the levels of which are controlled via the internal mixer. Although the oscillators can become unstable and difficult to tune, the Polivoks is well suited for making screeching sounds and thunderous bass. You can also connect an external audio input for processing through the Polivoks’ switchable dual-mode band pass/low pass filter and LFO sections. The LFO, or “Modulator” offers triangle, square, random and noise waveshapes and can be applied to the oscillator level and pitch or the filter cutoff. There are also two ADSR envelopes for contouring the oscillators and filters.
Polivoks had been produced since 1982 by the Formanta electronic factory (one of the biggest at the time); it was sold exclusively in the USSR. Polivoks has its own unique electronic components including a reliable keyboard (49 notes F to E) made with magnetically controlled contacts. Its synthesis modules consist of independent circuit boards, which is convenient for maintenance and repair. In addition, Polivoks is housed in an original rugged aluminum body of uncommon design with handy controls.
“Here is a Russian Formanta Polivoks Duophonic Synthesizer that was recently in for repair at The Analog Lab in NYC. It is a harsh sounding nasty beasty. Its basically impossible to get a sweet sound out of this thing, so we decided to go with a brash piece by Modest Mussorgsky…Hooray Russia! The guts of this thing are also pretty solid. Soviet era parts all over the place with plug-in circuit boards. The schematics for this synth are actually pretty decent. Strange grounding system and output connectors. The Polivoks just feels cheap, like you might break it by playing it, but damn, it can get in your face!”
Here’s a new video focusing on filters appearing on the Russian Polivoks synth:
It’s a strange synth. But what great filter …. can be switched from low pass to bandpass in an instant. It also posesses two envelopes that can be looped over the attack-decay sections.
I understand that Rammstein use this synth as does Franz Ferdinand.
This is the first of two videos comparing an original Polivoks Filter to one of its many clones.
In this demo, its Blue Lantern’s LM4250 VCF.
Im starting with an open filter… Cutoff at max – level 6, resonance at 0.
I’ll update this later with a more detailed explanation of the controls (for those who cant read Russian).
Modulation is via an LFO on the extreme left and an ADSR envelope.
Design the Media has released a new Ableton Live Pack designed by Tristan Héau, with a collection of more than 300 samples from the Russian Polivoks synth. They say that the sounds were carefully recorded, using an accurate tuner and Apogee preamps in order to catch that raw, nasty, analog sound from this eastern beast.
Tristan also created specific drum kits, Simpler presets (made from simpler and sampler live instruments) and custom instruments Racks (with esoteric macro knobs to be mapped to your favorite midi controller).
A spokesperson told us, “In the project folder under you will find all the samples organized by category. For example, you will find any possible combination of perfectly tuned oscillators of the polivoks – sine alone, sine with square, sine with triangle etc. All recorded waveforms were made with a tuner so that this material can be used more easily for sampling. You’ll be very surprised to hear how those analog waveforms sound. Then, they are some more classic waveforms – bass and lead sounds, all kind of noise sources, great feedback tones, and more exotic recording made while pushing this analog monster into his limit – hi rez, filter sweeps, unstable patches and more.”
Pricing and Availability: