nzoa june


December/January 2018

by Mal McCallum

Gear Review: Behringer DeepMind12 Synth

by Mal McCallum

Gear Review: Behringer DeepMind12 Synth

From its beginnings, in 1989 Behringer set out to provide sharp-priced options across a wide product range. As it has grown the company has purposefully acquired established and reputable brands that have in turn allowed it to became a player across more musical instrument product sectors. Turns out the company’s founder Uli Behringer has long had a deep passion for things keyboard. That certainly shows in the attention to detail Behringer has given the new DeepMind12 synthesiser, available here with an rrp just a dollar shy of two grand.

The DeepMind 12 is in some ways a throwback to the classic synth sounds of Oberheim, Juno and Prophet 5s – but that’s where those similarities end. The fat sounds of the old keyboards are present by the bucket load, but on top of that you have a full 12-voice analogue pathway enhanced by internal digital controls, plus externals like access from your iPad via Bluetooth.

This is combined with truly excellent FX.

Four FX engines can be used simultaneously, with top class reverbs, choruses and delays, by TC Electronics and Klark Teknik, to select from. There are 30 algorithms to get you started, and you can soon add another whole dimension to the basic synth sounds.

Two oscillators per voice, along with hands-on ease of editing, detuning, adding noise and so on means you can deal with any sounds quickly and painlessly, and end up with some epic fresh synth ideas for your song or performance.

An aspect I found really appealing is how ‘hands on’ this synth is. Everything is virtually at your fingertips, and whichever control you touch comes up on the LCD screen, giving a visual cue to what you’re doing as well as hearing it. This means there’s no need to go scrolling into menus to get at a sound, you can immediately tweak a lot of the parameters like ADSR, the 32-step arpeggiator, portamento, octave shifts up or down and so on. Whatever function you are editing shows up on the decent-sized

LCD display, and features like filters change dynamically on screen as you move the control.

You can map virtually any function to any controller, and in a few of the presets this has been done to good effect, with full range pitch bend or filter sweeps mapped to the modulation wheel, for example, giving the player instant action. Another likeable feature is being able to copy and paste FX settings from patch to patch, as well as editing things like after-touch velocity and the playing velocity to where you like it.

The 1024 presets are well thought out, plus easy to get to in program browse by holding two buttons – Prog + Global. Using the data entry fader as well as the +/- buttons, you can quickly skip through patches and banks. It’s very easy to duplicate a classic sound for authentic-sounding versions of old songs, as well as making other total soundscape-styled original ones.

A few of the old style sounds have familiar names for those who themselves go back to vintage synth days. They provide more than enough starting points for musical adventures as well as showing off what the Synth, FX and Arpeggiator aspects are capable of. Every few minutes it feels like you just made up yet another brilliant movie soundscape!

The Arpeggiator is comprehensive with 32 steps and 32 pre-programmed patches. You are able to write chords and polychords, with a Hold button so the last chord or note keeps playing, and also transpose them over the keyboard. Then there’s Latch On, Up or Down, Up/Down, Up/Alt, Random and others. This gives some real flexibility arpeggiating with, against and through other sounds. By playing some notes and using the Hold button, you can change the sounds aspects with ease.

While the NZ rrp is just $1999, it does seem that every step of the DeepMind12 architecture has had some careful thought put into it – from the classic-look wood ends, the solid metal chassis, a really nice feel to the sliders, knobs and the semi-weighted 49-note keyboard. It’s very easy to get up or down the octaves with the dedicated Up / Down buttons, and small lights remind you which octave you’re in.

The processing features are impressive, along with attention to details like a true analogue bypass to give that old school fatness, and fully servo-balanced stereo outputs for the highest signal integrity. There are High and Low Pass filters from Midas, another of Behringer’s company acquisitions that has given them real audio pedigree, and helped turn their mixing consoles into top-of-the-line units. A lot of the effects are from earlier Midas and Behringer’s X32 consoles, as well as those FX from TC Electronics and Klark Teknik.

To handle modulation there is an eight mod matrix bus, which lets you patch 19 different modulation sources to 130 possible destinations. For example, you could have the amount of modulation set by one channel affected and controlled by a second channel, which could be a noise filter, interacting, but only to whatever percentage amount you set in the matrix. You can do that to eight levels for pretty complex synth control, and some far-out results.

You can add an expression pedal, a sustain pedal, an external MIDI controller, or control other external units from the DeepMind12. As one example you could be mixing in vocal lines or guitar parts from your laptop, using the synth’s faders. You can also Bluetooth the synth, with, say, your iPad, which then gives you off-board touchscreen access to most features.

Playing and experimenting with the DeepMind 12 quickly revealed that it has been conceived by some very knowledgeable synthesiser makers and players. They’ve come up with a number of great ideas that put the fun right back into playing a synth.. It’s an exciting synth to use, in the studio or live.

Auckland-based singer/musician Mal McCallum is currently performing Thursday & Friday nights at Dr Rudis, The Viaduct, alongside Lewis McCallum.