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Rating and Reviews: Novation UltraNova Synth

Loaded with 37 full-size keys and 8 touch-sensitive knobs, this stage-ready virtual-analog synth gives you incredible sounds, killer filters, and a vocoder!

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"WOW" submitted March 8, 2012

By J. K in Carlsbad, CA
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Musical Background: Pro
Music Style: Everything
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Overall: Love it! Great synth and I don't play techno, just rock and classical. I bought the MicroKorg xl first and was dissapointed with it. Very Cheap, so I kept looking for a great synth. I went to a few stores and demo'd some units the Ultranova and the Gaia. The Gaia felt cheap and the keys were horrible. The unit looked great but sounded average so I tried the Novation, it was a step up in sound quality and touch so I bought it from zZounds and was extremely happy with the sounds and feel of the unit. It is plastic but seems strong unlike the Korg and Roland. The sounds are out of this world!! Pro level!!!
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"All night fun" submitted June 2, 2014

By Dan G in Jacksonville, FL
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Musical Background: Play guitar 24 years. Record and produce in home studio. Can play most rock band instruments well enough to pass muster.
Music Style: Many styles.
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Overall: It's been a long time since I've owned a keyboard synth. I have a digital piano that I mainly use as a controller for software synths but it's 81 keys and too big for my desktop in my home studio control room. The UltraNova is lightweight, USB-powered, and only 37 keys which is perfect for my desktop.The touch controls are quite impressive and the most fun feature of this synth. Knobs feel pretty good; up to par with most other Novation gear. The interface is really intuitive so it's quick and easy to get around due to the fact that each section of the synth has its own dedicated menu button which takes you straight to that page without having to exit back out of each sub menu. The gel buttons are nice as well and the layout is very well thought out.I've gotten a pretty good hang of this thing in the past month I've owned it now and not only are the presets pretty good its super easy to program a new patch quickly and assign touch controls to some filter and envelopes and get going. And the additional free patches from Daniel Fisher of Sweetwater are pretty good. The Automap feature works well enough for VST plugins in Studio One 2. I've had a Roland GR55 for a couple years now and I can add some really nice pad layers to the mix using the UtlraNova.My only complaint is the max volume on the line out is somewhat lower than the other line-level gear I have going into my StudioLive mixer. I have to crank the preamp gain up a bit past unity to get a useable input, but it's quiet and I've got plenty of headroom so that's not really much of an issue.All in all, I love this thing and it has kept me up many moons since it's arrival early last month.
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"A Great Product !" submitted July 17, 2011

By a customer from rocketmail.com
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Musical Background: Composer
Music Style: Classical /Popular Song/Experimental
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Sound: The sound is great.. I mean its got some of the best sound. The pads are erie and wonderful.. Sounds for modern synth tech/dance/dub set , that kind of thing.., are all wonderful... It has a great sound.. The Arp section alone is worth atleast 2/3rds the cost of the machine... and when using the editor, things get deep and creative.. the sounds come to life in a more rich experience.. Feature: The keyboard is a solid feel. Appears to have a strong keyboard bed with good response.. The control knobs and buttons are placed in an easy to understand lay-out. The control window is small yet useful... However, I have had the Ultra pitched upward on a desk while using it, so I haven't tried it laying flat on the desk... I like the idea of the audio interface to go with it. However, it is of average quality.. IT is solid , does the job.. I think it is best set for beginners or those wanting to create practice song writing sessions... This interface is not for pro use... However, I think its a good match for the price range and use of the machine... However, their needs to be more amp gain... This can be fixed in a software sequencer when the ultra is hooked up to a computer. One can not run the Ultra with a mic and the audio ins at the same time... This is kind of a drag, as I have to pull the cords out of the audio inputs and put them back in when Im ready to record again... Ease of Use: ITs got buttons and a view screen that has to be read... Theirs allot to do with this little synth and it runs deep... The sounds are worth the exploration.... Quality: A Solid well made unit... I would worry about the effect buttons on the top back row of this machine... IF their used to much I believe they will need to be replaced at sometime... Only time will tell... Value: The Arps alone are worth the experience... And the pads as well.... I would like to see a few more bread and butter sounds... Possibly a real drum kit and a real piano of some-kind... Manufacturer Support: The forum looks helpful, Ive visited a few times.... Tech support did not get back to me as of yet... I dont know how well they are going to support this product... The Wow Factor: Its a beautiful looking beast... However, its a much darker blue then what is showing on its website...... The design lends itself to be a focused creative experience with its strongest points guiding the way... The Arps and editor come to mind when I think of its purpose... Overall: A few times I could have sent it back to get another synth with bread and butter sounds for songwriting... I DID NOT....!!! I kept it... I kept it for that sound and its lay out and creative exploration with the editor and all those buttons.... Its a great add on to the rest of my musical experience... I would buy another if I lost this one.....
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"The purple synth that could." submitted August 29, 2011

By a customer from gmail.com
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Musical Background: amateur oproducer
Music Style: Techno
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Sound: Nice quality to the sound, lush pads, nice digital basses. Not quite as deep as an analog synth, but then again this is digital so even though it's virtual analog don't expect anything near what an analog synth can do. That said, it is a great digital synth with a nice digital sound, not quite as cool sounding as a virus though if you want a comparison to another popular VA. Feature: Great features, I particularly like the chord function, the arpegiator and the vst editor. Ease of Use: Super easy to use, it would be cool to have a dedicated button for everything but at this price point you can't complain. Programming this synth is easy, especially with the vst. Quality: It's well built but it definitely has a "plasticky" feeling to it. Value: Great bang for your buck. Manufacturer Support: no idea. never needed it. The Wow Factor: ok appeal, it looks good but a virus looks much better. Overall: Overall it's a gtood synth at a very good price. I paid 539.00 for mine and I would probably buy it again at this same price. I would not pay more than 600 for this though. IT's a simple synth that is capable of making some interesting sounds if you know how to program it. The Oscillators are ok, nothing to write home about but they do the job.
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"First Virtual Analog Keyboard, the Ultranova featuring 80's Dark Wave Tones, Very Attractive, But... (I do really like this ev" submitted August 28, 2011

By a customer from gmail.com
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Musical Background: musician in a band and singer songwriter
Music Style: electronic pop rock
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Sound: This is my first virtual analog synth, so I don't have a lot to compare it to, but I like the sound. The sound response is nice with my playing, and it is pretty compatible with my musical style. The sounds on the keys are sort of 80's wave table-like, and are dirtier and less tuneful or full than I expected, but the tones are cool nonetheless. It sounds good in a recording, some of the patches really stick out and elevate a complex electric sound to focus just on the sounds of the instrument. I've recorded three songs with this keyboard and with the sounds from everyone else in the group, and then with the sounds from the ultranova, the song is really unique and interesting sounding. Feature: The touch buttons are awesome. I wish it was easier to set up Automap for midi, from a non-technical standpoint. I use Logic on my Mac to record, but haven't been able to launch automap with this synth. I also haven't been able to get it to read on my usb connection because automap isn't running correctly. Have to work on that. Also I wish this had a sustain arpeggiated feature. When it "latches" on ARP mode, there are only 16th, 8th, 5 and 1/3 notes etc. to change the ARP rate, but no simple sustain for the different patches or tones. I would like to get a pedal so that live I can play loudly, sustained chords if I need. I would also like to know how to store a patch on one of the touch knobs, which I haven't been able to figure out how to do yet. I am a novice, obviously. Also, I just thought it would be really cool if this could store samples. Maybe that's too ambitious, but an all-in one keyboard seems like it would be great, and that's a feature I could definitely use. Ease of Use: The interface is intuitive, but when i modify the sounds, they are not what I expected. i still like them a lot though. The manual is difficult to understand. I am used to playing a regular piano and recently am learning the keyboard and synth language. It is a very playable instrument though, and is lightweight so I can bring it around to the practices I need to take it to, and whatnot. I use it with a band sometimes and its fun and bright. Quality: This product is very well made. that is one thing I really like about this. It's quality constructed, and the keys are really nice to place. Very reliable, very durable. It's plastic, but sturdy, and it's really good looking too. Value: I really don't know since this is my first virtual analog keyboard, but I'm going to say yes, and hope that as my familiarity with the keyboard increases, so will my appreciation of it. As I mentioned in features, I could definitely use a sampler or loop storing keyboard. I thought that the ultranova could do that, but I don't think it can. Manufacturer Support: I have not dealt with the company, but as I mentioned, I would really love to use this in midi, or with Automap, and I read the manual pretty thoroughly (I need to read it again though) and it has been difficult to set up. The Wow Factor: very sext keyboard. Overall: I would like to supplement this keyboard. I just finished paying for it! I am happy with it though. I am also looking to explore a Korg, or a sampler, or a drum machine. I make some music in a band and some on my own, and I would really like to get some sounds going on like The Knife, Crystal Castles, and Glass Candy -some electronic, loopy, beat-focused stuff. That means I probably have to branch out to different sounding instruments, possibly a Korg, Nord, or even a Roland sampler. The sounds on this are very eerie ( I read in another review someone said they're eerie and I aggree). I'm looking for a little more uniqueness or melody. I wish I knew it didn't sustain single chords, and I wish I knew I couldn't store patches from other midi songs, and I wish I knew how to store a patch on the keyboard so I could get back to it again. I love how it looks, its durability, its playability, and its eighties dark wave sounds. its a great first pick. we'll see what else I can do with it!
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"Great Synth / One Major Flaw" submitted February 28, 2013

By John G in Culver City, CA
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Musical Background: Professional
Music Style: Classic Rock
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Overall: My UltraNova review would be rated at 5 Stars, if not for my particular application, need, and style of playing. If you have no plans to use the Pitch Wheel for precise, real-time, live performance, pitch-bending leads, or harmonizing (with guitar) leads, you can skip this review, and trust that the dozens of other 4 and 5 Star reviews for the UltraNova (all over the Internet) are quite accurate. This review is going to cover the ONLY thing that NO other reviewers have addressed, or are aware of. Not even Novation was aware of this issue until I addressed it to them. And that issue is, the real-time performance and operation of the Pitch Wheel. I purchased the UltraNova specifically for 2 reasons. (1) Because it has full sized Pitch and Mod Wheels, rather than a Joystick controller. And (2) for playing precise 'guitar-type' (multiple pitch-bending) leads on stage and in the studio. In my 40 plus years of playing synthesizers, playing leads and covering guitar parts (on keyboards), I would have never imagined that a production synthesizer would be sold with such a major design flaw. A flaw that wouldn't effect the majority of keyboard / synthesizer players, but a flaw that renders the UltraNova useless for my intended purpose. Of every synth I've ever owned or played that has a Pitch Wheel or Joystick, they've all had instantaneous reaction to movement of the pitch controller. The UltraNova Pitch Wheel will bend notes up & down, but NOT in real time! Unbelievably, there is a very noticeable latency (delay) between the Pitch Wheel movement and the sound output of the UltraNova, no matter what patch you use. When I brought this to the attention of Novation, they told me that was the first they've ever heard of such an issue. The service tech said he'd look into it and call me back. Three hours later, he called me back and said, "You're absolutely right!" Then he went on to say that it was brought to the attention of the design team and would be taken into consideration for future releases of the UltraNova. If your style or technique of playing a synthesizer leans towards Jan Hammer or Jordan Rudess, this synth is not for you. The UltraNova is a beautiful instrument with a multitude of totally astonishing sounds! Unfortunately, the MAIN reason I purchased it, is the ONLY thing it's incapable of. Real-time performance of the Pitch Wheel.
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"This is a great sounding unique VA, packed with features, powerful synthesizer, great low end, and easy to use interface, a qual" submitted July 18, 2011

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Musical Background: Musical Witchdoctor
Music Style: Trip Hop
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Sound: Ultranova sounds fantastic. Of course that's subjective, but I like it. It has a great low end and effects with many options. I can add all kinds of panning to my sounds with UN. I can get beautiful pads, thick basses or anything else. I also own DSI Tetra and MicroKorg. Obviously DSI Tetra is phatter than UN, but UN holds its own and actually those two make a great combination. Tetra for the analog and UN for the digital. I think UN sounds better (less artficially bright and flashy) than MK. I like the sound of UN, it does have some character. Feature: It is not multi-timbral, but that's not a problem for me. That's what a DAW is for. I would like if the editor were stand-alone instead of a VST, but that's not any big deal. Ease of Use: It is very easy to create and tweak sounds and navigate through the features. it is obvious that the designers thought this out. Let's say you want to tweak the LFO. just press the LFO button and the screen is filled with the LFO paramaters. now turn..or just touch..a knob to tweak it. Very easy to program and I picked it up in a few hours. once you understand the basic menu structure you can click any button and do what you want. The manual is clear. Quality: plastic, but feels well built and reliable - always works flawlessly and does what I expect it to. knobs have a little movement to them but I think this is by design, it doesn't feel cheap. I would gig with it if I was a gigging musician. The key bed is high quality like they say. it feels good to play on it. The only thing I don't like is that the filter knob sort of flywheels. For example. let's say the 12 o clock position is the top of the cutoff range, turn the knob some and when you come back to 12 O clock, now it's 3/4 of the cutoff range. This is by design, but it would be a little better if the knob locked on a little better. Still not a big deal at all. Value: Given the chance to buy a more expensive VA, I would still buy this. Manufacturer Support: I asked them a question before I bought it. They could only be reached by email and took about 10 days to respond. The Wow Factor: It has the characteristic blue Supernova color showing it's Novation DNA. You know, Nord has the red boards, etc. Blue lighted pitch and mod wheel (you can dim or disable these lights) It looks complex but it's not, that's cool. it's more of a showpiece than Tetra or microkorg. Feels solid and well built. Overall: If I could only buy one synth, I'd buy this. If I could buy this and one other, I would get DSI Tetra, and I'd use them together. I also considered Roland Gaia and M-Audio Venom, but I chose this. here is why: Gaia rocks for its sound and all its knobs and sliders. but Gaia didn't have the vocoder, the awesome looking VST plug-in, the librarian editor, Audio-In, or the extensive modulation and synthesis power of UN, and the keys felt cheap and plastic. I tried it at the store. I didn't want venom because my other M-Audio gear has always had issues. 1. Axiom 49 died before it was two years old. only one key would make a sound. nothing would fix it. I had taken good care of it. 2. Pro fire 610 works great, but sometimes shows a CRC error and requires PC restart to make it behave. M-Audio is new in the synth business, trying to jump on the train. Venom was also marketed for it's abrasive hard edge sound ability, which was not my interest.
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