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Dewanatron Swarmatron

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The Swarmatron is a fingerboard synthesizer like the Trautonium or Tannerin. A finger is placed or slid from side to side along a ribbon controller, controlling the pitch. Glissandi are obviously easily achieved, or careful finger placement may be used to play discrete notes.

The distinctive feature of the Swarmatron is its use of eight individual oscillators, under a single control. These oscillators produce an equidistant chord, where their spacing is under the player's immediate control. There are two ribbon controllers: the larger controls the pitch in the obvious manner, the second is used to control the spacing of the oscillators when in 'Swarm' mode. A large central knob on a rotary control may also be used to control this swarm.

The oscillators may also be switched on and off individually by a row of switches. With all but one switched off, the instrument becomes a simple ribbon-controlled monophonic synth, capable of the usual glissandi. Using combinations, and adjustment of the range control, allows a non-equidistant swarmed chord to be produced. The oscillators may also be preset to the usual chord intervals of major thirds etc.

The pitch control also controls a low-pass filter. This may either track the main pitch, or may be controlled by the second ribbon. With the sawtooth wave of the oscillators, this tracking filter controls the sound of the instrument.

As for many other analogue synths, there is also an ADSR envelope control.

Like the Persephone, the tuning controls for the ribbon's base frequency and overall range have such a wide span that the ribbon controller itself is unlabelled, although some players mark note positions on the ribbons for a piece.

There are no facilities for MIDI. However there are three analogue 0-10V Control Voltage (CV) inputs for pitch, filter cutoff and swarm. With the use of a standard MIDI to CV converter, the instrument may be controlled from a sequencer or other MIDI controller.

Official Product Information:

The Swarmatron was created to produce eight tones tuned approximately to one note, each tone slightly different in pitch to produce a complex and natural choral effect.

These eight oscillators can be played with a single ribbon controller (variable resistor) to move the pitch center up or down.

The span control expands the sound of a swarm of eight notes spread just a few cents apart into a wide chord of equidistant pitches spread over the entire spectrum. The player can "taffy pull" the resulting chord by using the span control and pitch ribbon in tandem.

Swarms of sine waves evoke swarms of angels congregating. Swarms of sawtooth waves evoke the swarming of bees. The sound of a host of voices, earthly or unearthly, has a unique character recognized by the ear even when they are folded together in unison.

Swarmatron Modifications:

CV Outs ($195): This mod gives the user access to the Swarmatron's internal pitch, tonal spread (swarm), and filter cutoff CVs along with the ADSR envelope and gate signal. These voltages come out through a 5-pin DIN socket on the left side of the unit, and a breakout box converting these to 5 1/4" phone jack outputs is supplied as well, along with a 3' connector cable.

FM Feature ($520): The Frequency Modulation feature allows one or more of the Swarmatron's eight voices to frequency modulate the center point as well as the tonal spread of the cluster. This is controlled through 3-position rocker switches for each voice (off, on, on and sending to fm bus), an FM on/off switch, a modulation amount control, a pitch/swarm modulation balance control, and a phase inverter switch to invert the phase between simultaneous pitch and swarm frequency modulation.
Note: FM option is $520 extra when ordered before Swarmatron is built, or $650 as an upgrade to an existing Swarmatron.

Stereo Feature ($1300): The stereo Swarmatron has two output channels in the form of a TRS jack, each with their own VCA and filter stages. The eight voices of the Swarmatron spread through the stereo field as the tonal separation increases. The ratio of the tonal separation to spatial separation can be adjusted by use of the Swarm range control (the internal stereo separation CV comes directly off the Swarm ribbon before it is attenuated by the Swarm range control) and can be further adjusted with an additional control directly to the left of the Swarm ribbon. The Swarm CV input jack is now a TRS jack so that external control voltages for spatial swarm and tonal swarm can be fed in separately.

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog
Synthesis: Subtractive
Oscillators: 8
Waveforms: Saw Up, Sine
Osc Modulation: Input, Keyboard, Ribbon
Filters: 1
Types: 24dB Slope (4-pole), Low Pass
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 1
Timbrality: 1
Tuning: Atonal
Modes: Mono, Unison
Case: Desktop
Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Mod - Ribbon
Display Type: LED
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out
Year Released: 2003
Units Made: 83
Used By
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Design Notes:

The Swarmatron was developed by Dewanatron, the Dewan cousins, Brian and Leon. They are still hand-made by the Dewans, explaining their high price-tag. Previous instruments such as their Melody Gins and Dual Primate Console have also used the same principle of multiple, interacting oscillators. These instruments also show the Swarmatron's retro styling of dark wood cases with hammer-finish green paint. Knobs and switches also show a distinctly retro influence. Front panels labels are deliberately minimal, controls being labelled with single letters rather than words.

Dewanatron sell their Swarmatron through Big City Music of Los Angeles. As of March 2016, only 83 have been produced.

Product Links
Company Product Sites:
[+] www.dewanatron.com
MSRP List Price: $3,995 - convert
References & Sources

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