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Hartmann Neuron Neuronal Synthesizer

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The Neuron's sound engine in theory is structured behind the idea from Artificial Neural Networks.How you play and use the instrument works by way of analyzing samples and then those samples are resynthesized within the Neuron's system including traditional processing through filters and effects.

Also unique to the Neuron are 3 Vector Synthesis joysticks used along with multiple data wheels for dedicated parameters for editing and shaping sounds.

Tacticity and Resynthesis are the key terms to explain the Neuron. Adaptable computer algorithms power it. Its sound generation system is rooted in the overwhelming potential of resynthesis. Now for the first time in the history of synthesizers, it is possible to access resynthesized sounds with astonishing accuracy and radically reshape them to dramatic, even spectacular effect.

The Passion Flows

Like a sentient being, Neuron recognizes a sound. But more than that, its intelligence is such that it puts at your disposal parameters whose structures are adapted dynamically to suit this sound. And that makes Neuron the first synthesizer with a brain full of responsive synapses, that is, variable rather than fixed parameter assignments.

Neuron is an instrument of the remix era. A drum loop is sampled to create another - the fact that the first drum loop was already sampled from an old record notwithstanding. Neuron captures the musical spirit of the time. Rather than dipping into a single well – a particular form of synthesis or sound source - Neuron draws buckets full of musical material from every well. It has the power to develop every sound further. It does not matter if the source is a lone flute sound or an entire song. What for the conventional synthesizer is the end of the sound generation chain is only the beginning for Neuron. There are no more rules or boundaries. Neuron’s unique powers of resynthesis open up a new dimension in creative musical endeavor, offering unprecedented opportunities for individual expression to both musicians and non-musicians.


Neuron’s extraordinary user interface is another crucial feature alongside its innovative synthesis engine. Our philosophy dictates that every Hartmann instrument is easy to understand and use, that it handles intuitively, and that it makes discovering new technology fun. To live up to that promise, we were compelled to invent several new control features. The tactile experience of generating sound via Neuron is something entirely apart from what you have encountered with conventional synthesizers. The layout of the external operating panel mirrors Neuron’s internal signal flow and provides a vivid visual reference to how individual modules interact. Its control features are arrayed logically. Striking visuals draw your attention to key functions and fundamental settings. The graphics of secondary functions incorporating several control features are homogenous, denoting their common ground and shared purpose.


A Model is, as the name suggests, some kind of structure that holds information on the sound that you wish to play. Think of computer generated imaging: if you want to create a three dimensional scenery you usually start out building a wireframe model of the various objects that should be in the scene. You can then resize, scale or distort them until you are satisfied, ultimately applying texture, lighting and reflection parameters to render the final scene in photorealistic quality. Models in the serve a very similar purpose. They are like wireframe models of musical instruments that you can scale, distort, resize or tweak in other ways to achieve whatever it is you wish to achieve with your sound, finally rendering them by playing them on the keyboard, getting sound as audible output of the process.

Now wait a minute - isn't that the same as a physical modelling synthesizer? No, not really. Physical Modelling relies on someone building an actual computer model of a violin, or a piano, to finally play this instrument on a keyboard. The tricky part here is actually building the model. If you intend to create a real sounding violin, you would require no less skills than someone who were to build a real violin out of wood. Clearly, this is beyond the abilities of most people who just want to create interesting sounds. Therefore, with most physical modelling synthesizers you do not have access to the basic models and cannot change their fundamental properties. If you did, the chance of creating a playable (let alone good-sounding) instrument would be slim.

So how does create its Models? Sounds easy enough: from your sampled sounds. A sampled sound generally is an output of an actual physical model. If you record your voice, the physical model would be your vocal tract. If you play a trumpet, the sound is a pressure wave created by that instrument. Again referring to the world of computer generated images: a photograph of a real scenery would be to the real scene what a sample is to the real instrument.

The Neural Part

Still, it is not clear how we create our Models from an actual sound. Did the marketing blurb tell you that uses a process that involves artificial neural networks? Well, that's correct. An Artificial Neural Network (ANN for short) is a structure simulated on a computer that works a bit like real living nerve cells. We won't go into detail here (the interested reader is referred to this site for a good explanation of ANNs), but ANNs can be very helpful in recognizing an underlying process from its sampled (ie. observed) output.

For example, ANNs are used to recognize speech, handwriting or to beat you in the game of chess. Speech is an audible sequence of sounds (called "phonems") that represent information from a written piece text. Handwriting is another sequence of symbols (characters) that may very well look quite different when written by different people, but who still convey the same underlying information. Chess movements are the output of a complex set of rules with a hidden strategy, aimed at defeating your opponent. Again, the actual movements are the observed output of a model (the Chess rules) behind your thinking. All these are examples of where an ANN can be used to recognize an underlying set of rules (a "model") behind a process.

During analysis, this is what the software does. It takes the one-dimensional sampled sound and tries to estimate its underlying instrument model. It is a bit like recognizing a scenery and its objects from a photograph. Again using our visual analogy: does something similar to a person building a computer generated scenery from a real photograph of a real scenery. Of course, you may be wondering whether this is possible without ambiguity, and of course it's not. However, this is where the analogy to the visual approach ends: a scenery has depth, consists of three dimensions. A photograph still has height, width and shade of color - a sound does not. Although an instrument model is a three dimensional object in space, its sonic properties do not require the knowledge of all spatial dimensions.

Even though, there still is ambiguity in this process, which is why there are different Parameter Sets. A Parameter Set is a collection of "presets" tailored to a specific "family" of sounds. It's like telling the visual recognition process that on a given photograph you have mostly people, or buildings, or objects on it. Just like it makes little sense to apply parameters that are specific to people (eye color, hair length, head size) to buildings, it makes little sense to apply parameters that refer to a stringed object to a woodwind instrument. At the same time, interesting or unusual effects can result if you do, so there is another huge potential for creativity by using the synthesis in a way it's not supposed to work.

The Resynator

Each of the two Resynators can hold one Model. A Model can either consist of a single converted sampled sound (a Single Model), or of a stack of converted samples that are distributed across the keyboard (a Multi Model). A Multi Model is the equivalent to a multi-sample, except that it is a model derived from a sampled sound and not the sample itself. A Model can also consist of a High Velocity Model and a Low Velocity Model, which can be entirely separate Models. switches between them during playback, depending on the velocity of the note played. Unfortunately, with the present processor speeds neither a velocity morph nor a zone morph is possible. This will be a future option when faster processors are available for the . Note that a velocity morph between the two Resynators is actually possible, so you can still create velocity driven morphs between two entirely different Model s!

In the Resynators, there are a number of parameters available for instant access. These parameters are defined by the Parameter Set selected during analysis (or on the machine itself - a feature that will be available in version 2 of the NeuronOS). There are two groups of parameters (called Scape and Sphere) with 3 levels of parameters each, holding either two reciprocal or four independent parameters.

Scape and Sphere are groups of parameters that are conveniently grouped to provide easier access: Scape parameters usually refer to parameters that influence the basic vibrating medium (air column, string) of an Model while Sphere parameters control the shape or making of the corpus, the resonant body of the virtual instrument.

The Blender

As we have seen earlier, the has two identical Resynators to hold Models. There is an additional control between these two otherwise identical units, called the Blender. While you can tweak the parameters of the Models directly with the stick controllers in the Resynator, the Blender allows for interaction between the two Resynators. Depending on what Blender Mode you choose you can use the Sphere (ie. the shape of the body) of one instrument while you use the Scape (e.g. string) from another. That way you can build all kinds of instruments, even create a dynamically varying transition or morph between these two instruments. All of these parameters can be assigned a controller so they can be remote controlled from the keyboard or a sequencer program via MIDI.

Slicing It

The Slicer is sort of a panning/LFO type effect, like a "Auto-Panner on Steroids". It can be either horizontal , which means plain left and right panning, or 3D, which adds some kind of chorusing and flyby effect to it. At any rate, great for creating swirling pads and lush strings that dynamically float about the stereo field.

The Silver

The Silver section is the effects and filter section of the . Some reviews have suggested that turning it off will make the sound far less impressive. Of course: the basic output routing of the reproduces all sounds in mono due to processor contraints. So at least a stereo delay should be applied to add some width to the sounds, which neither is unusual nor otherwise detrimental to the sonic quality. Although there is a Blender Mode called STEREO, which pans one Resynator to the left and the other to the right, you would usually want the Blender for something else than just panning, for example, intense morphing or velocity transitions.

Available Silver effects are grouped into Time and Frequency effects and include a wide selection of modulation effects (chorus, l/r delay, phaser...) as well as compression, EQ and even unusual effects such as sp_warp, which is actually the same alien world effect as the Prosoniq PiWarp. All delay effects dynamically change their delay time, meaning that glitches due to changing delay times are a thing of the past. Only very few synthesizer do this, the Ensoniq VFX being one of them. This even works with the tap tempo button (master fx only) which can be used to sync the delay times by simply tapping the tempo manually - very cool for live gigs!

Filters include various characteristics, including the famous Prosoniq 24dB/Oct LPF - the filter from worlds most widely used VST plug in NorthPole.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: Resonators, Resynthesis, ROM
Oscillators: 4
Waveforms: ROM
Osc Modulation: After Touch, Envelope, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Mod Wheel, Pedal, Velocity
Oscillator Notes:
The term "resynator" is an amalgam of "resynthesis" and "oscillator." A resynator also performs similar functions. Like an oscillator, it provides the basic material for sound generation.
Envelopes: 3
Evelope Paramerters: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
Envelope Notes::
1 ADSR Modulation Envelope for each Resynator, 1 ADSR Amp Envelope per Resynator, and, 1 user definable or Pitch ADSR per Resynator
Filters: 1
Types: 12dB Slope (2-pole), 24dB Slope (4-pole), Band Pass, Low Pass, Resonance
Filter Modulation: After Touch, Envelope, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Velocity
LFO: 2
LFO Parameters: Saw Up, Saw Down, Sine, Square, Triangle
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 24
Timbrality: 0
Tuning: Standard
Patches RAM: 200
Patches ROM: 200
Multipatches RAM: 200
Multipatches ROM: 200
Storage: Internal, USB
Editing: MIDI, USB
Phaser, distortion, compressor, limiter Chorus, flanger, delay
Case: Keyboard
Case Details: Stylish contemporary design from Axel Hartmann. Plastic and metal casing.
Keyboard: 61 keys
Controls: Aftertouch, Velocity, Buttons, Knobs, Mod - Wheel, Joy Stick, Modulation - Audio Input, Pedal - Sustain
Display Type: LCD, Backlit
Display Count H: 16
Display Count V: 2
Display Notes: Knobs and Joystck move you through menus
Dimensions (WxDxH): 952 mm x 98 mm x 373 mm
Weight: 17.5 kg
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Main, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 7
Audio Output Notes: 5.1 surround, SPDIF
Inputs: 1/4" Stereo Input, SPDIF
Power: 250 watss
Year Released: 2003
Year Discontinued: 2005
Used By
Hans Zimmer, Robert Scott Thompson
Manuals & Documents

Product Links
Company Product Sites:
[+] neuron.prosoniq.com
MSRP List Price: $4,999 - convert
Used Price: $3,500-$10,000 - convert
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References & Sources

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