Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089
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Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089
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Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Introduction
Studio Electronics is a name that should not be a stranger to any career synthesist: they were the first to convert to some analog monsters to knobby rack mounts with MIDI (MIDIMOOG) and also one of the longest running producers of modern analog synths. The Boomstar is a bit of a departure from their usual rack mounted affair and is the first synth of SE to take on the desktop format. But don't think they've slimmed down too much. It's just as discrete and juicy as their rack mount range of synths and is actually quiet large in size--it's about the size and height of the vintage Oberheim SEM.
The Boomstars come in several flavors. The basic architecture is the same for all of them expect that each one has a different filter type. Some might remember SE's "Tone Chameleon" system where buy a singe synth could contain several highly revered filters (for example, the Omega 2 and 8 could have the Arp, Moog, and Oberheim filter types) so multiple filters isn't a new concept. But whereas before a single unit could house multiple units, SE has now made several independent synthesizers, with each one highlighting a different filter. The one on review today is the 5089, otherwise known as the Moog filter.
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Basic Specs
The Boomstar 5089 is an analog monophonic synth based on completely discrete circuits. It's also one of the few modern analog synths to feature genuine, discrete, analog envelopes. There's so much going on under the hood of the synth that it's probably best to list the core features:
2 voltage controlled analog oscillators (a design based on the Minimoog)
VCO 1 has a sub oscillator and can sync to VCO 2. VCO 1 also features two simultaneous waveforms. One selector switch chooses between saw and triangle and another between square and sine. VCO 1 has a discrete pulse width control (but both oscillators can have pulse width modulation via the modulation matrix)
VCO 2 can only have one waveform at a time and can voice a triangle, saw, or square waveform. Instead of pulse width control, it has a dedicated detune knob.
2 loopable / invertable analog voltage controlled envelopes (can also be triggered by the LFO)
1 fully resonant voltage controlled filter (on the 5089 it's based on the Moog filter)
1 multi waveform low frequency oscillator. This is the only component of the Boomstar that is digital, but it feels very analog and has the benefits of digital like MIDI sync.
There is a dedicated pre-filter oscillator mixer that can be driven into distortion and has controls for the onboard Ring Modulator, as well as Noise Source. Additionally there is also a feedback control, which is essentially the old "Minimoog trick" on a knob (it reroutes the main output back into the filter).
Rounding out the package is portamento, as well as velocity control over the filter frequency and voltage controlled amplifier. And speaking of the VCA, it has a final distortion stage that can be turned off or on at the flip of a switch.
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Feature Details / Architecture
Whew... that's a lot. And that's really the thing about the Boomstar--it has a ton of features for the money. And if you think you need to dive into some kind of menu to access this goodness, think again, because the Boomstar is packed with a knob or switch per function interface. Everything that you need to tweak is clearly laid out and is easy to access. The knobs also have a nice, rubber smoothness that really beg for the hard tweaking (yea … I went there).
Additionally, the Boomstar also has plenty of connectivity beyond just a mono output (though that's there too). For starters, there's CV and Gate inputs to drive it from your analog hardware. There is an audio input for using the gorgeous filter for processing external signals and there are also CV ins for modulating the filter frequency and VCA! The most interesting output, though, is the raw oscillator output.
This output takes the signal post oscillator mixer but pre filter. This means you can basically use the Boomstar in conjunction with your modular equipment. Because the oscillators are so good sounding and genuinely have that old Moog vibe, they will be sure to impress just in their raw, unprocessed state (I used this output to feed more oscillators to a Roland SH 2 … it was one large bass sound that I got thanks to then having four oscillators).
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Sound
There's no other way to put it: the Boomstar sounds vintage and phat. As much as I hate the word phat, I don't know what else to say. It has a magic to it. The bass end is superb. I mean really, really superb. It has drive and power that you can feel with every note that you play. There's an aggressiveness intrinsic to its core tone that would almost remind of the Pro One, but with so much more thickness.
At impersonating the glory days of synths, it's really one of the best. And not just in the low end either. The leads and high frequency sounds definitely bring out that definitive Moog characteristic of the filter.
The overall feeling I got playing this synth is simply: Minimoog in a smaller package. But where the Mini is limited in some of the sounds it can make, the Boomstar, because of the sheer amount of features it has, goes above and beyond in this department. Everything from perfectly sculpted drum sounds to Arp 2600-like ring modulation is possible. Have a listen to the demo video I made below and you'll see what I mean. Every sound in that clip was produced on the 5089!
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Applications in todays world / How it fits in hybrid modern set up
With the staunch competition in today's desktop analog mono marketplace, the Boomstar comes out a bit expensive. It does not have a keyboard or sequencer like the Bass Station 2, and one could almost buy two Moog Minitaurs for the price of one Boomstar. So, why do I praise it? The answer is simple: superb, top end sound quality, a full, hands on interface, and a tried and true Studio Electronics build quality.
The Boomstar is similar to buying a top end compressor. Sure, there are cheaper offerings and yes they technically do the same thing, but it's not the same experience. The Boomstar is for those that know this difference. That have been spoiled by the big boy synths of yesteryear. The kind of people that are looking for a modern playmate to sit alongside their Prophets and Oberheims. This is who the Boomstar is for. It is an entirely through-hole (meaning big parts) design that simply costs a lot to produce. Whereas Moog went the SMD (surface mount) route for the Minitaur, SE went for the "big part, big sound" mentality. And does it ever show.
While the aggressive aspects of the Boomstar might not be your cup of tea, you can instantly hear a serious tonal integrity that reeks of high quality parts and feels like it comes from another planet, where products are not made as cheaply as possible. It truly comes from a place where the sound and feel are more important than anything else.
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Demo Video
To see what's ultimately possible, check out this amazing demo of tracks with sounds made entirely on the Boomstar by INHALT:
Studio Electronics Boomstar 5089 - Conclusion
For these reasons, and especially if you have the budget, do yourself a favor and check out the Boomstar.
Review by Matia of INHALT