Vermona Mono Lancet
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Vermona Mono Lancet
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Vermona Mono Lancet - Introduction
The Vermona Mono Lancet. If there's one thing Germans really know how to do (beyond cars and 'interesting' short films) it's synthesizers. And Vermona is no stranger to the synth world. They've been around since the wall split up Berlin and have been making analog centric boxes that sound that sound decidedly German. That is to say, clean, precise, and packaged in a user interface that is fast and efficient. Yep, definitely German.
The Mono Lancet came out during what I would call the first wave of the tabletop synth renaissance. This is a time when the independent and smaller manufacturers were first starting to come up with synth designs that would fit a desktop format, thus easily sliding into the laptop oriented musicians workroom. This was a definite shift from the late 80s and 90s, which were characterized by rack mountable gear. Since the table top oriented design lends itself well to a variety of sizes that go beyond the rack format specification, often times more knobs can be fit on the panel. Such is the case with the Mono Lancet, a knobby, blue metal framed little box of analog synth goodness. Let's take a look at what makes it tick...
Vermona Mono Lancet - Basic Specs
The first thing to note about the Mono Lancet is that it is an entirely discrete synthesizer. Vermona have crafted a synth voice using nothing but traditional parts that impart a unique and full sound. It is a monophonic synth that consists of two analog oscillators. There is absolutely no digital control over anything and these VCOs truly sound great. VCO 1 offers triangle, saw and square waves at 32, 16, and 8 feet, while VCO 2 adds a noise source to the square and saw waves at 16, 8, and 4 feet. This means if you want the classic sub oscillator square wave sound ala SH 101 or Juno 60, you will be using VCO 1. VCO 2 also offers a detune control for those warm, analog, dual oscillator detuned effects. Interestingly both oscillators are tied to a master tune knob that is gigantic. So if you want to perform a huge pitch bend over both VCOs, this knob will let you do it.
There is a 24 dB analog low pass filter that is fully resonant and sounds a pleasant sine wave at maximum resonance. A single switch regulates keyboard tracking of the filter frequency at either zero (no tracking), 50 percent, or 100 percent settings. At 100 percent keyboard tracking you could easily play the filter chromatically when it's fully resonating for a pure, feedback made sine wave.
A single low frequency oscillator and envelope round out the mighty but little package. The LFO is of the multi wave variety, offering square, triangle, or sample and hold wave shapes. There is a single knob regulating the speed of the LFO and you'll be pleased to know that at the top setting you can start to veer into audible oscillator-like frequencies.
The envelope is a full, discrete, analog Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release type that is hardwired into the voltage controlled amplifier. However, just like the Juno's and the SH's, the amplifier will allow you to bypass the envelope and use an organ type square wave shaped gated envelope (think of this as a simple on / off type envelope shape). Additionally, there is also a drone setting which will permanently keep the VCA open, which is very useful for tonal or abstract sound design.
Vermona Mono Lancet - Feature Details / Architecture
MIDI comes as standard on the Mono Lancet and you'll be happy to know that there are a couple of hidden extras within this MIDI spec. For starters, you can modulate the pulse width of the square wave over MIDI. This means that using CC values, you could "sequence" out pulse width modulation in your DAW or sequencer of choice. While this doesn't make up for the severely minimal LFO modulation matrix (I really wished you could have routed the LFO into the VCO pulse width modulation) it at least allows you to change the square wave shape to get a wider range of sounds.
The MIDI timing is very responsive so sending fast sequences to the Mono Lancet is absolutely no problem. Since the Lancet has a noise source, you'll be happy to know that when you program a drum sound (such as a snare or a hi hat) it will trigger quickly.
Vermona Mono Lancet - Sound
To be absolutely frank, two things seal the deal for me regarding the Mono Lancet: the sound and build quality.
The Lancet sounds beautifully warm. It is a decidedly discrete sound. If you've grown up on the Oberheim SEM or Minimoogs, you're going to absolutely love the Lancet. The oscillators are warm and purr beautifully. While you cannot get distorted sounds out of the Lancet natively, this really isn't the reason why you would even spring for this desktop wonder. Instead, the Lancet is your source of beautifully warm and wide basses, leads, percussion, and constantly shifting, sound designy patches!
The filter sits somewhere between the classic Roland squelchy and Moog width / warmth. At higher resonance settings it's in the Roland department. I found that the Lancet can convincingly nail that tough Juno 60 bass sound. You merely flip VCO 1 to the lowest tuning, set it to a square wave, and put VCO 2 at a saw wave an octave above. Next, set the VCA to the simplified gate on / off type wave shape and tweak the envelope to produce a tight pluck and route it to the filter cut off. Play some octave jumpy basslines and you're in the ball park.
If you take the filter resonance down, you enter the Moog terrain. Here it's possible to make a bass sound so heavy and wide, any speaker will have trouble to push out the most bottom frequency range.
Vermona Mono Lancet - Applications in todays world / How it fits in hybrid modern set up
Regarding the build quality, the Vermona is of the tank variety. Everything exudes hand-made quality from the metallic blue case to the heavy duty, super sturdy knobs. The jacks for outputs are just as nice and a plugged in cable does not shake in the least.
There have been many different desktop synth offerings in recent times and though the Lancet was one of the first, it is by no means outdated. I don't think I've seen another company nail such a particular, discrete sound coupled with a build quality that I expect on something vintage (and from an era where musicians were paid appropriately for their work so they could afford the hefty price tags of synths). However, not content with these two factors, Vermona used the Mono Lancet as a platform to put their foot into the Eurorack modular synth world, a department quiet in vogue. In addition to building unique modules (their MIDI to CV converter is amazing considering the size!), they've built a special Mono Lancet module that interfaces directly through a multi pin proprietary port on the back of the Lancet. Here you get access to parameters (such as pulse width modulation) that are impossible to modulate natively within the synth. It's a fantastic coupling if you are looking to get your feet wet in modular synthesis but don't want to have to start blank slate.
Vermona Mono Lancet - Demo Video
To see what's ultimately possible, check out this amazing demo of tracks with sounds made entirely on the VML by INHALT:
Vermona Mono Lancet - Conclusion
The Mono Lancet is an awesome, little, but well built monophonic analog synth. It's got so many features packed into the little metallic case and has room for expansion with its Eurorack Expander Module, that it's hard to resist!
Review by Matia of INHALT