Modal Electronics Skulpt Synth SE
Modal Electronics Skulpt Synth SE
Overview by GAK
The Modal Electronics SKULPT SE is a fully-featured and powerful 4-voice virtual analogue synthesizer in a highly portable package. Don’t be fooled by its affordable price, this digital synth has a huge, organic sound with plenty of scope for sound design and robust build-quality. There aren’t many hardware synths out there as complete as this one for the price.
The SKULPT SE is a new and improved version of the widely acclaimed SKULPT. The most apparent revitalisation is the look, which is now a more traditional combination of black & white. Modal Electronics have also upgraded the SKULPT SE’s UI, which now has easier to view straight panel descriptors instead of the original’s angeled ones.
At the core of the Modal SKULPT SE are the oscillators, which offer a lot more flexibility than your traditional VA synth. Each voice contains two WAVE groups, with four oscillators within each group, and both waves can continuously morph between sine, triangle, sawtooth, square and either PWM (WAVE 1) or Noise (Wave 2). Whilst the SKULPT SE is a virtual analogue synth, it can pull off 2-operator FM patches, where WAVE 1 is the carrier & 2 is the modulator, using the dedicated FM knob. Used in tandem with the WAVE 2 huge +/- 4 octave range and the LFOs, it’s very easy to create interesting effects and timbres. There’s also a Ring Mod feature, which can generate rich harmonic textures. Because the SKULPT SE’s oscillators are so flexible, you can create a vast range of sounds before using them alongside the filters, modulation and effects.
With four voices available and eight oscillators per voice, you have an impressive array of 32-oscillators that can be grouped in a variety of ways. There’s Poly, which gives you four voices of true polyphony, Duo, for stacked two-note intervals and Mono. In Mono mode, you can use the Spread control to detune the 32-oscillators for truly monolithic sounds or arrange them in a number of chordal shapes - from simple fifths to complex extensions.
Lush Morphable Filter
Each voice of the Modal SKULPT SE features a warm 2-pole filter, which is a fantastic tool when sculpting your sounds. Not only is the filter resonant, generating some lovely harmonics at higher settings, it’s also state-variable. This means it can gradually morph from Low Pass to Band Pass to 1-pole High Pass at the highest setting. It offers a lot more versatility than other multimode filters which can only directly switch between each type.
If you’re into designing your own sounds, the Modal SKULPT SE is a dream to play with as it boasts plenty of sound-shaping capabilities. Thanks to the SKULPT SE’s plethora of hands-on controls and intuitive design, crafting evolving soundscapes couldn’t be easier!
There are 3 ADSR envelopes (two dedicated to the Amp & Filter and a Modulation one that’s freely assignable) and 2 LFOs (one that affects the patch globally and a more flexible one that’s polyphonic) that can run into audio rates for FM and AM effects. Plus, the Polyphonic LFO has an interesting feature where it can sync to the fundamental frequency of a played note. When you’re ready to begin assigning, you can use the SKULPT SE’s 8-slot modulation matrix to patch any of the 8 sources to the 37 destinations.
Inspiring Performance Features
Modal have equipped SKULPT SE with a fantastic Sequencer and Arpeggiator, which can used to generate fresh ideas and standalone jams.
The Sequencer works by playing the notes in real-time and there’s a built-in metronome to ensure that you’re locked in when recording your sequence. You can record up to 256 quantisable notes with 4 notes of polyphony and automate up to 4 parameters, which can be recorded by simply turning the control as the sequence plays. It’s like having four extra LFOs at your disposal. You can inject some variation into your sequences with the Hold (which loops the current sequencer step) and Loop (loops selectable parts of the sequence) features. Once you’ve designed a sequence you like, you can store it in one of the 64 storage slots.
The onboard Arpeggiator features bipolar swing, selectable time divisions, 6 play directions, up to 4 octaves of travel and Sustain/Sustain Latch modes for hands-free operation.
The SKULPT SE features two built-in effects, which can add instant depth and texture to your patches. First up is the built-in distortion, which is a waveshaping overdrive that can add subtle gain to filthy overdrive. The versatile delay, which has a range of 0.022 to 750ms, can deliver far more than spatial effects such as slapback echo, room-esque ambience and swirling psychedelic atmospheres. When modulated, the delay is capable of replicating choruses and other time-based effects. The delay can also be synced to either SKULPT SE’s internal clock or an external one, which works particularly well when spicing up the rhythm of an Arp and Sequence.
Using the SKULPT SE alongside the rest of your setup is a breeze, thanks to its multiple connectivity options. You’ve got full-size 5-pin MIDI In & Out for syncing with external hardware or controlling SKULPT SE with your controller/keyboard of choice, analogue clock Sync In and Out so you can lock in with your Eurorack modular gear and class-compliant USB which provides bi-directional MIDI with your laptop, computer or tablet.
An advantage of the SKULPT SE is that it can be expanded up to a total of 16 voices using the poly-chain feature, which allows you to connect 3 additional units. If you’re an original SKULPT owner, the SE version can be poly-chained to it and your patches can be transferred between them.
Deep Software Editor
Whilst Modal’s SKULPT SE is plenty of fun and easy to use on its own, with the MODALapp you can view all the current parameters of a preset and enjoy effortless screen-based editing when tweaking your patches. It can also be used as a simple way to back up, store and rename your custom sounds. If you’re an avid sound designer and quickly fill up the 128 patch slots, the MODALapp is an indispensable tool. The MODALapp comes as a standalone app for your iOS, Android, macOS or Windows device as well as a VST3 or AU plug-in for smooth integration with your favourite DAW. The best part is - it’s free!
Modal have used their design and engineering process to condense a fully-featured synthesizer with an immediate, hands-on interface and a luscious sound into something that can fit into a (slightly larger) pocket or your backpack. The SKULPT SE can be powered with either 6 AA batteries or by hooking up its USB port to a laptop/tablet or power bank. Using the built-in 16 key touch keyboard, you can create with the SKULPT SE wherever you go.
Modal have created another winner with the SKULPT SE. Its excellent value for money makes it a great choice if you’re looking to get into the immediacy & power of hardware synths. If you’re a seasoned synthesist and want to add a new colour to your palette, the SKULPT SE’s incredibly deep engine & potent sound will provide you with countless hours of fun sonic exploration.
- Four voices virtual-analogue
- 32 oscillators, 32 oscillators, 8 per voice, split into 2 WAVE groups
- Individual waveform morphing for WAVE group
- Available waveforms WAVE 1: Sine - Triangle - Saw - Square – PWM
- Available waveforms WAVE 2: Sine - Triangle - Saw - Square – Noise
- Multi option Unison/spread to detune the 32 oscillators for massive sounds
- FM, PWM, tuning and Ring Modulation options
- Mixer section for WAVE levels
- Analogue-style morphing 2-pole filter with resonance
- Seamless morphing from lowpass, through bandpass, to highpass
- 3 x envelope generators for Filter, Amplitude and Modulation
- 2 x audio rate LFOs, one global and one polyphonic
- 8-slot modulation matrix with eight sources and 37 destinations
- Realtime sequencer that will record up to 256 notes and up to 4 parameters of Animation
- Fully-featured arpeggiator with division, direction, octave, bipolar swing and sustain controls
- Distortion (waveshaping overdrive)
- Stereo Delay with modulation w/ sync to internal and external tempo sources
- 128 sound memory locations
- 64 sequence memory locations
- 16-key touch MIDI keyboard
- 14 endless encoders and 13 buttons to access synth parameters for sound programming and real-time tweaks while performing
- Compatible with MPE enabled MIDI controllers for expressive performance articulations
- Monophonic, Duophonic and Polyphonic play modes available
- Inputs and Outputs: 3.5 mm / 1/8" TRS dual-mono output, 3.5 mm / 1/8" TRS headphone output
- MIDI DIN In and Out: 3.5mm / 1/8" Analogue clock sync In and Out
- Class-compliant MIDI over USB connection
- Power: Powered by USB or 6 x AA batteries. USB cable included
- Editor Software: Free editor app available for macOS, Windows, IOS, iPadOS and Android
- Enclosure: Lightweight and durable hard plastic enclosure with removable protection lid
- Dimensions: 255mm x 135m x 68mm (10”x5 1/2”x 3”)
- Weight: 0.62 kg/1.37 lbs (without batteries)
No upgrades available