Advanced Keyboard Synths - Compared

I guess that’s part of the fun with being an early adopter of new technology.

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Yup it looks like all the talk about expressive controls from last night was vaporized.

Also too recent to hit a google cache by the looks of it.

I will make my best effort to compare these five synths, relative the dimensions of expressions in their keybeds. ( I look for any clarification and updates, to this information. )

For a place of beginning with this, i will describe the dimensions with the ROLI Rise 2. ( Again, the ROLI Rise 2 is only a controller, so is not under consideration here when comparing advanced keyboard synths. )

ROLI Rise 2 — Five Virtuosic Dimensions

  • Strike — Velocity On
  • Press — Polyphonic-Aftertouch, occasionally called the Z dimension movement
  • Lift — Velocity Off
  • Glide — X dimension movement, completely free like on a ribbon
  • Slide — Y dimension movement,

Note : There are and have been other systems of dimensions on other keyboards, as for instance the Moog Eaton Multiple-Touch-Sensitive ( MTS ) Keyboard.( post )


All five have Strike. Are there keyboards that still don’t have variable Velocity ON values. Yeah i guess so.

All five have Press. Poly-aftertouch. That’s the point, if a keyboard only has Channel-Aftertouch it’s nots part of this list. And there are still plenty of synths that don’t even have Channel-Aftertouch, like a bunch of very nice synths from Korg — the OPSIX, Modwave, and Wavestate.

Lift ( or Velocity OFF ) — I’ve been trying to confirm this. Certainly the Osmose, Hydrasynth Deluxe, Continuum have it. I’ve been told by Aodyo that the Omega will definitely have it. As best as i have been able to determine from the manual, the Iridium Keys does not. I have a recent post in the Iridium Keys thread asking anyone to contradict this, and so far no response. So i think four of the five has Lift.
By the way, Velocity Off is a very useful feature, in particular allowing variation in the sound of a note’s release.

Glide. This is a little more tricky. Of course the Continuum has this. It has total freedom of X-Dimension movement. ( Crossing your fingers. ) I include large between note glides and bends, with smaller amounts of movement that can be called “vibrato”, with micro-tuning from finger precise finger placement. The Osmose senses X position and movement of the keys, which allows for vibratos, and small bends. But it also includes something new, new enough to be patented, which Expressive E calls “pressure weighted portamento”. This allows you to use two keys, and sensing the relative amount of aftertouch pressure between those two keys allowing you to quite accurately flow your pitch between those two notes. Resembling this the Hydrasynth Deluxe, and the Omega both have a ribbon controller, with the ability to match the ribbon position to the keyboard note pitch. The ribbon on the Deluxe is one dimensional so is somewhat limited in this role. The Omega though has a ribbon that can sense two dimensions, as well as the ability to sense three simultaneous multi-touches. I am expecting Aodyo to innovate ways to do some more complex forms of Glide, and Vibrato
Note : While you can use a pitch-bend wheel for this, there is not a good way to connect the pitch bend to a single particular note in a polyphonic combination.
I am not aware of any ways to do Glide or Vibrato per note from the keyboard of the Iridium Keys.

This leaves Slide — the Y-Dimension, moving your finger front to back on a key. This is pretty much limited to the Continuum. I am not aware of any other of the keyboard synths being considered here with this capability per note.

I think another thing to be considered relative to these added dimensions, are additional forms of control that are part of these synths. The Omega is remarkable in this regard, which is a topic for another post.

ADDED : To be clearer about the Osmose. Each key can sense “Polyphonic Initial Pressure”, “Polyphonic Aftertouch”, and “Polyphonic Pitch Control”. ( Reference ) To complicate things the first two parameters are not simultaneously controllable, independently on a single key.


An explanation on why i didn’t list the Hydrasynth Explorer and the 49 key HSK with the five advanced keyboard synths being compared here.

I thought about this, and certainly could have. To keep things simpler for comparison, i chose to list only the Deluxe to make this more an “apples to apples” comparison, and so the prices are all closer, ( the Continuums being outliers for price ), and also the Deluxe is bi-timbral, with a similar total voice count. It’s easy enough to make inferences regarding the “other two” Hydrasynths. A comparison between the four Hydrasynths is a topic for another thread.

The depths of timbrality with the five are all similar, with the two opposing outliers being the Osmose and the Omega. Definitely something to give attention to, having such a wonderful advanced keyboard with an essentially mono-timbral synth. All the additional forms of control on the Omega certainly goes well with its four part timbrality.

This seems like the main sensor/mechanical difference in the Osmose over the more standard PolyAT keyboards.

If you only need to do per note vibratos/small bends/microtuning for a given patch though, routing PolyAT to the oscillator pitch could often achieve the same effect but usually only in a single direction. Single direction bending isn’t unheard of though as guitars typically only bend up unless a whammy bar is factored in (but that’s not per note).

This obviously is less of an option when PolyAT is being overloaded with a bunch of other stuff for things like complex evolving pads.

This seems a lot like a monophonic patch with glide and a LastNote priority would get close on the others. The main addition seems to be something more like HighPressure or LowPressure for note priority vs something like HighNote or LowNote priority.

They also appear to have a semitone range for how much it operates over so you could glide within hands separately. With both hands on different split ranges the monophonic glide may also be able to do that approximation as well.

I get the impression from videos this also has a lot of overlap with the other physical modelling engines where you have the various Timbre related dials and Resonator shape parameters and it seems less free form draw arbitrary harmonics than I was originally envisioning.

Not sure if it’s an aspect of the harmonic view but a lot of sounds in the demo videos seem to end up closer to more standard FM sorts of sounds.

MIDI Implementation

  • Hydrasynth - CC & NRPN documented
  • Anyma Omega - Remains to be seen but the Phi had pretty good documentation of CC & NRPN and they needed to have everything defined well enough to make the external editor
  • Waldorf Iridium - Can’t find MIDI Implementation, there’s references to MIDI Learn but I think you can configure a lot of the CC mappings on the device
  • Expressive E Osmose/Haken Continuum - The Eaganmatrix has the more performance oriented CCs documented and some of the global config channel options on Channel 16. The patch related stuff is a black box.

Patch Randomization

This definitely increases the mileage out of a given synth and allows you get into sound design areas you wouldn’t have necessarily thought of.

  • Waldorf Iridium - Can’t see any patch randomization in the docs which is a bit weird given the Blofeld even spells out it being used in the creation of a lot of the presets
  • Expressive E Osmose/Haken Continuum - No indication of a randomization mechanism which would have been really useful given how complex sound design is and how many options there are
  • Hydrasynth - Just an absolute beast for randomization, you can randomize entire patches/sections/mod matrix and you can control how much it randomizes particular areas. As found out recently the randomization can also randomize other synthesizers
  • Anyma Omega - The Anyma Phi had a pretty usable randomization mechanism which was good because the abundance of modules and options you may have missed trying some until you try to reverse engineer the random sounds.
    This also helped with the limited number of starting presets. The Omega builds upon this with: “ALEAGEN - Create aleatory consistent patches, by pushing a single button, based on smart random algorithms.”

Pictures of the extra controls

ADDED : Waldorf Quantum MK2

Of course this is wider than the Iridium Keys. Not shown are the wheels and six keyboard control buttons.

Waldorf Iridium Keyboard

Not shown : The two wheels, the six macro buttons, octave up/down, chord, arp/seq, mono and latch, buttons. This is a touch screen, the only one of the five.

Expressive E Osmose

ASM Hydrasynth

Not shown : The two very nice wheels.

Aodyo Anyma Omega
Not shown : The two wheels, the X-Y touch / acoustic drum pad, and keyboard controls.

EDIT : Switched Anyma Omega image to an improved and updated one.


Too soon to add this advanced keyboard synth to the list, but maybe someday.

This is something Behringer is experimenting with, that they call the VS-80. They are experimenting with extensively reworking the original design, to include a more flexible modulation matrix, at left above. ( See my post. )

ADDED : In case i’m unclear this synth, if ever a real product, will feature a poly-aftertouch keyboard.

ADDED : A big difference for this compared to all the other advanced keyboard synths here is that the sound engine for this would be all analog.

What I like about the Haken Continuum is that I don’t see it as a keyboard or as anything else but as something all its own.


Yeah, when i was putting the list together of the original five advanced keyboard synths, i went back and forth deciding whether to put the Continuum with the others, it being a different sort of keyboard. But i decided i couldn’t not include it, as it really defined the category.

I did wonder if i should also include historic advanced keyboard synths too. They certainly could get included by anyone that wants to discuss a specific feature. But i decided the list would get long and muddled, best to show what can be picked among right now.

If we’re speculating on upcoming advanced multitimbral keyboards, my guess would be a Matrix 12/Xpander reboot from Oberheim as Oberheim reregistered the Xpander trademark.

I mostly just want the desktop Xpander (hopefully smaller than the original).

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Any indication this would have a poly-aftertouch keybed ?

My history is a little hazy but I think the Matrixes were the first Oberheims to have Channel Aftertouch.

For the OBX8 they added Channel Aftertouch in the reboot and mentioned having to add it to all the old patches they ported that didn’t have it as the original OBX didn’t even have velocity sensitivity, let alone aftertouch.

The Xpander was really crazy in the features it had at the time it was released and some of the craziness in how it did stuff influenced the Hydrasynth:

It also plays a big role with wind synths as I believe the chord rotator stuff Brecker did was played on an Xpander and was used in other non chord rotator songs.

Given Oberheim seems to be one upping the originals they reboot, there’s probably a good chance of Poly AT and the fact that every voice can be a different timbre it could get interesting if they take it to it’s logical conclusion.

There’s such an enormous contrast between the Hydrasynths and the Osmose. You talk about how open the patch design is with the HS, which contrasts with how opaque patch design is with the Osmose. The keyboard will be more expressive on the O —the HS from Explorer to Deluxe are all ready for those added MPE dimensions - you can adapt and design patches with those added dimensions, it’s built into the HS.

The basic sounds between the two are night and day of course. Both have a range, but sit in very different sound design space. It’s a matter of personal preference, and specific need.

Then things like front panel control can be considered, quite different there. And if you’re discussing the Deluxe, it’s bi-timbal, with more voices, and more keys. It’s nice that there is a family of HSs all capable of sharing their patches.

There’s lots more quite different too, pluses and minuses both directions.


Oh absolutely. It’s more a comparison of time/space/money/attention than the two being competitors in the same niche. The Deluxe Hydra is a bigger, enhanced slice of something I know reasonably well, whereas the Osmose is a pretty different experience with some major pros (a keyboard that works the way I think keyboards do in my imagination!) but big question marks (will I get along with EaganMatrix and how much do I want my experience to be tied to software).


The primary thing I find appealing about hardware is workflow and usually when I have to use a computer to interact with the hardware it starts being weighed against other software stuff.

One thing that the Explorer is missing though that the other Hydra’s have is CV Mod In which if you aren’t into Eurorack/Modular (I’m not) seems like it’s not that important.

That, however, allows for audio in and essentially a 4th oscillator so you can combine the Hydrasynth workflow with other sound engines. Also allows for the Hydrasynth to act as an effects unit.

I’m not sure if if the Osmose has Audio In through USB but it doesn’t appear to have a dedicated input port like the bigger Continuum’s have.

Audio In allows for combining and joining other synths and can be pretty fun.

The expressive emote is the neatest looking synth out of all of them.

However the likelihood of me actually using it in a track would be near 0. Something that is SO tied to performance would give me a panic attack trying to incorporate it into a track. Even if it could be sequenced, the sequencing would be a massive hurdle comparable to trying to sequence orchestral music

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The Anyma Omega with dual stereo audio inputs, should be amazing. Details on how this is used is still to be revealed, but with it being four part multitimbral, that shows one possible use. Others come to mind too.