DSI evolver still worth in 2020?

Hi everyone. I have an opportunity to buy a brand new evolver desktop. I know that it is not easy to get along with but I also know there are a few editors. Since I have an analog keys, I am not sure the evolver is the right synth for me, even more considering its interface and how old it is. Price is not cheap neither (around 400 US). At the same time, it looks a very particular thing. I am interested in thoughts of those who own it. Thank you!


400 is a good deal. I’d pay up 500. Its worth that. It’s a metal chassis. Does all kinds of tricks with its deep matrix. 2 delay engines. Processes input signals. 4 independent sequencers. And of course the sound is amazing to me… fire and ice. it’s a classic imo.


NO, don’t buy it. Point me to the seller though, immediately.



Previously on Elektronauts:


I’d go for it. It’s weird mix of analog and digital can definitely give you results you wouldn’t get anywhere else (save for maybe a Poly Evolver?).

Since you do have the Analog Keys, well, MIDI could do some really fun things if you mix up both devices.

$400 is a decent deal these days for it. And it really isn’t hard to use as long as you accept it for what it is. Really about the same as a Blofeld and I find the Blofeld quite easy to program. My main programming complaint when I had one was the amount of text on the face of it. Memory solves this once you are used to it.

Only downside is that a cheap mopho desktop is quite similar sound wise. You do loose extra osc’s and stereo filter (among other things). But for a lot of sounds they are pretty close. They may even be identical - I recall spending a lot of time once comparing the basic tone of the mopho and evolver (this was just basic waves and filter). Of course if you go for the mopho desktop you’ll then ponder the tetra which costs more than a mopho but not 4x more (though it gives you four voices). Decisions!


Personally wasn’t a fan of the Evolver. Really didn’t gel with the interface at all. One of those things where the interface frustrated me a bit too much.

No experience with the MonoEvolver.

The PolyEvolver? Weapon. I think it’s one of the best synths Dave’s ever made.

i’ve had one a few years and it’s been pretty integral to my music since. there’s definitely a bit of a curve getting into it, but if that matrix style thing is okay for you then it’s relatively quick to get what you want out of it…i find myself still being surprised with what comes out of it tho, it’s very easy to take a hard left turn when designing a patch, but to me that layer of wildness is a good thing. it can be clinical and as precise as you want if you stay towards the shallow end, but the deeper you get it can get out there and downright ugly (in good ways and in bad ways), so that’s definitely a consideration.
if you’re just wanting a slightly interesting mono then there’s lots of other options in that price range (or cheaper) of course, but the Evolver is really a bit of unique beast.
imo it’s certainly worth it at that price, i think i paid close to $500 when i grabbed it in 2016. just make sure you know what you’re getting into is all i’m saying i guess :slight_smile:

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It’s a great addition to analog keys. I’ve been using a cv track on my A4 to sequence it since the midi update. You can also use it as an effects processor since it has a stereo input. Really good for distortion on drum machines.

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Thank you all for your great comments. Lots of interesting insights. One more quedtion to complicate things more: the person who sells ir, also hs a tetra, same price. Both factory sealed. This would be my first dsi synth. As mentioned, I have the analog keys, and my other (close to) analogue synth is a jx8p. Would you go for the tetra or the evolver? I would have gone for the tetra but I read that the AK surpasses it in terms of possibilities and it also has four voices. What makes me hesitate is that both evolver and tetra are the same price. Thank you again!

tetra vs evolver will depend upon the types of sounds you want to make. comes down to having four oscillators (evolver) vs two plus sub-oscillators for the most part. From what I recall the mopho/tetra line have the same options regarding sequencers to crazy things up. Check the specs for yourself but I think they are both the same in regard to modulation options.

Tetra is also multi-timbral so lots of options there too.


Back in the days i had all kinds of evolver except the poly flagship.But i had the poly evolver rack and an evolver desktop as a"remote".my favorite though was the mono keyboard.But at the time when i had one it was only available with encoder not the poti edition.And that’s exactly the one i would love to have today.It has a unique structure,definitely far more versatile than a mopho.I.E. sequencing/modulating the fx could even get you into weird karplus strong stuff.A lot of weird stuff possible but also massive soundwalls with 4 osc in super stereo.one of the very few (analog) synth with a true stereo signal path.Not only two filters for L+R seperate but you could also pan the OSC.Great machine but using the desktop matrix was not much fun to me.And i never liked the screened encoder.

As is so often said about this synth, it’s not for everyone. It frustrates a lot of people. It confuses a lot of people. That being said, it’s my favorite synth I’ve owned. If for some horrible reason I could only keep one of my synths it would be the evolver, hands down. I have the desktop version but I would love to own the mek (or pek) someday.
There are things I wish were different about it but the beauty of it as a whole overpowers what I feel are it’s shortcomings. The only thing I’ve ever felt was a significant drawback is the 32 step limit of the sequencer. Usually I would sequence something like that with an external sequencer but somehow the built in one just works so well with the synth that it doesn’t feel necessary. Plus it’s four track polymetric.
The MIDI implementation is great too with the few annoying exceptions where sysex is required. What else would you expect from the guy who invented MIDI?
The only demo I’ve ever seen that does it justice is actually a demo of the mono keyboard model by the synth god Jexus. It’s reputation as being unusably harsh is propagated by demo makers not taking proper care to balance the oscillator levels. Used with finesse it has a massive range of tonality.
You really need to put the time in to explore this synth. My top two recommendations if you buy this are; pair it with a MIDI knob box (I use an old evolution uc-33e but I’m sure there are plenty of others that would do the trick) and, more importantly, make a cheat sheet for meanings behind the cryptic hieroglyphs shown in the display. Seriously, there are a million and very few have obvious meanings.
Oh, and while dsi’s manual can get you started you’ll need the long form one written by some third party, infinitely more thorough. I don’t remember what it’s called, something like the “secret” or “hidden” manual.
Apologies for the long ramble. I’m very enthusiastic about this synth.


Oh! And it has quarter step note resolution in the sequencer! Get the notes between the notes!


I have the MEK paired with the PER so i have the luxury of far more knobs for programming patches and tweaking live but I think the desktop version is still well worth it, the vast modulation possibilities, the variety of sounds from the analog and digital oscillators, the stereo width, the beautifully organic feedback circuits and the delays/distortion all add up to something pretty deep and unique in my opinion


Difficult to answer. They are, in my opinion, differents.
The Tetra is a kind of P6* (the patches of P6 are still on the sequential site, are loadable in the Tetra. I deduce same architecture, pretty same sound).
I find the sound of Evolver more adapted to experimental, and more "noisy"ish (the distortion is hard/destroyingable, the feedback can brings also this kind of old digital fx a bit cold/near cheap).
But the two synth dispose of 4 internal sequencers (4 to monosynth in Evolver, one per monosynth in the Tetra) that can be routed to a lot of parameters to makes the sound alive, moving and always evolving.
So for a quiet that can get strange : Tetra
For the wild that can get quiet : Evolver
Futhermore, the Tetra is a 4 voices, that can be turned in 4 mono, but it’s a bit tricky (not so easy than it can apear, mainly if you don’t use soft on your computer, that’s my case)
Last, but not least, once you have understand the matrix in Evolver, it’s very easy to program sounds. In the Tetra, if you don’t use soft and computer, programming is a real mind effort to be fluent (all must be programmed through little screen and deep travel in undermenu. Doable with muscled memory.

  • Edit : P8 and not P6, thanks to Bunker vigilance.

I’m fairly sure the Mopho/Tetra are based on the Prophet 08 so CEM 3396 DCO same as the Evolver (and the Obie M6/1000) where as The P6 has discrete VCO’s.


One of the wildest synthesizers. That’s a beast, with a true sounding signature.

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I’ve made a few single synth tunes… I can feel an Evolver one coming on :slightly_smiling_face: