We are on a journey to look at the Behringer Neutron Paraphonic Analogue and Semi-Modular Synthesizer. Before we do, though, what are the origins of this strange instrument?
It probably all started with a Russian in 1919. His name was Termen, but he was also known as Theremin. Ring any bells? Have a listen to the massive quivering vibrato on the Beach Boys Good Vibrations. That is a Theremin.
Robert Moog is considered by many to be the “father of the synthesizer.” He started to produce his weird-sounding instruments in the 60s. In some circles, they caught on. With some bands, they became an integral part of their sound.
All in all…
They were mostly reserved for studio use. One famous user was Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, who used it on four Floyd albums. Those include ‘Dark Side’ and ‘The Wall.’
But there were problems with them, and you would hardly call them a commercial product, just a specialized tool for super-rich rockstars. Nevertheless, there was a big future for synthesizers. If only someone could make it portable, viable, and reasonably cost-effective.
Here it comes…
No need to ask who accomplished that, we suppose. Yamaha released their DX7 in 1983, and the world of electronic music turned on its head. As far as we can see, it is still spinning around as it all gets more technologically advanced. So, let’s take a moment to understand what we are looking at here.
The Semi-Modular Synth
Buying a Semi-Modular or a Modular synth is a choice that needs to be made. However, if you are just starting out on your journey into synthesis, then it would be a great idea to go with the semi-Modular.
As a concept, they are similar. However, the semi-modular is usually a range of hard-wired modules from one manufacturer to create the product. In this case, mostly Behringer modules. The modules are fixed and can’t be removed or changed. The most well-used and useful configurations are already built-in.
You can connect modules in a different order. This is achieved by switching or patch cables which are mechanisms to achieve this built-in by the manufacturer. You, therefore, have a more flexible synth that can create more sounds. Such is the case with the Behringer Neutron.
What is Paraphonic?
Most will be familiar with the term Polyphonic. That is a common system where you have an oscillator that feeds its own amplifier and filter. It can generate several voices at the same time, with each having its own sound production. It seems a basic idea to just multiply one voice as many times as you want. Err… no. It isn’t simple at all.
Polyphony wouldn’t work efficiently, as Moog found out with his Polymoog in the 70s. It was expensive, unreliable, and a disaster waiting to happen. The answer was to limit Polyphony.
A Paraphonic Synth
This is one of the best paraphonic synths available. Using this system, different notes can be played using multiple oscillators. But they are all routed through the same signal path.
The oscillators are triggered individually by a different note. But then they follow the same chain of the signal. This gives you great opportunities to overlap sounds and ‘swirl’ things around.
Its best days were before the ‘proper’ arrival of Polyphony. But it is still used today in a lot of modern synths because it can create a particular sort of sound. It is too lengthy and time-consuming to go into it too far. Let’s just say it makes different sounds. It might be a bit extreme to say, but if you want “weird,” here it is.
This is Behringer being creative, and they love that. They are also not averse to using outsiders to create what they want. This synth is a good example of that with its UK-designed Midas dual-oscillator Paraphonic synth. Before we take a look at this synth, let’s take a minute to look at Behringer in case you are not familiar.
The Beast from the East
That is how Behringer has been described in some circles. In the short time in which they have been established, they have created for themselves a healthy market share. The products are mostly designed in Germany, with a little help from some overseas friends. They are manufactured in Guangdong, China.
Competitively priced with some good basic features, they make very cost-effective options. They might not be as sophisticated and flashy as some. But they get the job done. At the end of the day, that is what you want.
This semi-modular synthesizer is a step outside what most would normally expect to find with them. Does it perform? Let’s find out in our Behringer Neutron Paraphonic Analogue Semi-Modular Synthesizer review…
As we said a bit earlier, if you want one of the best beginner synthesizers, we think the semi-modular route is probably the way to go. You get a workable synth with plenty of sound options. You can also make up some pretty weird stuff.
Being semi-modular, it has a normal signal path. That will produce sounds without the need for patching. But when you are ready to get creative, you can start throwing patches around. That’s when the fun begins.
Behringer has been helped by those clever little people at Midas in the UK. Between them, they have created an all-analog synth. Even the delay that is built is bucket brigade technology. Behringer has in the past been criticized for producing ‘look-alikes.’ Not here. This is unique. So, let’s take a closer look at what this is all about.
This is a standalone or Eurorack mounted synth. It has a certain look of days past with its bright red finish and 80s looking control knobs that remind you of a Moog. It measures 5.35 by 16.69 by 3.7 inches and weighs just 4.5 pounds, so you could hardly think it cumbersome. Indeed, it is one of the best portable synths available.
This has ¼ inch jack sockets for in/out line-level audio. There is also a headphone socket. And there is a USB for MIDI communications.
This is where all the action is, and it certainly looks daunting. Of course, it can be if you are new to this, but it all becomes clear quite soon. It is dominated by a 56-point mini-jack patch bay located on the right side.
We aren’t going to go into details about all the controls. They are all clearly labeled. One useful addition, though, is an extra USB on the front. This is a good addition to the one on the rear as this allows it to be used easily in a Eurorack system.
It has two analog oscillators that are based on the V3340 VCO chip. That in itself is an attempt at recreating the CEM3340 that is found in many of the classic synths. Both the oscillators have similar controls with a Range control that skips between three octaves.
You will expect to see Sine, Sawtooth, Triangle, and Square on the list of wave shapes. But you get a fifth “Tone” that lets you create some, shall we say, harmonically-interesting sonics. No doubt, this is one of the most versatile synths you can buy.
This is a synthesizer that will surprise you. Likewise, it will surprise anyone who happens to be within earshot. It will give you high frequencies that will strip the paint off the walls. Then give you a shattering bass that will blow the walls down.
It will take you to massive, rich, fat, and full sounds to the extraterrestrial celestial meanderings synthesizers are known for. And with a 56 point patch bay, there is enough flexibility to provide plenty of permutations to keep you busy. The filter, which in many people’s eyes is the heart of a synth, is excellent.
If you were the naughty boy or girl at school and are still a bit of a rebel, this is for you. There is only one thing stopping this synth from producing absolute sonic wonderment. You.
Are there negatives?
You would have to be a bit fussy to go looking, to be honest. But it is quite easy to saturate the filter. And they do not include any patch cables. But then that is pushing the negatives a bit too far.
Looking for Something Else?
Finding the best synths and keyboards has never been easier. So, check out our in-depth Behringer Deepmind 12 Review, our Korg SV188BK-88 Key Digital Piano Review, our Roland Juno DS88 Review, our Yamaha DGX 660 Review, and our Casio WK 6600 Review for awesome products you can buy in 2021.
You may also enjoy our comprehensive Roland GO-61K Review, our Best Keyboard Synthesizer Review, our Roland VR 09 V Combo Organ Review, our Best Digital Pianos Under $500 Review, and our Best Cheap Keyboard Piano Review for even more amazing items currently on the market.
Behringer Neutron Paraphonic Analogue and Semi-Modular Synthesizer -Pros and Cons
- Paraphonic dual oscillator semi-modular synth.
- 80HP Eurorack design.
- All analog circuitry and hardware.
- Well built and durable.
- Five wave-forms, Two ASDR envelopes high and low pass filtering.
- Noise generator and an overdrive circuit
- Multi-stage analog delay.
- 32 input/24 output patch bay.
- MIDI in and Thru as well as USB/MIDI connections.
- No patch cables included.
- Filter is easily saturated.
- The delays bleed a little even when set to zero because of the analog circuitry.
Behringer Neutron Paraphonic Analogue and Semi-Modular Synthesizer – Final Thoughts
We think this is an exceptional synthesizer that offers plenty of options. It doesn’t carry some of the bells and whistles that some others do, but it hardly seems to matter. It is versatile and has some great features onboard. And the price point means there is little to compare to it in terms of value for money.
Analog is here to stay…
It fits every type of genre effortlessly and has a sound that belies its price point. You could say after hearing this synth that Analog is back. But then it has never really gone away, has it? And synths like this will thankfully make sure it doesn’t.
If the best analog synths are what you are into, this is a must-have option. If you are taking your first steps into the “weird,” there is no better place to start.
So, until next time, may the music make you merry.