John Bowen Solaris

Forum for gear from other manufacturers

John Bowen Solaris

Postby Vlad_77 » 22:35, 25 July 2013


Being constantly afflicted with G.A.S. I was looking around the almighty Interwebzzzz and found

This looks like a beast - and is damned expensive too. Just curious what you folks think of this thing spec-wise. It seems to do a lot but in some sense I feel it falls short of two of the keyboards in my current rig, namely Kronos and Jupiter 80.

I know that John Bowen has serious credentials in the business having worked with Moog, Sequential Circuits, and Korg. That said, when I consider the sonic possibilities of the Jupiter or the Kronos even on their own, it seems that Solaris might be even more niche than the Jupiter 80 was thought to be.

The site states that with everything going - all the filters, LFOs, etc., that one can expect 10 voice polyphony. Now that would be respectable considering its power - if it was a real analog synth - but it's digital. The JP80 can manage ridiculous polyphony. The Kronos specs are well known too.

Thing is, there is something that attracts me about this instrument but I also have the feeling that except for snagging an Integra-7 or a Waldorf Blofeld (deliciously inexpensive), or a V-Synth XT or GT, that I have all the sonic power I need.

I listened to the demos and the strings are outstanding, and the synthesis examples sounded like I was listening to the actual Oberheims, Prophets, ARPS, etc.

Anyhow, it's a chunk of money. Just curious what you folks think.

For reference, my rig currently is as follows:

Live gigs:
Jupiter 80
Motif ES

Home use:
Those three plus
Fantom X8
Kurzweil PC3
Roland XV-88
Korg Radias.

I am involved in two - soon to be three working bands doing classic rock covers (mainly mid to later Beatles, Moody Blues, Deep Purple), originals, and a Pink Floyd tribute band.

In your opinion, would a Solaris be an extravagance? I am not rich but I feel strangely attracted and simultaneously put off by this instrument. (I know, it's weird):p
Posts: 426
Joined: 18:02, 14 February 2008
Location: The Netherlands

Re: John Bowen Solaris

Postby Parsifal » 11:39, 6 September 2013

Yes, in my opinion, Solaris would be an extravagance, definitely. The only thing I "strangely" feel attracted to is the looks of it. Otherwise, I'm not impressed. Not by specs. Neither by the demos. Nor by anything else.
I'd rather take a look at the Prophet 12.
Why do you need another synth anyway?
Posts: 475
Joined: 09:20, 6 March 2008

Re: John Bowen Solaris

Postby Vlad_77 » 02:51, 9 September 2013

Hi Parsifal,

In addition to being a gigging musician, I am also into experimenting with sounds. I was originally considering a Solaris because it seemed like a great platform for experimentation. But, I just couldn't get my head around the limited polyphony and while some of the specs were indeed impressive, I considered what my other gear can do, and there wasn't much that Solaris offered considering that the price is rather above a Kronos for instance.

Kurzweil really got me into sound experimentation and Radias does some crazy things as well. Kronos of course is like multiple universes, the Fantom X8 with skip back sampling can make some insane waves from which to work and Artemiy's suggestion to use the D-Beam as a source for new waves was also wonderful.

I am a huge Beatles and Pink Floyd fan. And I noticed that as decent as my rig is, there were some things that I wanted to do that were pioneered by these great bands that would be very hard to duplicate live - probably The Beatles moreso than Pink Floyd. I wanted to be able to approximate live some of the insane things The Beatles and Pink Floyd pioneered, but, I don't want to recreate specific sounds - I could easily sample and reverse it, mangle it, or whatever and be done with it. But in a sense that patch then can only be altered through conventional synthesis but I still couldn't really get insane with it.

The good news for my bank account is that the answer lay in a piece of gear I had been GASing for since the Fantom X was released: the V-Synth. I finally got one today. (Kronos and Jupiter 80 took my instrument money the years they were released). V-Synth allows me to add in real time what I couldn't do before. It has enhanced my rig immensely and its portability allows me to use it at home and at gigs. The Fantom X8 and XV-88 are just too big to gig with here in the EU with the transportation I have available but I love them both and they play a significant role in composition. In fact, I prefer the Fantom's sequencer over Kronos by light years! :) But for gigging, I have bread and butter stuff covered by Kronos, Motif ES rack, Jupiter 80, and PC3. Synth stuff beyond bread and butter is nicely covered now with overlap: Kronos engines other than HD-1 (though it can be freaky too), Jupiter 80, PC3, V-Synth, and the Radias.

Until or unless Roland or Kurzweil release a truly "next-gen" workstation, V-Synth has filled the final spot I felt was missing. True, I don't have "real" additive like a Kawai K5000 and wavetable like a Waldorf, but, I can't imagine that for the next ten to twenty years I will need anything more for sound experimentation.

And that said ...

It's also true that I didn't "need" another synth, but, I wanted one, which isn't such a bad thing either. ;)

Thanks Parsifal for your thoughts on the Solaris. I really wasn't sold on it but your always well considered posts saved me a huge pile of cash, not to mention the ridiculous waiting period for a Solaris that would have done less than even just the AL-1 engine on Kronos.

Yeah, I'm a gear slut, but, there are a few users here that make my rig look microscopic. I can truly say I'm happy with the instruments I have, even the venerable XV-88. :)

Best to ya and Slainte!

Posts: 426
Joined: 18:02, 14 February 2008
Location: The Netherlands

Re: John Bowen Solaris

Postby Parsifal » 21:56, 13 September 2013

Thanks a lot for your kind words. I'm afraid I haven't got to that level of sound sculpting that you describe. I usually try to edit and design synth sounds by pure intuition, slowly moving one parameter at a time, sometimes putting a bit of thinking in the process (especially when taking into account ADSR, filters and effects).
I usually strive for synth sounds which ressemble natural ones but they're more playable on a keyboard than a perfectly simulated sound. I'm nowhere near to the point of being able to play flute, sax or cello on a piano keyboard AND also sound realistical enough to make listeners think they hear the real thing. So I prefer blending synth and natural elements in order to make the sound "more credible" for a piano interpretation.
I congratulate you on your V-synth purchase and wish to express my gut feeling - that it may be infinitely more appropriate to your current gear than Solaris.
I never had a wavetable or an additive synth, however I've listened to some demos of K-5000 and it left me speechless. So if you need another encouragement - go for it.
I'm not the richest guy in the world but if I'd have the money there are some keyboards I'd like to have, based on demos I've heard. That would be:
Yamaha SY-99 (or at least a TG-77). FM synthesis - how hard would that be? :)
E-MU Emulator (dunno which one to get because it's mostly irrelevant - I'd probably never get one).
Kawai K-5000 (additive synthesis might be a bitch but from the demos - I'm sold).
a Akai sampler (I've got the feeling they might be more than meets the eye); at least it's probably easier to get than an Emulator!
Kurzweil PC366 or the bigger sibling PC3K6 (if I can afford it)
Roland R-8 MK II drummachine midi-ed to an Integra :)))
and list might go on but I prefer to stop dreaming for the time being. :D
Posts: 475
Joined: 09:20, 6 March 2008

Re: John Bowen Solaris

Postby Vlad_77 » 13:45, 25 September 2013

NEVER stop dreaming Parsifal! :)

I do feel as though my gear is "complete" but I have to tell you, if I had the money, I would snag an Oberheim Matrix 12. There is something about that synth monster that to me is almost mystical. Man, I've never even been NEAR one, but, the few demos I've heard blew me away. Thing is, they are going for 5000 USD and I rank below poor as far as money goes. :(

The Kawai K5000 IS in my price range and while additive is a bitch, the K5000 seems a great instrument upon which to experiment, but, at this point, it's an extravagance.

You mentioned Kurzweil. I love Kurzweil and, though you aren't the richest guy in the world, you might be suprised at the great prices for first generation PC3 series boards - though I would caution you to stay away from the LE series. If you want Kurzweil, you can get a top range used PC3 or PC36 for less than a new LE. The PC3/K series is cool if you want K series legacy sounds, but, a lot of these great patches have been converted to PC3 format already! has an insane amount of free patches and the Mahogany Room subscriptions are really worth the price and the price is low for a ton of really usable sounds AND a lot of demystification of the sometimes byzantine Kurzweil structure.

Yeah, I agree on the SY99/TG77! Messed around with a TG77 and would have sold my soul for it. My wife at the time however wouldn't hear of it.

Dream on man, you never know!!!

Posts: 426
Joined: 18:02, 14 February 2008
Location: The Netherlands

Return to Other gear

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest