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Unlike the internet, analog synthesizers really are made of tubes. Well, not all of them, but the really nice ones do contain vacuum tubes. They range from ugly green metal boxes to incredibly beautiful pieces of art with wood cases. Someone looking to buy one of these instruments better be willing to pay a pretty penny—analog gear is not cheap. So while we’d all like a Moog, it’s hard to justify the premium price unless you’re a rock star. That’s why we’re impressed that M-Audio’s Venom brings the warmth of analog into the digital age at a price even enthusiast players can afford—and frankly, it does an incredible job.
M-Audio has crammed an army of analog-device sounds into a 49-key package. The Venom is small enough to lug to band practice, but large enough that you don’t feel like you’re playing a toy piano. The audio range goes from light, barely audible highlights to deep, crunchy lows. The interface allows you to quickly locate patches, and the included software allows you to attach the synthesizer to your Mac to adjust the Sound Bank lineup and to apply tweaks to the sound. Venom also acts as a MIDI controller for your favorite compatible software, including GarageBand. All of that adds up to less time twirling knobs and more time rocking.
And the knobs really make the difference. You adjust nearly every aspect of the Venom’s sound via knobs, giving you precise control over oscillation, filters, volume, and more. For anyone who’s ever played an analog synth, the Venom is instantly understandable. Buttons make navigation a snap. In fact, our only issue is that the silver-gray text on the unit can be difficult to see in low-light situations, like what you might encounter performing at a club.
The bottom line. The M-Audio Venom is an awesome piece of machinery that brings all the sounds and control of the analog world into our digital future without sacrificing sound quality.
Venom 12-Voice Virtual Analog Synthesizer
Mac OS 10.5.8 or later; 1.8GHZ multi-core processor or higher
Analog-synthesizer sound at a fraction of the price.
Gray text on keyboard can be difficult to read in live performance situations.