John Bowen Synth Design

Update On Pre-Orders - August 31, 2016: 

There are now 12 units remaining for the current extended production #5. If you are interested in getting a Solaris this year, I would encourage making a deposit on a unit soon, especially if you are a customer in Europe, as this is the final German production run. Future units will pay shipping charges from the USA.

Please go to the Purchase page for more information.

Many thanks to all who have pre-ordered units so far for production round #5!

 

User Comments August 6, 2016

I got this in my private messages last night from a fellow who had been asking for a demonstration so he could try out a Solaris before purchasing:

John! We spoke earlier this year regarding finding a demo unit in London.

Good news! I found a secondhand Solaris in London for a nice price.

But most importantly, this thing is a beast. It's unlike even what I imagined. I am able even after a couple of hours to coax sounds with such craft and precision. Amazing. My Oberheim Xpander (which I adore!) is looking seriously worried and unloved at this point. All of my favourite modulations from the XP are there but more so and the range of oscillators and sample loading offer an insane amount of diversity in tone. I wondered whether to snitch versatility might lead to Solaris not having much of a personality but it's there alright and its seriously pronounced. Awe inspiring is how I would describe it.

My congrats on what is clearly a massive labour of love. Thanks for having me in your club too ;)


Many thanks once again - I'm in love and in awe of your achievement!


This was posted May 6th, 2016:

Still thrilled and learning after two years with the Solaris"

This remains a wonderful instrument. I have never regretted the wait, the purchase or the price.

1) It sounds better than any softsynth or VST I own or have tried, including stuff like Diva. It is not close. There is a harmonic richness and chime that quality analogs have (like the new OB-6). You can feel the beat frequencies in the harmonics of chords and things like on an acoustic piano. I don't know what to chalk this up to, but it is a "real" instrument in this way. VST's just don't do that - they sound great, but there isn't that visceral harmonic interplay. If you also play acoustic instruments like piano, guitar, drums, etc, this is a big deal.

2) There's enough "stuff" to do almost anything you can imagine. Crazy signal routing (like a modular), really out there modulation possibilities, very subtle control of every parameter, lots of control over each phase of the envelopes, loop EG, arps, sequencer, rotors - it is just endless. John writes in the manual that he hopes it has many hours of exploration in it. Safely accomplished. It is years and years worth of exploration.

3) its like having all the major synthesizers (except a DX-7) in one unit and getting to mix and match. Waldorf, VS, Moog.... it's crazy flexible. Vector synthesis while scanning through four Waldorf wavetables is easy - do you control it with a joystick, a loop envelope, a sequencer? Manually, by time, or by clock? Put it in a rotor? dump all that in a mixer and blend with the four wavetables? Processes each wavetable with its own filter and envelope? There's just no end.

4) the joystick and mod-wheel are wonderful. they are precision instruments and can be positioned EXACTLY. Subtle control is quite possible.

5) It cures a lot of gear lust. Most any subtractive synth on the market has a fraction of the capabilities of the Solaris. There's literally no reason to buy them, unless there's some standout feature worth the price of admission.... the continuously variable filter in the new OB-6 is calling my name..... very sweet. Think about it - 4 OSC, 6 LFO, 6 ENV, 4 Filters (each capable of many types), 4 VCAs, 4 mixers, 2 rotors, Loop EG, vector synthesis, wavetable synthesis, AM synth, FM, lag processor, envelope generator, arps, 4 sequencers, long ribbon.... You can find 2 OSC + Sub OSC designs, but four full OSC? with >8 note poly? It is like a polyphonic modular.

6) I put it in Omni mode and play it from a Roli Seaboard with full Poly-AT control. This is the kind of expression that synths were made for. Just gorgeous.

7) even from the keyboard, there is so much modulation potential that you can make VERY playable, and expressive sounds that you control with your hands. It is a great "players" instrument in that way. You can go deep on making it responsive and subtle, which is very musical. The keyboard is a very high-quality synth action. I don't know if it works for the DJ crowd, or the EDM crew, but for playing a keyboard instrument it is very nice, and the feel can be customized for each patch if you put the time in.

8) The UI is deep, but very well laid out and consistent. You can get very fast at diving into things and get at exactly what you want quickly. Much better than a single tiny screen. The layout makes a lot of sense if you spend time working on the instrument.

Solaris #142 has a very happy owner."

Even though Doug purchased a Solaris second-hand, it always makes me feel so happy to get comments like this:

Doug Bell

I'm just two days into owning Solaris #240. And while I could easily use adjectives like beautiful, incredible, warm or lush to describe the sounds that it's able to produce, I think I'll go with the one that's the most important for me; inspirational.

It's honestly the most incredible polyphonic synth I've ever played. I hate to turn it off at night. I'm looking forward to getting home and firing it up as I write this. Thanks again John. You should be proud of what you've put so much work into

Hi John,
So I've had it for a couple of days now and all I can say is WOW!!!!
 
I got my first synth 33 years ago and through the years have played and owned most of, what are now considered,  classics.. and still own a great collection of about 40 odd synths, including plenty of analogue mono synths,  just about every VA known to man, some nice esoteric stuff like Hartmann Neurons, K5000S, Loads of Waldorf and Moog, all the DSI stuff and some nice high end gear like a System 55 and a Schmidt..... BUT... this is the first synth in a long LONG time that's made me think "Do I need ALL of this other gear anymore?"....
 
The Solaris just sounds incredible... it has that chameleon character that can just turn itself to anything... and in the last couple of days has just stopped me doing commissioned work just so that I can PLAY!!! (which WILL cause me no END of grief in a few days time!!!)
 
I rarely get excited about synths these days.... the last models that REALLY blew my socks off are few and far between and stretch back years... Wavestation, Oasys, Schmidt.... and now this!! I used to be a big Creamware user and so THOUGHT I knew what to expect.... how wrong I was...
 
:-)
 
You should be very VERY proud of this synth.
 
Congratulations to you and your team for making a middle aged synth addict VERY happy...
 
You will now be hearing this ALL over everything I do for TV and film for a long long time!!!!

Hi John,

Solaris #262 has been placed into service in my studio:

It was well worth the wait. I haven't had such a "fat" sounding synth since my long departed Memorymoog. And without the chronic agony of removing all those screws, propping up the switch panel, trying to get voice card #6 to tune, and manipulating the non-ferrite choke tool endlessly while watching the frequency counter go up-and-down. The Solaris is so clean and so thick, it brought tears to my eyes especially on the string patches. The blue LED backlit mod and pitch bend wheels are really sweet. Considering Moog's recent retirement of the Voyager, I'm glad you were still able to obtain them. I need to spend some deep dive time on the user manual, the interface, and the CF card format. My ears keep telling me this will be my "go-to" keyboard for a long time to come. Thanks for realizing your dream to manufacture an instrument we all can be proud of.

Regards,

John Sillari

Serial #255 just arrived in Chester New York and it’s a beauty!

First off, the sound is just inspiring. Thick, fat, clear, organic –the filters sound fantastic. The YouTube and Soundcloud demos don’t do it justice. You just feel connected to the sound when playing. I have a few favorite VSTs, and my original hope was that it would sound like a better version of these – but the Solaris sound is completely in a class of its own.

The build is solid and oozes quality. The keyboard is one of the best synth keyboards that I have ever played. Getting around the interface is easy and intuitive. Within a few minutes of previewing the presets, I was already tweaking them to my taste. I know it will take some time to get into the deeper functions, but I am looking forward to it.

A few notes about shipping - the keyboard was securely shipped and came sealed in a thick plastic bag, inside a sturdy cardboard box, which was inside another sturdy cardboard box. There were foam supports on the ends and middle of the keyboard. It arrived completely unscathed. From reading other posts, I was expecting an extra charge from UPS – but they just dropped it at the door, rang the bell, and left.

John - I am completely blown away by this synth. Congratulations on such a great accomplishment and thank you for bringing this to market for all of us!

 

New Event Horizon 2 Presets with Audio Demos - Jan. 9, 2015


Black Octopus Sound presets Event Horizon 2 - 128 high quality presets for John Bowen Solaris created by Toby Emerson. The follow-up to Toby's excellent Event Horizon 1 set:

Take your John Bowen Solaris into the next dimension with 128 brand new patches created by Toby Emerson. Event Horizon 2 picks up where volume 1 left off and now includes many new tricks that have been learned after extensive use of this exquisite synthesizer. Both the digital and analog realms are fully explored in this soundset and includes crystal clear bells, warm evolving pads, creamy deep bass sounds, and spaced out leads. If you are one of the lucky few that own this beautiful instrument you will definitely want to pick yourself up a copy of Event Horizon 2 today!

All sounds make use of the Joystick to dial in the desired intensity for the sound.

Note: The audio example demo includes some reverb with Valhalla reverbs and a bit of extra compression. Everything else is all Solaris!

 

 

 

"The John Bowen Solaris is simply one of the most fantastic instruments I have ever worked with. Everything about it screams class. From amazing sounding filters to countless oscillator types, I feel after several months of using it I still have not even scratched the surface. The architecture and programming behind it allows for huge sounds which can range from very organic and analog sounding to crisp and precise digital style sounds. The sound quality of this synthesizer is absolutely exceptional and I would highly recommend this synthesizer to any sound designer or professional musician that can budget for it.

 

 

User Comments Oct. 7, 2014

 

As before, we are receiving posts and comments as production run #3 gets delivered:


I've probably spent around 30 hours on my Solaris to date and I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface, but it really does exude quality. I'm a big believer in the power of interface usability to help people unlock the potential of a given device. When I was younger, the only thing I cared about in a synth was sound quality, but as I've matured and owned or used my share of instruments, I've found that I simply don't use difficult instruments regardless of their sonic potential. The Solaris' interface is about as straightforward as it can be given the depth of the engine, and I find that I'm learning it organically (I've only poked at the manual so far -- I'll dig in deeper soon).

After spending more time playing my unit, I felt the need to post some well-deserved praise and promotion to the fairly well-trafficked electronic music/synth forum on Gearslutz:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/958468-you-all-need-buy-solaris-no-seriously-you-just-do.html


The Solaris is very impressive, in many styles, from old vintage analog sounds to digital synths with a modern touch that make it unique !
Envelopes and filters are very powerful and subtle.
And all possibilities of modulation are just enormous.
My english isn't rich enough to tell you my feelings with this amazing synth.
But it's a killer ! And definitvely a must have !
Great job ! Thanks again.

Best regards,
Alain


The filters are gorgeous. There is no other way to put it. And the keyboard aftertouch response and feel is the best I've ever experienced, save for a CS-80 I tried out once.


Solaris is here !!! Amazing sound, Great built quality!


#214 has teleported to Madison, Wisconsin and I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to own this instrument. Thank You.


#207 has landed yesterday in his new home in sunny Beaujolais and I still can't believe my ears how good this synth sounds.


Hello Mr. Bowen,

first of all, let me thank you so much!!! I have tried the Solaris (#209) I received yesterday and must say it's an amazing instrument as expected!
So much life in this that I'm really happy, after having played quarter an hour with. I think it's a new day in my creation process, much work to use it fully but I'm really motivated, because its sounds so huge and clear as well, impressive.

Very nice keyboard, fully lighted panel and LED wheels, smooth and confortable encoders, separate outputs, I cannot ask for more. So let me know about the shipping invoice, and once again, many thanks. Have a nice day! David Mestre


Hello John !

I've got my Solaris since 5 days now...

And just WOOOOWWWW ! I've never felt such emotion in front of an electronic instrument (I wish that feeling with prophet 12, but it didn't). I'm 30, and I can now imagine what it could be to have analog synth with such great sound...

this is weird because your synth is purely numeric...but so numeric (96khz !!) that it can sound as an analog one !! it reminds me a bit the prophecy from korg...where you can really feedback the sound....

thank you John to believe in Solaris and achieve it... !! It's a really inspired instrument !! et merci!

adrien


Hello John !

Solaris is here !!! Fantastic synth. Great sounds.
 
Thanks,
Best Regards.
Paul

My Solaris has just arrived. I've plugged it and all works perfectly. I've only tried a few presets and i can't take away the smile from my face. The Solaris sounds really amazing! Henri Stumboff

"One more day until I get my John Bowen Solaris synth!
This is the Rolls Royce of new synthesizers." - Derek Sherinian


"S/N 0142 has landed! I have just gotten it plugged in an am playing the first bank. The sound quality is completely over-the-top. Way better than any softsynth I own, and I have plenty of top shelf offerings. This is another league. So smooth, but with guts, harmonic richness. The hardware is very high quality and the whole thing is built to this standard. No cut corners.

"John, you should be very proud of this. It is a massive accomplishment. To deliver something that is higher quality than any major MI company, without massive sponsorship, and to have this quality? This is the work of an artist, and I am privileged to own this synthesizer. It is an instrument and begs to be played expressively and in a fully committed kind of way.

"Many here waited longer than I did, but the year of waiting has been fully rewarded."

Thank you John! You have done an amazing and beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing your dream with us." - Nathanael Iversen


#149 here:

Way too little time for the first experience but WOW. It oozes quality and it begs to be played and programmed. Funny how all the same superlatives spring to mind that I have read with other owners before. Now that I own one, I feel what they mean.

And yes the sound is great, but what amazes me most is how connected the interface makes me feel to the complex sound structure. I've played with oscillators, modulation and routings like never before. Played, not programmed. Creating sounds with vst's (or a Kronos eg) feels like programming, on the solaris it feels like playing with parameters like an instrument. It reminds me of the reason I started playing synthesizers in the first place.

And... I found what most demos don't show. It's great at simple deep raw sounds for EDM. Analog quality." - Mike Overdijk

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"This is easily the best VA I have ever played! Patching things is a dream. The layout is so intuitive and quick to use. The build quality is fantastic. I have a white one and it looks like a work of art when you see it in person. This synth is a dream come true!
Truly one of the most powerful sounding things I have ever had the pleasure of playing. I cannot recommend it enough.
Big thanks to John. What a masterpiece. "


"The Solaris has such a rich full sound all across the spectrum. It makes some of the most physical feeling bass I have ever heard/felt. Rich lush mids and insanely detailed highs that go from silky to electric. If you are into creating patches that rely on subtle complexity this is the one.
The continuous controllers with such high resolutions enable dialing in things with a level of precision that is unparalleled in my experience. The harmonic modulation is off the hook. Magnificent oscillators.
With other VA's you put in say a saw wave and well, it sounds like a saw wave. Then you add another osc and it will get a bit more complex sounding, but that is about it.
With Solaris, you add a saw wave and it sounds big, very big. Then you add another and it gets twice as big! Just like on a Moog etc. When you start stacking voices it just keeps getting fatter. Its nuts. Really powerful stuff."


"My Solaris arrived safe today.  This thing sounds incredible!  Great job!" - Brandon M.


"Hi John.  I unpacked the Solaris tonight, booted it up and played through the presets for about two hours. It looks great and sounds even better!  I 'heard' the best sounds out of some of my favorite keyboards I've owned:  minimoog sounds; oberheim matrix; arp odyssey, string ensemble and 2600; even some fm type dx7 sounds.  And of course the Waldorf sounds which I recognized but never had played.  So I'm very pleased.  I'm looking forward to being registered and studying the tutorials mentioned in the user's guide.  Thank you" - Andy M.


"It was well worth the wait, John, and is the BEST SOUND I've ever heard!
At the end of it all, Solaris is my #1 synth. Otherwise, I kept Andromeda, Accelerator, and Virus Ti2...that's it! 100s of others have come and gone. Kept one ROMPLER (the big KURZ) and some rack stuff...and Minibrute (and couple of hundred soft synths on my MAC). I wish you the best with it!!
Oh...one last comment: the build quality and physical design....THE BEST I OWN!! Very TOP SHELF, CLASSY PIECE! In that regard, the price should have been TWICE!
Sincerely,
Mark M"


"Hi John,
I believe I’m yet only at the tip of the Solaris’ ‘sound iceberg’ but I’m already blown away by the sound, quality, usability and depth of this tremendous synth. You can be very proud of this fine product, but I think, you are anyway ;),
Yes, I’ve waited a bit for the Solaris (I had myself put on the list for the 2nd production run by August 2012) but it was absolutely worth it.,
Best regards"
Oliver G.


"What a terrific sonic synth you have put into life, amazing, my expectations were high and so far I've only scratched its surface trying to create my own patches as well, what a sound!" - Isham


"Hi John,
I received the Solaris in good shape and I would like to thank you for this.
I discovered the machine a little bit  this weekend and I must admit I am very impressed. The sound is fantastic, and ergonomy is very well designed and the manufacture quality is extraordinary. You did a far better job than the big makers employing dozens of people with huge financial means.
The only thing which has to be developed for the moment are the shipping delays and the long waiting terms during the breaking-in period but this should be sorted out afterwards. Anyway, your synth is for me best value for money among all at actual standards.
Kind regards et Merci" - Jean-Marc L.
I doubled the polyphony without needing any optimization of source code!....
As a matter of fact, I took advantage of the stocks they offer at Thomann to purchase another one...!

 

New Video Demo of Solaris by Katsunori Ujiie.

UPDATE - Check out this 31 minute play-through of the initial bank of presets in the Solaris by Katsunori UJIIE, now with closed caption (CC) translation in English. Great demo!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8GAZfAikNo