Analogue-style synthesis is a curious thing. It can evoke both the future and the past. For many, despite the age of the technology, a brace of analogue boxes can still sound like tomorrow. For others, analogue can be distinctly nostalgic, its plaintive warbles and instability a metaphor for memory and all its imperfections. For those of you in the latter camp, Phonec2 should definitely be on your radar.
Inspired by VHS logos of the past (and no doubt Boards Of Canada records as well), Phonec2 eschews sonic purity for the dirty side of analogue. Think unstable oscillators, overdriven filters, and tape delays with faulty motors. It excels at instability and—this makes it all so brilliant—it sounds amazing.
At its heart, Phonec2 is a two-oscillator polyphonic synthesizer, with the usual filter, amplitude, and modulation sections, but it’s the aforementioned numerous tweak points that really give this synth its character. This starts with the oscillator drift knob, which sets how much each oscillator will slide in and out of tune. Moving on to the filter section, both saturation and drive can be applied to the resonance. And if that weren’t enough, filter gain can really be cranked, piling on all kinds of grit and dirt. Lastly is the Melt section, a unique feature that really sets Phonec2 apart from other retro-inspired synths. It essentially does what it says on the tin, “melting” the sound into a gloriously warbly mess. You can even use it as an effect on external sounds.
Phonec sounds like a cassette left out in the sun on the back seat of your car. If this is appealing to you, by all means give it a whirl.