Novation Supernova II







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Manufacturer: Novation

Release Date: 2000

Type: Virtual Analog / Subtractive Synthesis

Reviews: Vintage Synth | Sound on Sound | Electronic MusicianAudio Technology


Ahh, the Novation Supernova II.

Besides the Roland Jupiter 8, this was the synth that originally got me interested in synthesis and synthesizers — especially after seeing Shaft9000’s excellent demos on Youtube (demo 1, demo 2), and Plasma22280’s awesome chillout jam.

Put simply, when I first saw photos of it I was blown away by the interface — so many knobs and buttons, it just seemed like a very fun synth to play and tweak real-time, since hardly any menu diving would be required. Further, due to my interest in ambient electronica, the ability to have up to 7 on-board effects enabled SIMULTANEOUSLY per patch was a big plus, as I tend to like my reverbs and delays being used at the same time . With 24 voices and the ability to upgrade to 36 or 48 voice models via expansion cards, this is a beast of a synth in terms of polyphony.

Anyway, after more than a year’s wait, I was able to buy one from a local seller on Craigslist who was moving out of country. It needed some minor repairs but I took it to the shop and since then has been good as new. However, my initial enthusiasm for the Supernova II was somewhat dampened as I initially found creating sounds somewhat frustrating due to the routing/programming setup  (ie, a right-to-left MOD Matrix section, which I find counter-intuitive; adjusting filter cutoff of LFOs to enable them, etc). Regardless with much practice I’ve gotten a basic understanding of how it all hangs together to a decent level, such that this is no longer an issue for me.

I find the sonic character of the Supernova 2 to be somewhat “refined” and “timeless” — it is not hugely warm, nor cold… its path lies somewhere in the middle. The filter is both resonant and offers multiple modes, and their are 3 ADSRs to tweak. This is a sound sculpting  synth and provides an interface many synths can only dream of to accomplish such goals. The arpeggiator in particular offers an unbelievable amount of options/settings, which can make for some great live performances.

That said, some quirks I’ve noticed:

  1. ADSR release times do not seem to sustain as long as I’d like (compared to say, Virus B), which is important for ambient drones/pads
  2. Distortion can occur in the signal path if oscillator/program levels etc are turned up too high. Tthis is obviously an issue for many as Novation wrote a FAQ on it). This can be frustrating at times as this synth seems to distort more often than others I have used, even with minimal oscillator mix levels.
  3. When using the arpeggiator and tweaking various knobs/sliders real-time, the arpeggiator clock can sometimes slightly lose tempo during the tweaking, and catches up afterwards. Not sure why this is (lack of processing power?) but it can be annoying
  4. The manual is poorly written/designed such that it’s difficult to read and make sense of certain sections… which is unfortunate, for a synth of this caliber.
  5. As mentioned previously, the MOD matrix panel is designed using a right-to-left logic flow, which seems counter-intuitive

Despite these minor quibbles, I very much enjoy the Novation Supernova 2 and find it to be a good complement to my other synths. The Supernova II also excels in areas that other synths do not (ie arpeggiator options, 7 simultaneous effects, sheer hands-on interface).

It also has massive sound banks and presets, a drum map,  and 42-band vocoder.  Build quality is decent; however, note that it is hard plastic (ie, may be prone to cracking or breakage in the event of mishandling).

Overall once you get accustomed to the SN2’s design and programming methods, you’ll be off creating new sounds without issue. If you see one on your local Craigslist or Buy & Sell, stop by to test it out… they aren’t that readily available, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what it can do! 🙂


Interface 43 knobs, 134 buttons, 134 LEDs
Polyphony 24, 36, 48-voice models; plus additional 12 or 24-voice expansion boards
Oscillators 3 Osc per voice (square, saw, double saw, variable width pulse, sine via hardness parameter) and noise
2 FM modes, 2 ring modulators; eight different FM/Ring mod algorithms.
LFO 2 with control of VCA, VCF & pitch; saw, square, tri, sample/hold. Offset, Delay and Slewing parameters.
Filter Hi/Low/Band pass, 12/18/24 dB/oct ranges, resonant self-oscillating filter with overdrive
VCA 3 ADSTR envelopes; Loopable.
ModMatrix 130 possible routings
Arpeggiator Up to 8 independent arpeggiators; 128 preset monophonic, 128 preset polyphonic and 384 user patterns. Patterns can be up to 64 steps long.
Vocoder 42-band vocoder with sibilance modes and spectrum analyzer
Effects 56 effects, 7 simultaneously; Distortion, Comb Filter, EQ, Reverb, Phaser/Flanger/Chorus/Quad Chorus/Ensemble/Rotary Speaker, Delay and Panning/Tremolo.
Keyboard 61 keys with velocity and aftertouch (keyboard models only)
Memory 1024 user-programs; 512 performances; ; 128 favorites; 400 drum banks
Control MIDI (8 multitimbral parts). MIDI In, Out, Thru. Two balanced audio inputs, routable to filter, effects, and vocoder. Eight assignable outputs.





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