Newcomer NW Synths has its first offering with the Hummingbird Triple Osc bank, a nod to the oscillator section of the MInimoog. NW Synths hits the mark well, both in terms of sound and looks, but with a few twists and turns that give this module its own personality.
Sporting a classic early-era Eurorack look, with its silver faceplate and plain black and white knobs, Hummingbird has a pretty easy to recognize layout as it perfectly replicates the Oscillator Bank section of the Minimoog. You’ve got the three oscillators with continuously variable waveforms for each—as opposed to the MInimoog’s which were fixed waves—that go from triangle to sawtooth to square to pulse and everything in between. There’s an octave select knob for each oscillator [two octaves up or down], and Oscs 2 and 3 also have fine Pitch Adj knobs that can go from 5 semitones down to 7 semitones. The octave knobs aren’t detented, so they have continuous motion which seems a little strange for something like this, but they switch over quite cleanly with no unintentional bleed or morphing when going from one octave to the next, so that’s good. Still, kind of an odd choice since there’s no in-between of the octaves, I would think detented knobs would work better here.
Moving on, there’s a Sub Osc with volume control, and individual inputs and outputs for each oscillator with both ins and outs being normalled to Osc 1. There’s also modulation with attenuation over all three oscillators simultaneously to control either the pitch or the waveform shapes of said oscillators, as chosen by a toggle switch.
Hummingbird is a digital module, and while that in and of itself makes it very different from the makeup of the Minimoog, it definitely does sound pretty Moog-y, and has a nice fat low end—when you dial it up so. I won’t venture to say it’s 100% spot on, but I threw it into a ladder filter, and its essence got close to the sound of a Model D [granted, it was a reissue] a friend let me borrow a while back, if memory serves me correctly.
What makes this module different than most in its category, and from the Minimoog’s oscillator section itself, is that all three oscillators can be controlled through Osc 1’s in and out [as mentioned above], as well as independently controlled so you can have three separate oscillators, each with their own 1v/o and output, or one 3-oscillator [plus sub, if you want] output.
I was really hoping that you could use it as a 2+1 oscillator module, meaning that if I patched in to Osc 1’s input, but out of Osc 2’s output, that I would get a combination of output 1 and 2, and still be able to use Osc 3 as a VCO or LFO [which you can] but while the inputs are normalled to Input 1, only the Osc Mix output has more than just a single oscillator at the output, and as mentioned, that’s fixed to include all three oscillators and the Sub Osc. That minor wish aside, Hummingbird has a total of 5—FIVE!—outputs that can all be used simultaneously and that’s nothing to take lightly. It can get pretty meaty using all four outputs at once, and having the individual outs to route to effects, through VCA’s, etc., makes this really versatile.
One of the things that makes the Minimoog so excellent is the ability to mix the levels of the three oscillators to suit to taste through its Mix section, and you can still do this with Hummingbird, by running each oscillator separately via its dedicated output into a VCA/attenuator/etc., though I was still wishing for a way to adjust the levels for the Osc Mix out so I could use the individual oscillator outs for other routing.
The ability to modulate the three waveforms is a nice touch, and like the Minimoog you can use Osc 3 as an LFO by turning its octave knob fully CCW and patch that in to flap your wings a bit.
Having the ability to turn Osc 3 into an LFO as the Minimoog could do, is nice and expected, and has been improved upon over the original as when placing Osc 3 into its LFO mode, it automatically switches off its keyboard tracking, takes it out of the Osc Mix output, no longer responds to either the Pitch of Wave modulation, and now uses the Pitch knob to control the LFO speed/frequency. It still means that you now only have a two-oscillator bank when Osc 3 is in LFO mode, same as on the Minimoog, but these tweaks make the process a little more streamlined. On the Minimoog it made sense to use Osc 3 as an LFO, but I found that I almost never did, as it sounds so beefy and fat using all three oscillators.
There have been plenty of copies/clones of every aspect of the Minimoog, with many using the exact same aesthetics as the classic; black faceplate, Moog style knobs, Moog font, etc., and it’s somewhat refreshing to not trod over that same look again, even if the sounds and makeup are a definite nod to the original classic. Hummingbird is a fat sounding module, and if it’s time to get your Moog on, you should definitely have a look.