After a lot of deliberation I pulled the trigger on the Dave Smith Mopho SE Keyboard for $500 new! Smokin’ deal! I have wanted a Mopho since that first little yellow box years ago, but could never justify it, but when the price dropped, I thought that the keyboard would be a perfect small master keyboard for my setup, and it has knobs for most important functions. This little keyboard will still be spitting out synthesized tones when I am old and grey! I really like hardware, especially something analog since it will always do what it does, it boots up in a second and I can take it to a gig and never worry about latency, midi routing, or anything. It is a real instrument!
The Mopho is a little long in the tooth for a modern product, but until recently nothing really touched it, and nothing in the price range has as much flexibility in the modulations and routings. The amount of modulations is great and it can really be a very expressive synth. I love routing the velocity to the attack and release so harder velocity gives me a tighter, snappier attack and release and a lighter touch lets the note swell in and out. It gives me that responsive feel like on a guitar that I love. That being said, here are some pros and cons to the unit.
- Modulation flexibility (no other modern hardware analog synths have this much flexibility for the price)
- Great feeling keyboard with aftertouch, sustain and expression pedal/CV input. I could integrate it with a modular at some point (though I probably won’t)
- Light. I am looking forward to doing some live bass work on this synth, and my Korg DSS-1 is about 4X the footprint and 8X the weight.
- 2 Oscillators each with its own sub oscillator, meaning you can stack 4 oscillators and get a wall of sound.
- 4 LFOs which go into the audio spectrum
- Feedback gives you a gritty, girth sound
- Audio Input to process another signal
- It is hardware dag nabbit! Once you learn it it never changes, meaning that its knobs and operations will become second nature and no OS update will make it incompatible with my DAW, or change its workflow, etc.
- Monophonic – Obviously it is monophonic, hence the name, but I didn’t realize how much I missed polyphony. I am a guitarist so I am often thinking in terms of chord shapes. This can be overcome if you run another synth (sometimes I use Animoog) into the Audio Input, but it still only has one filter.
- It sounds very “clean” and “modern”. Almost like a plugin. At first I was concerned that it didn’t have enough character. My Korg DSS-1 by comparison is full of gritty, lo-fi, twitchy character, but everything on the DSS-1 above 10kHz is rolled off, whereas the Mopho has lots of highs, but they aren’t harsh.
- Not every knob sends midi CC. Only the potentiometers with the line on top send Midi CC. The endless encoders do not send midi CC.
- Some audible stepping when sweeping a highly resonant filter
- “Slop” adjustment not sloppy enough for me, but you can modulate pitch with noise or a S&H LFO, so it can still sound unstable if you want it to.