Baltica for the Modal Electronics Cobalt8 enters the analog zone. With a rich serving of analog strings, thumping basses, retro keys and all manner of hard hitting sounds for various electronic genres. Baltica is an exciting blast of energy topped off with some trademark Soundsauca pads. What’s more this one is free! So go and grab it if you haven’t already!
As some of you may know, my last sound bank, Daydrifta for the Argon8 came out just after the release of the Cobalt. I recall the day I received the email from Modal announcing the imminent release of Cobalt. Knee deep finishing Daydrifta, I was like…oh fiddlesticks! For what it’s worth I don’t intentionally release stuff with a mind for fame & fortune (that failed years ago!), however I was interested to see how well a sound bank for a newer synth would be received. Up until that point many of my banks were for older synths (as that is what I had), so this was newer territory.
As it turned out, if anything it was a blessing in disguise. With the Cobalt8 receiving press attention, the Argon sound bank appeared to benefit somewhat from that exposure.
Immediately, the gear head in me wanted to experience the differences between the Argon and Cobalt. There was only one way to find out and making Baltica was the only way!
When I first got hold of a Cobalt, I was conscious I didn’t want to make Daydrifta2 – the sequel. I’m sure that I have a signature “sound”, but instruments all have their own personality so I wanted to explore it’s strengths and differences. Many of my first sounds were intentionally more analog and aggressive than on the Argon to see how the analog side of things felt. It was clear that this is where Cobalt8 aims.
Like many, the natural thought was to ask which one is the best? Like most things in life, “best” is a relative construct, but here are my thoughts for any of you on the fence. It might be useful to read about the Argon here so I don’t rehash what’s in common. It’s clear that both the Cobalt8 and Argon8 are from the same stable. That’s a good thing, because what they have in common is stellar build quality, a great Fatar keyed (TP9 IIRC), and a high quality, versatile sound character ideal for all manner of musical genres, But to view the 2 synths as the same would be quite wrong.
Argon is a wavetable synthesizer whilst the Cobalt focusses on delivering that beloved analog sound character. There are logical similarities (such as the visuals & shared effect types), but these don’t detract from the different functions and sounds both synths offer.
The biggest difference at the heart of the synthesizer is the oscillators and filters. Cobalt’s multitude of algorithms provide a wide range of timbres tweakable via an optimised parameter format. Each oscillator contains 34 of these. As expected the traditional analog waves are all present but the Cobalt ventures much further with a plethora of wave shaping shenanigans! Instead of wavetables, Cobalt further manipulates these standard waves types. Here’s a rundown of a few:
- Ring modulation,
- Oscillator sync,
- Wave folding,
- Reversed/randomised waves
- Filtered noise
As there’s 2 oscillators, further err… skulpting! is possible for even more variation.
The filter on Cobalt is different to Argon, with a modelled 24db ladder filter, providing more heft. There’s also a similar Modal morph parameter which adjusts the slope and filter mode, so any number of variations between low-pass, high-pass and band-pass are possible. There are variations too, with “balanced” versions enabling bass compensation at higher resonances. The other filter type is phase. This works really well for those string machine emulations amongst other things.
The Cobalt has also been joined by a 3rd LFO, which really opens up the sound design possibilities. All of these can be tempo clocked like on the Argon, and the first can also modulate effect parameters. The only area that could be seen as retrograde is the LFO speed. Argon’s LFOs can go up in the audio rate and clock to the note pitch, a great feature. However there is a little workaround on Cobalt – up the patch tempo to 295bpm, put the Clock-Div parameter on 1/64 and things speed up too!
The only useful feature not present on Cobalt is the distortion effect found on the Argon, this is separate from the 3 effect slots found on both synths. Maybe this is possible with a firmware update but who knows. To get around this, the LoFi effect can often perform a similar function so it’s not as big a deal as one might think.
To answer the question which one to get depends on the sounds needed. If it’s abstract textures, exotic pads and effects then Argon might be better. On the other hand if big analog style basses, strings and leads are needed, Cobalt could be just the thing. Like all synths, there’s huge potential to take either/or synths and make it sound like you want.
Is it possible to make analog type sounds on Argon, of course! It’s also possible to create great ambient textures on Cobalt (hopefully my sound banks show this), but with the demos it’s evident to me where each instrument’s strengths lie. Sharing that fantastic build quality and accessibility, but also possessing a highly transparent and quality sound that’s open, balanced and versatile.
In fact, both synths are a great place to create new and exciting sounds!