Review: Creamware Pro One

By Manuel Clement
(February 29, 2004)

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Music Gear:

Summary: 1:1 digital model of the classic Pro One synthesizer for Creamware DSP systems
Manufacturer: Creamware
Compatibility: PC or Mac equipped with a Creamware DSP system
Price: 198 EUR

You guys know I liked the Minimax, also by Creamware; today I am taking a look at the Pro One, named and modeled after the cult analog synthesizer by Sequential Circuits. You can find a ton of useful information about the original Pro One synthesizer on this page. Since this device is well-known I will try to focus on the few differences, and of course the sound.

As usual I will try to give you guys stuff to listen to as I go through my review, so you can get a good feel of what I am writing about. This way you can also disagree with my likes or dislikes, and have your own opinion. I want to "share" what I am observing and playing with.

First Look

I was expecting a very clear user interface, all parameters exposed, no modes or pages to scroll: the Pro One is *clearly* all this. Back in the day they definitely made things easy.

The interface has 2 pages available: "main" and "add". Main is basically where you do most of the work, from Modulation to Oscillator (A and B), Mixer, etc. Add is where the effects sections and misc. parameters go, organized in sections such as Chorus/Flanger and Delay.

Hands-On Pro One

Let's build a song! I thought I would start with a bass line. I'll improvise, see what kind of feel or groove I get into, and the rest of the track will build up from there.

I am not a huge fan of presets... For some reason most of the presets I hear on synthesizers are *very* different from the sounds I want, so I quickly look for the "Init" preset to start a new sound from scratch.

I quickly notice how FULL, THICK and LOUD the Pro One is. Beyond my expectations, the thing SCREAMS out of my speakers, takes a front-row seat in the mix without asking permission - THAT's my kind of synth! I am starting to like it and see how it could be used in my productions to contrast with the Minimax's softer sound.

Now guys, let me warn you that I'm not going to try to produce a hit in this review, so when you listen to these recordings remember I am "just" trying to see what the Pro One has in its guts, a fashion show if you will, with exagerated glides and all. and hey maybe you'll like it anyways!.

As I noticed with the Minimax, sounds don't take long to be shaped as the old school interface exposes every parameter of the machine on its front panel. I play with the oscillator section, noticing a percussive grain with very edgy highs. For the bass I head for the filter (Low Pass) and cut down quite a bit, letting only the bass stuff out. The deep bass is taking shape, and I quickly capture a MIDI sequence in Cubase on the keyboard, tracking it to an audio track.

Listen to the bass alone: pro-one_bass.mp3

The bass is nice but I really need to hear some bumping drums to get a feel for the next things to add. I quickly drag a few boring drum WAVs and tweak them a bit: detuning and EQ for the kick, some much needed "chopping" for the snare, and finally a bit of compression using VINCO. My drums sound more like what I want. I tap in a beat, nothing fancy but it's enough to see how the Pro One bass sits along.

I have images of break dancers coming to my mind, and knowing that the Pro One has a very edgy percussive sound, I think the track should have some electro-beat taste to it, with robotic blips and leads cutting through. Time to put together a tricked out lead sound. While Cubase loops my drums and bass, I enable the Glide feature and start playing with it, letting the Pro One slowly connect the various tones. As I play with the 2 oscillators I finally get to the sound i want. It reminds me of a large wind instrument with both tons of low and high frequencies.

Listen to the lead track by itself: pro-one_lead.mp3

At this point, I can't resist adding some electronic BLIP sounds. The Pro One's sound will be perfect for this job. Starting from the lead patch I just built, I dial a few new parameters, shortening the sustain, decay and quickly get to the sound I want. I sprinkle just a little bit here and there, not too much.

Listen to the blips track alone: pro-one_blips.mp3

I put all the pieces together and saved out a *rough* mix. Again, this isn't your expert-mastered track, so adjust your system to hear everything.

Listen to the full piece:pro-one_full.mp3

Note how fast sound programming was back in the day: each button has ONE function, there is no menu to navigate through each time you want to sculpt your sound the way you want.

Performance and DSP usage

To build this tune I only needed 1 voice (like the original) however you can turn the Pro One into a polyphonic instrument by choosing the number of voices you want. On the creamware site I saw this info: "As a consequence of the highly complex algorithms used in the Sequential Circuits™ Pro-One, its polyphony is limited. As a rough guide: on a 3-DSP card you can expect to have 4 voices, on a 6-DSP card 8 voices, and on a 15-DSP card 16 voices". After testing the Pro One with various settings, I found this statement to be true. The card I am using is a Pulsar 2 (6 DSP) and it worked as expected. One thing I like to point out is: "quality, not quantity".


This is one *phat* synthesizer! Great sound, even though I am personally more a Minimoog kind of guy, Pro One is extremely handy when you need this screaming, percussive sound.


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