DSI Mono Evolver Desktop Review

Dave Smith Instruments Mono Evolver Desktop

This was my first proper hardware synth.

Here is a little soundscape I made with the Evolver back in the day

I bought it second hand off Ebay and have since sold it. It was like my first car, I was so excited to finally receive it. Loved the colour the form factor and the sound of it. Most people do not like the filter sound of it or the matrix layout of its interface but none of that bothered me at the time.

The biggest problem I had with it was the buttons. Some of them were a bit hit and miss. I sent a support ticket into Dave Smith Instruments. I have got to say everytime I have delt with them I have been highly impressed by how quick they reply. This is what they wrote back to me.

“Congratulations on your Evolver desktop acquisition. I’m sorry to hear you’re having a problem with it. For the buttons sticking, they are self cleaning buttons and can usually be cleared up by pressing them 50-100 times with a fair amount of force. You can also visually check out the buttons to see if there is anything out of the ordinary. Try this and let me know how it goes.”

I got to say that surprisingly this did work for a while but they were never 100%.

Before getting the synth I was looking forward to the inbuilt sequencer however after messing around with it for a little while and getting use to it I got tired of it and ended up plugging in my Midi Controller keyboard and using it like a sound module.

The best Youtube video out there in my opinion on the Evolver is this one here which shows great use of the inbuilt sequencer.

The sequencer can be used as a modulation source as well. A well written Guide to read is the following


The Evolver comes with 4 oscillators 2 analog 2 digital which some call a hybrid synth. I first was all about the analog side however as time went on I seemed to enjoy the digital side of the synth. You can get some real wicked sounds with the feedback knobs or distortion.

It was lots of fun to get experimental with this synth however I could get some sweet sounding leads going with it especially if you add some external delay and reverb. At the time I couldn’t get real good bass out of it I don’t know if that was just my inexperience with synths at the time or if it really isn’t built for bass anyway.

A great thing with the Evolver is that you can run external sounds through its analog filters as it has stereo inputs. If you can find a reasonable priced desktop unit this could be a cheap way to get an external analog filter box to warm up all your digital sounds. Some external filter boxes are more expensive than it plus you get a great sounding synth to go with it.

Unfortunately it does not come with headphone input as it would have been nice to jam out with it on the lounge.

Most of the presets included with the synth are pretty out there and I found most of them unusable. The clipping was pretty bad on most of the presets that seemed to run too hot for me.

Overall I would definitely recommend this synth if you can find one at a good price. As a first hardware like it was mine I am not so sure as it took a while to get my head around the sequencer.

The Real Lowdown

I find buying older synths hit and miss. If my Evolver was bought brand new I would of kept it if all the buttons were working 100%. I liked the form factor, it didn’t take up too much space. It was fun getting experimental with it for a while and sounded awesome as a straight up lead sound with external delay and reverb.

Using it as an external filter sounds like a good idea but in reality I didn’t have much gear to hook up at the time and I am a lazy one and hate dealing with cables at the best of time. I suppose I could of ran my software synths out through the audio interface through the Evolvers filters and back into the DAW to record however my interface did not seem to be set up for that at the time.

The Dave Smith Instruments presets included with this synth are really horrible in my opinion

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