Modal Electronics has made a hell of a game for the budget synth market with the one-two punch of the SkulptSynth and the CraftSynth 2.0. The Skulpt was a $ 299 virtual analog that targeted the A and Volca Keys by swapping out real analog for a host of sound shaping features. The Craft, on the other hand, has gone for a wild wavetable motor that is unlike anything else in the $ 150 price bracket. the SkulptSynth SE builds on the success of the original Skulpt by reducing the price to just $ 199 and improving the build quality.
People have regularly complained about the construction of the Skulpt and Craft 2 – me included. They sound awesome, but feel a bit cheap and flimsy. The Volca line isn’t exactly a flagship of premium materials, but they feel a lot more rugged than Modal’s budget instruments. I haven’t tried the Skulpt SE for myself yet, so I can’t confirm how much better the build is, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
Under the hood however, the SE is almost exactly the same as the original Skulpt. It is a four voice, 32 oscillator virtual analog synthesizer with a two pole resonant filter that can sweep from low pass to band pass to high pass. There are also dedicated envelopes for the filter, amp, and modulation, as well as two LFOs, one of which is polyphonic. While the controls on the SE are not MPE compatible, you can hook up a compatible controller like the Sensel Morph and have expressive control per note, which is practically unheard of at this price point for a hardware synthesizer.
There’s also a solid arpeggiator and a 256-step sequencer. Plus, there are built-in distortion and delay effects to boost your sound and add space. Not to mention a plethora of connections, including USB, full-size MIDI in and out, headphone jacks and 3.5mm line out, and analog input and output sync for connection to Volcas, Pocket operators etc.
And, being a Modal synth, it can of course connect to the Modal app. The app is excellent and gives you precise control over what is a deceptively deep synth engine. Of course, the app is much more of a necessity with the Craft 2 which has limited handy controls.
The biggest immediate difference between the OG Skulpt and the SE is the design. The original was dark gray on dark gray with orange highlights, and the labels on the controls were slightly confusing. The SE has a lighter, easier-to-read design with the signal path more clearly drawn in the front.
The SkulptSynth SE is now available for $ 199.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through any of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.