Doepfer Dark Energy III – Improving A Little Classic

In 2010, when compact desktop analog synths were not nearly as ubiquitous as today, Doepfer introduced the Dark Energy, a single oscillator analogue mono synth, with built-in MIDI-to-CV convertor and USB connectivity.  Two years later, the Dark Energy II brought new circuits for the VCO, VCF, and VCA (due to the original CEM chip being discontinued).

Today Doepfer announced the availability of the Dark Energy III Analog Synthesizer. Like its Dark Energy II predecessor, released to widespread critical acclaim back in 2012, Dark Energy III is a desktop monophonic analogue standalone synthesizer with wide-reaching CV/Gate, MIDI, and USB connectivity.

Needless to say, everything is built into a rugged black metal case with wooden side plates, while high-quality potentiometers with metal shafts are used; ultimately, each potentiometer is mounted firmly to the chassis, so no wobbly shafts and knobs.

What’s New

Notably — not least audibly, although also apparent from the front panel’s waveform Shape switch labelling, a triangle Shape waveform is now central to the VCO (Voltage-Controlled Oscillator) core, which now no longer requires a warmup period for optimal operation over a 10-octave frequency range (with 1V/Oct tracking over at least eight octaves).

On top of that, there are now separate Reset LFO1 and Reset LFO 2 Inputs for the two resettable LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators). These sockets synchronise both LFOs to external gate signals, so when a gate signal of +5V (or higher) is applied at a socket then its positive ramp sets the corresponding LFO wave shape to zero and the LFO restarts with a rising ramp.

All analogue synthesizers use a VCA (Voltage-Controlled Amplifier) to dynamically control loudness (or volume); Doepfer’s Dark Energy III design differs from its predecessor — and also many other analogue synthesizers — by virtue of its VCA having a linear control scale, so lends itself to scaling control voltages.

Several signal routings and functions are additionally available to any adventurous ‘Doepfer DIY’er’ willing and able to modify Dark Energy III’s front panel sockets by removing jumpers and rewiring the pin-headers for the VCO PW, Reset LFO1, Reset LFO2, and VCA Inputs. For example, the VCO PW input can be converted into a linear FM input, or LFO/ADSR signals can be used as outputs instead of one of the resettable LFO inputs.

Indeed, (almost) anything is possible, including various VCO outputs (triangle, sawtooth, rectangle); VCO hard sync input; VCO soft sync input; various VCF outputs (lowpass, highpass, bandpass); various LFO outputs (triangle, rectangle); ADSR output; and two inverters with input/output (to invert any signal, such as ADSR or LFO).

Splice Sounds

The Filter Remains The Same

Effective enhancements notwithstanding, the favoured filter found in Dark Energy II remains unchanged in Dark Energy III. Indeed, its sound- defining VCF (Voltage-Controlled Filter) is centred around a 12dB multimode filter with lowpass, notch, highpass, and bandpass settings, together with a filter Mode control for continuous transition from lowpass via notch and highpass around to bandpass; its XFM (Exponential Frequency Modulation) control also has a polarization function, whereby the modulation source (LFO2 or ADSR) selected by the Source switch can affect the filter frequency with a positive or negative behaviour (by rotating rightwards or leftwards, respectively).

Price and Availability

In Germany, Dark Energy III can be ordered online from Doepfer Musikelektronic GmbH or via one of its German dealers for €479.00 EUR. (An optional user-installable Glide control kit — containing a prewired potentiometer with two nuts and a Dark Energy-style rotary knob — is available for €10.00 EUR.)

Outside Germany, Dark Energy III can only be ordered from Doepfer dealers in territories listed here, or directly from Doepfer.

For more in-depth info, please visit the dedicated Dark Energy III webpage.

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