(Re)Discoveries: Vermona PERfourMER MKII – Do You Need One In Your Life?

SPIKE XL stand with Vermona Perfourmer MKII synth

The Vermona PERfourMER MKII with the CremaCaffè Spike XL stand

  • Sound
  • Features
  • Ease Of Use
4.7

Vermona PERfourMER MkII Review

The PERfourMER MkII possesses a certain vibe, a magic that makes it a true modern classic…

PROS:

  • Rich analog sound, buttery filter
  • One knob per function and built to last
  • Various Play Modes can lead to interesting musical results
  • Insert points per channel
  • Modular-friendly option

 

CONS

Splice Rent-to-Own
  • Limited sound architecture (not a big deal here)
  • Basic MIDI implementation
  • No patch memory (not a big deal here either, but YMMV)

In 2011, Vermona introduced the MkII version of their PERfourMER analog polysynth with these words: “In a choir, a string or brass section, every voice has its character, its sonic individuality, modulation, and specific decay. Is this not possible for a polyphonic synthesizer?”

Of course it is, albeit not so common, looking at the history of synthesizers. Fact is, while pursuing this goal, Vermona engineers succeeded in creating one of the most interesting (and unique, I might add!) modern analog synths.

Still, the PERfourMER MKII is relatively unknown for many electronic musicians, and this is why we decided to ‘rediscover’ it here, with the help of a few fellow musicians around the world.

The PERfourMER MKII At A Glance

For those who are not familiar with this instrument, the Vermona PERfourMER MKII is a (rack-mountable) desktop unit comprised of four monophonic synthesizer voices (yep, this is a REAL four analog voice synth – no paraphonic/polyphonic confusion here) that can be combined in various ways. Each channel or  “voice” features an analog oscillator with five waveforms and a noise generator, a (buttery!) 24dB low-pass filter, a VCA section, an LFO, and an Envelope Generator.

Functional yet inspiring design!

As said, each of the PERfourMER MKII’s voices can be combined via different sync modes and can modulate the next channel. The instrument also boasts six different Play Modes (2 x mono, 2 x duophonic, 2 x polyphonic) for countless hours of sonic explorations.

How do these Play Modes work? In a nutshell, in Mono 1 mode, all four channels are treated as a single mono synth. This means you can layer them on the same MIDI channel or have them receive different channels for a 4-synths-in-1 effect.

In Mono 2, the four channels are triggered one after the other. Things get more interesting because since each channel has its VCO, VCF and VCA settings, you can use this mode to create inspiring variations with a sequencer and/or arpeggiator.

The Two Duo modes turn the PERfourMER MKII into 2 duophonic synths, one for alternating and one for simultaneous playback.

Last but not least, the two Poly modes allow up to four voices to be played simultaneously, with one mode storing held notes while the other does not.

The synth can be controlled via MIDI, but Vermona also offers a modular-friendly version, with CV/Gate connectivity (more on this below). Speaking of connectivity, the PERfourMER MkII also offers some interesting perks: you get direct access to individual VCO outputs and external signal inputs on a per-voice basis (four-channel filterbank, anyone?), plus independent effect processing (one insert per voice).

How Does It Sound?

In a word, gorgeous. A rich analog cornucopia of lush, creamy, soaring, fat, snappy sounds and (almost) everything in between. Great sounding basslines, leads, textures, drums and even pads are super easy to program, thanks to the intuitive ‘one-knob per function’ design. Also, the fact that the instrument has a pretty basic architecture (which for some could be a severe limitation) turns out to be one of its strengths. It’s like a constant reminder that with the PERfourMER MkII you should just be having fun and making music, not losing yourself in endless sound design options!

Here are a few videos I picked that can give you an idea of what you can do with a PERfourMER MkII:

  • Sequences

This synth shines with sequences and arpeggios. The hands-on controls just beg to be tweaked, and the results are always very musical.

  • Pads and polyphonic textures

Yes, you can play pads with the PERfourMER MkII, although I wouldn’t think of it as a traditional pad-machine. Again, once you make sense of its 4-channel architecture and different play modes, you can come up with some pretty unique polyphonic textures, like the ones below.

  • Drums, because…why not?

How about an analog drum synth? The PERfourMER MkII disguises itself as a capable electronic percussive unit (with plenty of knobs to play with).

One Synth, One Song – The PERfourMER MkII Edition

One of the best ways to overcome creative blocks and to make the most of the gear we have is to push ourselves and face new challenges. This is the idea behind our One Synth, One Song series: creating a tune with only one instrument, to get to know it better, discover new techniques and ultimately come up with new creative solutions.

In this video, I’ve created a simple, evolving demo track using only the PERfourMER MkII (sequenced from an iOS app, Fugue Machine). Sound processing provided by the (awesome) Eventide TimeFactor:

PERfourMER MkII CV/Gate Option: Is It Worth It?

As said, the PERfourMER MkII comes in two versions, a ‘basic’ MIDI one and a ‘modular-friendly’ one, with MIDI and CV/Gate connectivity (4 gate inputs and 4 CV inputs). Needless to say, if you have – or are planning to get – a modular system, the PERfourMER MkII CV/Gate model is the one you want. Sure, it’s more expensive, but in the long run, it’s a wiser investment: this extra connectivity option makes for an even more versatile and inspiring instrument!

Here’s the rear panel of the CV/Gate model

Splice Sounds

To learn more about the possibilities offered by this modular option, we talked to a couple of PERfourMER MkII/Eurorack users who were kind enough to share their favorite patches.

PERfourMER MkII + Turing Machine and Quantizer – Two Alone

“The Vermona Perfourmer MkII is an extremely inspiring piece of gear and it excels within a modular setup. I have been experimenting and generating some very interesting melodic content lately with the following patch:

The computer is sending a pulse to a clock divider, which then sends a gate to a Turing machine which generates a random voltage. The random voltage is then quantized with the Instruo Harmonaig and sends out CV information to all 4 Vermona VCOs. The clock divider also clocks the Noise Engineering Numeric Repetitor, this then generates 4 rhythmic gate outputs which trigger the 4 independent Vermona envelopes via CV.

With this setup, you can quickly create some very interesting harmonies. With lots of room for experimentation.”

About the Two Alone project:Born in two different countries, Neil and Ed connected their musical backgrounds to pursue a shared vision. The Two Alone project was born. Combining music, imagery, and storytelling as a way to amplify the whole experience. Over a decade of working behind the scenes has passed, it is time to start a new chapter.”

PERfourMER MkII + Eloquencer, Hexmix and Effects – Halfgeleider

“In my Eurorack system, the PERfourMER’s CV/Gate inputs are currently connected to the Winter Modular Eloquencer. The v/oct and gate inputs on the PERfourMER MkII work great with the Eloquencer, getting a super tight, steady tracking over 7 octaves. There’s no CV modulation possible on the PERfourMER, but that isn’t a big issue for me – I still have other VCOs in my system for that.
The PERfourMER MkII sound is so diverse and rich that I currently have a patch which uses all its 4 oscillators. A low kick drum with a longer decay, a percussive hit and a lead/solo randomized melody pattern. Channels 1 and 2 are used for this, panning each channel to create a stereo image. The random function of the Eloquencer takes care of variation in the patterns.

“The big extras on the PERfourMER MKII for me are the inserts and VCO outputs. VCO out takes your raw VCO directly out of the synth so this can be further modulated into the modular world. The inserts, on the other hand, let you manipulate external sounds through the PERfourMER’s LFO, EG or filters. And I say filters because one can master-slave each channel with its underlying channel.
I’m using TRS cables on the insert of the 1st and 2nd channel to route the sound through a Boss RV6 pedal. Each channel can use a different insert/effect and so Eurorack effects can also be used to be patched through the PERfourMER MkII. Stereo Out of PERfourMER goes into the Befaco STmix so I get the stereo out from PERfourMER straight into the Hexmix system in the rack without losing inserts on the Hexpander.

FYI: as you might know, the output level between desktop and modular units can be quite different, but I didn’t experience a need to pre-amp the synth’s level whatsoever, at least not with the Hexmix in my system. Of course, you’ll need 1/4“ to 1/8” cables  to connect the PERfourMER MkII to your Eurorack system, and TRS insert cables if you want to use the inserts to apply effects to the different channels (highly recommended), but having this kind of analog beast all wired up to your euro system its sure to be a powerful combo.”

About Halfgeleider: Halfgeleider (Dutch for semiconductor) is a new solo electronic music project, currently working on upcoming live dates.

Do You Need A PERfourMER In Your Life? Our Final Thoughts 

Offering a combination of sheer analog beauty and playful design choices, the PERfourMER MkII possesses a certain vibe, a magic that makes it a true modern classic. It must be the Vermona touch, the secret recipe of this unique former East German state synthesizer company!

Some might complain about the somewhat basic architecture of the synth, its lack of memory patches or master filter. I think these people are simply looking at this instrument from the wrong perspective (and probably never put their hands on it either!). The PERfourMER is a superb 4-voice synth, that needs to be conceived as a creative, interactive ensemble (going back to Vermona’s introductory words mentioned above). Most of all, it’s one of those instant gratifications synths that just beg to be played.

This is what I love about it. This is a real instrument, designed to be an inspiring performing/creative tool. It hasn’t been created to rip off someone else’s design, or just to fulfill some unlikely engineering goals which often don’t lead to anything ‘musical’.

Is it too expensive? Well, I don’t enjoy talking pricing because lately, the perception of value is changing quite rapidly (and not necessarily in a good way, if you ask me). That said, if you consider the current rates of certain analog vintage beasts (or even modern boutique ones), the PERfourMER compares quite favorably (and if you are a modular user, the CV/Gate version is worth the extra dough).

So, do you need a PERfourMER MkII in your life? If killer analog sounds, ease of use and build quality are paramount, then go for it, you will love it. Modular users should consider the CV/Gate model.

Good reasons not to buy it? Well, I would hesitate only if you’re looking for something different (i.e. digital or ‘West Coast’ synthesis, features such as patch memory, etc.), or if your wallet can only afford Behringer’s take on vintage classics.

The PERfourMER MkII is available for approx. €1269/€1469 or $1,439.00/$1,599.00 (MIDI-only model/MIDI + CV Gate model) from Vermona dealers around the world. To learn more about the PERfourMER MkII please visit the official web page.


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