The Novation Peak is a high-end, eight voice desktop polyphonic synthesizer that oozes power and potential. The eight voices and three oscillators show that the Novation Peak means business.
A hybrid design that beautifully combines the analog signal path with digital effects. The result is a truly powerful instrument that sits high on top of Novation’s range of synths.
Chris Hugget, who collaborated on several other Novation products, was onboard again to help design the Novation Peak and it certainly shows.
The build-quality shines through and even though the asking price is high, the Novation Peak synth gives you plenty of value for the money.
The true power of the Novation Peak lies in its hybrid design. Despite the digital oscillators, the synth acts very much like an analog beast with a powerful, punchy sound that really excels when you dial in the dark and gritty tones. It’s a dream for electronic music producers.
At the Peak’s heart, you’ve got the eight voices, each with three New Oxford Oscillators per voice processed by an analogue multi-mode filter. This 8 voice desktop polyphonic synthesizer really sings. These New Oxford oscillators are the key to its power and sound potential, numerically controlled to give you 17 wavetables as well as the four standard waveforms (Super/Saw, Square, Triangle, Sine).
But now with the Peak v1.2 firmware update, you get an additional 43 digital wavetables to choose from! Each oscillator includes its own pitch-bend range parameter, which facilitates wild THX effects and big room “rises.” This parameter has a four-octave range (±24 semitones in either direction). And with 42 control knobs for tweaking shapes of the numerically controlled Oscillators as well as effects, LFO’s and more, this polyphonic synthesizer really has quite the list of attributes.
The 60 digital forms include an array of options such as Chord and Random waveforms, instrument style forms like Organ, Electric Piano and Strings, plus you’ve got a selection of more obscure options like Wobbler, Octaves, Tubey and Zing, all offering varying sound effects.
The modulation options on-board the Peak are impressive, giving you plenty of choice on the front panel to easily tweak and add movement to your sounds. The amp envelope is super solid, and not only is there one mod envelope, but the additional two modulation envelopes have a lot of character and are easily controlled via well-designed sliders.
However, the 16-slot modulation matrix within the menu is where the true power lies. The two Animate buttons can be assigned to parameters all from the press of a button. For example, you can map either of the two animate buttons to things like LFO rate or pitch allowing you to get wobbling leads or strange rising and falling effects just with a simple button press.
This does mean that you’ll need to get used to menu-diving, but you’ll soon understand the potential it can offer. The extensive wavetable and 16 slot modulation matrix really gives you so much flexibility (with 17 sources and 37 destinations and depth control). The Peak can also produce Linear FM sounds via the modulation matrix.
For example, you can add shape, level or pitch amounts to any of the oscillators or even control the waveshape of oscillator 2 with aftertouch. The Peak puts all of the modulation options right at your fingertips, opening up lots of room for musical experimentation at home or in your studio.
The on-board self-oscillating OTA filter has plenty of character, it can be assigned to each of the eight voices and includes low, high and bandpass modes. You’ve got a lot of variation that lets you dial in anything from smooth to gritty tones depending on where you set the resonance.
The analogue filter circuit is based on Novation’s popular Bass Station series, with lowpass, bandpass, and highpass modes that include 12 and 24dB options for each. These all behave as expected, but are set apart by Peak’s dual overdrive circuits.
The post-mixer/pre-filter overdrive is accessed from the front panel, whereas a second analogue-distortion effect, between the filter and the VCA, is available in the Voices Menu, aptly named Filter Post Drive. Note that these circuits are distinct from the distortion effect at the end of the signal chain.
The Peak’s filter cutoff frequency can also be modulated at audio rates via oscillator 3. A tip here is to use a single sawtooth from oscillator 1, with a cutoff frequency of 50% and resonance at 0, making sure that no other sources are sent from the mixer. From there, increase the amount of Osc 3 Filter Mod to max.
The result will be added timbral shimmer from its frequency modulation. To experiment further, change Osc 3’s octave settings and adjust the shape knob.
The Peak’s filter also lets you add filter distortion anywhere along the signal path, pre filter or post filter. Producers are going to love this option as it allows them to use distortion in more subtle ways.
The master distortion setting is also available for when you just want to get full-on aggressive! The filter overdrive is also very impressive.
In addition to the distortion, you’ve also got high-quality effects (arpeggiator, reverb, delay and chorus) that give you everything you need to modify your sounds, and more importantly, removes the need for any external effects processors. The Peak has you covered for on-board effects! Lastly, there is a noise generator and an Envelope Generator: which includes 1 Amp Envelope, and 2 Mod Envelopes.
You’ve probably now got a good idea of what’s possible with this synth in term of sonic potential. However, if you do want some more evidence, Novation has a list of 27 tracks that showcase the quality and wide-ranging sounds that you can dial into the Peak.
The v1.2 firmware update added an array of new features that make this synth stand out from the crowd.
The new features include 43 new digital wavetables, new modulators, a new mod matrix design, an FX mod matrix, new envelope features, microtuning, new presets, and the ability to maintain the current position of all knobs and sliders when the initialize button is pressed.
Novation has again shown that the new generation of synthesizers, especially a polyphonic synthesizer of this type can push the boundaries even farther than ever before.
The Peak’s construction is exactly what you would expect from a Novation product. The metal casing and wooden sides make this desktop synthesizer unit heavier than you might expect. However, the weight and build quality help to make this synth feel reassuringly sturdy in your hands.
The high-end design continues with the interface giving you rubberized knobs, strong buttons, and quality faders. An added bonus comes in the form of the OLED screen, it’s super clear and the adjustable brightness comes in handy when you’re using the Peak in different environments.
As standard, the Peak sits flat when you use it straight out of the box, although you can buy a stand that places the Peak in the perfect upright position for optimum usability. However, the overall design of the synth does not make it rack mountable which is slightly disappointing.
The logical layout of the Peak makes using the synth very easy to use. You’ve got the OLED screen and main settings in the upper left, and then you follow the signal flow as you move from left to right through the oscillators and effects, ending with the two LFOS in the top right.
In terms of presets, the Peak comes with 256 as standard and a further 256 spaces are available to store your own patches. Novation wisely decided to offer more analog-style sounds within their presets so expect plenty of cutting leads, soaring pads, and squelchy basses. The presets that come with the Peak are okay in terms of quality, but they don’t do the Peak’s capabilities justice.
If the 256 bank of presets is not enough for you then popular sound artist, Aiyn Zahev, has created a collection of sounds for the Peak. A brilliant example of what can be achieved with this powerful synth and a good source of inspiration as well.
Connecting to the Peak is simple and it offers up pretty much anything that you require. Plug into your PC or Mac via the USB port, the MIDI I/O (five-pin DIN) ports allow you to connect any MIDI gear, and the CV modulation input gives you access to any modular systems in your setup.
The Novation Peak polyphonic synthesizer brings analog and digital design together perfectly, leaving you with a great and powerful synth full of raw power and plenty of advanced features to shape your sounds.
The components used to build the Peak justifies the expensive price tag, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a bargain compared to other similar spec synths.
The 8 voice polyphonic synthesizer is a big upgrade in terms of technology and design with its three new Oxford Oscillators.
The connectivity is excellent and doesn’t limit you whatsoever, the presets are mostly killer and no filler, so all in all, based on our assessment and other Novation Peak reviews, this is another top product from Novation.
Unlike it’s high end rivals which are full analog, this hybrid synth with digital numerically controlled oscillators and analog filter make us give high praise in this Novation Peak review.
If you’ve got the budget, you won’t be disappointed!