Pro Audio

Modal COBALT5S: the ultimate introduction to hardware synthesis

If you’re looking to step up from a soft-synth and play something more tangible, Modal’s COBALT5S should definitely be on your audition list.

Modal has launched the COBALT5S extended synthesizer: a budget-friendly hardware synth that’s intended to work hand-in-glove with your existing setup. And when you look at the spec sheet, it’s hard to quibble with the ‘extended’ descriptor.

In both its sound-shaping possibilities and functionality, the COBALT5S is supercharged. It has 5-voice polyphony, 40 virtual-analogue oscillators (up to 8 per voice), MPE, aftertouch, and a deep arpeggiator and sequencer section.

But that laundry list of features shouldn’t intimidate you. Its hands-on and user-friendly workflow welcomes experimentation. It comes with an app for easier access to deeper synth parameters, and it has a crowd-pleasing price tag. Let’s take a closer look.

Modal Cobalt5s front

Sleek exterior

COBALT5S has a 37 mini-key keybed underneath a single row of knobs, with a small screen in the centre for crucial visual feedback. Working from left to right, there is an LFO section, oscillators, filter, EG (envelope generator), arpeggiator, and sequencer.

To the left of the keybed lies an XYZ touchpad which can function as a traditional mod-wheel and pitch-bender if desired. It’s also pressure-sensitive (the ‘Z’ axis), which offers up an extra level of modulation possibilities.

On the back of the unit, you’ll find ample connectivity — a power supply input, sync input and output, MIDI input and output, sustain, stereo master output (with the left as the mono output), and a headphone output. The headline item here is the fact that you can power the synth via USB, making it that much easier to slot into your home studio setup.


Epic sounds

To embark on your sound-sculpting journey, getting hands-on with the oscillators is your best bet. Tweaking the oscillator encoders reveal just how much complexity is on offer and holding shift (just above the XYZ pad) yields different waveshape starting points.

Beyond that, you’ve got a world of modulation and performance possibilities to expand upon your initial sounds. The LFOs and global chorus and delay lend movement and width to the COBALT5S’s timbre. When you hook up the free MODALapp (iOS Android, PC, Mac, VST and AU), you can explore the synth engine deeply with an easily navigable user interface and then save your custom presets.

Coming in at around $700 AUD, you get a lot of bang for your buck with the COBALT5S. A lush-sounding, highly tweakable synth that’s just the thing if you want to make the leap from virtual synths into the hardware world.

Visit Modal for all the details.