Behringer Deepmind 12: A Review

Behringer’s first foray into the world of synthesis always promised to be interesting, and the results do not disappoint

Uli Behringer has long expressed an interest in cloning synths such as the Minimoog, the Prophet 5, the Odyssey and, in particular, the Juno 106. So, when murmurs of an actual synthesiser produced by Behringer started to appear, it wasn’t surprising that the Deepmind 12 was more of an homage instead of an exact knock-off. Although many similarities are present, they are both very much different machines.

Much of the design and implementation of the DeepMind 12 comes from the Midas team in the UK, which bodes well since they have decades of experience in the higher end of the audio industry. Despite being labelled as an ‘analogue’, the Deepmind 12 is a mono-trimbral 12-voice analogue/digital hybrid with a lightweight but usable 49-note velocity and aftertouch sensitive keyboard. Each voice comprises two DCOs, a switchable 12/24dB/oct VCF, three digitally generated contour generators, two digitally generated LFOs, and a modulation matrix. Voices can be stacked in various way from 12‑note polyphony to single‑note detuned monstrosity and, following a global high‑pass filter, four configurable digital effects units complete the audio path. The most surprising thing about the DeepMind 12 is the size. With a four‑octave keyboard and a shallow control panel, its’s one of the smallest synthesisers on the market. Nonetheless, it feels reassuringly solid, with its full-sized keys and integrated power supply.

Raw Sounds

On the panel, DCO1 offers just on/off switches for its sawtooth and pulse/PWM waveforms, plus faders to control the pitch modulation and PWM depth. The DCO1 offers limited waves with the saw and the square. The DCO2 offers faders for pitch, pitch-modulation and level, generating a Tone Mod Square Wave only. Cross modulation on the DCO2 to DCO1 come up with the usual range of results, and the combination of waveshaping and sync offers some interesting timbres. The final audio source is a pink‑noise generator with its own level fader. The low‑pass filter offers the expected frequency and resonance faders, with additional faders for keyboard and contour tracking as well as LFO modulation, again echoing the Juno series.

LFOs & Contours

To the left of the audio oscillators, you’ll find a pair of identical LFOs. These offer a choice of seven waveforms that you can only select via their menus, with faders to control their rates and delay times and a menu item to adjust their slew rate if desired. Being digitally generated, they can offer options that wouldn’t otherwise be practical, including synchronisation to (in effect, re‑triggering by) the arpeggiator clock, allowing precise control over the relative phases of the LFOs between voices.

With 256 variations of A, D and R stages from one extreme to the other, the sustain phase offers complete control over both its start and finish level. These curves allow you to imitate the characteristics of many vintage synths and, by enabling you to define shapes that would normally be the province of five‑stage contours, also make it possible to program things such as orchestral sounds more accurately than would otherwise be feasible. With multiple triggering options that you can select independently for each of the three contour generators.

Effects

There are 33 effects available and, to use Behringer’s description, the “device inspirations” of some of these were products manufactured by companies that now find themselves within the Music Group, while others from elsewhere include reverbs inspired by the Lexicon PCM70 and 480L, a Roland Dimension D chorus and a Moog‑style filter. There are ten different effects configurations, ranging from the obvious ‘four in a row’ to all in parallel, and eight others between, including two with feedback loops. FX can be sent or Insert type, but the real clincher is the ability to modulate FX parameters via the Mod slots, not all parameters, (delay time, for instance, is not available) but plenty.

Chords, Clocks, Arpeggiation & Sequencing

The first facility you’ll encounter in the Arp/Seq section is the chord memory. As you would expect, this allows you to record a chord and transpose it up and down the keyboard as you play. You can even program different chords for different keys, which some people are going to love. But my favourite use for this was somewhat different because I employed it to recreate some huge, modular synth patches. Moving on, the DeepMind 12 has an internal master clock that can drive its arpeggiator, control sequencer, and any synchronised functions such as the LFOs and some effects parameters.

The arpeggiator itself offers more than you might expect, not only providing the common up, down, up/down, random, and ‘as played’ modes, but five unusual ‘inverted’ and ‘alternating’ modes across. There are also 64 patterns available: 32 presets, and 32 that you can program yourself. These, in effect, turn the arpeggiator into a monophonic, 32‑step sequencer.

In Use

Thirty years ago, the Juno 106 was hugely successful not just because it was affordable but because it was an astoundingly simple synth to program and use. In contrast, the extensive use of menus on the DeepMind 12 recalls a later era. Despite the diminutive size of the control panel, I never found it cramped. Compact, but not cramped. I also liked the provision of the voice LEDs at the bottom right of the panel. These proved useful when playing stacked voices (they provide immediate information about how many keys you can press simultaneously before note stealing occurs) and they also helped me to decide when a specific voice was out of kilter and I needed to run the tuning/ calibration routines.

Interestingly, despite this range of sounds, there’s a consistent character at the root of all of them. There’s an underlying Behringer sound in the DeepMind 12 which purists will immediately identify as emanating from something more modern than the VCO‑festooned synths of yesteryear. Some will love it, others won’t, but that’s a personal choice. To my surprise, I don’t have much else to criticise. Sure, DCO2 is strangely limited, the lack of a mixer is a pain, the inability to select certain functions from the front panel is frustrating, editing can be a bit clunky, and there’s no analogue connectivity. But, at the price, I think that I can accept this.

Conclusion

The Behringer Deepmind 12 is definitely a hardy machine, offering a plethora of features that other synths in the market seem to miss. Behringer’s first foray into the synth market is a step in the right direction, clear that the company have innovative ideas and able to implement them, as evidence through the Deepmind 12. It will cost a third of its more established competitors, but some might suspect that they’re getting more for what the Deepmind is actually worth. For Behringer and synthesisers, the future is looking interesting.

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Review originally was written by Gordon Reid of Sound On Sound.

Reid, G 2016, Behringer DeepMind 12, 2016, Sound On Sound, accessed 15 March 2017, < http://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/behringer-deepmind-12>.