Organ/synth poly combo
A cynical man would say the Stratus isn't troubled too much by honesty. Let's be generous and say it tends to exaggerate.
First, it's not really a polysynth, but much more like an organ or an electronic piano with a few extra synth-like features thrown in. The black and grey front panel and words such as "oscillators", "filter", "glide", etc, appear impressive, but they don't live up to the standards you'd expect from a true polysynth that bears the same facilities.
Polyphonic synths work from a collection of individual oscillators — anywhere from four to 20 — which can be assigned to whatever key you're holding down, to produce the desired pitch.
Organs have master tone generators, that is each note in an octave has its own generator and equivalent notes one, two, three or however many octaves down are produced by electronically dividing the master tone.
The advantage is that organs always stay in tune. The disadvantage is... well... they always stay in tune. That locked-in division from the master generator means an organ can't have the looseness and variety of tone that the individual, free ranging oscillators in a polysynth can produce. These generators are also more difficult to treat with filters, envelope shapers, etc, but it's the generator system that's used in the Stratus.
In fact there are two sets of master tone generators — one for the synth and one for the organ section, which has sliders for 16, 8, 4 and 2 footages. The fact that the two banks can be detuned almost makes up for the Stratus's fibbing because it does produce a vast, rich, organy sound. But after that, credulity begins to be strained.
There are no 5 or 2⅔ harmonics on the organ and that severely limits its abilities. The synthesiser has ramp and square wave forms but not pulse width modulation as that's difficult to achieve with tone generators.
The Stratus has some very dodgy triggering. Play a chord and it's okay, but play a single note immediately afterwards and it sounds half filled with clutter and gets off to a hesitant start, almost as if there are bits of the last chord left behind.
Glide on a synthesiser usually means that there's a gradual slide from the last played note to the next, rather than an instantaneous jump. It's wrongly applied to the Stratus which can add an upward or downward swoop to the beginning of each note, almost like a pitch bend, but can't travel from one spot to another. It actually doesn't sound bad, but it's not the real thing.
The filter is weak and can only superimpose pew-pew or wangy sounds on top of the notes you're playing. They stay largely unaffected in the background, though the filter can act as a fairly strong tone control, muffling or accentuating the treble.
The pitch bend bar is badly set up. It shifts the organ and synthesiser halves at different rates so they drift out of tune with each other, and en route they do a fair imitation of a busy night at the cats' home.
The envelope generator is okay — just. Slow fades for strings are workable, but there's precious little punch to more percussive settings. The modulation section stated a better case for itself, allowing you to use square or triangular waveforms, set the depth of the vibrato and include a delay, so it eased in a moment after you'd pressed down the keys.
In all the Stratus falls lamentably short of expectations. There's little variety to the sounds and very few classic synth tones can be squeezed out of the collection of controls. Only when it was gimmicked up to do flip/flop tricks of modulation or police siren wails would you have realised it was a synth, not an organ.
Of course, it's a big, fill-up-the-gaps organ sound you're after, plus a few sound effects by the way, the Stratus would fit the bill, but even then I think you'd be better off with a proper organ or string machine.
And though it may be cheaper, the Stratus is certainly no competition for something like the Roland Juno 6.
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