Novation Peak Synthesizer Review

With the new addition of the Summit synth to their lineup, we take a look at the still-relevant Peak polysynth from the folks at Novation, to see where the Summit’s origins lie.

When the new Novation Summit was announced, it was touted as basically being two Peaks in one box…with a keyboard, of course. Which got us thinking, of all the synths we’ve tested out over the years (even including some from Novation), we’ve never actually got our hands on Peak…until now. And we must say, we feel stupid for having waited this long.

So, here’s the short version: Peak is a desktop module, so you’ll need to bring your own controller (thankfully Novation also supplied us with their Impulse 49 for the purposes of testing out Peak), but that means you’ll save precious space in your studio – space you can use for more synths! But seriously, the form factor is fantastic here. We’re notorious for not liking menu-based systems, but Peak’s screen is pretty easy to figure out, even for lunkheads like us, and we were off and programming custom sound patches in a matter of seconds. Once you’re in the system, the menu navigation actually starts to melt away, and you’re left fiddling with knobs and tweaking sliders instead of consulting a manual to figure out how the heck to get to sub-menu 1.6.af?!?! Plus, let’s face it, if you’re as old as us, you have a thing for wooden end cheeks. 

The layout is fairly intuitive, which is great for a desktop module where space is at a premium. Oscillator banks reside on the left, and the signal flow is pretty straightforward from there. You go through the mixer, on to the filter, and then into your programmable envelopes and mod sections before hitting the built-in effects. Simple. Oscillators give you the standard wave shapes you’ve come to expect, but also offer up some unique shaping and FM modding capabilities which encourage experimentation and sound-shaping tangents. Peak is never boring, and always a fun challenge when you hit upon something new: like the “more” LED in the osc. section. You get very analog sounding (and super stable) numerically controlled oscillators plus dozens of digital wavetables to work with. So, you can get traditional analog subtractive synth sounds (Moog bass, for instance), but also venture into more metallic “DX” territory as well (and that’s just scratching the surface). 

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You’ve also got a ridiculous amount of modulation choices to further shape your patches – with a 16-slot matrix and several envelopes and low frequency oscillators per voice. So, you can create lots of fun polyphonic movement, with the ability to also dial in expressive polyphonic aftertouch from your external devices. Very nice. 

As if that weren’t enough, you’re also treated to pre- and post-filter distortion choices, plus an array of fx like reverb, chorus and delay that all sound musical, and really widen the sound of the already more-than-capable Peak. 

We could go on for days, but here’s what you want to know: Peak is an incredible module. With 8-voice polyphony, it’s got more voices and a cheaper price point than, say, the Sequential Prophet 6 module, and we think better modulation options and better sounding effects. So, if that was on your wish list, you might want to give Peak a look. In this price range, you’d also be considering things like the Korg Prologue, which is nice, but is going to take up a lot more room since it’s got a proper keyboard, and for the 16-voice flagship version, it’ll still come out costing you more money. 

Having now experienced what Peak has to offer, we’re beyond excited to try out Summit very soon. Stay tuned!

PROS:

amazing sound engine, easy to program, small form factor

CONS:

makes us want the Summit even more! 

STREET PRICE:

$1399

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