Inside this compact white box lurks a lot of sonic power and technical prowess. Perhaps that explains why the newest version of the open source Shruthi-1 now sports a crazy-badass wolf dog cartoon with glowing eyes.

Since its launch, the Shruthi-1 has gradually evolved new features, with a fairly sophisticated combination of hardware and extensive software. At its core, it’s a “hybrid” synth with digital/virtual analog oscillators and real-analog filter. The digital oscillators allow it to change character, for classic virtual analog subtractive, or wavetable, FM, phase distortion, and vowel synthesis.

The big news with the filter is that the various flavors of filter board are now discontinued. Sadly, the wonderful CEM3379 filter chip is just too rare to have a long-term home in this synth; the Shruthi-1, like other synths (the Dark Energy being a recent example) has hit chip scarcity.

But in its place is something else new and wonderful. The SSM2164 (uh, that doesn’t roll of the tongue, but yes, that filter) combines 15 filter responses with four resonance models, for a total of 60 possible filter sounds. See also the Oberheim Matrix-12 and Xpander for pole-mixing techniques. You also get self-oscillation, and even a Korg DS-inspired diode waveshaper. (I won’t go into any more detail, as maker Mutable describes this in gory precision.)

In a way, the Shruthi-1 – despite its minimal knobs – really hides a semi-modular instrument, one with its own built-in arpeggiator, modulation matrix, duophony, rhythmical oscillator cycling, and lots of other features. If there’s a technical feature possible – just about any feature – the Shruthi-1 does it. Combined with that terrific filter and digital grunge, I think it’s a terrific deal in desktop synths.

In fact, my only real criticism is, it does so much, you’re likely to be stuck paging through menus – or should focus on MIDI programming – because of the minimal controls. I can see why members of the Shruthi-1 community have been building expansion controllers for it to get more hands-on control. But on the other hand, to me, it’s entirely worth the tradeoff going compact – even with a complex menu system. The result is a synth that’s far more affordable and portable. It’s a natural for MIDI users.

The new design is also unquestionably the best-looking Shruthi yet, thanks to translucent white plexiglass and white LED lighting. 130 € buys you the kit (plus another 20 € in parts), but I’d strongly recommend the pre-assembled version if you’re less familiar with bigger builds. There are a lot of parts and two boards, plus a pretty white circuit board that will look grimy if you don’t solder carefully. For experienced builders, it should be a great assembly process into which you’ll want to sink your teeth, wolf-like. But for less-experienced builders – or just people who want to get straight to making sound – I think 349 € is a small price to ask. (A carry bag and European wall wart are included.) Just grab the pre-built version fast; because they’re hand-assembled, they won’t last long.

Full details:
Shruthi-1, 4-Pole Mission edition

Be sure to have a listen to the way the new stuff sounds:

The other important thing to mention about the Shruthi-1 is that it’s a fully open source synth. (An earlier version prohibited commercial use, but it now uses a more permissive license.) The best way to see what lurks inside is to check out GitHub. Apart from being able to modify the Shruthi-1 hardware and software design, there’s a library you can use in your own projects:

This also means the Shruthi-1 joins our own MeeBlip among open source synths. I’ve been a bit amused at people comparing the two, because what I like about the Shruthi is that it’s basically MeeBlip’s opposite. We kept the design of the MeeBlip as minimal as possible, both with an eye to keeping one-to-one hardware controls and making modification simpler. The Shruthi is lovely because it’s the reverse: it retains a small footprint, but packs lots of sonic options. It’s the maximal alternative.

I’m just happy that the hardware landscape in general offers loads of great choices for people wanting to augment their computer soft synths with hardware. Who says the synthesizer’s best days are in the past?

  • Keith Handy

    I can’t have anything white. It starts to depreciate as soon as I start touching it.

  • Peter Swimm

    If you have a chance to play with one, the minimal interface is really amazing for editing. The only thing I use the CTLR editor for is import waveforms and backup patches.

    Plus it sounds great, Love my now collectable CEM.

    • papernoise

      I want to learn how to import my own waveforms on the Shruthi-1 as well! Is there a turorial somewhere?

    • Peter Swimm

      You can only edit the user wavetables with this:

      If you want to replace the other ones, you can build and compile the source.

    • papernoise

      I’m totally fine with just the user wavetables! thanks!

  • Pixale

    one day i’ll finish my programmer for this beast. Absolutely love the way this thing sounds. Certainly not good for everything, but it has a very unique sound that cuts through mixes extremely well

  • markLouis

    FYI I don’t think it’s supposed to be a “bad-ass wolf” I think it’s supposed to be an alien husky, a reference to John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing.” (Remember the creature became a dog from the Norwegian base and then ran over to where Kurt Russel was stationed and attacked everyone there?)

  • Brand B

    I believe that SSM chip is a VCA, not a VCF, or a synth on chip.

    • Mutable instruments

      The SSM2164 is a chip with 4 gain cells with exponential control. Whether you use them for building 4 expo VCAs, 2 linear VCAs, 2 SVFs, a cascade of 4 1-pole cells, a whole mini-synth voice (as Doepfer did on their DIY synth) or whatever… is up to you. Generally speaking there’s no such thing as “VCF chips”. Just conveniently bundled gain cells with exponential control and/or onboard expo converters. Sometimes pre-wired for some filter topologies, but not always…

    • Peter Kirn

      I meant only “filter chip” in that “the chip that is acting as a filter” — i.e., its role on the actual instrument.

  • Randy Piscione

    If you fool with one, you’ll love it.  I put a Shruthi together a few weeks ago and have been having a great time.  Tossed a song on Soundcloud with Shruthi stuff on it, it’s really a fun and powerful little synth.  I have the new white version on order.  The build is tricky if you’re new at it but if you take your time, read the directions a few times, and then read the specific piece as you’re assembling, and watch out for screwing up the resistors, it’s certainly within the realm of the noob.

  • papernoise

    I’ll say straight away that I’m a total Shruthi-1 fanatic (and since I also created most of the graphics for this 4-Pole Mission, I’m even more biased). 
    I remember when the first Shruti-1 (the kind-of-prototype predecessor version of the current Shruthi-1 line) came out I knew it would become a game changer. There were already a lot of DIY synths around at that time, but few offered the experience and playability of a real synth. The Shruti changed that (for me at least).Of course now the landscape has changed (the big players still being few though, apart from the MeeBlip I can’t think of many other DIY synths on the same level), but the Shruthi-1 still manages to evolve and add some new uniqueness to it’s lineup.I think the comparison with the Meeblip is due to 2 factors: the relative scarseness of high-level instruments in the DIY kit section and the fact that they both are based on a similar AVR chip.On the other hand I think Peter is right, they follow completely different philosophies, and that’s great!Depending on how you like to work you can choose one or the other, or just get both :)Personally I really like having a lot of power inside one small box, my deskspace is really limited, so size really is a deciding factor. 

  • Downpressor

    ” I think 349 € is a small price to ask.”

  • Downpressor

    ” I think 349 € is a small price to ask.”

    We have a different concept of “small price”. For less than that I can get several neato boxes that I already know I like and can use.

    • papernoise

      well the market is pretty crowded right now when it gets to small desktop monosynths. still I think the Shruthi-1 has a couple of tricks in store, you won’t be able to find in any other synth. And believe me for 349 you get quite a lot of power! Of course you can get a mopho for a similar price, but it’s really a completely different kind of instrument, so you can’t really compare them. But if you put them side by side you’ll see that the price is quite right.Keep in mind that these boxes are still handmade, so you can’t expect them to sell for the same price of some industrially made ones. And personally I think that the handmade part is really a plus. Gives the device a certain personality.
      So it’s all down to what you’re looking for. 

    • Peter Kirn

       …for what it is. That’s why I said that in a context and not just … out of context. My only concern at that price is really the case; I’d want something molded, personally.

    • Randy Piscione

      Which neato boxes are you referring to?  I haven’t seen anything that will do the sort of variety the Shruthi will do for the price, especially if you build it yourself.  The kit price is a great incentive.

  • jonah

    Shop page is down. :(

    Is there a lemur editor? and video of people using it?

  • Kfousek

    Really wish this wasn’t sold out right now :(

    • papernoise

      more will be available soon they tell me

    • Kfousek

       Yay! Great news. Do you know if there will be any assembled ones or just kits?

    • papernoise

      assembled units as well, they’re actually just waiting for the cases afaik

  • Paul

    Although there are pages & menu’s of course, these synths are actually really intuitive to use for the most part. It’s not the “page & menu” style nightmare that say, the Roland D110 was famous for.
    The Shruthi-1 GUI is pretty easy to get around. But hey, if you want more knobs, then you can! Which is a neat option to have.

    Personally, I find them quite straightforward to build too. I can usually complete one in an evening. It’s a lot easier to build, than say, a x0xb0x.

    It’s also probably worth mentioning that to date, there are 8 (eight!) choices of filter board (all but 1 are analogue). The article only really mentions 2 or 3.. And even the 3 boards that are to be discontinued, are all presently still available.
    Fortunately the SMR 4 MK II you get in the regular kits is very good. I’ve got one of these new 4PM kits on the way and im looking forward to hearing how it compares.

    These are really powerful little synths though, whichever filter board they have :)

  • Peter Kirn

    Since many people are bringing up the build issue, let me clarify:

    I mean simply this: I wouldn’t recommend the Shruthi-1 to someone as their first build. I know a lot of first-time builders get excited and grab something like this. I’m not trying to scare people away – I love building stuff myself. My suggestion is simply that your best bet is to do a couple of much-simpler projects first and get your chops together. There are just too many solder points to do on any full-sized synth to even test what you’ve done and see if it works!

    Some folks are indeed very careful and do something like this as their first project and succeed. But I’ve also seen people melt down on even simpler projects. So I suggest trying some 101-level electronics kits, then graduating to this (or any other synth – even the MeeBlip)

    I say this from experience – unless you’ve got a friend to help you diagnose cold solder joints and the like, this can be frustrating for a first-time builder.

    And I also think it’s pretty easy to justify the value of your time and investment and grab a pre-built, tested unit; there’s absolutely no shame in that and getting music-making right away can be invaluable.

    Of course, if you *have* put together those couple of kits, then it can be immensely satisfying here saving some money and getting the kit.

    It’s really a matter of leveling up to something where you’re comfortable, and to me, I think there’s no reason to rush.

    And even experienced builders will sometimes buy the pre-assembled kit just to get up and running quicker.

    • Paul

      Absolutely. They are really not for first timers, granted. But for those that have soldered the odd electronics project together successfully before, should do fine with one of these synth kits. The usual everyday soldering tools and a multimeter is about all you need. No oscilloscope or anything of that nature required though.

      When there are synths as great as these around that you can make yourself (and quite cheaply at that) it’s silly not to take just a few hours over a couple of days to teach yourself the pretty basic skills required to make something like this.
      It’s rewarding enough to make some half decent music yourself. It’s even more rewarding still when you can do it with instruments you made yourself too :)

    • papernoise

      Also to get a bit of experience and confidence I can suggest projects like Atari Punk Console type of noise-drone synths, or some simple stompboxes. They usually have few components and are pretty easy to assemble. And if you really screw up you haven’t wasted too much money.