Based in Germany, Vermona is a boutique company that produces analogue synthesizers, drum machines and effects units for the ever growing community of analogue fanatics. We are reviewing two units from their latest Lancet range, and will kick off with the Mono Lancet, a small desktop analogue monophonic synthesizer that caused quite a stir in our offices.
The Mono Lancet is made of a cream chassis with a black faceplate and covered with many cream knobs of different sizes all over its faceplate and chrome switches. The unit looks splendidly vintage, and the knobs offer the perfect resistance for precise changes but are smooth enough for drastic effects too.
The first row of knob and switches are dedicated to the two VCOs and comprise three waveforms for each oscillator (triangle, Saw, and Square waves for Osc 1 and Square, Saw and Noise for Osc 2) and three octaves for each Oscillator (8’, 16’ 32’ for Osc 1andd 4’, 8’ and 16’ for Osc 2). Additional modulation of the Oscillators features in this first row and includes LFO intensity (LFO INT) Envelope intensity (EG INT) Glide, Mix and Detune.
The second row is dedicated to the filter (VCF) and amplifier (VCA). The VCF comprises the usual cut-off and resonance, and can be controlled via the either the envelope or the LFO. An additional switch labelled ‘track’ allows for the resonance to follow notes played for some great effects. The VCA looks slightly unusual, in that it comprises one volume knob and a switch with a choice for the VCA to follow the Envelope, to activate when a note is pressed regardless of the envelope, or to be constantly on.
This is pretty typical so far then, but to the right of the volume knob we can see two black buttons called SEQ and TRIG. These select a pre-programmed and selectable pattern and trigger it at the press of a button. Press the SEQ button to find a sequence you like and TRIG to trigger it. This is a clever addition to add movement and changes to a programmed sequence, for example.
The third and final row puzzled me at the beginning. Although I could see the clearly labelled VCO, LFO and EG, I failed to understand why the VCO knob didn’t feature at the top with the rest. It’s only by spending time with the unit that I realised that this was actually a very clever move. What this VCO knob does is to set the tuning of the Oscillators, so once it is made to track correctly, this will become the less useful knob, and having at the bottom left makes sense as this a kind of blind spot. The LFO offers three Waveforms: Square, Triangle and Sample and Hold. I really miss the saw and sine waves which are my two favourite waveforms for an LFO, but the ones on offer are ideal for most things and after a while I stopped pining for the others.
The SPEED knob does what it says on the tin, turning counter-clockwise to slow down the LFO, clockwise to speed it up. Finally, the envelope features the usual Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release options, and although there is only one Envelope and one LFO, the possibilities that the VERMONA offers are impressive and will cover any genre of electronic music you can think of.
For the modular geeks among us, there is also a Eurorack extension that connects via D-Sub and allows clever routing for effects such as FM synthesis, which is otherwise missing from the Mono Lancet.
Now that I’ve covered the layout, I can start answering the main question. How does it sound? In short, amazing!
The oscillators produce a really big and rich and dare-I-say fat sound, in total contrast with the size of the unit. With first oscillator offering Square, Saw and Triangle waves and the second providing Square, Saw and Noise, the Mono Lancet offers a lot of options to create a vast array of sounds, especially when the mix knob and detune come into play. From expansive warm bass, to fragile menacing pads, the difference in octaves between Osc 1 and 2 allows you to use the first one as a sub for a sound very similar to the sound of the mighty Minimoog.
In fact, the filter sounds resolutely “vintage” too with a strong moogish quality that gives this synth an always-musical and warm sound even when pushed hard. An additional switch lets you select the tracking mode from 0, 50 or 100 per cent, which is great when the resonance is pushed into self oscillation and you want to keep your sound melodic. The filter can be controlled via LFO or the bi-polar Envelope. The LFO on the VERMONA offers a choice of thee waveforms: Triangular, Square and Sample and Hold, and there’s the aforementioned speed button for control. The intensity of the LFO is situated in the row of what you want to affect (VCO or VCF) and the envelope can also affect the VCO and VCF, with the amount selected in the same way. I found that to get some sustain, I had to turn the sustain and release quite high before hearing a substantial tail to the sound, but after a little getting used to I could get pretty much anything I was looking for.
In use I found this synthesizer to be extremely versatile, and able to produce big and warm sounds in no time at all. Although bass, pads and leads are where the VERMONA Mono Lancet shines most, it is capable of producing some very credible kicks, snare drums and hi hat very easily. Extremely fat, present and warm, the VERMONA Mono Lancet oozes analogue goodness. I found it very easy to create incredible sounds with a few turns of knobs.
Of course, one could always wish for more, and some people might feel that having only one LFO, one envelope generator and no pulse width or FM on the unit itself can be limiting, but I feel this would be completely missing the point. What the VERMONA does it does it really well – giving a warm and powerful sound in no time – and it would most definitely be an asset to many productions. People looking for an affordable analogue monophonic synthesizer should seriously consider this one. It’s big and warm sound is very impressive. As a result, the Mono Lancet has now become an integral part of my setup.