Cherry Audio goes back to the pre-synth age as it releases Novachord and Solovox plugins

Perhaps Cherry Audio is running out of synths to emulate, as its latest plugins pay homage to two instruments from the pre-synth era: the Novachord and the Solovox.

This isn’t to besmirch either of these keyboards, which - in Cherry Audio’s words - “laid the foundation for contemporary synthesis methods.”

Both instruments hailed from the Hammond stable. First came the Novachord; debuting at the 1939 World’s Fair (WiFi reception was poor, according to reports) this was powered by 163 vacuum tubes and more than 1,000 capacitors. Perhaps more importantly - in historical terms at least - it also featured an early ADSR envelope and a resonant bandpass filter, both of which ended up becoming synth staples.

The Cherry Audio Novachord is a significantly enhanced beast that offers 32 polyphonic voices, a resonant bandpass filter network of three resonators, the Brilliant, Deep, and Full tone settings of the original, seven Attack/Decay/Sustain envelope options, adjustable depth vibrato, and an integrated reverb effect with Room and Hall algorithms.

The Novachord’s built-in amp and speakers have been emulated, too, and the look of the original - white Plakson and black Bakelite keys, teardrop levers and cherry wood - has also been replicated.

Fast-forward to 1940 (or backwards, depending on your perspective) and you’ll find Hammond’s Solovox hitting the market. This was a small monophonic instrument that was designed to be attached beneath a piano, giving the player access to organ-esque lead voices. 

This one was powered by a mere 18 tubes and, as well as those organ sounds, could also emulate string and woodwind tones. It remained in use until the 1960s, when the introduction of compact transistor organs rendered it all but obsolete. 

Back to the present day, and Cherry Audio’s interpretation arrives with combinable Bass, Tenor, Contralto and Soprano switches, First Voice and Second Voice two-pole bandpass filters with level controls and variable centre frequencies, Deep and Brilliant tone settings, adjustable glide and fixed-rate vibrato, a mute control to filter harmonics from the oscillator voice, and an integrated reverb effect with Room algorithm and speaker emulation.

Extra authenticity points are earned for the way the vacuum tubes light up and respond to changes in settings.

Taken as a whole, Cherry Audio’s Novachord + Solovox collection also offers 100 combined presets, flexible MIDI mapping, and its focus zoom-in feature. It’s available now for the introductory price of just $39 (rising to $59) and runs in VST/AU/AAX formats. A free 30-day demo is available, too.

Find out more on the Cherry Audio website. 

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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