The shift in the music production community back towards analog has been a growing trend the last few years with Ebay being proof as vintage gear continues to rise in value, and with that comes the next generation of everlasting studio gear. When it comes to analog audio equipment, it's hard to argue that anyone makes it better than the Germans, and leading the analog renaissance as of late is Vermona, who released their line of high end desktop units including the Filter Lancet, a compact but versatile machine dedicated to shaping any sound with their renowned crisp sounding filter.
The entire line of Vermona Lancets (Filter, Retroverb, Kick, Mono) are housed inside of sturdy black/dark brown steel enclosures and come with the option of upgrading to include wooden sides for an authentic vintage look. The Filter Lancet features single input and output 1/4 inch jacks and CV and pedal inputs on the back, as well as an overkill button to act as on/off, while an array of ridged beige knobs and metal switches headline the front/top panel. Some of the modules shown here are also included on the other units, for example the Retroverb Lancet comes with the same filter, LFO and envelope generator just like the Filter Lancet, albeit for a slightly steeper price.
CUT TO THE CHASE
The good: Taking up minimal space on your desk and at an affordable cost, Vermona's Filter Lancet gives you easy access to high quality sound manipulation including filter cutoff, resonance, and an entire LFO section that really brings the unit to life.
The bad: Nothing to note here but keep in mind this is an analog machine so can only be used to receive, manipulate, and send audio signals, no midi.
The dealbreaker: The high quality multimode filter featuring +-24db high pass or low pass filters and +-12db band pass filter are the heart and soul of the Filter Lancet and sound impressive as we expected, while signature controls like the balls knob and an envelope generator bring out the ingenious of the new design.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Looking at the individual components of the Lancet, to begin with there's an input section with a gain and drive control, and an output section offering mix and volume controls with a bypass switch to disable all sections of the unit. This row acts as the overall control and should be the starting point to get sound coming through the filter, while the top and bottom rows of knobs are where the fun really starts to happen.
The multimode voltage controlled filter (VCF) section is obviously the central focus of the Lancet and can be configured as +-24db low pass, high pass or +-12db band pass filters. The filter module offers controls including a mode switch to select the filter type, a unique balls knob to subtly highlight specific frequencies for a nice tonal variation, and a larger cutoff knob to indicate it's importance as the main attraction for the entire unit, sculpting the sound by removing frequencies starting at either the high or low end. To the right of the cutoff is the resonance control which emphasizes the cutoff frequency, adding a colour to the sound and at higher values beginning to self-oscillate and generate a sine wave at the cutoff frequency.
The filter cutoff and resonance are the two essential controls of any filter unit, digital or analog. The cutoff control on the filter lancet, when in high pass, will remove frequencies below the cutoff point (the low end), and allow high frequencies to pass through, while in low pass it will remove frequencies above the cutoff point (the high end), allowing only the low frequencies to pass through. The band pass option operates with both high and low pass filters, in that when rotating clockwise it will act as a high pass filter and when turned left it will be a low pass, the only difference here being that you can only get to plus or minus 12 decibels where as you have a range of 24 decibels in both high or low pass mode. The ability to quickly switch between the three modes on the Filter Lanet really lets you decide which is right for the sound, as each will manipulate it in very different ways; the low pass resulting in a muffled sound that when slowly opened is a rising effect very common in dance music today, while the high pass filter is well versed as a mixing technique to remove important low frequencies so as not to clash with incoming song components.
The bottom row on the Filter Lancet features two interesting additions to the entire line of Lancet series from Vermona that are well worth checking out. The low frequency oscillator (LFO) is a modulation generator that takes frequencies and uses them to create cyclic repeating modulations, the depth or speed of which is determined by a specific control next to the waveform shape selector, which gives you 6 standard wave shapes to allow for endless combinations of modulation. With a variable frequency range of 0.05Hz to 300Hz the Filter Lancet's LFO adds some serious life to the unit. While there might not be quite enough features on the LFO to make it your go-to modulation generator, it comes in handy when experimenting with different input sounds, as you're able to hear the full spectrum of cutoff frequencies of the desired range.
Next to the LFO section is an envelope generator which has proven to be quite useful already. Basically you set the precise attack and decay/release of the envelope and send the filtered sound into it, producing a perfect sample every time. These additions of the envelope generator and LFO aren't required by any means for a desktop filter but the fact that Vermona is including them at such an accessible price point is great, and one of the reasons why the Lancet series including a reverb, kick, and mono (synth) unit are finding their way into studios everywhere. Here's what the Lancet looks like with those slick wooden sides.