Noise Lab Prime Mover is an advanced 3340-based analog oscillator from Sweden that is packed with sound shaping functions, here is my full review and sonic walkthrough.
In August 2020, Noise Lab from Sweden presented their first modules including a new analog oscillator, waveshaper, filter, and more. The modules have received a very positive response, especially due to their very eye-catching designs.
Almost a year has passed since the announcement and the modules are now available in Synthesizer stores around the world. Noise Lab kindly sent me its module to test. It starts with the Prime Mover oscillator, which I’ve been testing myself over the last few days.
Noise Lab Prime Mover
Prime Mover is the first Eurorack oscillator from the young Swedish company Noise Lab. Like many others, the developer relies on the well-known 3340 chip from Doug Curtis for its first sound generator. Many see this as a bit boring, uninspiring now because there are countless 3340 based oscillators from large and small developers. Yes, even very affordable in DIY format.
Noise Lab has come up with some nice addons for its Curtis oscillator, which makes it stand out from the crowd. But let’s start at the beginning.
Visually, Prime Mover gets the full number of points. With its gray, black and red design, the faceplate really stands out from the classic black/gray modules. The red circles above each knob that gives you an overview of the range of it, are nicely implemented. The same applies to the labeling, which is easy and clear to read.
The module is 16HP wide and is thus not the narrowest. Not ideal for small, space-saving systems. But since it is a bit bigger, the operation is very nice and welcoming. The knobs are well spaced and can also be used very well with thick fingers. So no comparison with slim modules. The seven knobs are also valuable and can score.
Curtis Core Refined
The core of the Prime Mover is the well-known 3340 Core from Doug Curtis. You can find it in the Oberheim OB-Xa, Sequential Prophet-5, Roland SH-101, Jupiter-6, and many other synthesizers. The module has four outputs, one for each available waveform (saw, triangle, pulse, and sine). In contrast to classic 3340 oscillators, the PM has two separate stages selectable with the I/II switch. The first for the classic signal, the second adds a waveshaper to the waveform signals. This makes the module much more interesting and varied.
Classic analog oscillators tend to get boring quickly because they lack shaping options. Here you have both, classic and spiced-up analog synthesis via a built-in waveshaper. The latter can also be animated with control voltage. It’s a little extra function that has a significant impact on the sound.
The fifth output provides a square-based sub-oscillator with selectable one or two octaves below the main pitch. If the primary oscillator signal is not fat and juicy enough, this can give it more power. Like giving him a bigger body. However, the Prime Mover is not reinventing the oscillator wheel. It is controlled like its friends with a 1V /Oct signal and has perfect pitch tracking with up to 10 octaves. There are three knobs with the usual tuning parameters. Octave, fine and coarse, whereby the octave rotary switch is locked and has 6 positions.
PM allows all waveforms to be routed out of the module at the same time. Since the waveshaper aka “Wave Cycle” is there for all waveforms, you can do interesting waveform blending when you route them all together in a mixer. Especially nice for evolving drones.
PWM, Sync & FM
I have good news for everyone who is not fully “shaper” satisfied with the built-in waveshaper. In addition to this, the Prime Mover hosts other modulation options such as hard & soft sync, linear & exponential FM, and pulse-width modulation. For the sync functionalities, there are two dedicated inputs available on the right side of the front panel. So you can easily sync the module with other oscillators and build the well-known sharp sync sounds.
The curve for the frequency modulation (FM) can be selected with a switch. The mod level potentiometer sets the amount of FM you want to infuse into the signal. A perfect functionality for crafting beautiful harmonic rich sounds that go far beyond the classic analog sounds. And thanks to both FM variants (exponential/linear), the user has double FM fun. The module also has PWM, but it is not recognizable at first glance. It is hidden on the first oscillator level and can be adjusted with the wave cycle. CV control over PWM is available via the wave mod input and is fully controllable with the mod level knob.
It also has a built-in portamento which is another nice addition that people like to use to notes in basslines/lead sounds together. And finally, you include a dedicated output to pass on the CV signal named CV thru. It’s a handy function if you want to add a second oscillator to your sequence.
Noise Lab has released a solid analog VCO with the Prime Mover. Yes, it is another 3340-based VCO, but one that goes beyond the usual feature set. With its built-in waveshaper, pulse sub-oscillator, and various modulation options, it offers every beginner as well as experienced Eurorack a wide range of sonic possibilities. The sound of the module convinced me from the first few minutes. Juicy and powerful, as you would expect from an analog oscillator. And in the case where you need more, the sub-oscillator is ready to give the signal another layer of analog goodness.
To be honest, I didn’t notice anything negative during the test. The only thing that can be criticized in a neutral way is the size of the module. At 16HP it is not the narrowest analog oscillator you can find on the market, for sure. But that is a very personal decision, whether you like a slim one or one that is a little bigger with more functions and butter-soft operation. A module has to be fun too, especially oscillators.
- interface design & layout
- advanced analog synthesis
- sub-oscillators + portamento
- sound quality
- module size
Noise Lab Prime Mover analog oscillator is available now for 360€/$375 USD.
More information here: Noise Lab
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