Cherry Audio Mercury-4 review: an unusual vintage synth reborn

Price $ 39
Contact Cherry Audio

Cherry Audio continues to lead the way in recreating legendary synths at affordable prices with the Mercury-4, which comes right after Memorymode. This time it’s a recreation and extension (of course) of the classic Roland Jupiter-4, which appeared on countless pop albums in the late 1970s and 1980s. Even among retro hardware synths is a rare model, but luckily the developers managed to get their hands on and model an original unit owned by Greg Hawkes of the new wave group The Cars.

Supplied in standalone, VST, AU, and AAX formats, this is a remarkably light installation at around 10MB per instance. In the instrument, you can authorize the software online and automatically check for updates. Setup is quick and easy, and you can enable MPE MIDI support if needed, with a window on the side that can be shown or hidden and used to edit and manage MIDI learn assignments. You can effectively create them throughout the synth by right-clicking almost any control and binding hardware elements such as dials or faders to MIDI CC values.

The layout of the synth is fairly faithful to the original but with a few practical additions. Everything you need is visible at all times and menu navigation is not necessary. When this approach is taken in software synthesizers, it makes them easier to learn and more intuitive to experience and navigate. You never fail to understand something because some controls are hidden somewhere. Just like on the hardware, every parameter is there to see.

Cherry Audio Mercury-4

Sound generation begins with the VCO section. The developers note that the implementation of the oscillator in the original hardware was a bit odd. While its square wave is relatively normal, the sawtooth has a “stepped” wave that changes shape across the frequency spectrum, becoming coarser as the pitch increases. There’s a four-stop Range control, a Sub switch that adds a square wave one octave below the current range selection, and an LFO that adds an oscillation that you set up in the LFO section to the left of the VCO section. You can adjust the pulse width manually or to one of four preset depth settings. The Master Tuning and Drift knobs allow for subtle or extreme changes, with Drift in particular bringing very retro uncertainty to pitch when pushed harder.

The noise section of the synth helps add texture to the signal, then there are VCF and VCA sections for dynamic filtering and shaping of the sound, adding more movement and envelope shaping to the sound. .

While most Roland synths were difficult to distort, the Jupiter-4 was not. And the developers have faithfully modeled this characteristic. They even suggest using the master volume and VCA level controls to drive the signal, which produces a dreadful, heavy biting edge to the sounds.

Another unusual feature among vintage synths is the Trigger section, which lets you adjust the sample and sustain rates of the arpeggio and filter independently of the LFO speed. You can sync it to the main tempo or adjust it manually to create complex, mobile patches. For example, you can make the arpeggio run slowly while the LFO runs fast, modulating pitches, filters, and more. The result is similar to the sort of thing you can get from modular systems, more complex than you would expect from polysynth but without any of the tedious fixes.

Cherry Audio Mercury-4

There are several abilities beyond the original Jupiter in Mercury-4. At the base level, where the original only had four voices of polyphony, this version has up to 16 voices, switchable on the front panel. It also adds speed detection, MPE, and of course, infinite patch storage. There are also tons of cool stuff in the effects section. The arpeggiator is again unusual in that it doesn’t have an on / off switch – you’re either in Arp mode with its various behavior parameters, or in Assign mode with its Mono, Poly, or Unison parameters. The final of these offers a variable Detune for a particularly retro feel. The arp also doesn’t have a range control, but bases its range of motion on the octave of the keyboard you’re playing on. It takes some familiarization but produces beautifully melodic results. A simple chord knob lets you preset a key chord template, then tailor that template to each key you play, making it easy to create house-style chord melodies.

As for the effects, there’s the whole scene from the original, with variable stereo width for excellent “boggy” sound, and a new tape echo scene with seven modes, three tape heads. virtual and sync and depth controls you need to add depth and echo tails. It’s easy to conjure up anything from simple dubbing to mind-blowing dub effects with it. A simple reverb stage and two-band EQ complete the effects section. Also note the Bender section at the bottom left. The original had a joystick but no modulation wheel, so you can set up varying amounts of control of the VCO, VCA, and VCF sections using the bender, producing some interesting creative results.

Cherry Audio Mercury-4Cherry Audio Mercury-4

Cherry Audio’s preset browser lets you browse sounds grouped, sorted by category and spanning a wide range, from powerful bass to analog drums and kicks, to searing tracks, spacious sequences and even chords and the house style shots. It’s remarkable how versatile its sounds are. Even using or adjusting the presets, you can find lush and exciting patches and textures that suit everything from techno and pop, sound design and scoring. It’s a pleasure to play and to experiment, accessible to less experienced players but with a lot of depth for those who want to go deeper. And all of this for just $ 39 makes it a real bargain.

Main characteristics

  • Requires Mac OS 10.9+, Windows 7+
  • Requires 64-bit quad-core processor, 8GB RAM
  • Available in VST, VST3, AU, AAX and standalone
  • 16 voice polyphony
  • MPE support
  • Unique original behaviors recreated
  • Roland Space Echo FX Stage
  • Powerful arpeggiator
  • Curvature section for creative control
  • Extensive detuning options
  • Detailed sound shaping controls
  • Chord mode
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