Last week my Fizzbin bandmate John brought his new toy to Lower West Side Studio. It’s a duophonic, 2 oscillator synthesizer that fits in the palm of your hand. It’s the PL2 (pronounced “Pie Ell Squared”) from Ploytec GmbH.
This little beast pumps out some incredible sound from just a little package! This article is not a review of its features although they will be mentioned. There are plenty of YouTube videos featuring the PL2. I’m going to talk about hooking up the PL2 to a Roland A-300 Pro as well as tests with other gear by EMU, Moog and Yamaha.
The first test involved plugging the PL2 directly into the MIDI OUT port of the A-300 Pro. Polytec has been good enough to produce several templates for keyboard controllers and the A-300 is among them. We downloaded this to the A-300 using the Roland A-Pro Editor, plugged in the PL2, connected it to the amp and…. nothing : (
As I’ve mentioned in the past the A-300 is a very advanced device with numerous, and sometimes partially hidden, options. The A-300 has both USB and MIDI connections and getting them configured correctly is the trick. To connect the PL2 directly to the keyboard and have no software involved you must first shut off the USB MIDI Interface. That is done in the MIDI menu of the A-300. Press ACT + Left Arrow to call up the menu then scroll to MIDI SETTING.
Turn the MIDI I/F Switch to OFF. The USB Interface to the keyboard is no longer connected. You should note that you can still take power from the USB port with this setting.
At this point you can start playing the PL2. MIDI signals from the A-300 will be sent directly out the MIDI part to the PL2. Just make sure the A-300 is set to MIDI Channel 1 (the PL2 default).
Looking forward, however, we will have to connect both the PL2 and the A-300 to a computer. This is so that we can access a nice user interface to control the PL2 as well as allowing us to customize the layout of the A-300 as we see fit. Once we turn the USB interface back on we have to tell the A-300 to send MIDI IN signals it receives. Back in the MIDI SETTINGS Menu you must set the MIDI MERGE DEST to MIDI OUT.
You must also switch the MIDI I/F SWITCH back ON
At this point plinking away on the keyboard will no longer trigger the PL2. The MIDI IN signal is going into the USB port and vanishing into computer heaven. What we need now is software. There are two options available; the first is the Ploytec Editor which provides a nice user interface to control the PL2. The second is an Ensemble for Reaktor by Native Instruments. It is a really slick interface for the PL2 as well. One note is that while the Ploytec Editor already recognized the A-300’s controls (knobs and sliders) Reaktor did not and had to MIDI Learn the controls. No big deal but worth noting.
Setting up the Editor took a couple of tries to get the correct MIDI IN and OUT ports setup. What finally worked was this;
- MIDI In 1: A-Pro 1
- MIDI Out 1: A-Pro
- MIDI In 2: A-Pro 2
- MIDI Out 2: A-Pro MIDI Out
Our original mission was to connect the A-300 to the MIDI IN of an EMU ESI-2000. The EMU’s MIDI Thru port was then connected to the PL2. The PL2 was set to MIDI Channel 1 and the EMU to MIDI Channel 2. In this configuration the A-300 can control each sound module simultaneously through its Split and Dual modes. To make a long story short; this didn’t work. The EMU’s MIDI THRU port didn’t have what the PL2 needed to drive it and was subsequently added to Ploytec’s compatibility list as such.
The good news is that by adding a MIDI THRU box to the setup each sound module can be triggered without being connected to one another.
I also tested the PL2 with a Moog Sub 37 and a Yamaha Motif XF6. Both worked fine at triggering the PL2 but the Motif went one step better with the controls also working with the PL2.
So there it is; a fantastic little synthesizer with a big synthesizer sound for a very reasonable price!
Oh yes, one final note… I received excellent, prompt technical support for the one question I had!