Owning an XpressO Synth

Updated 15 Jan 2020

I’ve owned a DynaSample XpressO (XO) synthesizer since Febrary 2019 and I’m still learning about it. The developer, Ingo, has been very supportive. It’s a great synth, but it’s complicated, the User Manual is not up-to-date, and the display is not intuitive. I thought that I’d like to document all the items that confused me. It may help others.

I will be adding to this summary as the synth develops, and as I use more features.

So, in no particular order, here goes…

Preset Storage

The XO comes with Factory Banks F0-F8 and User Banks U0-U9 of 128 slots each. The Factory banks cannot be changed and contain presets for a large range of instruments. Each of the Factory banks groups similar types of presets (eg Wind instruments for wind controllers, Keyboard instruments for wind controllers, etc), and many of the presets appear multiple times over the various categories. The idea is that you save your favourite factory presets into the User Banks, and and then edit them to meet your taste.

You can change the currently selected bank by pressing the left two buttons together, using the right knob to choose the bank name, and clicking the right knob to select it. You can change the name of your User banks to suit your needs. For instance, I have a “General Purpose” bank with presets I use regularly, and a “Busking” bank where the instruments are mostly defaulted to “C” transpose so I can use them with backing tracks.

Configurations

The various settings of the synth (as opposed to the instrument sound presets) can be saved and loaded. These settings include things like be the way various MIDI instruments are configured, the default volume, the default reverb, etc. There are hundreds of settings. This function is found in the Utilities>Internal Backup. You can save to one of 5 locations (named 1-5).

This function is useful for, say, different gigs you play at, or for different instrument combinations you use.

USB Instruments

When you plug in a USB instrument, the XO assigns an input number/letter to it. This can be A, B, C or D. The XO tells you when you plug in the instrument which input it has been assigned to. You can also find out after plugging in by calling up the Midi Monitor (pressing button 3 and 4 together) and playing a few notes. You can then configure settings for that particular instrument by adjusting settings for its input letter. Adjustments that I have found useful are:

  • Global>Create Velocity From Dynamic CC. This allows you to ignore the velocity sent by the instrument, and determine it from the CC value after a certain time delay. This is used for instruments that don’t send good values of velocity (the Aerophone is one)
  • Global>Dynamic Control Selection. This configures the incoming CC number, the curve used, and the % multiplier. For instance the Aerophone uses CC2 and needs a multiplier around 175%
  • Utilities>USB MIDI Input Offset. This increments the input letter that the XO assigns to USB instruments. A reason for using this is that if you use the DIN MIDI socket (and that is always assigned to input A), and you will want USB devices to be assigned to higher values, so as not to conflict.

EWI-USB Setup

The XO provides the ability to configure the EWI-USB when you plug it in. You can turn on or off the sending of a SysEx message to the instrument to configure it. If you have a EWI-USB you need to check these settings prior to plugging it in for the first time – your settings in the instrument may be overwritten. The on/off setting is located in Utilities>Transmit EWI SysEx at Startup and Reset, and the EWI settings are located in the 4 options following that one.

Mastertune

I always realised that I could tune the synth to match other instruments, but never had to do it, until, at a performance one really hot day all the other instruments in a concert band I play with were playing sharp, and the conductor asked me to re-tune. I was insulted! My instrument was beautifully tuned…. So I had to learn quickly – How much do I retune? Here’s a handy hint:

The synth is tuned to 440.0Hz, and that is what is shown on the display when you call up Utilities>Mastertune. The smallest difference in pitch that most people can detect is around 10cents (one tenth of a semitone). At 440Hz that is equivalent to about 2.5Hz. So changing by less than 2.5Hz is a waste of time. Try numbers like 2.5, 5.0, 7.5Hz (10, 20, 30cents). Failing that, just remember that the right-hand knob clicks once per cent, so 10 clicks are 10 cents are 2.5Hz

Reverb, Ambience, Delay

Sometimes you want a quick way to adjust the above settings for everything. This is done by going to Global>Reverb, Global>Ambience, and Global>Delay, as appropriate. You can turn them on/off or adjust the levels/type. Each preset has its own versions of these, but these settings are the overall control.

Autotranspose

This function is in Global>Transposition settings, or by pressing buttons 2 and 3 together. I have set Autotranspose to “on”, so what happens is that a preset that has its Autotranspose Interval set to -2 will be automatically transposed to that when it is loaded. If Autotranspose is set “off”, then no transposition is done unless you do it manually. I change the names of the presets so that they include the Autotranspose Interval (e.g. “C Clarinet”).

Editing Presets

Firstly, let me say that I am no expert here. The only times I have done editing of presets is when the sound has annoyed me enough, which hasn’t been often. I thought here I’d mention the most frequent edits I do.

  • Edit>Legato Transition. This controls how one note changes to the next note when played in legato mode – when you slur onto the next note. Refer to the manual for the descriptions of the individual settings. I find that tweaking them individually from min to max gives you a feel for what they do. the adjustments are made immediately, so you can fiddle and test at the same time.
  • Edit>Breath Noise Amount. This controls the background breath noise. Again, refer to the manual for the descriptions of the individual settings. I find that tweaking them individually from min to max gives you a feel for what they do.
  • Edit>Autotranspose Interval. This controls the interval that the pitch of the preset is adjusted if the Autotranspose option is on. If it is set to -2 for a clarinet preset, then when the instrument plays a “C”, a “Bb” will sound. See discussion above about Autotranspose
  • Edit>4 Band Equalizer Settings. I’ve found that the response of my loudspeaker/amp is a factor in how “realistic” a preset sounds. In particular some of the bass response “booms” too much. This feature adjusts the output of the preset in 4 different frequency bands, and I’ve had to reduce the bass frequencies for the presets that cause problems.
  • Edit>Edit Preset name. This enables you to change the name of the preset. This is useful for when you have made a significant change to the preset, such as changing the Autotranspose interval, and you want to differentiate it from other presets.

Update History

  • 15 Jan 2020 – fixed typos
  • 14 Jan 2020 – Original