This is a short-term user review on the Sledge v2 synthesizer. I have had it for 3 weeks or so and will try to share my view of it until now. I will spare you from details such as inputs, outputs, weight, dimensions, oscillators specifications and the nice yellow finish (there is a version in black), and instead will focus on how it sounds and how it performs in a small home studio used by a hobbist. The instrument was plugged directly to a pair of Presonus Eris E4.5 monitors, which are suitable for home studio use.
The Sledge's interface, as many others have pointed out since v1, is heavily influenced by the MiniMoog. You program stuff from left to right and everything is accessible via the dedicated (and large) knobs, almost everything can be controlled in real-time and it is 1 knob per function. As I once read, it seems to have come from a time when men were men, synthesizers were synthesizers and PA speakers were scared to death.
Fatar provided the keybed, very good quality, fast and responsive for an instrument at this price point. One may argue that synthesizer A or B has a better feel without taking into consideration it certainly costs a lot more. The keys are velocity-sensitive and also feature the always desirable "aftertouch", however it is applied to the whole channel, but it is better than nothing. No, you are not going to do CS-80 or DX1 extravaganza with it. It has a flexible arpeggiator but no sequencer. It also serves well as a MIDI controller if you feel like using your DAW's sounds for some recording. There are 2 sets of effects that can be applied simultaneously: flanger/phaser/chorus, reverb/delay. Reverb and delay can be enabled at the same time, so you end up with 3 effects if you want.
The display is simple and will show the name of the current active preset and what category it belongs to. When navigating through the menus, it is 1 item at a time. Very straightforward. My unit came with a very strange OS version, v3.5, even though the latest one is v2.1, so I suspect someone installed the OS for the V1. I fixed this with the USB cable and downloading the OS image from Studiologic and then I re-uploded the factory preset file. It has 100 presets and a total of 999 memory spaces.
They are distributed into categories like Pad, Lead, Keys, FX, Atmosphere, and some of them are ready for immediate use such as the "Eight Brass", "Quadra-Trio" (a nice searing monophonic lead), most of the organ sounds and other effects. You may want to tweak things like Velocity, most of the presets, notably the leads, are set to 0 velocity, which means that all the sound comes out regardless of how fast or slow you press the key. Oscillator 1 allows you to select one of the 66 waveforms from PPG, vastly extending the kinds of sounds you can make in addition to sawtooth, square, sine, pulse... I suspect you are wondering if it sounds like synth X or Y. First, to get the most out of it, you will need to put some hours programming the thing, which is easy but takes time, specially when experimenting the PPG waveforms.
Being a virtual analog instrument with subtractive synthesis, it will naturally sound more like some instruments than others. For example, with the 3 oscillators you will get Moog-like sounds very easily, it has a resonant low/high/bandpass filter that can be switched between 12 and 24dB, ADSR for filter and amplifier, quite flexible. Within a few minutes I made the accompanying sound of Tom Sawyer (that simple arpeggio before the guitar solo and at the end) which is a very distinct Moog sound. But there is no way I could make it sound like an Oberheim, I mean, something that will make you mistake the real instrument. I have the plugin OB-Xd on my Mac, a faithful digital reproduction of the OB-X family, and made a sound there with 2 detuned oscillators and some changes in filtering/ADSR, then tried to replicate this on the Sledge using the same parameters, it just didn't sound similar.
To some extent I could make ARP Odyssey-like sounds with 2 oscillators, even its very distinct sound of square waves, but the Sledge lacks native Ring Modulation, though you can do some tricks with the wavetable. There is a patch called RingMod, which works ok but not to be compared to the Odyssey or the famous ring modulation of the CS-80. The wavetable has FM piano and sounds very good, but you can see it is obviously not a FM synthesizer.
The brass sounds will be Prophet-like, very good, and general sounds with square or pulse will be more like old Rolands. But so far I was unable to make exotic sounds from a D-50, for example, the flute sound with percussive noise such as that used by Rick Wakeman on Catherine Parr during his live performances in the 80s. And though the oscillator 1 can be used to modulate oscillator 2, and 2 to modulate 3, even using sine waves (there is also the triangle wave) you won't make it sound like an FM synthesizer, such as a DX7. It has frequency modulation, like older synths, but it is not the FM implementation made famous by Yamaha's digital instruments. If you want proper FM sound, buy a FM synthesizer or use those plugins like FM7 or Dexed (which still won't sound exactly like a DX7 even though mathematically both are FM).
You can upload up to 60MB of samples to be used by oscillator 1, not too much but better than nothing. I haven't tried yet, so I can't comment. If you are still wondering if it will make sounds like this synth or that, there is a channel in YT on which the presenter demonstrates, step by step, how to make on the Sledge some famous sounds, providing the exact parameters. And I have to say that the majority of them come closer than one might expect, so I believe the strength of this synthesizer is clear: it sounds like itself, but allows the user to get very close to sounds by the most distinct instruments.
When I purchased the Sledge I wasn't really expecting it to sound like this or that, it was an experience and I admit I am very, very pleased with what it can do. This versatility, 24 notes of polyphony, 3 oscillators and 3 different modulation sources, easy programming, semi-weighted keys with velocity and channel aftertouch, able to replicate many instruments, you don't get all of this at under 1000USD, which is the price point of the Sledge. I have no idea of what is its closest competitor, a polyphonic synthesizer with 5 octaves with that much flexibility. One will probably have to either compare it to older synthesizers or venture into workstation territory, and these will cost you at least 3x more for a 5 octave version. We can always mention the new Korg/ARP Odyssey, the Minilogue, Yamaha Reface CS or DX, Roland JD-Xi or the smaller Boutique modules, but they are either very specialized in what they do, I mean, they will sound exactly like themselves while the Sledge falls more into a grey zone assuming different identities, or they have just 2 and 3 octaves, or limited polyphony, or not enough dedicated real-time knobs/sliders.
There is the Yamaha MX61 with its 1000 presets from the big mamma Motif, which you can customize, but you need a computer and the editor to fully program the thing. There is the MoXF6, which is a stripped-down version of the Motif XF but still a very powerful workstation, costing you around 30% more than the Sledge. Keep in mind this thing was made to be a master controller for your studio, so if you are not a professional, chances are you won't use everything it offers. There are the Korg Kross and the Roland Junos, entry-level workstations, both will require navigating through menus and might more of sequencing features but at the cost of navigating into menus.
So depending on what you compare it to, there will always be a trade-off. However, not everything is perfect, the v2 is what people think the v1 should have been, with its lots of bug fixes. There are still some quirks, like stepping when changing certain parameters while playing a note (detuning an oscillator or changing the cutoff with certain parameters), it is not as smooth as in other digital synthesizers, some MIDI issues that need the OS v2.1 for a workaround, the modulation will always be at maximum if you leave the expression pedal set to modulation in the configuration, but no pedal is connected to the keyboard. Very small quirks, but I can live with them.
For a home studio it is an all-in-one instrument: a complete synth, a FX generator, a MIDI controller. Unlike the monstrous workstations, that you have to justify paying what they cost if you are just a hobbist, and are often loaded with features you will never use unless you are a full-time professional, they are generally much better than you are. The Sledge is as good as you are, the features are very accessible and are more an experience of trying and making sound than hours of reading manuals and watching demos to properly understand what they do. And for under 1000USD, make no mistake, this versatile instrument will surprise you, specially when playing it loud.
There are many demos online, but if you want to know how it sounds when recorded, check my remix of Journey to Silius, the first 2 synth solos were played on the Sledge. The interface used was a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd gen: