Novation Summit Review – The Latest Polysynth

Novation Summit Review

Novation has made a name for themselves in the keyboard world over the years and lately, they have been coming on strong. With the impressive release of the SL MK III recently, they now have launched the Novation Summit; a 16 voice poly-synth.

Today we are going to be diving deep into a full review of the Novation Summit and I think you will enjoy this read.

It is my opinion that overall, the Novation Summit is a powerful beast and it will definitely please certain synth enthusiasts. Instantly, it makes me compare it to the Prophet 12 and I think this is a great spot to be for Novation since the Prophet 12 has been so successful. The Summit comes loaded with aftertouch and I personally love this. Also, For Novation Peak lovers, this is basically two Peaks in one.

In short, this is Novations best synthesizer yet. It comes with five octaves, aftertouch, velocity sensitivity and a sturdy metal base.

Let’s get into the review more in-depth below.

Novation Summit Review

The Novation Summit is an impressive keyboard and there are some things that jump out at me. As you can see, it resembles the Novation Bass Station in the looks department and in the sound department, it resembles the Peak.

I mentioned above the Prophet 12 as these are similar synths. Novation did a great job at coming in at a price smaller than Dave Smith Instruments.

A big reason that I’m big on this synth is that it is something you will still get use out of 10 years from now. with 48 oscillators, you can really dig deep with this bad-boy.

Key Features

  • Polyphony – 16 Voice polyphony
  • Voice Modes – 5 : Mono, MonoLG, Mono2, Poly, Poly2
  • Oscillators – 48 (3 per voice)
  • Modes: Layered, Split, Bi-timbral
  • LFO’s – 2
  • Ring Modulator: 1
  • Noise Generator: 1
  • Waveforms: Triangle, Saw, Square, Pulse
  • Pre and Post Filter Distortion
  • 16 Modulation Slots Per Patch
  • Aftertouch
  • Software Included: Ableton Live Lite

Play Two Patches At The Same Time

With this synth, you can split the keys and pick two separate patches. This works for times when you want a lead in the right hand and say a bass in the left.

For fans of the Peak, the workflow on the Summit is very similar. To me, this is a smart choice by Novation considering so many people enjoy the Peak.

The Oscillators

Novation is a big fan of using digital oscillators. Some synth players may instantly not like that. However, Novation uses the same oxford oscillators from the Peak. People whole love the Peak also love the oscillators. The reason is simple: it still has analog filters.

My main thing is to just go off of how it truly sounds. Digital oscillators get a reputation for sounding brittle and harsh. However, on the Prophet 12 and on the Summit, I don’t really agree.

The Oxford oscillators are capable of classic waveforms, FM and wavetable synthesis. If you’re a synth junky, then the chances are you’re going to love these features. I was able to spend hours messing around in this department of the Summit.

The Filters

These oscillators point to true analog filters that also include 3 stages of analog distortion. Analog distortion is loved in the synth world due to its roots. If you’re familiar with the Beatles and Led Zepplin, this is the type of distortion they would use.

Digital distortion isn’t as sought after as analog. This type of distortion can be created by different plug-ins.

Dual Filters

The Summit has dual filters that can be switched between six paired combinations of low pass, high pass, and bandpass.

The Keys

The key-bed on the Novation Summit is a custom-built bed that synth lovers will definitely dig. You will find this same key-bed on the SL MK III controller that Novation has. The thought here for Novation was, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

It is 5 octaves, semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive and it has aftertouch. Aftertouch is the big one here. If you like to have control of your synths and want the ability to set parameters to this, then you will enjoy aftertouch.


The Novation Summit comes with channel AT. Channel AT means that the aftertouch value will be sent globally for the entire MIDI channel.

Below is a great video that shows a demo of polyphonic aftertouch and channel aftertouch.

Note: A majority of modern synths are going to come with channel aftertouch. You can read more about polyphonic aftertouch and mono aftertouch here.

On-Board Arpeggiator

The Summit packs an onboard arpeggiator that allows you to arpeggiate some of your favorite patches. The arps sounds immediately reminded me of something you would hear straight out of a Daft Punk song.

USB/MIDI Capability

This synth can be run as a MIDI controller and the functionality here is great. You will notice that the Summit comes with Ableton Live Lite. This is the free DAW version that is everything you need when starting out.

Synth Engine

I mentioned above that the Summit is basically two peaks in one. With 16 voices and 3 oscillators per voice, the Summit reaches 48 oscillators total.

My favorite part of this synth is that you can switch the entire synth between to independently controlled setups. If you have the time to dig in, you can truly create an incredibly unique setup with the Summit. This reminds me of something that the band Foster the People would do.

Another nice thing is that the Summit can use all of the Peak patches that you have.

When comparing this synth to other great synths, one that comes to mind would be the Moog Matriarch. I believe the Summit puts up a strong fight and you can read a full review of the Moog Matriarch for comparison here.

No Built-In Sequencer

This is one of the only negativities with the Summit. Having no built-in sequencer will bum some synth players out, but for some, it may not be the end of the world.


The Summit has stood the test of time and is such a great piece of hardware. When talking to other musicians, they tend to share the same thoughts on the Summit as I do after spending some serious time with it.

Are you excited about the Novation Summit? What are your thoughts on this synth? Let me know in the comments below!

1 comment
  1. [Summit => keyboard = chan-AT, BUT engine = poly-AT]
    The Novation Summit has a channel aftertouch physical keyboard, but the internal engine is capable of processing both channel aftertouch MIDI messages and key/finger/polyphonic aftertouch MIDI messages.
    I managed to get a grip on an Elka Mk88, a very famous 88 piano key MIDI controller WITH polyphonic aftertouch, a rarity and once set up correctly to output polyphonic aftertouch messages (“touch poly” on the “aftertouch” row), the Summit reveals itself.
    The ASM Hydrasynth, which has a physical polyphonic keyboard, is thus caught up on this subject by the Summit with the right keyboard setup, though I admit it’s difficult to achieve it owing to the sparseness of polyphonic keyboards these days. A note though, the Hydrasynth aftertouch is easier to trigger (sometimes too easy) compared to an Mk88, where I sometimes have the impression I have to stand up to put all my weight on keys to get a good effect and curves don’t make it way easier (maybe it’s too old and sensitivity weared off, maybe a MIDI insert applying a custom curve might help if going through a DAW). Thus strangely, the best setup would be to use the Hydrasynth keyboard to drive easily the poly-AT of the summit, the height of the irony.
    It was fun to play the Summit and Hydrasynth in detuned layered mode (HS set to 441 Hz) with a reproduction of Sawpressive patch on the Summit and both in poly-AT thanks to the Mk88. Fantastic results!

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