Review: Polyphylla Max for Live Additive Synth

So, you're looking for an unusual, inventive, additive synthesizer? You use Ableton Live? Then Mellisonic's Polyphilla (Max for Live instrument) should be on your radar! Timo Preece checks it out.  

Berlin based Mellisonic recently released a new Max For Live Instrument aimed to make additive synthesis more straightforward, accessible, and enjoyable without compromising complex sound sculpting capabilities. Polyphylla is an inventive Ableton Live add-on pack for Live 9 Suite or Live 9 Standard plus Max for Live users. 


Enter the domain of additive synthesizers and you’re susceptible to getting lost in a clunky tangled maze of partials, harmonics and overtones. Polyphylla transforms additive synthesis from being clumsy and laborious into a simple and fluid process. Thanks to its visual stratagem to sound manipulation, the interface is distinctly engaging but exceedingly user-friendly. 

Polyphylla Main

This unique synthesizer brings forth a refreshing approach as it enables users to draw simple shapes to control a huge set of parameters simultaneously. By employing mathematical models based on contours that delineate natural phenomena, Polyphylla is capable of producing distinctive sounds that transform organically and/or quite dramatically over time.

Polyphylla transforms additive synthesis from being clumsy and laborious into a simple and fluid process.

From the Source

Under the hood, Polyphylla is an eight-voice additive synthesizer with up to 120 overtones per voice coupled to an analogue-style noise generator, each with its own multimode filter. The Source section offers three ways to generate sound.  

Morph: Morphs between fixed waveforms - suitable for basses, strings and pads.

Polyphylla Source 1

Atonal: Randomly choose inharmonic overtones - befitting for drone, pad, or bell-like sounds.

Source 2 Atonal

Manual: Adjusts the amplitude of the partial sets.  

Source 3 Manual

Motion Motif

Sounds, in their own right, are simply not very riveting unless they transform over time. Therefore, time-variant parameters are essential for crafting compelling design.  

Polyphylla Motion

Polyphylla’s unique Motion Effects section applies various motion effects to the sound source. Employ this to create lush, evolving, untamed and/or experimental movement effortlessly with four different settings… Sweep, Attractor, Deform and Drift. Depending on the selection, the outcome can be subtle, organic, or dramatically abstract and wild. Craft your design further by applying any of the nine modulation sources to vary the Motion Effects or other practical destinations. 

Modulation Sources

Visualize It 

Polyphylla displays informative real-time visual feedback concerning the partials. Their playback is instantly updated by the 2D Spectrum and 3D Motion Views.


Motion View displays a visualization of the magnitudes of partials evolving over time. Click and drag to draw a curve as a motion motif in the Motion Motif Editor and observe the results in the Motion Visualizer. Depending on the Motion Effect in use, the curve will be applied differently to each partial. Each curve represents one partial, with the low frequency partials at the front and the high frequency partials to the rear… time progresses from left to right.

With the Harmony Effect as I was able to detune partials swiftly in many beguiling varieties. 

I found the visualization especially helpful for understanding what was transpiring sonically. Moreover, it assisted in envisioning new possibilities graphically. This functionality in turn, combined with the well laid out interface, makes Polyphylla an intuitive synth and an appreciable educational tool.

Motion Presets


Polyphylla has an on-board effects section containing ring mod, chorus, reverb, and five different modes for harmonic modulation and spatialization. I particularly enjoyed playing around with the Harmony Effect as I was able to detune partials swiftly in many beguiling varieties. 

Harmony Effect

Tweak and thicken your patch with the additional miscellaneous effects. Sweep the frequency of the Ring Modulator to make your sounds otherworldly. Set Chorus to Random and dial in a bit of reverb to create a beautiful ambient drone that is perpetually in subtle or dramatic motion.


Polyphylla is an affordable engaging instrument worth checking out. The motion and harmony effects alone make it a unique tool. If your arsenal is missing a bit of good old additive synthesis, this is a good place to start. It will certainly bring another dimension to your sound palette while helping you visualize your ideas in new ways.

For additional information, check out the manual:


Price: 39€ (You can purchase Polyphylla at Ableton’s web store.)

Pros: Straightforward, accessible way into additive synthesis. Interesting new interface for quickly dialing in evocative sounds. Visualizer helpful for envisioning new possibilities graphically. Unique Motion and Harmony effects.

Cons: Missing some standard controls such as pitch bend for global retuning



Timo Preece (Certified Ableton Trainer, ProTools Expert) is an accomplished audio technologist, multi-media consultant, sound designer and electronic musician. He graduated with a degree in Ethnomusicology from UCLA and a Masters in Sound Design at the University of Edinburgh, UK. From conceptualizing and building cutting-edge setu... Read More


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