You could, conceivably, get away with never installing a plugin synth, simply using the ones that came with your, but where would be the fun in that? The software instrument market is now so large and diverse that you could spend a lifetime exploring it and still never run out of new sounds.
You can choose from the latest generation of CPU-busting supersynths, classic hardware emulations that often - whisper it - improve on the originals, sample-based monsters that come stuffed with great-sounding presets, and out-there instruments that encourage experimentation. In its original incarnation we found Retrologue to be a surprisingly capable synthesizer, and one that makes a real virtue of its relative simplicity. Its one-window approach means that creating and tweaking sounds is very quick, but it also sounds good. Each of its oscillators has a range of interesting shaping options, its filters do a good job, and it can create authentic analogue-style sounds and textures - to the extent that we have used it far more than we care to admit. Included with Cubase and also available on its own, Retrologue 2 is not a radical overhaul but it expands its capabilities in a few significant areas. The two main oscillators have been joined by a third with a similar feature set, with the existing sub-oscillator, noise source and (slightly expanded) ring-modulator capabilities still in place. The effects section has been overhauled, modulation is greatly enhanced - with two additional LFOs and a multipurpose bipolar envelope - and there’s a 32-step arpeggiator.
In a world inhabited by numerous virtual analogue synths, one would be forgiven for not paying much attention to Steinberg's Retrologue. However, that would be a mistake. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 2 of 51 Next Prev Page 2 of 51 Next.
Released in 2002, the original Oddity perfectly captured the character of the original ARP Oddysey upon which it was based. And that must have posed a bit of a problem for GForce: how could something so on-the-nose be improved for v2?
Well, if Oddity sounded like a real Odyssey (which it did), then Oddity2 sounds almost like an entire revision history of the instrument, thanks to its greatly expanded filters, supercharged by the X-LFO and X-ADSR, which give it the ability it to produce sounds of far greater complexity than could ever be had from the original. Oh, and it's polyphonic now, too. So, what we have here is a spot-on emulation of the classic ARP Odyssey in its various incarnations, with some very well thought-out new features as well. 5 out of 5 READ: BUY: GForce Software Oddity2 currently available from: US: Prev Page 3 of 51 Next Prev Page 3 of 51 Next. Predator 2 sticks with the same largely skeumorphic design as its predecessor, and keeps all the main synthesis controls immediately accessible from the front.
With its considerably expanded architecture, this results in an even busier interface than before. The layout remains perfectly logical and it doesn't take long to learn your way around, certainly, but synthesis novices will have a hard time relating to it - which is where the new Easy Mode comes in. This is a much sparser GUI containing just the most important synthesis controls, the X/Y Pad and the Variation feature, which enables a variable degree of randomisation to be applied to the synth parameters and/or the FX section. Thanks to some new features, an overhauled audio engine, awesome wave mixing and, er, wavetabling, and an effects rack that still qualifies as one of the best in the business, Predator 2 sounds simply phenomenal, whether it's belting out gut-punching basses, razorblade leads, ear-tingling pads or intricate FX. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 4 of 51 Next Prev Page 4 of 51 Next. This is the successor to Trilogy - the bass instrument that was released in 2003 - and the second product (after Omnisphere) to be powered by Spectrasonics’ Steam engine.
The 34GB library contains acoustic and electronic bass samples, and patches are built from one or two layers (up to eight patches can be layered together to create a multi). A serious number of processing options are onboard, though the simple interface means that you never feel overwhelmed. If you own Trilian, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever need to look anywhere else for your bass sounds, and that’s got to go down as a high recommendation. 4 out of 5 READ: BUY: Spectrasonics Trilian currently available from: UK: US: Prev Page 5 of 51 Next Prev Page 5 of 51 Next. Spectral isn’t an iZotope Iris-style spectral synth, but instead one built on an additive architecture, fronted by a subtractive interface, making it easy to use but capable of potentially more interesting sounds than a virtual analogue. A Spectral patch starts with four oscillator sections, each with its own filter and amp/filter envelopes. Further modulation is on tap in the shape of three more envelopes and five LFOs, assignable in the modulation matrix.
There are also six effects slots with 14 types, from regular Reverb, Delay, Flanger and Chorus to the more creative Gator, Wah-Wah, Filter and Crusher, plus a dedicated Master EQ. A powerful 32-step Arpeggiator with modulation-only mode, and a chord memory finish off the main furnishings. If the idea of hand-designing unique textures right down to the raw oscillator level appeals, with its friendly interface, easy learning curve and superb, characterful sound, Spectral could well be the synth for you.
4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 6 of 51 Next Prev Page 6 of 51 Next. A modelled emulation of the exquisitely rare RSF PolyKobol 2 analogue synthesizer, PolyKB III is a three-oscillator, dual filter analogue-style polysynth with a matrix-driven modulation system, a built-in polyphonic sequencer, a handful of effects, and an interface that’s more intuitive than it looks. The design of the oscillators is one of its defining features, as their waveforms are continuously morphable from triangle through saw, then double saw, to a square wave that progressively narrows down to a thin pulse. There’s really nothing PolyKB can’t turn its hand to, from thumping basses, writhing leads and delicate bells to elaborate polyphonic sequences, dense arps, textures, soundscapes and anything else where motion and dynamics are key. And despite the age of the hardware being modelled, PolyKB III has a surprisingly modern sound, presumably thanks to the many modifications made by XILS to the original blueprint.
4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 7 of 51 Next Prev Page 7 of 51 Next. Included with Komplete 11 and Komplete 11 Ultimate (and available separately), Form is Native Instruments' new 'sample-tracking synthesizer'. Loading in Reaktor 6 or the free Reaktor Player, its core concept is very straightforward: load a sample, either from the sizeable bundled library or your own collection, then select a range within it to serve as an 'oscillator', and design a path for the constant movement of the playhead through that range. Deep but accessible oscillator and effects processing, and a comprehensive modulation setup bring the spice.
Form is a lot like a wavetable synth in the way it scans through samples, but with a more 'contiguous' approach. It's an instrument for those who enjoy sonic exploration, rather than those seeking instant results - although there are some fine basses and leads presets, its clear speciality is intricate soundscapes, evolving pads, spacey textures and burbling, skittish electronica in general. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 8 of 51 Next Prev Page 8 of 51 Next. MPowerSynth is a three-oscillator instrument (VST/VST3/AU) with a noise generator, two filters and effects. Simple enough on paper, but in typical Melda style, this one goes way beyond the basics. At its core are three ultra-flexible aliasing-free oscillators, each operable in one of two modes: Normal or Harmonics. Despite a rather uninspiring GUI, MPowerSynth definitely lives up to its confident name.
Our only major criticism is that the CPU hit can easily head skyward as patches get complex, but other than that, this is an awesomely powerful, great-sounding synth that everyone needs to hear and try. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 9 of 51 Next Prev Page 9 of 51 Next. It looked as if Z3TA+ was going nowhere (in terms of development at least), until v2 was unexpectedly released in 2011. While the interface has had a significant functional and aesthetic makeover, the synthesis architecture hasn't changed. However, the sound quality stands up to other modern soft synths, especially since it's now more feasible to pile on lots of oscillators and leave the 2x oversampling on as standard. Those who will get the most out of Z3TA+ 2 will be hardcore synthesists and sound designers, for whom a world of aural exploration awaits.
4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: Cakewalk Z3TA+2 currently available from: US: Prev Page 10 of 51 Next Prev Page 10 of 51 Next. Operating within NI's Reaktor or Reaktor Player, Monark emulates the classic Minimoog synth.
It's faithful to the original save a few small differences, many of them behind the scenes. The Mini's selection of six waveforms are emulated (with Osc 3 getting a reverse saw that mirrors that of the other oscillators), and so are all six pitch ranges. The filter section is the highlight of the instrument. Of course, the Mini's 24dB low-pass model is here and spotlighted, but you can also choose from two more low-pass filters (6 and 12dB) or a 12dB band-pass.
There are some other deviations from the original Minimoog architecture, too, but this is fundamentally a great emulation. Monark is in line with other modern vintage clones and sounds as good as - if not better - than, any of them. 4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 11 of 51 Next Prev Page 11 of 51 Next. Inspired by analogue synth legend Don Buchla's legendary and quirky units, Aalto is brimming with features that provide an alternative to common methods of sound design, composition and performance. It's a semi-modular instrument, so it offers a fixed number of synthesis components, but these can be freely patched together. Right from first launch, it's obvious that we're in new territory here.
Aalto's GUI is divided into two sections. The top half of the interface sports most of the modulation and control sources, while the lower half provides oscillator, filter and other audio-level modules. Madrona Labs has gone out on a limb with an instrument that can at first seem intimidating, but really isn't too hard to grasp. It sounds rich, evocative and wonderfully weird at times -if you got into synths because you wanted to explore new sonic territory, check it out.
4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 12 of 51 Next Prev Page 12 of 51 Next. With a slicker interface, improved effects, rejigged samples and preset library, and vastly extended modulation options, Iris 2 feels more like a synth in the conventional sense than the original Iris, which was decidedly esoteric in its presentation. Nonetheless, the central conceit remains the same.
You still have four sample layers (although all of them can now load any type of sample, rather than three sample layers and a dedicated sub oscillator), which are edited in the Spectrogram window. The inclusion of the new classic oscillator bank and new modulation options take this plugin in new and exciting directions, building on its spectral foundations to deliver more 'music- friendly' sounds.
It can be a little demanding on the host CPU, but when a synth sounds this good, that's to be expected. Iris 2 is, without doubt, one of the finest virtual instruments ever made. 5 out of 5 READ: BUY: iZotope Iris 2 currently available from: UK: US: Prev Page 13 of 51 Next Prev Page 13 of 51 Next. Element is, at its most fundamental level, a two-oscillator subtractive synth. However, there's also a sub-oscillator available and an independent noise generator, so you won't have to give up either oscillator to add a little whoosh and weight to your patches.
As you'd expect, you'll also find a filter, modulation sources and an assortment of effects, and Waves has done a good job in providing a simple, one-screen interface with plenty of thoughtful touches. It's hardly revolutionary, but Element is an excellent workaday synth (albeit quite an expensive one) that's easy to use and sounds utterly authentic, with a phat, rounded analogue tone. 3.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: Waves Element currently available from: UK: US: Prev Page 14 of 51 Next Prev Page 14 of 51 Next. FabFilter Twin 2 sports three oscillators, four filters with a variety of modes, and a clever modulation routing system that gives you plenty of creative possibilities. This is all packed into a slick interface that makes the synth easy to use. That said, Twin 2 is still relatively light on features in comparison to some of its rivals. However, what it lacks in breadth, it makes up for in depth.
It’s great fun to program and play, and in terms of pure sonic beef, it even gives Sylenth1 a run for its money. 4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: FabFilter Twin 2 currently available from: US: Prev Page 16 of 51 Next Prev Page 16 of 51 Next. Rather than create a literal clone of Roland’s SH-101, with Lush-101 D16 has doubled the number of envelopes and LFOs, made it 32-voice polyphonic and added modern refinements and effects. Oh, and, crucially, LuSH-101 is actually a monster stack of eight SH-101s: each is called a Layer and all are operated totally independently, brought together - along with a useful collection of effects - at the built-in final mixer stage. This is one seriously great-sounding synth. Whether you're after basses, chords, pads or anything in between, there are simply no weak links.
Even after 30 years of progress, some great ideas just don't go out of fashion. 4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: D16 Group Lush-101 currently available from: US: Prev Page 17 of 51 Next Prev Page 17 of 51 Next. TAL-U-NO-LX is a beefed up variation on TAL's excellent (and free) TAL-U-NO-62, a lovingly realised clone of Roland's Juno-60. It's bigger, using up a lot more screen real estate and thus making it much easier to tweak, especially on the fly. More importantly, though, the code has been reworked from the ground up and makes use of a zero-feedback delay filter design that makes this new version sound a lot more realistic. TAL-U-NO-LX stays quite faithful to the spirit of the original Juno series and the sound is very good indeed. It has that Roland snap and spike, belting out sounds to set your fillings rattling.
4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 18 of 51 Next Prev Page 18 of 51 Next. The first release from newcomer Parawave, Rapid (VST/AU) is clearly a direct competitor to Vengeance-Sound’s VPS Avenger, whether it means to be or not. Chief among the similarities between the two are that both are built on extensive eight-layer architectures (although Avenger actually has nine layers if you include its Drums oscillator); both feature enormous and expandable libraries of waveforms, samples and wavetables; and both have more modulation options and effects than most users will ever need.
Rapid’s individual layers are ridiculously well furnished - 24 oscillators, 32 LFOs, envelopes and step sequencers, 56 effects slots. It’s also laced with interesting and novel touches, like the dual-wave LFOs, nifty step sequencer editing, and Master page envelopes and filter offset. All in all, Rapid makes a welcome and worthy addition to the new generation of supersynths. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 19 of 51 Next Prev Page 19 of 51 Next.
Tone2 describes its new plugin instrument (VST/AU) as a '3D wavetable synthesizer', by which it means it's a wavetable synth with the ability to morph said wavetables in various ways. And that's by no means the extent of Icarus's abilities: it can also do resynthesis and additive synthesis, vocoding, unison detuning and stacking of three stereo oscillators. It features 53 effects, a full-on Wavetable Editor, two filters, an arpeggiator, up-to-audio-rate LFOs and much more. Icarus is one of the most versatile, impressive-sounding synths we've heard since. Well, Xfer Records Serum, whose wavetable crown it clearly has its sights set on.
The Wavetable Editor is particularly worthy of singling out for praise, as it makes the potentially daunting job of messing with waveforms supremely easy and rewarding. Icarus definitely has that characteristic larger-than-life Tone2 vibe. Right from the raw oscillator level upwards, it's a shouter, designed to sound big, bold and glossy at all times. 4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 20 of 51 Next Prev Page 20 of 51 Next.
The SEM is legendary precisely because it does things differently to most other synths. The basic synth architecture is fairly standard: the SEM is a monophonic synth with two oscillators (pulse and sawtooth waves), two ADSD envelope generators and a sine wave LFO. Needless to say, the SEM V's architecture is an accurate recreation of the SEM's set-up. Tune the VCOs, apply some envelope modulation to the filter and you're immediately in classic SEM territory, wallowing in fat basses and warm, funky leads. As a straight emulation the SEM V ticks all the boxes, but the software has so much more to offer when you explore it in greater depth: small but effective additions to the SEM design, advanced voice editing features and, of course, an excellent polyphonic mode. 4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: Arturia Oberheim SEM V currently available from: US: Prev Page 21 of 51 Next Prev Page 21 of 51 Next.
Launched in 1977, Yamaha's CS-80 synth was a heavyweight in every conceivable way, and has since taken on classic status. Arturia's emulation is now more than a decade old, so could almost be seen as a vintage software instrument, but with the company's TAE (True Analogue Emulation) technology at its core, the CS-80V remains a hugely popular plugin.
That, quite simply, is down to the fact that it does such a great job of emulating Yamaha's beast, nailing not only the sound of the oscillators, but also its signature ring modulator and pretty much every other aspect of its analogue tone. Sure, there are other synths out there that can produce similar results, but if you want to feel like you're playing and programming a slice of history, the CS-80V still has plenty to recommend about it. 4 out of 5 BUY: Yamaha CS-80V currently available from: US: Prev Page 22 of 51 Next Prev Page 22 of 51 Next. Razor is based on additive synthesis, with up to 320 partials (individual sine waves). While additive synthesis has a reputation for being a tad 'scientific', Razor is very friendly, presented in the guise of a typical modern synth, with two oscillators, twin filters, and three effects sections: Dissonance, Stereo and Dynamics. You’ll find that ripping DnB/dubstep noises are shockingly easy to dial in, but bumpin' basses and sweet pads/leads are readily had too. We'll admit that we were initially a tad sceptical about Razor, it being 'just' a Reaktor-based affair and entirely additive.
However, it actually makes additive synthesis not just palatable but downright desirable. 4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: Native Instruments Razor currently available from: UK: Prev Page 23 of 51 Next Prev Page 23 of 51 Next. Anyone who was using synths in the ‘80s will know all about Yamaha’s DX7, which became the FM (frequency modulation) synth that everyone wanted to own. The FM8, which emulates said hardware, is now practically legendary too.
Not only does it sound great, but it also makes the notoriously difficult process of FM programming much simpler, even going so far as to offer an Easy editing page for beginners. Those who want to get their hands dirtier can go the Expert page. If you’ve had your fill of analogue-style synths, FM8 is a great place to go next. 4.5 out of 5 REVIEW: Prev Page 24 of 51 Next Prev Page 24 of 51 Next. Combining powerful digital oscillators with an analogue-style semi-modular architecture, Bazille is a sound designer's dream come true. It's packed with an awful lot of stuff, yet still it manages to be more than the sum of its parts.
Its clever architecture makes it fun and creative to program; its superb, utterly convincing 'analogue' sound marks it out as a brilliant production tool; and its broad array of features give it extraordinary flexibility and obvious longevity. In fact, Bazille stands as a genuinely viable alternative to a hardware semi-modular system, being more powerful in some areas, and far cheaper and more convenient.
For synth connoisseurs, then, Bazille represents pure, unadulterated bliss. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 25 of 51 Next Prev Page 25 of 51 Next.
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The Legend sees the Minimoog Model D - widely accepted as the 'best' version of Moog's game-changing analogue synth - brought to life onscreen by a developer with a well-deserved reputation for excellence in oscillator and filter modelling (both, obviously, key requirements in any classic synth emulation). Indeed, Synapse Audio claims that The Legend's oscillators, filter and amplifier 'have been modelled to an accuracy never seen before in software', even taking into account such vagaries as temperature changes and the influence of the power supply on the circuitry. At the same time, a few modern niceties have been worked into the mix, including, as you might expect, polyphony. The Legend both sounds and feels about as close to a real Minimoog as we reckon it'll ever be possible to get without passing actual electricity through a plugin. The oscillators exude all the requisite bounce and low- frequency energy, while the filter is smooth, rich and warm (and self-oscillates beautifully), and the envelopes have every bit of that characteristic snap and shape. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 26 of 51 Next Prev Page 26 of 51 Next.
With some similarities to physical modelling, scanned synthesis starts with an exciter - in Enzyme's case, a mathematically modeled 'hammer' - that stimulates and continues to influence various 'nodes', which have mass but no size. The nodes are strung together, pushed and pulled with 'springs'. The hammer whacks the nodes and springs into action, and the pitches of the nodes are then seen as an ever-changing wavetable. Fortunately, Enzyme's intuitive interface invites experimentation, and it isn't long before you're knocking out interesting, unusual and, at times, quite musical timbres. Enzyme is affordable enough for even the casual experimenter, who will bag themselves an instrument that challenges ideals and preconceptions and - although it might not at first be obvious - is capable of producing sounds of staggering beauty as well as knee-wobbling, teeth-grating terror. For some of us, that's all we've ever asked for.
4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 28 of 51 Next Prev Page 28 of 51 Next. Dune 2 is a synth plugin that' built around Synapse Audio's eight-layer Differential Unison Engine concept.
Between its well-equipped oscillators and flexible zero-delay feedback filters, the overall sound of Dune 2 is distinctly clean and rich in character. This is definitely one of those all-rounders that can deliver most of the sounds you're ever likely to want from a synth, from lush pads to thick basses and soaring leads. As well as its extensive feature set, it also boasts impeccable sound quality and unbelievably low host system resource usage. If the original Dune was something of an under-rated gem, the remake is surely destined for modern classic status. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 29 of 51 Next Prev Page 29 of 51 Next. Absynth has traditionally had a reputation as the serious sound designer’s synth of choice (or one of them at any rate). Perhaps as a result, it’s also been perceived as slightly scary and intense.
The latest version (5) of the synth hasn’t really done much to change its image. With new effects and filter improvements, it can great even more complex tones than before but, although the Mutator effect enables you to morph a preset into something else just by choosing descriptive tags, the interface is still complex and intimidating.
As always, though, the sound is first-rate. 4 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 30 of 51 Next Prev Page 30 of 51 Next.
Image-Line positions Harmor as an 'additive/subtractive' synthesiser, but there's no doubt that the emphasis is on the former. Even typically subtractive elements like the filter are achieved via additive technology. Some things are familiar, but Harmor can be a bit intimidating on first blush. However, it quickly reveals its secrets to those who persevere - we urge potential customers not to be put off by its unfamiliar look and terminology. There is a richness in tone here that, frankly, took us by surprise, and sound designers will find a lifetime's worth of inspiration. 4.5 out of 5 READ: BUY: Image-Line Harmor currently available from: US: Prev Page 31 of 51 Next Prev Page 31 of 51 Next.
Can a modular synthesiser ever really be called 'minimalist'? Well, maybe if you're comparing it to deep graphical sound design behemoths like Max/MSP, Reaktor or Kyma - yet the graphically pared-down Audulus has plenty in common with those far more expensive monsters, too. For starters, it's a 'node'-based environment, where low-level components (said nodes) are connected to produce custom-made instruments and effects. And like those others, it's really a programming language wrapped in user-friendly graphics, but its clean, attractive and reasonably intuitive interface makes it a lot quicker and easier to build your own devices with than most of its contemporaries. Modular synths have never been easy, but Audulus comes as close to it as any ever has.
Building instruments and effects is simple and rewarding, making it ideal for newcomers to the world of modular synthesis and demanding patchcord masters alike. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 32 of 51 Next Prev Page 32 of 51 Next. Featuring official emulations of Eurorack modules from the likes of Doepfer and Intellijel, this cross-platform modular synth is designed to look, work and sound exactly like it would if it was made from hardware.
It features 'circuit emulations' of all the modules concerned, and these have been authorised and approved by their original creators. The standard Modular plugin ships with six Doepfer modules and more than 20 utility modules including a sequencer, mixer and delay (you have the option to buy more). You also get a large preset library to get you started.
It may be digital, but in sonic terms it sounds great, and the Aux Outputs allow you to interface directly with hardware for an interesting hybrid system. Highly recommended, wherever you stand on the digital vs analogue debate. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 33 of 51 Next Prev Page 33 of 51 Next. With its eyes firmly set on Sylenth1's virtual analogue crown, the formidable u-he has confidently stepped into the ring with a synth that boasts an extremely similar architecture, plus a few enticing extras to sweeten the deal.
The main difference between Hive and Sylenth1 are the oscillators. Whereas Sylenth1 has four oscillators, each capable of up to eight-voice unison detune, Hive has two, each running up to 16-voice unison. In terms of its feature set, Hive represents a quantifiable improvement over Sylenth1, but when it comes to the all-important - and subjective - question of how good it sounds. Well, that's open to debate. Sylenth1 has a duller but warmer timbre that's ideal for impersonating analogue synths, while Hive is more modern-sounding, fizzier and punchier. As such, it could easily become your most-used virtual analogue synth.
5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 34 of 51 Next Prev Page 34 of 51 Next. A less complicated offshoot from its flagship SynthMaster 2.8, KV331’s SynthMaster One is two-oscillator polyphonic wavetable synth with a single-screen interface that keeps (almost) everything in reach at all times. Generally speaking, it’s about as beginner-friendly as a serious synthesiser can be - which is to say, it’s a lot more beginner-friendly than its big brother but will still be totally intimidating to anyone who’s never used one before.
That’s not a criticism; it’s an inevitability with any synth that isn’t deliberately dumbed down, which SynthMaster One certainly isn’t. This is a quintessential ‘workhorse’ instrument that’s tooled up for all kinds of patches. Basses, leads, plucks, keys and other attacking sounds are its forte, but it’s no slouch when it comes to pads, strings and FX, either. And with its unique, streamlined wavetable oscillators and that intuitive, hands-on workflow, even die-hard synthesists should be interested. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 35 of 51 Next Prev Page 35 of 51 Next. A sort of spiritual follow-up to the highly acclaimed Diva, Repro-1 is a component-modelled emulation of one of the most iconic monosynths of the ’80s: the Pro One, Sequential Circuits’ monophonic take on the polyphonic Prophet-5. Being essentially a 35-year-old design, it should come as no surprise that Repro-1’s architecture is comparatively basic.
In a nutshell, two monophonic oscillators and a low-pass filter are brought to life by a handful of modulation sources, an arpeggiator and a step sequencer, and processed with a quintet of newly added effects modules. Fans of the original will be blown away by the authenticity of its sound and response, and have a ball with the integrated effects and extra modulators.
Newcomers to this historic instrument, meanwhile, will love its easy programming and phat, rich, focused tones. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 36 of 51 Next Prev Page 36 of 51 Next. Nexus2 isn’t as feature-packed as some of the synths in our rundown - indeed, some purists might argue that it isn’t really a ‘proper synth’ at all - but if your priority is to have great sounds out of the box, it’s hard to fault. This is an instrument that’s specifically designed for producers of contemporary dance music, with the supplied Dance Vol 2 preset expansion pack containing 128 patches for use in trance, electro house and hard dance styles. Presets can be tweaked with a range of sound-shaping tools, and both the arpeggiator and trancegate are impressive. The Mix screen enables you to adjust individual layers - each patch can have up to four - and there are some good effects, too.
Slick and inspiring, Nexus2 definitely stands out. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 37 of 51 Next Prev Page 37 of 51 Next. Coming from the brilliant mind of digital synthesis pioneer Wolfgang Palm, PPG Phonem serves up a combination of vocal and wavetable synthesis, sequencing and modulation.
Its raison d'etre is the creation of synthesised vocal phrases, supplemented with the included wavetable oscillator and triggered via MIDI just like a conventional synth. Phonem's vocal synthesis is extensively tweakable using the sound-shaping, pitch tracking and modulation controls, giving impressive if obviously synthesised results that electronic producers will have endless creative fun with. CPU usage can get a little high with complex patches, and the interface is a little confusing in places, but Phonem would make a great-sounding, unusual and thoroughly relevant addition to anyone's synth collection. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 38 of 51 Next Prev Page 38 of 51 Next. Vengeance-Sound's first ever virtual synth is nothing if not ambitious. Coded - like all its stablemates - by Keilwerth Audio, it unites analogue, sample-based and wavetable synthesis in an immense workstation-style architecture, packed with sequencers, filters, effects and modulation. Every one of its individual elements is a powerful system in its own right, and they all come together to constitute a synthesiser of dizzying power and flexibility.
Its pseudo-multitimbral, semi-modular architecture is ingeniously implemented, with only the lack of multiple outputs into the host DAW and the cramped Mod Matrix letting the side down. Most importantly, though, it sounds absolutely incredible, with that characteristic Vengeance energy, power and richness married to the deep textural nuance that only wavetable synthesis can bring.
5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 39 of 51 Next Prev Page 39 of 51 Next. Falcon expands massively on UVI’s previous UVI Workstation instrument, offering much more in the way of editing and other forms of synthesis. Falcon's patches are constructed from Oscillators, Effects, Modulators and Events (MIDI generators), dragged into the main interface from the Browser. It launches with the central pane showing the Main view, which houses five tabbed pages - Info, Edit, Effects, Events and Mods - and switches to represent the currently selected Part. Falcon is an ambitious, powerful instrument of a type that certainly doesn't come along every day.
Two main factors turbocharge its essentially fairly straightforward architecture: the number of simultaneous Oscillators, Keygroups and Layers being limited only by the power of the host CPU; and Effects and Modulators being applicable at the Keygroup, Layer and Program levels, with Events at Layer and Program levels. Falcon has enough flexibility to serve as your primary source for all manner of sounds - although you'll probably need to buy a few UVI Soundbanks to achieve that goal. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 40 of 51 Next Prev Page 40 of 51 Next.
Listening to the demos and perusing the presets and parameters, you might be inclined to classify Reveal Sound's cross-platform VST/AU synthesiser as yet another trance 'n' dance machine. And it may indeed be geared up for just that, with its fat unison oscillators and big, brash, bombastic tones. Yet it only takes a little digging to unearth some clever and unusual features that give Spire the ability to do things you wouldn't expect from a typical virtual analogue synth. Although it does have some quirks, ultimately, Spire sounds terrific, generating everything from huge, brassy unison timbres to crystalline digital tones. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 41 of 51 Next Prev Page 41 of 51 Next. SynthMaster is a semi-modular synth that seems to have been designed to do anything and everything.
The interface may not be the prettiest, but it's definitely intuitive and user-friendly, which counts for a lot more in our book. This is one of the few instruments that we can confidently say is excellent for most categories of synth sound. The additive synthesis module is perfect for organ-type sounds as well as filthy, obnoxious, tearing bass textures, while the vector synthesis module is ideal for evolving leads or pads.
Plus, when you do want it to do bread-and-butter synth work, SynthMaster is more than up to the job. In version 2.8, the most exciting changes have been made to the modulation system, while there are also four new ZDF types: the Moog-style Ladder, the 303-style Diode Ladder, the SEM-style State Variable, and the MS-20-style Bite. All of which adds up to what can only be described as one of the very finest soft synths money can buy. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 42 of 51 Next Prev Page 42 of 51 Next. Originally a word-of-mouth success on the Mac, Zebra has since earned its PC stripes, too, bringing its all-round awesomeness to a much wider audience.
It’s a wireless (no patch cables) semi-modular synth that supports a variety of techniques. Its main focus is on subtractive synthesis, but the inclusion of FM and additive elements means the tones you can get from this instrument are more complex than those that can be produced by many others. The presets do a good job of showing off what Zebra is capable of, but this is also a powerful sound design tool, and one that can prove to be seriously addictive. It isn’t strictly a beginners’ synth, but pretty much anyone should be able to get decent results with it. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 43 of 51 Next Prev Page 43 of 51 Next. On the face of it, you might wonder why Sylenth1 is so popular.
It looks like (and is) yet another virtual analogue subtractive synth with four oscillators, a couple of filters and a pretty basic modulation section. We’ve seen dozens of synths with similar feature sets - many of them freeware - so why bother with this one? The answer becomes obvious within a few seconds of loading it up: Sylenth1 sounds incredible. It’s rich, detailed and full of analogue-style warmth. And while we find that many of the synths we review come with presets that fail to show off the instrument’s true capabilities, Sylenth1’s default bank is superb.
A wide variety of sounds is on offer, including some beautiful impersonations of classics such as the TB-303 and Minimoog. Sylenth1 has gradually become one of the synths that everyone feels they must try - make sure you don’t miss out. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 44 of 51 Next Prev Page 44 of 51 Next.
Massive is a hybrid synth that combines ideas and influences from all over the place. What’s more, it’s one of the most feature-packed synths we’ve ever encountered.
It comes with a massive array of wavetable oscillators (you can morph from one waveform to another using a dedicated knob), which makes it capable of producing everything from straight-ahead analogue-style tones to complex and evolving sounds. What’s more, it’s designed in such a way that it’s relatively easy to program (the clever modulation system helps in this regard, too). The only downside is that, although some 600 presets come supplied (and are easy to navigate), not all of them show off Massive’s, er, massive potential, so you’ll need to get your hands a little bit dirty to get the best out of it. 4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 45 of 51 Next Prev Page 45 of 51 Next. The alphaSyntauri, which Phosphor is based on, was perhaps ahead of its time, requiring, as it did, a computer to run - specifically, an Apple II. Released in 1979, it could play up to 16 notes via a set of synthesis cards installed in the computer, with a software front end for editing patches and more. Like the alphaSyntauri, Phosphor uses additive synthesis as its sound source.
In a nutshell, we're talking two oscillators, each with 16 partials. Phosphor won't be everybody's cup of tea, but we absolutely love it. It isn't the most complex or versatile soft synth by a long chalk, but it has one thing going for it that many modern synths don't: unmistakable character.
It boasts bags of personality, and whether it's being used for fake bass guitar plucks, FM bells, gnarly bass noises, sci-fi pads, 'poorly computer' FX or wonky leads, it's unmistakable - and we love it for that. Its distinctive tone makes it a dream for cutting through busy mixes.
Best Vst For Mac
4.5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 46 of 51 Next Prev Page 46 of 51 Next. Two or three oscillators, multimode filters, dual envelope generators, a couple of LFOs and some effects. You've seen it all before - or so you might think. Diva isn’t a clone of any specific synth; instead it provides elements from various famous instruments, all deeply analysed and meticulously recreated with excruciating attention to detail. Diva's got everything you need to carve out any basic analogue sound, and then some.
It's meat and potatoes with added spice, and digging beneath the surface, you'll find plenty of advanced features such as powerful modulation options and per-voice fine-tuning. If your computer is powerful enough you'd be crazy not to check this one out. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 47 of 51 Next Prev Page 47 of 51 Next. For the uninitiated, Reaktor is a modular audio generation and processing environment with a graphical interface that can be run standalone or as an instrument or effect plugin. The main thing that Reaktor 6 adds to the mix is the modular hardware-like Blocks - a sort of equivalent of Doepfer's A-100 (more commonly known as Eurorack) hardware spec. Blocks make Reaktor 6 akin to having an enormous modular analogue synth in your laptop.
The various oscillators and filters sound utterly fantastic, and if you're after analogue-style sounds in your DAW, Reaktor 6 is among the best - very possibly the best - we've heard to date, with unmatchable flexibility. Reaktor 6 is a phenomenal update that improves on NI's already amazing software in practically every area. It’s a must-buy for any self-respecting computer musician who's able to negotiate a bit of a learning curve. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 48 of 51 Next Prev Page 48 of 51 Next. Chipspeech is another old-school endeavour from Plogue, and recreates the sounds of a selection of primitive speech synthesis systems, turning them into musical instruments via MIDI input.
This enables the user to create potentially very complex melodic or even chordal lyrical sequences in their DAW. The software interprets English text typed into the text box using the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary, and it works brilliantly for the most part. Control, Modulation and Mix pages provide a wealth of controls for fine-tuning the sound of each engine, and there's plenty of scope for creating weird and wonderful voices, and tweaking them for maximum intelligibility. If you’re searching for a unique new way to create your own electronic vocals, Chipspeech could fit the bill.
5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 49 of 51 Next Prev Page 49 of 51 Next. Improving on the universally lauded Omnisphere must have felt like an impossible task, but Spectrasonics has truly outdone itself with version 2. Not only does it improve on the original, it takes it into an entirely new - ahem – sphere. The original Omnisphere took the 'samples and synthesis' approach to sound creation dating back to 1987's Roland D-50 and reinvented it for the 21st century. With its huge audio soundbank, exciting new sound-shaping systems, easy browser and powerful virtual analogue architecture, it was a sound designer's dream come true.
However, it's always suffered from one notable limitation: you could only use the included audio material, with no way to import your own. Version 2 addresses this issue, also offering an expanded library of oscillator wavetables, bumping the original's measly five up to a jaw-dropping 400. There are plenty of other enhancements, too, taking the synth to the next level and beyond. If being at the cutting edge of sound design appears anywhere on your list of music production priorities, it's an instrument that you simply have to own. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 50 of 51 Next Prev Page 50 of 51 Next. A quick glance at the feature list makes it apparent that Serum represents an earnest attempt to produce nothing less than the world's most advanced instrument of its kind Its oscillators sound cleaner and slightly brighter than we're used to hearing from synth plugins; you can import your own audio to create custom wavetables; there's an incredible range of modulation options; the Unison feature gives you five stacking modes; and the effects are outstanding.
And that's just the start - Serum has so many deep and advanced features in its locker that we couldn't hope to cover them all here. We're not being overdramatic when we say that this is quite possibly the most sonically versatile synth we've ever used, and certainly one of the best sounding. You clearly agree: it's back at the top of our chart with a landslide victory, and should be at the top of your must-buy list, too. 5 out of 5 READ: Prev Page 51 of 51 Next Prev Page 51 of 51 Next.