Massive is "modern hybrid" synth in many respects. It features a huge number of waveforms, filters and modulators, and it encompases various forms of synthesis, within a brilliantly elegant interface.
Massive is a synth people often associate with Dubstep and Jungle, but while it does a great job at making those sort of sounds, it also excels with beautiful evolving textures, delicate sequences, clangorous bells, gripping bass, and all sorts of alien tambres and weird special effects. The sheer power and complexity of this synthesizer makes for a huge amount of sonic potential. The view that it is a "harsh" synth or a "dubstep machine" is simply a myth. It is too "massive" to be a one trick pony.
When Massive was first released, a lot of people slated it for being CPU intensive, but more modern machines are better equipped to handle it, and even my modest 3ghz Core2Duo iMac handles it well enough that I can use a number of instances in any project.
It features a unique patch browser, and comes with a number of presets. While the presets don't do it justice, it is fun to browse patches, and easy to create, categorize and save your own.
Massive has become my most used synth because it allows me to turn the sound in my head into a working patch in a matter of minutes. Not only that but patch making is so much fun with Massive, I've built up my own library of patches, and I can access them very quickly with the built in browser.
I've used a lot of synths over the years, both hardware and software, and Massive is up on the top of my list, with the likes of Zebra 2, Sylenth, and Ableton Operator nipping at its heels.
Zebra 2 has many similar sonic features, but doesn't come close for spontanious patch-making, and sheer fun. Sylenth is quick and easy to program, but doesn't have anywhere near the amount of sonic potential. Powerful, simple, fun... Massive ticks all the boxes without making many compromises.
To sum up, Massive is a synth enthusiasts dream come true: It's quick and easy to adjust parameters and modulations, it's hugely versitile and capable of a very wide range of tambres, it has lots of advanced features which allow one to create highly expressive, dynamic patches. It's fun to explore, and it sounds absolutely stunning.
Massives' user interface is pretty easy to work with. Dragging modulation sources onto targets is a breeze and changing the amount and polarity of the modulation is done in one mouse move. I like that a lot.
All rotary controllers are pretty big, but there are some very tiny fonts here and there that I find tiresome to read. Especially the drop down boxes for the waveforms, filter types and effect's are small.
A nice feature is that you can advance through the various waveforms by clicking an arrow next to the drop down, instead of going into the drop down box. It is annoying the same function is missing on other drop down boxes.
You can do a lot with just the oscillators and modulation in Massive. Therefore it is a pity you can't copy settings from one oscillator to another.
NI's marketing had given me the idea that Massive is almost modular because of a very flexible signal path. This is not true. All you can do is place two insert effects, a feedback chain and a bypass in different places in the signal chain, by clicking buttons in a bit cryptic signal flow diagram. That the insert effects do not offer the same type of effects as the main effects reduces the possibilities unnecessary. On the upside we can fade between parallel and serial configuration of the two filters and even modulate this. I have yet to program a useful sound using this feature, though.
I really like to program sounds for Massive. It's easy, creative and Massive sounds good. Or does it? I've been programming lots of sounds for Massive the last months, but I find that I almost never use them in my tracks. I somehow find it very hard to make the timbres I create in Massive work in a mix. I'm wondering if anybody is having the same issues?
Massive comes with a lot of presets and the kore-style library allows you to browse them by attribute which is very nice. Programming your own sounds with Massive is very easy and most fun. I find I use massive quite a lot, because of that.
Massive is very stable on my intel Imac running OS X 5 and 6. It is a CPU hog, as other KVR-members have pointed out, but If you are willing to sacrifice some detail in the sound you can put Massive in a more economic mode. This could come in handy when tracking, because you will want a short latency. While mixing down you could put Massive back in Ultra Quality mode.
- Very powerful and easy modulation system
- Versatile digital sound design tool
- Not as many effect types as i'd like.
- Audio signal routing complex, but semi-modular at best.
- The character of the oscillators makes this not the best virtual analogue emulation, IMO.
Massive is an accurate name for this VST! It sounds huge and it is incredibly flexible! I got it as part of Komplete 5. I spent about a month figuring it out and programming all kinds of sounds such as pads, leads and comps to use in a live situation.
The biggest complaints I have about Massive though, is that it just isn't stable! It crashed on me every time in Ableton 7 and 8, in Sonar and Cantabile! And when I mean crashed, I mean it rendered the VST host completely frozen. I'd have to shut down the VST host and restart. For that reason, it is completely unusable unless you're in your own studio and have the time. I also found it had some serious aliasing issues in the higher range on many of the waveforms. Finally, it's a CPU hog! Where my other VSTs might hover at the 12-15% range for a similar monophonic lead sound, Massive would get into the 30-40% range. I've since recreated several of my leads in other VSTs and found them much more CPU friendly. They don't sound quite as fat, but I know they won't crash on me on a gig.
I don't know if NI has fixed any those issues in their latest incarnation of Massive in Komplete 6 or the new Komplete 7. If they have then it is a nice VST, but if not, then you may be better served with a different VST.
I use other NI and really like their products, Massive is the only one that seems to give me problems.
I got this as part of the NI Komplete package and so far it is the least used of the synths in the package (excluding Guitar Rig, as I do not do guitar.) This is mainly because of stability issues. The synth crashes when being tweaked in my host (Cubase Studio 4) about 2 out of 3 times. This is even while running in "Eco" mode (the lowest of 3 processor-utilization modes). Maybe my recent upgrade to Cubase 5 will help, but I am not sanguine about it. Sounds provided are ordinary, nothing to amaze and/or delight, and there are many that are just plain annoying. There are 86 waveforms provided as the basic sonic building blocks. However, after you get past the standard analog waveforms their names often mean nothing ("Strontium", "Duck Organ") and because of the stability issues when tweaking the synth, it is tough to get a conceptual handle on what each sound SOUNDS like. The interface is very nice, intuitive and stripped-down. The multiple modulation routings are a very good touch.
I've heard people say that Massive isn't a useful synth - that everything made with it sounds the same, that it sounds distorted and "digital," and various other insults.
Are they right? Not in the main, but a few of their assertions are true. Massive DOES have a distinctive sound, but that sound is one that fits into nearly any modern electronic music style - and one that can be obscured without too much difficulty using external effects. And it IS digital. It's a wavetable synth, after all - if you wanted a Moog emulation, you've come to the wrong place. As for it being distorted or high-range-y, this is simply a myth, mostly due to the presets included with Massive.
The one criticism of Massive that is completely accurate is that it's a CPU hog. There's no way around this. Use a polyphonic patch with Massive, and you'll probably be using quite a lot of CPU power. It's hardly debilitating, though - on my reasonably modest PC, 2 or 3 years old, I can and do run multiple instances of Massive along with many instances of other synths. And the result is worth it. Massive sounds great.
I could run through the features and break down the GUI for you, I suppose, but that's what the developer's website is for. I'll keep to the essentials: Massive is a powerful synth with possibilities that are impossible to exhaust. Its presets only show a fraction of the sounds it can create, from heavily distorted dupstep and DnB sounds to enormous trancey supersaws to (dare I say it?) analog-sounding sequences and basses.
Massive is an interesting case for me, because the first time around, it didn’t really click with me. I purchased it a year ago on impulse, used it a little bit, and eventually decided that it sounded “too harsh.” Recently, I started trying to give it another go and spend more time with it, and I have to say now that my first impression was wrong. Many of the factory presets are on the harsh and biting side, but by no means are rude and in-your-face sounds all that this synth is capable of.
After picking up the Massive Expansion Volume 2 collection (which has many sounds that are more up my alley than some of the factory presets) and investing more time in tweaking, I’ve found that Massive can indeed get punchy, defined, analog-type bass sounds suitable for busy, funky basslines (one category of sound that I had mistakenly assumed it couldn’t do well my first time around with it), delicate pads, metallic and mallet-type sounds with an extremely clear and defined attack, and a great many other classes of sounds. Some of the cool, icy, airy pads are just to die for. I think that one can perhaps get the impression that Massive sounds harsh or brittle at first listen because it has a very present and clear top end, unlike some other synths, but once a programmer gets a handle on the voice architecture and wavetable choices, it’s not that difficult to tame down those crystalline highs and get a warmer sound out of it if that’s what you want for a given sound.
There are a handful of areas where things could be developed further, such as offering individual panning control for each oscillator (i.e. a fully stereo signal path) and further broadening the choice of wavetables, but it's a very powerful synth as-is.
I look at Massive as almost a kind of turbocharged, ultra-modern PPG Wave. The facilities available for molding and shaping the raw sound of the wavetables go very deep indeed – there is more to Massive than first meets the eye from just a quick glance at the GUI.
Speaking of the GUI, this is, hands down, my favorite user interface out of all the softsynths I’ve used. I find it as beautiful to look at as it is clever and functional. The drag-and-drop modulation routing and “rings of Saturn” displays around the knobs to indicate modulation ranges are absolutely brilliant. The GUI makes it very easy to visualize what’s going on with the patch, as well as making the synth a genuine pleasure to work with.
Massive is a little more CPU intensive than many other synths, but now that I’m on an Intel Quad, I find that I can use several instances without a problem. I almost always run it in “Ultra” mode for the best fidelity and consider the CPU hit a worthwhile tradeoff for Massive’s excellent, clear, detailed sound.
To sum up, what started out as a synth that I had put off to the side (mainly because I failed to spend enough time really digging into it) has done a complete 180 for me and is becoming one of my favorites. Don’t automatically write it off if many of the factory presets are not to your taste - I think many of them are better viewed as showcases for the more elaborate tricks the synth can do than as everyday-use patches you can drop right into your tracks.
NI finally gets it almost completely right. First-class sound, elegant and intuitive UI, extensive modulation routings that don't get messy, an extremely useful randomizer etc. CPU usage is extravagant and you can't see two envelopes side-by-side but other than that this is a home run. Presets run towards the edgy & noisy but you can soften it up pretty easily. Completely stable and crash-free in Logic and Live. The manual is detailed and readable and shows the strengths of larger developers like NI that can affort to hire professional tech writers.
The macro modulation system is brilliant too. Much more musical than manually assigning midi controllers to individual parameters. You can easily control whole groups of params with a single knob *and* control the modulation ranges to roll your own performance instruments.
NI customer support is lousy but aside from registration and activation you shouldn't need it for Massive. Massive runs towards the expensive end of the VI spectrum but if you wait there are usually deals and bundles from NI that bring it down considerably.
try the demo! take off the modulations and the effects, and the wave table sounds aren't much...but...add some modulation to the wave table position control and look out!! wow, this gets deep fast. without even fiddling around with the filter, amazing distortions and noises (not using the noise osc, mind you) can be obtained from a single osc. now modulate the pitch control so that it plays against the wt-position. you begin to see the possibilities. now add modulation to the modulation sidechain for each of the above. is it as good for you as it is for me? you could stop right here and have hours of fun...but, push on and modulate another osc and one of the filters...and now you have madness.
note the number of modulation sources you have. note also that the lfo sources are all dual wave with an interpolation feature to allow the creation of very complex mods. note that the stepper comes in two forms: one for simple bar-amplitude steps and one for complex wave forms at each step. try these, its not complicated at all (especially in comparison to some other synths...which will remain unnamed).
adding modulation to the various controls is also pretty slick in massive...just click on the arrow cross for a modulation source and it sticks to your cursor arrow tip...drag it to a modulation slot for a control...click again and it goes into the slot as a numeric value...now click and drag the value up or down in the slot and note how the modulation ring grows and shrinks around the control knob (or slider) showing the modulation range. the major controls have two modulation slots plus a modulation sidechain slot. this is very nice.
i'll stop now and let someone else cover the stepper capabilities and the effects. however, a quick trip through the presets will show you what these are capable of.
i get the sense that an experienced synth programmer could go well beyond the supplied presets, so look out, there's going to a hell of a lot of great presets comin to ya...!
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