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Serum is a wavetable synthesizer with a high-quality sound, visual and creative workflow-oriented interface, with an integrated wavetable editor for creating your own unique wavetable sets.
- Two wavetable oscillators, consisting of up to 256 frames each.
- 'Analogue' styled Sub Oscillator.
- Noise Oscillator (.wav based with HQ resampling, one shot 'attack' option).
- Comprehensive wavetable editor:
- Import audio directly from audio files - Serum has a variety of methods and options for importing + analyzing audio (WAV or AIFF) for breaking it apart into individual waveforms. You can import single-cycle wavetables of course, as well as many at once (with in-built sorting options, or manual re-ordering).
- Draw directly on the waveform, with optional grid-size snapping and a variety of shape tools.
- Generate or modify/process waveforms using FFT (additive).
- Create or even process waveforms using formula functions.
- Morph between various wavetables using standard linear interpolation (crossfading) or via harmonic/spectral morphing.
- Processing menus allow you to do the other tasks you would want, such as apply fades, crossfades, normalize, export, and much more.
- Ultra-clean/low-aliasing, aggressively optimized SSE2 oscillators.
- Manipulate the waveforms in realtime in a variety of ways (including FM/RM/AM/Osc Sync/custom warp modes/user-definable remaps).
- Mod Matrix and drag-drop mod sources directly to destination knobs/controls.
- 89 filter types (Flangers/phasers/ladder/svf/zdf/combs/morphing/dual types, and more).
- Integrated effects rack with 10 re-orderable / modulator effects.
- Advanced unison parameters for custom tuning/stack/warp/depth/spread and more.
- Hundreds of factory presets and default wavetables made by many industry-acclaimed sound designers.
- flexible break-point style LFOs.
- visual feedback for modulator depths directly on knob destinations.
Reviewed By thomni
October 5, 2015
There's plenty of pros who recommend Serum, and for good reason.
This is the synth I didn't even know I needed.
Having been guilty of G.A.S. before, I was skeptical at first, but once I opened it up in my DAW I could tell it was something special.
First off, it looks amazing. The GUI is top-notch, with spectacular animation for all modulation, and the ability to view the wavetables in 2D and 3D is something special.
It's a breeze to add modulations, which is becoming a nice standard it seems as there's a lot of movement away from the dependency on typical mod matrices and more like a classic modular drag and drop approach.
It's one of those synths that makes experimenting fun, and not a chore or a bore.
The ability to use custom wavetables, and edit them within is exceptional! No need for any external editor, as Serum's own editor is quite usable.
Even the huge list of filters and FX sound great.
I'm just going to go back to Serum now, it's too good to be more than 10 minutes away from, I swear.
If you're unsure if you should buy it, just do it. It's not going to disappoint. I will definitely check out the other Xfer products too now, it's that impressive.
10/10 -- buy it.Read more
Reviewed By lsc9x
May 21, 2015
First off, I own licenses to probably 25 of the "top rated" VST synths on the market, so I've had a chance to work with a lot of the big ones out there, and each are different, they are all good in their own right. I only point this out so people have a reference point.
So first off, almost ALL of the functions in Serum are on 5 screens, and most of the important ones are on 1 screen.
The screens are:
Main synthesis page
Serum doesn't suffer from a lot of shortcomings.
First, and often overlooked is the patch browser. The browser has a very "Rob Papen" multilevel style to it. One click gets you access to all of the sound folders in your presets folder, and they are organized exactly the same way on your hard drive.
Next, programming Serum is really as easy as I have found anywhere else, and where it concerns the main oscillators or the wavetables themselves, Serum is HUGELY visual. You can see the wavetable, and see exactly how the oscillator is cycling through the wavetable's frames as it's playing in real time.
Serum also sounds incredible. It's not trying to sound like "real" analogue, but you can get really good analogue sounding results with it. (Like Sylenth1, DUNE 2 or even Diva good.) You can also get sounds that sound NOTHING like analogue because it is a wavetable synth.
The two main oscillators can be set to use a single wave frame (like a saw, or square... or 150+ others!). These oscillators can also be run through the filter just like a subtractive synth. It sounds really good doing this! Next, the unison controls are right there, so you can take a saw, turn it into a super saw, and then play with the DYNAMICS of the super saw's unison voices. It's visual, it's clear. Most importantly, you can have something that sounds amazing in seconds.
The sub oscillator has a much more limited range of wave types at 6, but it's clear that these 6 wave types were picked on purpose to BE the SUB, and are extremely popular in genres such as electro-house (among others), and the genius is that there is bypass function that shoots the (clear) sub signal past the filters and directly to the main sound bus meaning that you DON'T have to stack basses on a track any more! With two great oscillators and a punchy sub that can be routed separately means you can do all your bass patch design inside Serum. The end result is something that sounds great and is usable immediately.
You might expect the "noise" generator to be stuck with white, pink or blue noise, but there are around 100+ 'noises' that you can use for attacks, effects etc. It is a VERY versatile sound generator and is so useful, that it's actually worth using for things OTHER than snare drums or claps. (e.g bass transients).
Between these 4 sound generators there is almost limitless possibility. Add to that the fact that you can load in your own wavetables, and it just gets ridiculous. But all of it is SIMPLE.
Wave table editor.
You can only use the wave table editor with the main two oscillators, but the editor is powerful and easy to use. It has a host of drawing aids to make it easy to build precision wave forms, or you can load your own. I haven't completely dived into this section yet but did watch a tutorial video on it, and like the other parts of Serum, it is hugely flexible while being simple at the same time. You could spend hours in the wavetable editor just playing around. This screen is also BIG and easy to read. It's one of the 5 "main pages" of Serum, and visually it works.
Serum doesn't just have one filter, but two, and they are different. One filter is on the main synthesis page for immediate use and easy modulation from the envelopes and LFOs, but there is also a SECOND filter in the actual effects section. This section alone will keep you busy for HOURS because, like the oscillators, there are well over 100 filter presets! (See you next week.)Effects section.
I would say that this section has everything you need, and not anything more (or less) than what you need. By that, I mean that out of the 10 effects that are available, each are kept simple enough that they are EASY to work with. There are only a handful of controls on each, but those controls are powerful as well as simple. Also, routing is easy. You can drag and drop effects in the order you want them processed, and they are processed top to bottom. That's it! Like everything else in Serum, the filters and effects sound fantastic.
There are basically a couple of ways that other synths have put together modulation controls. On a synth like Sylenth1, a lot of it is done via a "modulation matrix" as it is with DUNE, or Albino. But in other synths, like Massive or Zebra, you can drag and drop modulation sources onto modulation targets. Serum has BOTH of these functionalities. Most of the important modulation is directly accessible from the main synthesis page. There are 3 envelopes (including the main envelope) and 4 LFOs. This may not sound like a lot, and it's certainly a lot less than Zebra, but again, the synth gives you what you are likely going to NEED and USE, and nothing to distract you. This is actually a good thing in my opinion because you can assign multiple modulation targets to a single LFO or ENV and keep your sound effects related and consistent.
Of course there are things that you can't drag and drop that you need a modulation matrix for, and that's why Serum has one included. If your style of sound design requires a matrix, you have one, and it's got some nice features like showing (in real time) exactly what your modulation is doing with the aid of some nifty little "dancing lights" that go back and forth over your modulation parameters, and it also has "velocity curves", for lack of a better term, to control how the modulation unfolds over time. Very cool and fun to watch. And it's EASY.
For those people who like Macro knobs, Serum comes with 4. It may not sound like a lot, but if you assign multiple modulation targets to the macro knob, you can get some great effects and again, there is enough for you to use, but not so much that you get distracted. I am picturing here that if you have a controller with 8 knobs on it, you can use those knobs to control 2 instances of Serum live. I think that was the thought behind it. Nice.
Of course there are hundreds of other features and buttons that do various things, but the sections I listed above comprise the bulk of the instrument. Since there are "mouse tips" EVERYWHERE (which you can turn on and off from the global page), it's easy to figure out what something is, and what it does.
Overall, I would say that this synth is very straightforward, hugely flexible, streamlined to keep you on task and not distracted, and it all sounds jaw-on-the-floor amazing.
Now, after having spent two solid nights with Serum, I am in LOVE with this synth! WOW.
Having said that, and in the interest of being FAIR, there are some DOWNSIDES that you need to consider (although not many!)
First, the synth uses a LOT of processing power. I hit a note on a super saw and saw my i7 dual core processor spike at 20%-30%. That's a lot of number crunching for one instrument! This can be mitigated somewhat by using effects to simulate "unison" voices and (MAYBE) using a lower draft quality global setting. It's just a function of math, if you want rich, fat, CLEAN sound, it's just something we have to live with. If your computer isn't beefy, you may have to drop your MIDI tracks to audio so you don't kill your CPU.
Worth the extra steps? You bet! Absolutely worth it.
Another minor nit I have is that the envelope timing is in milliseconds and seconds. Why Steve didn't include a toggle for note values is beyond me, it seems like a no brainer considering everything ELSE he put into this synth, but you can easily to work around by using an LFO instead of an envelope and then just setting the LFO to Envelope mode which cycles it once just like a regular envelope, and you can even set it to stop or set a loop point, so in the end it doesn't really matter.
You can get the job done, easily, and that's all that counts.
Finally, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT to understand, is WHY Serum doesn't have a built in arpeggiator. You would think that Serum, with so much else going for it, would have a built in arpeggiator. Right?! It seems like a massive oversight, but in reality, it's NOT.
Steve at Xfer has another tool that costs about $40 called Cthulhu. I would HIGHLY recommend getting Cthulhu along with Serum because it's also a great tool like Serum (simple, easy and powerful) and Cthulhu is BOTH an arpeggiator AND a chord browser. Using Cthulu in conjunction with Serum will get you the arpeggiation you are likely looking for.
So, that's about it! I keep trying to find out things I don't like about Serum and I'm drawing a blank at the moment. This is an instrument designed by someone who does music and sound design for a living but it's made to be worked with by total sound design idiots like myself. =)
If you are looking for a fantastic sounding synth that is easy as pie to work with, Serum should be near the top of the list, if not on top of that list.
9.9 out of 10.Read more
Reviewed By Demunia
February 19, 2015
Before Serum my main synth's of choice were IL Sytrus and NI Massive. Both of them had their limitations in my opinion. While Sytrus gave me the most amazing and flexible modulations i have seen so far, the limitations were its dull sound together with the fact that i can not morph a waveform on the go. Massive had a great full sound, and plenty of morphing ability's, but the modulations just didn't give me the all-round feeling i needed.
Serum changed all that, and then some. It combined the flexibility of Sytrus's Modulation, with the sound and wave possibility's i liked so much in Massive. Even though it offers just 2 OSC's instead of the 3 or 6 the others give, the sub OSC and Noise sections still give it a proper range of ability's. The lack of a second filter is partially made up for in the FX section.
The first thing i noticed was that it sounded really good. No matter what type of sound i try to make, it just sounds full and bright in general. It has a great selection of wave tables to choose from, as well as the largest number of Filter types i have yet seen on any synth. The number of possible FX are great too, and most of those sound excellent.
The real selling point for me are the LFO's. Even though they are called LFO, they lend the option to simply make them envelopes. The completely free multipoint options, as well as curve bending, speed, delay/fade and much more, make them among the most flexible i have seen beside the Sytrus. They can modulate just about every parameter on the Serum, including those in the FX section. The simple drag and drop make for a quick an easy workflow, and the clear modulation section gives complete control when needed.
When working with the synth i simply get the idea that X-Fer GETS what i want. The level of detail in Serum is amazing. "I wish i could snap to grid" means one look at the manual to see i can by holding CTRL. Making steps, or making steps snap to grid, it is all in there. This is one of the synth that make it really rewarding to read the manual, as there are a lot of hidden shortcut keys and futures. So far i have never had the feeling "I wish it had a function to do that" with Serum. Even better, the Serum user forum allows for contact with the programmer (Steve Duda) where you can request future options and exchange idea's. The life-time free updates makes sure you can enjoy those requests if Steve decides to implement them.
The wave table editor is also great. It's really straight forward, clear, and easy to create your own tables. Draw them in, or drag and drop. Really fun to play around with, and dropping 3rd party tables and waveform's (simply put them in a directory on your PC) is easy as it gets. Presets are managed greatly as well. It has a 16 voice Unison, and several different spread's. The controls over the starting point of the waveform, as well as the volume and detune controls make this one of the best Unison's i have ever heard. It has several "Warp" possibility's, including but by far not limited to FM, RM, AM, mirroring the waveform, warping the wavetable, and lots of other unique blending type's.
The reeverb isn't very good, but it rarely use the on-board reeverb in a synth anyway. What i do miss is a second filter on the front screen, and the option to take it serial or parallel to the first one. There is a second filter in the FX section to take care of any double filtering, but sometimes i just want to treat my noise to a different filter then the rest of my sounds. This is probably the only drawback i found in this synth that makes me grab back to Massive or Sytrus for some purposes.
It is a real CPU eater, though i have plenty so i rarely run into trouble with this. It is advised to keep Serum for those sounds that really need to be great.
Amazing sound, superb modulation, greatly detailed, very versatile, inspirational and unique in a lot of ways. If you have not tried the demo yet, go do so. It is worth your time.
Reviewed By Yorrrrrr
February 2, 2015
Many good things in here. Features (the oscillator section, the unison, the wavetable features, the noise and sample loading section, the crazy amount of filters), GUI (visual representation and animation for nearly everything) and sound (clean oscillators, oversampling) are very good.
I didn't like the stock presets as much, but there are third party patches (like Ayin Zahev, Simon Stockhausen, etc.) that really show the quality of this synth. I'm loving the function and sound of this synth.
However, I find the CPU usage way too high, and quickly becomes unusable for me (and I have a pretty powerful system i7 4790K at 4.4 GHz, 16 GB DDR3 2400 RAM, Samsung 850 Pro SSDs, an RME Babyface audio interface, an optimized for audio Windows 8.1 OS, etc..). I always end up using DUNE 2 instead in a production. But for messing around with the synth alone, Serum is good.
I made a little, quick and easy test on FL Studio:
1. A 7 voice unison (density in DUNE 2) saw wave, 16 polyphony, longest amp envelope release possible and filter activated on Serum drove my system close to 30 to 35% CPU load with all voices playing, and if I mess with the detune knob, ugly spikes drive it to 50-60%;
2. Meanwhile DUNE 2 is 3-4% CPU load and it stays stable no matter what. Even if I bump up the DUNE 2 unison voices to 8 (that is, 8 copies or layers of the same sound playing at the same time), I still can't reach the 30% Serum demands for its single layer.
3. Sylenth1...6-7% CPU load... (this is a surprise to me, DUNE 2 even outperforms Sylenth1, the gold standard in sound/cpu usage ratio..).
4. Spire...15-20% CPU load.. (this one is also considered a CPU hog, not as bad as Serum, though)
EDIT: I did the test again, with same settings on all synths. As suggested by Steve Duda himself, the settings are: Long sustained notes in the piano roll (FL Studio), no release at all, 16x polyphony, 16 notes playing at the same time, filter enabled. The results are:
1. Serum: 34%
2. DUNE 2: 3%
3. Sylenth1: 6%
4. Spire: 6-7%
Not super scientific tests by any means, and certainly not indicative of a real world performance for everybody, but it could give a very rough idea of the CPU load situation (as of the time of this little test, with Serum version 1.04b3).
IMHO, Serum seems like an unfinished product and it needs optimization. If you want to buy this synth, make sure you have the CPU power to back it up.
But it is one fine sounding synth (not better or worse than DUNE 2 or Sylenth1 in this respect, just different) and it deserves better. I guess those fancy animations come at a price [:?].
It has a great potential to be one of the greatest.
[comment from Steve Duda]: DUNE is multicore and you're not looking at the activity across your cores so it could be up to 8x what you're reporting. Sylenth caps at 32 polyphony, if you allow Sylenth to play 256 voices it's consumption is about 3x what you report, at least here. I don't trust your tests. Serum takes more CPU than the others (and for good reason, there is a measurable difference in oscillator quality compared to some of your test comparisons) and runs single-core, which can be prohibitive if you need 256 voices from a single instance but that isn't really a real-world example. There's users that have used up to 90+ Serum instances in a single project, as hosts should be spreading things to various cores which is in most cases the optimal way of operating, rather than a single instance spreading it's workload across the cores (as there is overhead doing such a thing).Read more
Reviewed By Xenos
November 2, 2014
I don't typically review a synth unless it is either underrated, really cool, or just plain terrible. Serum earns a 9 out of 10 in my book. After checking out some videos of the synth on YouTube, I just _had_ to pick it up. It surpassed my expectations.
If you own N.I. Massive, many aspects of the patch design workflow will be immediately familiar. You have the same drag and drop functionality, where you can click on, say, an LFO, and drag it to any of the knobs. This functionality is combined with a mod matrix, so you both ways of working, which is really cool. The mod matrix page also allows further tweaking after you've set things up, such as altering the modulation curve, reversing the direction of the modulation, and adding an additional source to control the modulation (such as adding the modwheel to control LFO amount). You also have 4 Macro controls for further tone shaping, which users of Massive will be familiar with. Having said all this, I definitely think many Massive users would do will to pick up Serum as the sound between the 2 synths are different, and Serum has functionality that Massive lacks. IMHO, while I love Massive, I like Serum better. It's more customizable, so you can dig deeper and really carve out your own unique sonic niche. My only problem with Serum, currently, is the CPU usage. I'm on a 10 year old machine and just hitting 3 notes on a complex pad patch brings my CPU to its knees. Maybe the developer could add a "draft" mode in the future?
The wavetable creation features in Serum are phenomenal. You can draw your waveforms, or you can import any sound file. From there, you can edit the wavetable morphing in many different ways. This really gives the patches you create their own unique sound, as you are not limited to a factory wave set. You also have a wide variety of ways to warp the wavetables, including even FM synthesis with the other oscillator, ring modulating them, or more standard warping features such as wave bending, mirroring, PWM, etc.
You can also import samples and use them in the "noise" oscillator, which vastly increases the different kinds of sounds Serum can make. While I haven't tested it yet, it looks like you should be able use your imported sample as a modulation source as well.
You have a full suite of high quality onboard effects which can be ordered any way you like. There is also a very generous selection of different filter shapes, which even includes a plethora of exotic "filters" such as ring modulation, bit crushing, phase shapes, flange shapes, etc - even reverb as a filter shape...interesting :). You have 3 LFOs and 3 Envelopes. The LFOs are highly customizable. Aside from the standard shapes, you can build your own sequences and even push a button to turn your LFOs into one-shots/envelopes.
Sound and Presets:
Going through the presets gives the impression that Serum is mostly for hard, dirty and aggressive sounds, but the synth has a softer and more sublime side as well. Definitely NOT a moog or oberheim, but capable of more than just screaming in your ears haha :). I've made some sweet, chill leads and ambient pads with it. On the harsher side, I love the dubstep basses Serum makes - definitely gives Massive some serious competition in that area. This is where making custom wavetables really adds to the fun :). Since I compare Serum to Massive so much, I'd like to try and describe the differences in sound between the synths. Massive's filters are utter SHIT, which always bothered me because that has been one of my personal favorite synths. Serum's filters are far, far superior, IMHO. They can be uber-phat and really sing with the proper settings, or you could thin 'em up if you like. The character of Serum's unison is better as well. Not sure how to describe it, though. "Thicker" is the best I can do there lol. A synth's onboard effects is a big contributor to the overall sound as well. Compared to Massive, I find Serum's distortions "warmer", as well as the fact that you have far more distortion types. The chorus sounds fatter and is much more customizable. Massive's reverb is shitty, whereas Serum's reverb is decent. Also, Serum has an onboard compressor, which many of the presets make use of for that "squashed" sound which is popular nowadays. My only gripe with Serum's overall sound is its tendency toward strong higher frequencies, which requires some extra tweaking if you want to tame it.
Value for Money:
The wavetable customization and ease of use for that functionality alone is worth the asking price. It's all done from within the synth, so no extra outside work is required.
One of the best GUI's out there. Very professional, easy on the eyes, and easy to navigate. The tabs are necessary as there simply isn't enough room on normal sized monitors to cram everything onto a single screen. but they are done in a way that doesn't impede your workflow.Read more