A few weeks ago I was offered an nfr license of Synthmaster 2.5. Before I even installed it, I found out that Rob Lee makes and sells presets for it. From that moment on, I had a feeling this synth and I would get along just fine. Truth is, I admire Rob Lee, and he only makes presets for great synths. Incidentally, the nfr copy that I received of Synthmaster did not come with the free Rob Lee presets that customers of KV331Audio get when they purchase Synthmaster 2. For the purpose of this review, in regards to presets, I only have the stock presets to refer to. I haven't heard any of the Rob Lee ones (but I am sure they are stellar).
Many times, complaints about synths usually go along the lines of "There's not enough...". In Synthmaster, there's a lot of everything. Example: Most synths give you 8 to 24 slots in their modulation Matrix (if they have one to start with). Synthmaster has 86 slots. Also, it features many different types of modulation (some not found in many synths), and you get several of each type. This synth is semi-modular, which allows a bit more routing freedom than the average synth. It takes a little while to get accustomed to the interface and to all the different tabs. A basic understanding of synthesis is required to operate this synth and I wouldn't recommend it as a first synth. It ain't no V-Station in terms of ease of use. But for intermediate to advanced synthesists (or preset whores), this synth is a great choice. Of course, more features often translates to a more complex user interface and more intricate workflow.
The sound is great! The CPU usage is reasonable and on par with my other better sounding synths. It's somewhat of a Swiss army knife, and packs a lot of bang for the buck. I am not fond of the GUI. It doesn't really show off the quality of this synth. Ugly GUI's never stop me from using an instrument or effect, though. Sound comes first. The synthesis and modulation aspects of this synth is what stands out for me. I find the effects "ok" but this is the one area that could definitely be improved. If you own great effects, you'll be fine, but if you don't, be aware that you will get decent but not mind blowing effects in this synth. The filters sound good, but again, they are not up there with the very best. The arpeggiator on the other hand is great and has several advanced modes. You can even run 2 in parallel. The preset browser is great. My favorite type: 1 click to load a preset. A lot of the presets sound really good. Others are kind of average, but there are more good ones than bad ones. More work could have been put into matching all the volumes of the presets. Some sound quiet, others much louder, but nothing the turn of a button can't fix. Creating presets is fun. Exploring all the different possibilities is fun. The quality of the sound is very good. Happy to add this one to the arsenal. I have been playing with this synth for several weeks now and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. The manual is rather limited.
edit: There are now 3 free Rob Lee preset banks for all Synthmaster 2.5 users. I listened to them and they really show off the great sound this synth has. Many gems in there.