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DrumSpillage [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 26th June 2011
Version reviewed: 1.4 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 5th November 2011.
10.00
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Let's get one thing straight: DrumSpillage is not a virtual modeling Roland 808 or 909. I don't doubt you could come close with some careful programming, but that is not what this plug-in is about.

DrumSpillage is all about drumsynthesis. It's got sixteen drumpads, that can be played by clicking them or via midi. Drumkits are assembled by choosing a drumsynthesis model for every pad and edditing the sound according to taste. Every model is specially designed to create a certain type of drumsound like a bassdrum, a snare or a hihat. Because these models are build from components that every synthesist will recognize, like oscillators, filters, envelopes and lfo's it's not hard to start programming these models right from the start.

DrumSpillage is a virtual analog drumsynthesizer, where elements like oscillators, filters, envelopes and lfo's are recreated using physical modeling. This is not to be confused with the physical modeling of drumsticks hitting membranes. DrumSpillage is not for realistic sounds. DrumSpillage is for unheard before, and often experimental, synthetic sounds.

DrumSpillage is very useful in genres like minimal, techno, electro, or other genres where sounddesign is important like (ambient) electronica and soundtracks. I somehow do not envision myself using it for country or bigband jazz...

I think the DrumSpillage UI is an extremely well designed piece of work. It's not only very beautiful, it's also a joy to work with. I would, in fact, like to call it a work of art. It's great! It's quite small, so it does not waste screenspace, but it is not so small that the controls become hard to manipulate. Fonts and colorscheme make everything very easy to read, and everything is just where you'd expect it to be. I do, however, advice you to read the manual, because there are a few tricks in there that you might overlook, and those make DrumSpillage even faster to operate.

DrumSpillage is not immitating anything, so it's hard to judge it by compairing it to anything else. However, considering the fact that DrumSpillage emulates analog circuits I would expect it to sound warmer and maybe a bit dirtier than it does. DrumSpillage is clearly a child of the digital age, it's clean, crisp and cold. I do not think that's bad, perse, and you might fix it with some vintage warming plug-ins or running it through some real analog outboard gear.

Features-wise I'd like to point out some things that may be useful to you:
- Every pad can have it's own range of midinotes to respond to (instead of just one) so you can do some melodic stuff with the models as well.
- Single pads or complete kits can be exported to audio files, for use in your favorite sampler.
- It has a great randomise function, that can be a great help when you're looking for something altogether new and fresh!
- It does NOT (I repeat NOT!) have a step, or grid-sequencer. You have to sequence your beats in your host sequencer (DAW, whatever you like to call it).

Documentation
The documentation is well written. I do advice to read both manuals.

Presets
There are some great presets coming with DrumSpillage, but I do not think you need them, and I don't use them. They do show you what's possible with DrumSpillage, but if you're anything like me, you'll be programming this thing before you've auditioned more than 2 kits...

Customer Support
I did not contact customer support, so there is nothing I can say about that. Only that AudioSpillage was fast to send me my download link and registration codes as soon as I ordered DrumSpillage.

Value For Money
The balance between complexity, flexibillity and price is just right, as far as I'm concerned.

Stability
I use DrumSpillage in Logic Studio 8 on OSX 10.6.7 and have not encountered any problems. I also had no problems routing pads to individual outputs, which can be tricky in Logic.
Ultra Analog VA-2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 16th May 2011
Version reviewed: 1.1.4 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 5th November 2011.
9.00
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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I was drawn to the Ultra Analog VA-1 because of two things: sound and simplicity. I’m a firm believer in simplicity, because it allows me to create the sounds I hear in my head, fast, without losing the creative “flow”. But then, if you don’t like the way a synthesizer sounds, there’s often not much you can do about it. I am happy to announce that I like the sound of the VA-1 very, very much.

User Interface & Features
Many argue that classic analog hardware synthesizers are so great to program because of there simple one knob, one function layout. The VA-1 is not based on a classic hardware synthesizer. AAS did, however, create a design which could easily have existed somewhere between the moogs, arps and oberheims. There are (almost) no menu’s involved in operating VA-1 and control is direct and straight forward. Of course this means that AAS could only put in a limited set of features. So a feature based comparison with NI’s Massive, or MOTU’s MX4 would make the VA-1 look very restricted. I find, however, that they selected the most important features with care, and there is so much you CAN do, and it all sounds so well, that you easily forget about everything you can’t.

I only have two minor issues with the user interface: some UI elements are very small and they did not label the switches that reverse the polarity of modulations. This means you may need to place your mouse very accurately to toggle some switches, and that you may have a hard time figuring out what some of the buttons do. I like the compactness of the interface, though.

Sound
If you want to get a good impression of what this software is capable of download the free “Swatches” soundbank series compilation on the AAS website. It contains some examples from soundbanks created for the Ultra Analog VA-1. I fell in love with these sounds, downloaded the VA-1 demo and was hooked immediately.

Much of the characteristic, strong, sound of the VA-1’s is due to it’s filters. It’s astonishing how much these filters change the sound of the raw oscillators. (Listening to the presets in the vocal and percussion categories I was often wondering how the hell they got those sounds from a simple sawwave!) The formant mode is pretty unique and makes the VA-1 capable of creating sounds that are at once very synthetic and very vocal. This is ideal for creating ambient pads and drones. The more classic types like lowpass and hipass sound very analog to me and can be beefed up with various kinds of drive/distortion. Fat bases, raw leads and thundering soundeffects are very easy to come up with.

Features
Most typical of the VA1 is it's routing. It's not simply two oscillators going into a filter section followed by an amplifier, but it is actually two compleet, almost identical, signalpaths, both comprising an oscillator, filter and amplifier with panning. Added to that you get an extra noise source, which can be fed into either filter or both and the abillity to cross-route the signal between the two paths. This means you can build a sound by combining two completely different, independant sounds, or you can use all the components together as one to build a more unified sound.

The VA-1 has all the features you’d expect on a typical analog synth. 2 oscillators with saw, sine and pulse waveforms, pulsewidth modulation and sync, noise generator, two filters with dedicates envelopes, 2 lfo’s, 2 amplifiers with dedicated envelopes and panning. Mono and poly modes, arpeggiator, portamento, unison and master effects: chorus/flanger, dely and reverb.

The filters are in parallel by default but can be used in series as well and filter 2 can be set to track the cutoff frequency of filter 1. The envelopes have various looping modes and the lfo’s can be synced to host (in plugin mode) or external midiclock (standalone).

The most remarkable missing feature on the VA1 is FM. There is no way to modulate the frequency of the oscillators, or (I would have liked that even more) filter with the oscillators.

A nice bonus is the ability to save, edit and recall maps of what midicontrol is assigned to what knob.

Documentation
I found the documentation very good. It’s well written and in the form of a pdf, which suits me well, because I like to read my manuals on the iPad.

Presets
There are many presets and there easy to manage in the tree-view browser. It’s also easy to set up presets for control by midi (program change messages). The presets are categorized well, and they are very useful and inspiring. So much so, that you’ll have created loads of new ones from them before you’ve tried them all.

Customer Support
The order process is very straightforward. You get your download link instantly along with your serialnumber. After installation you have to authorise the software online, but this is easy and fast.

I did not need customer support, so I can’t say anything about response time.

Value For Money
I think $199, - is not very cheap for a synthesizer this simple, there are software instruments that offer more features for less. But I do think that Ultra Analog VA-1 is so useful because of it’s sound and it’s ease of use that the $199, - is really a very fair deal.

I felt ripped off later, though, when there was a great discount a few months after I got it.

Stability
I’ve experienced no issues so far with stability and VA-1 does not take up too much CPU.
MS-20 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 10th May 2011
Version reviewed: 1.2.2 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 10th May 2011.
9.00
Was it helpful to you? Yes No
I bought MS20 because I was looking for a simple, cheap plug-in. Something with a lot of character to broaden my sonic palette. I found it!

User Interface
Korg's MS20 is looking great. It's much like the original, so it's pretty easy to get around. Features that weren't on the original are inplemented tastefully, I think. Readability could have been better, especially in the patchpanel, but the biggest drawback of the UI is the fact you have to scroll around the interface.

Sound
I don't know how close it sounds to the original, but I have to say I really like it. It has a very distinct, gritty character. It sounds "real".

Features
I do not like the "one synth fits all" idea. To many developers cramp too much functionality in a single plug-in, IMHO. I like to pick a simple plug-in that fits the character I want and then create a patch from scratch. The MS20 is great for this.

Documentation
The documentation is good. But I could not find a demo online, and I had some trouble with the registration.

Presets
There are enough to demonstrate what this thing can do. But I like, and it's easy, to create my own.


Customer Support
I did not contact customer support. There is e-mail support and an online FAQ. I hope I won't need it.

Value For Money
I picked this up for $50, -. I think that is good value for money. I'd prefer developers to create more simple, cheap synths that sounds as good as this.

Stability
I did not experience any crashes. I used it mainly as a VST in Ableton Live 8.
CronoX [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 27th December 2010
Version reviewed: 3 on Mac
8.00
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Cronox 3 is a nice hybrid sampler/synth and good value for money.

Cronox 3 has a nice looking user interface. Most nobs and buttons are fairly large wich makes them easy to grab and adjust with the mouse. I like the 2-dimensional userinterace elements where you can adjust two parameters at once by dragging horizontally or vertically. It's clearly laid out and easy to understand.

Sound-wise I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Cronox. I think some of the presets are really, really, stunning, but then, most I find useless, and I find it hard to get my own sounds to sound great (no, I don't have that problem with other synths!). The presets I really love are based on samples, so I'm afraid its really the quality of the samples and not that of the synth-engine I love.

Cronox has all the features of a subtractive-style synth. Add to that: multimode and variable state filters, 4 oscillators with various sample playback and manipulation modes, a powerfull programmable arpeggiator, a modulation matrix and 6 built in effects. It's actaully very powerfull!

The manual is small, but well written. You won't need it much, because this synth is very simple to use.

The preset management is clumsy (at least on OS X). The presets are in the system library folder and if you decide to place your own sounds in the user library folder (because otherwise they'll be replaced in case of an update)you'll have to manually navigate from one to the other.

I've had contact via mail with customer support at linplug in the past and it was allways good.

Cronox is good value for money. You get lots of features, but you'll have to decide for yourself if you like the sound of it. I find Cronox very stable on OS X.
MX4 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 28th October 2010
Version reviewed: 2 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 28th October 2010.
8.00
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The MX4 is a mac-only software synthesizer which comes in MAS, RTAS and AU formats. From the website you can download a demo, which, when you buy and insert the iLok dongle switches to the full-version.

The MX4 is configured like a classic analog synth: 3 oscillators go through the filters to the amplifier section where two effects can be added to the overall sound. For modulation we have 6 LFO's, 4 ADSHR envelopes, and a step-sequencer.

The MX4 takes things a little bit further though.

The oscillators offer not only classic analog waveforms like saw, pulse and triangle, but also a whole range of digital wavetables. There are 'symmetry' and 'wavetable index' parameters (which can be modulated), FM, ringmodulation and hard sync. All these sound sources can be panned individually. This allows us to create some pretty complex sounds, without even using a filter or an effect.

The filter section is very flexible as well. There are two identical multi-mode filters which can be any combination of low pass, hi pass, bandpass or band reject with 6, 12, 18 or 24 DB/octave characteristics. The two filters are accompanied by a overdrive/distortion and they can be set up in 12 different topologies, like for instance distortion first and then the filters in parallel, or the distortion between the filters, or the filters in series. Whatever you can think of.

To round of the audio chain we have a master section where we can adjust volume, stereo, panning and mix in a fundamental. (Logic's ES2 has this feature too, and sometimes it is just what you need.)

This all would not be very exciting without some modulation thrown in. Luckily the MX4 offers a very powerful modulation matrix. Modulation sources are assigned by selecting a modulation slot and then option-dragging the controls of any parameter. This gives a nice visual feedback of the modulation range, much like in Native Instruments' Massive. On a separate page MX4 has a step-sequencer, an arppegiator and a gater. These, together with the LFO's can all be sync'ed to the hosts tempo to create vast evolving rhythmic soundsscapes.

The MX4 has a very warm, liquid-sounding character is surprisingly easy on the CPU. The one prob I have with the MX4 is it's user interface: it is laden with tiny fonts, sliders, switches and knobs that I just find hard to operate. It's a shame really, because the thing has so much character I want to use it all the time, but it's just so fiddly it can be quite tiresome to use. So I advice anyone to try the demo first and see if they experience the same.
Massive [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 13th October 2010
Version reviewed: 1.1.5 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 20th September 2011.
8.00
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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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.

Pro's:
- Very powerful and easy modulation system
- Versatile digital sound design tool

Con's
- 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.
Absynth [read all reviews]
Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 7th October 2010
Version reviewed: 5 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 10th January 2011.
8.00
13 of 13 people found this review helpful.
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Native Instruments’ Komplete 6 arrived on my doorstep last week and I have been diving into Absynth 5 every spare moment since. For those who consider buying this software I’d like to share a few thoughts on Absynth here.

First and foremost I’d like to say that Absynth is a really great source of fantastic sounds. Like Kore, Absynth 5 has a library-view where you browse your library by attributes like ‘piano’, ‘dark’, ‘electric’. This is a nice way to explore the 1.700+ sounds that come with Absynth. These sounds are mostly experimental in nature but Native Instruments succeeded in making them very playable and easy to use.

Basically Absynth’s routing is modular but simple. There are three oscillators that can be routed through modules like filters, waveshapers and effects, and there are (of course) envelopes and lfo’s to modulate various parameters. What makes Absynth depart from well known analog ground is the flexible nature of those modules.

The oscillators have a wide variety of waveforms to choose from, plus you can draw your own, use samples, or morph existing waveforms into new ones. The oscillators offer a dual mode with FM and ringmodulation capabilities.

The filters have low-pass and high-pass modes, but also comb, notch, band and allpass with different db/octave characteristics to choose from.

The waveshapers can use all waveforms that are available to the oscillators, but can also be set up as, amongst others, frequency shifters and grainbased effects. That is a lot of raw material to begin building your own sounds, before you even started applying modulation.

Modulation in Absynth is possible via lfo’s, macro control’s (means midi) and envelopes. The envelopes are Absynth’s strong point. You can set up a new envelope for every new parameter you want to modulate and create up to 68 breakpoints, apply different trigger and loop-modes and sync it all to tempo. So one key can trigger whole soundscapes, basslines or rythmic sequences.

The LFO’s are flexible as well, with tempo sync, phase, and again, all wave-forms available to the oscillators can be used by the LFO’s as well. LFO’s are not created especially for the parameter you want to modulate, like the envelopes are. Instead there is a fixed number of 3 LFO’s. If you want to modulate something by LFO, you have to route the LFO to the target in the LFO page. This is the other way round, compared to the envelopes, which is a bit confusing. That you have to look up the desired parameter from a long list makes matters worse. That the list does not contain every parameter I’d like to be able to modulate and sometimes appears under another name than in the rest of the application is downright irritating.

If you want to control parameters of a software synthesizer with performance controllers like modwheel, after-touch, or knobs and sliders you normally would assign a controller on your hardware directly to a parameter in the software via it’s button or slider. Due to Absynth’s enormous amount of parameters and lack of knob’s and buttons (most parameter values are edited directly in a value-field), Native Instruments decided on another approach. Instead they created a performance-view in which a fixed set of sliders called ‘macro controls’ can be assigned to one or more of Absynths’ parameters. This way you can create complex control-setups. By assigning the controls on your hardware to the sliders in the performance-view you could have real-time control over many of Absynth’s sound shaping capabillities. I am sorry to say the parameters of the build-in effects in Absynth can only be modulated by Macro Controls. Not by LFO's or envelopes. Bummer!

It is a pity that in the vast soundlibrary most sounds have no, or only a few parameters pre-assigned to the sliders. I also would have liked to be able to assign hardware controls to these sliders globally, so that with every new sound I load I’d be able to fiddle some knobs and explore the possibilities of that sound to evolve during a performance. Now every sound has to be set up manually fo midicontrol, and that my friends, is a LOT of work…

Pro’s:
- Vast and very usable, easy to navigate, soundlibrary with a unique character.
- Immense programming possibilities will keep any sound-designer up till the wee hour’s of the morning ( or is that a ‘con’ ? ).

Con’s:
- Assigning modulation sources and macro-controls has it’s anomalies.
- Editing the envelopes is to difficult.
- Library could have been prepared better for hardware control
- Awfull color-scheme, some tiny fonts here and there, and a bit too much eye-candy for me.
- Some of the more exotic features of Absynth are not completely self-explanatory, and the manual does not always describe them in the detail I would have liked.