I don't want to duplicate what has been said already, so - you can get Rhino for 50 $ now. What you get reminds me strongly of the Yamaha SY Series (77/99) with 1000+ Patches of very skilled Programmers. Just download the Demo and have a Look. I promise you'll not regret it. Complicated - yes. But more than impressing, full of Love and the perfect Place to learn FM (if you don't just want to use the 1000+ Presets). Strongly recommended.
Zebra, DUNE, MSF, Harmor, Razor and some others in my Barn - but I really couldn't resist Rhino. This is no Mainstream Toybox. Real / "Oldschool FM" and passionate Programming. Exotic Spectra. Endless Playground and Source of Inspiration.
- VINTAGE inclusive. Rhino can load Samples and use them as Oscillators and quiet many Sample OSC are already included that are nothing but pure Vintage FM Vibe and probably Hardware Samples.
- Rhino sounds great and unique. 90s Vibe.
- The Flexibility is oustanding and the spectral Possibilities are endless.
- FM is complicated, but it's really simple to generate interesting and inspiring Results within Minutes.
Note: This is an edited review. Since first writing this review, I've updated Zen to v 1.7.1. The stability issues I was experiencing before when switching between synths/presets seem to have been fixed. I've not had any crashes despite switching between loads of presets and different synths. I haven't tried scanning my VSTs though.
I've left the original review here but have edited it (edits and comments in bold).
[original review starts here]
I very much like the premise of Zen. It provides a nice solution for managing presets, including the ability to download presets from the internet. Be warned that if you have a load of VSTs or particularly popular ones (Synth1), downloading all the presets will take a while. You're reliant on the presets you download already being categorised sensibly, because there's no way you'll be able to categorise the nearly 8,000 Synth 1 presets yourself.
You can rate presets (1-5 stars), search for presets by synth, author, category (e.g. lead/pad etc.) and name and add your own categories as required.
You can click on a preset in Zen, and the VST will be loaded and you can play the preset. You can assign presets to patch slots (for want of a better name), and you can use the patch change command on your controller to switch between the presets you have set up in this way. I can see this being quite useful in live situations - either on stage or if you are jamming with a band.
Sound designers can also upload their presets from within Zen, although I haven't done this myself.
UI: The UI is relatively straightforward and there are tips displayed whenever you move the mouse cursor over a UI element. Once you've got the hang of it, it's pretty intuitive to use. It did take me a while to figure out how to do the most basic stuff though (e.g. import my own presets) - I do think the icons used by the buttons could be improved. I'd also like to be able to resize the interface to fit more presets on each page, but that's no biggie.
Addendum: Not sure if it's just on my system, but using the mouse wheel to scroll lists is painfully slow - it takes about 10 seconds to scroll down 8 entries because it scrolls about a pixel at a time.
Another downside for me is that the UI pretty much requires you to use both hands to categorize presets, because you need to hold down Ctrl while clicking to categorise a preset. It would be nice if you could do this with one hand on your MIDI controller so as to preview the sounds you are categorising.
Sound: Zen doesn't make any sound per se. It sounds as good as your presets and VSTs.
Features: It's more than just a preset organiser - as well as being able to load up VSTs to play a preset, you can also map VST parameters to CCs and record the output to a wav file - it's similar to Toby Bear's mini host in terms of being a very basic VST hostt. Zen basically does what it says on the tin and throws in a couple of nice features to boot.
Addendum: One thing that I missed that would be great is the ability to split the keyboard into various zones, with each zone mapped to a different preset and synth.
Documentation: The documentation isn't particularly long (Zen is relatively simple), but provided answers to all the questions I had. As I said before, I did need to look at the docs to figure out how to do some of the more basic things - but it only took a minute or so to find the information I wanted.
Presets: I've given Zen a 10 here because if you go online you'll end up with loads of presets. Obviously they aren't all the bee's knees, but that's not Zen's fault.
Customer Support: Never actually needed customer support, but Big Tick have a forum here on KVR and seem pretty active. Zen has been updated several times since I first tried it.
VFM: It's free. If you need something like this, you can't get better value than free.
Edited: Since updating to v 1.7.1 I have had no stability issues.
[the following text is from the original review, but no longer applies]
Unfortunately I have to agree with the previous review on this point. While I don't feel I'm wasting my time using Zen, stability definitely could be improved. I've had crashes switching between presets on both different plugins and the same plugin. To what extent the plugins themselves are to blame I don't know, but it has crashed on me several times. You might want to think twice before using Zen in a live situation, or at least extensively stress test your system! Hopefully stability will be improved in future.
I've not had problems with Zen crashing while scanning VSTs (mentioned in the previous review), but I haven't got very many VSTs - around 10 show up in Zen at the moment. I've never really understood why hosts do this as one single VST can crash the system and fixing the problem can be a real pain.
Overall I'd say that if you like the idea of being able to search for and preview patches across a whole range of synths in one go, you could do a lot worse than try Zen. It's a lot more efficient to search for a pad in Zen than to load up several VSTs and go through the presets one by one. It's thus a boon both to those whole rely mainly on presets (possibly tweaking them) and for sound designers who can categorise and distribute their patches to users.
I really like the idea of this app, and welcome it warmly. To be able to have one app to access presets of several VSTs, and categorize them, will greatly help tidying up music making. That is Zen in effect.
Unfortunately the programme isn't really ready for this yet.
The number of new version and their frequency shows that it is still more or less is beta testing.
The main problem I find is that one cannot just point Zen toward the VST folder and trust it to do the job. It freezes up on a regular basis when scanning VST's. It is difficult to know what kind of machines it will not eat. It seems one have to spend time tidying up one's VST folder before giving the job to Zen. And basically that was what one expected Zen to do.
As this programme is free it cannot really be valued in terms of money. It is better to value it in terms of time. And at the present release, it is a waste of time unfortunately.Read Review
This is my first review so be gentle with me...you'll notice that I've given Rhino a "full house". This is not gushiness on my part - I've thought long and hard about those points, and I even considered marking some areas down simply to prevent the review looking OTT. But I've asked myself if there are any aspects which have room for improvement and I can honestly say I can't think of any. So, full marks it is...
GUI - cool colour scheme, very 'pro'-looking. GUI is functional and clear, and logically laid out for such a versatile (or complex, depending on your POV) instrument. The tabbed, multi-screen approach isn't for everyone, but I personally think it's far more tidy than having 'menus-within-menus' or multiple windows.
SOUNDS - well, name your poison...Rhino can do punchy, nasty (in a good way) analogue, or convincing acoustic instrument emulations, or cold, metallic timbres, or infinitely evolving soundscapes and atmospheres. It really has to be heard to be believed - try the demo or listen to the demo tunes on Big Tick's website. I'll mention presets later in more detail, but you should also listen to the demos on Daniel Maurer's site. The only downside to some of the fuller, more intricate soundscapes, is the danger of swamping the mix in the context of a full song - but the same can be said for many instruments, it really depends on how and where you place the sounds.
FEATURES - you get six oscillators, two filters (with a variety of flavours), multistage envelopes (for oscillators, filters and a shedload of modulation options - envelopes can be cut & pasted, saved & loaded, and there's a stock of useful preset envelope shapes to get you started), waveshaping, additive synthesis, FM synthesis, sample playback, a quirky but nonetheless useful arpeggiator, microtuning, and two FX slots. The FX vary from the bread'n'butter (Chorus fattens up the sounds nicely, QuadPhaser is very tasty) through barking mad (CrazyComb filter or OktaVerb - bonkers but still useful) to the kind of quality that you want to use on other instruments (8-tap Reverb is excellent). (A standalone effects unit is being considered for the next version, by the way). Each effect has a number of editable (and modulatable) parameters, and many of the parameters can be tempo-mapped too. As far as modulation goes: just about anything you'd like to modulate can be modulated by just about anything else. A particularly useful feature is the bank of six user-definable sliders which can be programmed (via MIDI-learn, which is well implemented) for real-time modulation of any number of parameters - there's no limit to the number of parameters per slider, either.
DOCS - the PDF manual is well-written and covers every aspect of operation comprehensively, without being overly technical. Which is a neat trick, when you consider how powerful this instrument is. There are even a few tutorials on the website, and the developer himself is a nice guy who always makes the time to answer queries.
PRESETS - this is an outstanding aspect of Rhino: there is now a massive library of presets, covering a huge spectrum of sounds. Preset management can be handled conventionally, or a more innovative feature is the database. Users can construct a database for their presets, sorting them into (user-definable) categories. So no matter how many banks you own, you can keep all your pads, lead sounds, etc together. Constructing the database is dead easy - just drag and drop the patch name into the chosen category. Daniel Maurer's presets deserve a special mention - they've extended Rhino's palette by an incredible amount, they're cheap as chips (he also offers several bundle deals), and they're a masterclass in Rhino programming. Instant inspiration!
SUPPORT - can't be faulted. Big Tick is very responsive to user requests and suggestions, which is one of the reasons why Rhino is so feature-packed. The odd couple of tech problems I've had with Tick products were dealt with within a few hours (even though they were down to me, not the product...)
VFM - well, this can be very subjective...but in my opinion, Rhino is a steal for 100euros. Sonically, it covers a vast area so it can do the job of three or four more limited synths. Rhino is by now a relatively mature instrument, but it continues to engage thanks to the occasional upgrades (free) which increase the functionality even more, and Daniel Maurer's consistently amazing preset banks.
STABILITY - rock solid, in my experience. Depending on your processor, you may be limited in terms of simultaneous instances (although it's nowhere near as CPU-hungry as it's earlier incarnations), but I've never known it to crash or cause a crash.Read Review
This plug is great, and for a plug as popular as this, it's hard to believe there are no reviews yet.
So what's it do?
Given almost any sound, it will bring a little unobtrusive life with low delay settings. Given a good sound, it will bring out stronger textures. Higher settings can start to change the sound into something new and more pad-ish and can easily be done well, especially if it's the first effect in a chain. As with any delay-based tool, extremely fast transients won't always sound good on high settings, but it's easy to find low settings that work.
Who would use it?
I would recommend this effect to anybody using plugin instruments or any other audio that needs a little extra life. It's free and couldn't possibly take more than a few minutes to try out. Also, notice that it has a place in the credits for Spectrasonics Atmosphere, a sample-based synth with perfectly rich, balanced sound.
Some things I do:
For pads, I'll sometimes taken the sounds from Atmosphere or any other high-quality long pad sounds that I want to ambient-ify, filter the high end a bit, run them through an instance of Hexaline, put a little feedback delay after it, and slight reverb at the end for a nice, swirling pad (and this whole effect line could be free plugins). For leads, I'll take the output from a lead synth that needs a little bite, add Hexaline, adjusting to fit, then go back and change the original synth to take advantage of the added layer of sound. I don't really use it for bass, though I'm sure if you're looking for thick sound down there, it will do nicely. I wouldn't put it on large groups of sound, but would keep it to one or two instruments at a time so it doesn't add the same thing to all instruments. Also, I don't typically use it on recorded audio, but that tends to be because I seek to preserve the essence of whatever I recorded. I use it frequently on synths. I stress that it doesn't seem to cause the sound to have noticeable strong or weak notes like some delay tools can and whatever texture is added to the sound tends to be uniformly nice.
It's free, takes only a second to try, is extremely useable, and has negligibly low cpu usage (with no stability problems [Cubase]). It brings out a little or a lot of life, as desired, and is very easy to control. I highly recommend it.Read Review
Rhino is a synth that can do just about anything. Wavesequencing, waveshaping, VA, additive, FM/AM/RM, and now in 2.0 simple rompler features.
Put simply, it sounds great. And contrary to earlier versions, the CPU usage is very reasonable compared to other similar synths.
The knock on Rhino has always been: its hard to program. And it is. The interface is functional, but it takes a long-time to create sounds with it - especially as a beginner. Alot of the difficulty has to do with Rhino's reliance on flexible multistage envelopes: you can do anything with these envelopes, but if you just want to program a simple patch, they are overkill. If you just want a simple lfo instead of an envelope you can use an unused oscillator for it - but it takes just as much cpu as if the osc was not an lfo! I'd like to see a more modular approach, maybe the ability to swap out certain envelopes for simple LFOs or ADSR envs, like Kontakt.
Fortunately there is a great manual to help you understand Rhino, and a huge amount of free and commercial presets around made by people that LOVE multistage envs.
Rhino is a steal at the price, even if you only use it as a type of synth rompler - using pre-made presets. But if you can learn to deal with all the features it presents, I honestly can't think of a synth that offers greater possibilities, at any price.Read Review
Describing a synth is not easy but imagine it's the late eighties, a DX7mk11 meets a Wavestation in a bar and go on to have kids - Rhino would be their youngest, most gifted offspring!
The sound of Rhino is the killer. Not analog, not digital as such. just a rich Rhino combination of everything.
Evolving sounds, hard sounds, metallic, crystaline, morphing, even emulative real world sounds.
A CPU hog - yes, but invest in Freeze and enjoy. So many great presets available and first class support - probably the best support out there.
** Since I wrote the above Rhino has found many more uses in my music. The sheer variety of sounds available and presets means it is really a very capable all rounder (especially if you invest in some of Daniel's excellent banks). Rhino can cover most bases very well -and I know that if I feel brave enough to tackle programming some of my own patches, I can go as deep and complex as I want!**Read Review