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.Read Review
this synth may be getting long in the tooth, but it's still more than capable of providing excellent, inspiring sounds, while running ridiculously light on CPU usage.Read Review
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.
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.
Zen doesn't make any sound per se. It sounds as good as your presets and VSTs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.