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Latest reviews of VirSyn products

Reviewed By ew
July 1st, 2006

I did a review of TERA 2 for musicFAQ last year. Now that TERA 3's out, I thought I'd chime in here. The newest in the TERA series, TERA 3 brings some welcome improvements to an already fantastic synth.

There's sample oscillators which can either use multisamples or one sample (the resynthesis algorithm is good enough to allow using one sample across the keyboard). Furthermore, you can have two multisamples in the same oscillator and morph between them. And, while you can't use them as FM carriers, you CAN use them as modulators- think SY77/99 here. How cool is that?

There's a simple arpeggiator for each part now. While the sequencer could be used as an arpeggiator, setting it up could be a pain. For more complex arpeggios, the sequencer is still the way to go.

Speaking of the sequencer (or sequencers- there's 16 of them; one per part), they can send MIDI as a plugin now- both note and CC info. Use it with your favorite loopback device or EnergyXT to drive other synths.

There's a terrain filter- a morphable filter with two 16 pole filters in parallel. Great for forcing vocal formants on a sound, and kind of a poor man's vocoder.

There's a pair of stereo inserts right before the amplifier. Run your filters in stereo for example, or use the spectrum oscillator in stereo mode...

Yes- you heard right. The spectrum oscillator can now be used as a stereo oscillator, with separate spectrum controls. There's also new synthesis methods with it- along with the additive of past TERAs, you have Walsh, wavelet and operator synthesis.

The multienvelopes can be decoupled from each other (they were always in sync before), and you can save multienvelope presets.

There's an AM module, which is like the ring modulator except that you also have the input signal as well as the sum and difference signals.

You can right click on a knob and assign two modulators to it (you used to only be able to assign modulators through the mod matrix on profiTERA and through the dropdowns on the other synths. Speaking of the mod matrix, you can copy and paste settings between patches now, and there's two new mod sources- key alternate and key random.

The 8D settings are available on all the synths now, and not just profiTERA.

These and other such improvements make TERA even more of a monster than it was already. It was one of the best sounding, most flexible synths out there before, and now it's even better. If I were to have three synths on my desert island, TERA would be one of them (the other two being Reaktor and Absynth).

Try the demo and prepare to be amazed :)
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Reviewed By drinelli
July 27th, 2004

Is it unlikely to make a computer sing ? Well does robots dream of electrical sheep, and can we not all sing in our own way. The plug in Cantor may not answer all our questions, but it might challenge what we know, or take for granted.

When I first heard of it, I was in a some sort of no mans land, could it sing the parts, that my own voice would not, or was it just a new computer speech program, like in the old Amigas OS. Well one thing it does not, is sounding like a computer talkie. Either it does sing in a way, or it sounds like a synthesizer of a whole new breed. It all depends on what you can fill in to it. Take my word for it there is not much of a preset library, there is one phoneme set, and that is it, well until further notice that is. But do not believe that to be a bad thing, because that leaves room for your creativity, and what a sphere it leaves you.

Here is what you get, a kind of an additive oscillator, Cube style, with a certain amount of partials, (of which turning the number up or down does not affect the cpu consumption, or so it seems, as far as I could find out from tweaking it, that is.) A default Phoneme set, and 16 user sets, Which maybe, maybe not, is going to be expanded later, ( I do not want to promise something that I do not know for sure. ) A voice editor, with gender setting, brightness, and various other factors for voice creation, twelve in all, but there are many settings more. Four Simultaneous effects, of which the reverb, ranging from Taj Mahal to Shoe Box, are outstanding, the reverb must be said though, like in Cube are a global effect, in an multitimbral 8 part, monophonic, synthetic singer. I can not mention all of the settings possible, but it is of course most important what results you can achieve with it, what the sum of this settings are, coming next.

It sounds like there is nothing wrong with the Letters a, e, o…. and so on but when we come to the b, c, d… breed they do not cut right through the air, in other words, they are not sounding loud and clear enough to be easily heard. But this might not be a problem if you make your own phoneme sets, I have actually been able to make it sing naaaa …..naaa…. naaa…Without being able to clearly distinct it from a girl singing these ahem …Vocalize these words, and with a very clear nnnh sound, but my guess would be that this used with only one word for each part would be most giving, and would be best for atmospheric non lyric music like New Age or Ambient.

But now I must mention that I have made it sound like an harmonium, and violin alike sounds, and I think there is much more in it than just that, flutes, maybe sitars, maybe not lifelike but close enough (or things maybe newer heard before) And do remember making new sets of phonemes these can really bring a lot of life to this Synthetic singer.
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Reviewed By factorypresets
July 11th, 2004

I've been using this since it was just called Virsyn. For about a year I went through a minimalist phase and it was the only synth I was using and it was able to do all I wanted it to. Except for loading samples.

Much has been made of the flexibility of this thing but the standout feature for me is the sounds it can make. It may not be the phattest analogue emulation ever made but it can be very warm and fat if you want it to. It can also do nice thin digital sounds that don't eat up a mix if that is what you need. The fx that come with it are nice but I prefer to use dedicated VSTs on inserts most of the time. The filters are great. They self-oscillate when the rez is turned up full and can be as subtle as you want at lower resonance. In particular the formant filter can be used for some great effects.

I used to occasionally run out of modulators in v1 but since they added the looping envelopes in v2 I haven't encountered that problem. Apart from not being able to load samples I cant think of anything this synth really needs. Some people might prefer more fx but there's always the insert slots on your sequencer.

I've seen the documentation criticised for not detailing all the hidden features and there have been a couple of occasions that I haven't found an in-depth explanation of how some functions operate, myself. But there's enough information to work with all the features easily.

The presets are good but not all of them are useable right out the box. Most are and so far they are all just a couple of tweaks away from being excellent. But then if tweaking aint your thing you would probably be better of with a sample player anyway. Whatever, there's enough of them to get you in the ballpark for any type of sound.

I haven't had any stability issues for a long time. Pre-Tera on the K6 I had a few problems and I got to say that Harry was right on the ball with the customer support. He should get an 11 for that category.

Overall I would say that Tera is probably the most versatile synth I have used.
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Reviewed By VicDiesel
December 17th, 2003

First of all, for the $10 that the magazine (Keys, or Music Tech) costs it's hard to complain about anything.

This is a limited synth: I believe the developer described it as something like "the left pinkie of Tera". It has only one sound generation mode, which is wave shaping. This makes it a bit of a one trick pony, but it's a cool trick (and it's a cheap trick :-) so that's fine.

The sounds are interesting. I've been able to make some bass sounds that were quite usable.

The problem is that wave shaping is rather un-intuitive. You have 3 sine wave oscillators, and some "spectrum" knobs, and other stuff you don't see on your daily VA. There is no good documentation, so I felt like groping around in the dark: I couldn't give much direction to my experimentation. I have no idea what wave shaping does, and how twisting one know or another will influence the sound. I can make different sounds, but it's hard to realize a sound you're looking for. Everything's more or less an accident.

But hey, you get a rather unique instrument (unless you already own Tera) that makes some cool noises for almost nothing. Who can really complain?
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Reviewed By kalkin
December 14th, 2003

This is by far the berst "magazineware" to date! Sounds great, unique design, and very affordable ($13.99 here in the US). MTM had a good starters tutorial with the issue too. It's not nearly as extensive as his other instruments (Tera, D'Cota & Cube), but you can't complain at less than 1/16 the price. No reason not to pick up the mag.
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Reviewed By Gargoyle
September 9th, 2003

You'll see from the ratings given for this synth that it's good - how good depends on how you work and what you want from a synth. For sheer flexibility this semi-modular synth is just about unsurpassable, judging by my experience. From a corking 303 bass preset to crazy noisy pads, with leads, glassy strings, bells and very convincing drum and percussion sounds in between it is an almost complete sonic palette for any sound artist. With its several different and combinable synthesis elements Tera provides incredible opportunities for genuine sound design, especially those for whom unique atmospheres are key (e.g. ambient, electronica).

A special word about the interface, since for me it epitomises some fantastic thinking about how synths are used. From the outset it seems to employ a hardware "look", but don't be fooled. When was the last time your hardware knobs became transparent when they are not in use? When was the last time your hardware knobs disappeared and re-appeared as appropriate? In addition to these great design ideas, there are some very special little touches which deserve mention: 1., the way the parameter labels convert to values when in use, and 2., the way that there's no need to click on parameters to change them, simply hover your mouse over, see the parameter change colour and then edit (using cursor keys too). These are small but very clever elements of a GUI, which, albeit rather large, is refreshingly intuitive.

Other big plus points to note are the incredibly flexible routing, very complete and easy modulation options, user-definable arpeggiator, and the top notch filters and effects.

Value for money - I bought Tera used at a good price, and therefore this is potentially skewed in its favour. That said, street prices are not so exorbitant now and if I knew then what I know now, I'd still think it was relatively good value, especially in comparison to hardware (if hardware could do what it does).

Customer support is excellent - I even got a personal welcome e-mail from them after having the license transferred to me (the same day it was requested). You can't ask for much more than that. It would be nice to see more presets and activity from users. Updates have been provided frequently from v1.0.

This review is a mere minor scratch on the surface of an impressive and deep synth. Admittedly, Tera is aimed more for the sound designer or the musician interested in creating sounds that are truly unique and inspirational. It is, however, quite a work of art in itself and is a joy to experiment with... I'm learning from it whilst having fun - making this a genuine synth for the long-haul.
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Reviewed By bajongo
July 8th, 2003

CUBE is a synth with it's special sound. If you HATE alaising then this one's for you. It's sound is very versatile from acoustic simulations to typically additive sounds. It is destined to create evolving sounds via the very extensive envelopes. But this is only one of the most obvious sound areas that CUBE covers. It can even make VERY convincing analogue stuff if you are ever in a need of these sounds from the CUBE. ;-) This synth can sound as clear as fresh water or as hot and dangerous as a volcano. This is not a synth that can produce ONLY nice sounds.
The concept of the user interface is DIFFERENT!!! You have to make yourself friends with this new concept as you won't find a cutoff and resonance knob. But when you understood how things are going here you will LOVE the possibilities as you can do a lot more than with a cutoff and a resonance control.
It's a breeze to get new exciting sounds: Press the slot machine and make a few tweaks: Save the new sound.
You want control: Choose one of the provided source presets, add an EG preset and there ya go.
You want it all: It's so cool how fast you can tailor decay times for a few dozen partials with one mouse stroke! change the filter curve, add some breath or movement by mixing in some noise: Sound design is so much fun with this synth.

I was a beta tester of CUBE.
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Reviewed By flametop
July 3rd, 2003

Additive synthesis has always been the poor relation to subtractive. The biggest problem is the number of partials needed to generate decent spectra, and their control. With up to 512 partials in Cube its plain you cant just set a separate UI ADSR for each!

Cube presents the additive engine via a UI that allows morphing between four sources (A..D). Each source can be edited for partial level, attack, decay, filter, pan and noise. Complex spectral movement is accomplished by morphing between the different sources. There are a set of preset sources (vocal style vowels, Saw/Triangle etc) for you to start from.

The UI is well laid out and presents clear information on its settings. The X/Y morph envelopes can be viewd both as single time vs level envelopes and a 2D vector on the central UI area. Some improvement could be made here as it sometimes hard to find when 'end' of the vector display is which, all envelope points are drawn in the same colour apart from the currently selected. Perhaps the end and start points could also be coloured differently?

Cube seems best suited to sounds that have movement in their high frequency spectrum. This makes it a very good companion to other subtractive synths. Electric Pianos, Pads, Choirs and rythmic pulses etc seem to be it forte. Its quite thristy on CPU power if you just ramp up the number of partials for no reason, but with some tweaking it can be made no more resource hungry than many other VSTi.

The manual is brief but well written and easy to follow. Perhaps a background chapter on additive synthesis would make it better for first time users.

So far Cube has been very stable. No crashes, just a few times the 'randomize' feature has produced a patch thats so complex it overloads my 1Ghz PIII CPU.

In summary, I'm very happy with Cube. It opens a door to a whole new range of sounds and is great fun to use.


PS. The 1.01 version was released just after I posted this review. It now animates the GUI to show the morphing process in realtime. So forget that comment about the vector display being confusing. Its a breeze to work out now. Well done VirSyn.
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