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Charlatan, a freeware polyphonic, subtractive virtual analog (VA) synth with focus on sound quality and easy usability. It comes with a flexible, yet not overwhelming feature set which encourages artists to start tweaking instead of just relying on presets. Inspite of it's simplicity, Charlatan's architecture is flexible enough to create both classic sounds and rather experimental noises. While making no compromise about sound quality, the sound engine has been highly optimized for efficient CPU usage making Charlatan well suited as a "bread and butter" synth even in projects with a large number of plugin instances.
- 2 oscillators with shape modulation.
- Oscillator hard synchronization and ring modulation.
- Unison mode with upto 7 voices and stereo spread.
- Stereo noise generator.
- 2 ADSR envelope generators.
- LFO with host tempo synchronization.
- 3 filter types modeled after classic analog hardware: 4-pole (24 db/oct) and 2-pole (12 db/oct) lowpass, bandpass.
- 3 voice modes: Monophonic, Monophonic Legato and 8-voice Polyphonic.
- Ultra-low CPU usage.
Reviewed By The Chase
December 29, 2015
This is a remarkable instrument. You can tell it was made not just by a good programmer trying to engineer a synth in the ways that sound good on paper, but by an artist who knows how to tweak a synth to make it sound good musically.
Softsynths don't really get a better core sound than this. The oscillators and filters are perfect, very crisp and full. Great brightness without harshness, and warm low-mid presence without muddiness. The envelopes have great curvature, snappy decays and nice attack/release fading on pads. Unison detune rings out with good texture instead of the waveforms clashing into noise the way a synths' unisons do.
Great interface. Parameters left-to-right along the signal path, and is attractive and responsive. This is a very well-made plug-in. I've had no glitches or odd behavior even with many instances running at a time.
I couldn't believe this thing is a freebie. It would have fetched a few hundred bucks just a decade ago.Read more
Reviewed By oscillian
March 8, 2015
It's hard to describe why I keep going back to this plugin even if I have a ton of other commercial alternatives. Maybe it's the great sound. Maybe it's the intuitive interface. Maybe it's just the stripped down features. Or maybe it's all of the above.
Plenty of character, lovely filters and actually just the right feel of how a slider or knob responds in the GUI (So many plugins just misses this detail) and all of this for free makes it a no brainer.
This is a track I made using only Charlatan for all sounds, including drums. Not one time did I feel the need to load another plugin and that is the true mark of a great instrument.
Reviewed By fese
May 13, 2013
Charlatan is very limited:
- It does not have 3 Oscillators with heaps of waveforms.
- It does not have 64 modulation slots.
- It does not have any effects.
- It does not have an arpeggiator.
- It does not have a photorealistic GUI with wooden sideparts.
- It has only 16 knobs, 8 sliders and 31 buttons.
I like that.
When I first saw Charlatan, I instantly took to the GUI. It is extremely user-friendly, well layed-out, and all GUI elements are big enough so they can be easily handled with a mouse. And it is red, because red synths obviously sound better, according to "stanlea" from the official thread.
Once you get used to the limited feature set and remember that the elders of yore actually got some nice sounds out of their similarly limited minimoogs and pro-ones, you will discover that Charlatan is in fact quite versatile and capable of creating lots of different sounds. The limitations here need to bee seen as a feature, you are not overwhelmed by endless possibilities but can concentrate on creating good sounds that you can actually use in a song instead of just listen to in a preset.
All that would be useless of course if the sound wasn't good, but fortunately, it is. Charlatan has a very pleasant basic sound, nice and round with a beefy low-end, maybe not the last word in analogue emulation, but I don't think it is intended to be.
Charlatan may not be the most innovative synth, and especially nowadays where we soon have more virtual synthesizer plugins than ants on the planet, this seems a handicap. But as Charlatan has all the qualities of a good workhorse - good sound, ease of use and low CPU consumption - I am sure that it will find its way into many a song.Read more
Reviewed By Sendy
January 21, 2012
A relatively simple freeware synth with a real life and character of it's own. This freeware number can hold it's own around the supermodern VA's and new analog units coming out these days... and it won't let you down when it comes to bold analog-style sounds. The oscillators sound great detuned and the slew rate modulation going from triangle to sawtooth is always nice to have - I've no idea why this is such a rarity. Wheras PWM starts with a full spectrum and works a bit like a phased highpass filter as the pulse gets narrower, SRM starts with a full sawtooth and acts like a chalky, phased lowpass filter as the waveform approaches the triangle shape.
I kept wishing for more features, such as PWM on both oscillators, a wider detune range for wide octaved sounds, and the ability to have both envelope and LFO affect the filter. But I found creative ways around all of these problems. There are drawbacks, but that's part of the fun, I suppose.
Oscillator sync sounds very nice, as does the bandpass filter. In fact, the filter is very nice in general; It stays organic even in the high frequencies, which is usually where free VA's fail. It would be lovely to have a highpass in here, as well as a few extra odds and ends. But that doesn't detract from the vivid and lively sounds it produces, which don't need oversampling or effects to sound like something real. A must have for anyone into bread-and-butter analogue-style synthesis.
I'm working on a patch bank, also, because it's just one of those synths :)Read more
Reviewed By solidtrax
December 23, 2011
Charlatan is a free Virtual Analog synthesiser VSTi that is 100% coded in C++ and has native 64bit support. At the time of writing, not many free synths share these two facts.
A first look at Charlatan might give you the impression that it's a very simple synthesizer, but once you start using it, you will soon discover that you can make some very interesting and impressive sounds with it.
When you take a look at oscillator 1, your first concern might be that you don't see a SAW wave. No worries, you can make a SAW wave with the Shape knob. When you select the Triangle waveform and turn the shape knob fully clockwise, you will have a very nice sounding SAW wave at your disposal. Now select the SAW waveform in Oscillator 2 and detune them both slightly. This is where you find out what sets this plugin apart from many many other free synthesizer plugins. It actually sounds amazing! Not digital at all, but it really gives you that sound you might recognize from real hardware synthesizers or other great software synthesizer plugins, often costing a lot of money.
This synthesizer plugin can be very versatile, you can make some fantastic sounding bass sounds with it, but it can also make some very convincing electric piano sounds, leads, pads, strings and percussion sounds. Actually, the sky is the limit, or should we say, your programming skills is the limit!
We made a soundbank for Charlatan and you can download it from here: http://www.kvraudio.com/product/charlatan-by-blaukraut-engineering/downloads
If you are interested to hear Charlatan in action, take a listen to this track that is made with 21 instanced of Charlatan using presets from our soundbank: http://soundcloud.com/solidtrax/solidtrax-charlatan-21
Thanks to BlauKraut Engineering for sharing this great plugin with us for free!Read more