Easy to learn. Flexible to configure. Matrix, LFOs, Oscilators. Soundfonts. Browse, create and breed your own presets. Delay. Reverb. Autopan. Modulation. Filter. Resonation. Pads, Basses, Leads, Motifs, Fx. 2018. And still amazing. Just a Classic.
Given the sophistication and novelty of Crystal, you can make a case that it was/is the most GENEROUS free VST ever. And there's some tough competition for that title.
Learning to use it is an education is synthesis.
The .sf2 was the topper. All of sudden, untold GB of sample data became fodder for Crystal's bottomless mangling architecture.
Crytsal is a synth I would program for fun and exercise, not in support of a song or composition but just for its own sake--every bit as much as Cameleon 5000.
It's strength, obvioulsy is movement and modulation. I loved it from the start, but it wasn't til I heard the Tim Conrardy banls that I was able to understand its rhythmic potential. The enevenlopes are still the best of their kind, imo, not that I've checked out all the "competition." The frequency splitter is a trip. The Mod Matrix is pretty much bottomless, for all intents and purposes. Stability is excellent, CPU usage can go from modest to extreme. .Sf2 support was a brilliant stroke.
It's weakness, frankly, is in (the lack of) thickness and solidity of its core sound and an LP filter that to my ears is no great shakes. I am not able to coax fat, high character lead sounds out of Crystal, but so what? Keeping in the free domain, we have Synth1, Triangle 2, and the Iblits for that.
Crystal is, uh, an absolute gem. Glen/Green Oaks' generosity with this one is truly humbling.
USER INTERFACE Every button and slider in Crystal is placed just where it's needed, and the synth is as a result remarkable easy to use, considering its complexity. It's also a very nice-looking synth, and has the best patch browser I've seen in any freeware synth (and better than the ones in many commercial ones).
SOUND You know those stock analog sounds, the ones that every free VA synth seems to do, and do well? Crystal doesn't do those. You can't squeeze a typical supersaw or crunchy bass out of this thing without a lot of effort. So what does it do? Just about everything else. From glitched-up, snarly, hissing pads to so-pristine-it-can't-be-real chimes to massive (and really massive!) soundscapes to...well, use your imagination, or run through the presets. This synth will create sounds you can't get any other way. I suppose I can break it down more. The oscillators, in particular, are a real strength of the synth, rich and powerful. The filters are likewise very thick and heavy, though as I mentioned, not at all "analog"-sounding. The effects section consists of four delays that you can use however you want--and with the modulation options being what they are, this means you can make phasers, choruses, flangers, comb filters, ping-pong delays, and unique effects that, at least for now, don't even have names.
FEATURES I hate to write a review that sounds like a list, but I can't resist the chance to rattle them off. Three independent oscs, each with its own multimode filter, FM or ring modulation, hard sync (called "mogrify," who knows why), and soundfont loading that allows them to work as ROMplers or, better yet, granular oscs. 6 higly tweakable LFOs and multi-breakpoint envelopes that can be routed to whatever weird place your heart desires (which means, as many targets as I've seen in ANY synth), besides the envelopes for each oscillator's amplitude and filter. Four delays that have built-in filters and can be tweaked however you want - or tweaked using the envelopes and LFOs. Four-way frequency splitter. That gives you a taste of the possibilities, but to really understand what this means, you have to download the synth and really dig into it. There's more to this synth that I could exhaust in a lifetime. That said, I have to mention Crystal's one major flaw - its CPU useage. Many patches on Crystal have very modest CPU consumption, but others, especially when using a lot of polyphony, are outrageously CPU-heavy. Of course, all this means is that you have to render tracks a lot when using the synth, but it's still an unfortunate issue with the synth.
DOCUMENTATION Extensive manual, nice tutorials - what more can you ask for? It was actually the first synth I ever used, and even for a beginner it wasn't impossible to get into.
PRESETS The patches built in are brilliant. There's a factory bank, and the website has several others, and they all sound exceptional, giving a great taste of what this thing is capable of. Amazing stuff.
This synth is capable of a huge range of sounds, from searing leads to thumping basses, but its strength is in dynamic, evolving sounds. The huge set of controls you have over the sound means you never feel limited by the ways you can warp the sound in interesting ways.
I like that you can use it simply, just pushing the Breed button to make clever new inspiring patches. This feature always leads to something you can use.
But, if you want to plunge in further, you have a lot of things to play with. FM synthesis, granular synthesis, wave sequencing, hard sync and bunch of filters to tweak the sound endlessly, all modulated by any number of things, including tempo syncable loopable multi stage envelopes.
There are a lot of nice touches here that set is aside from typical free synths, including midi learn, a complete online manual, and rock solid stability.
In short, you can\'t do better as a basic synth to use as a foundation for your synth tracks. You can\'t help but find useful and inspiring sounds here.
As others have said, this is a long-established free synth, and yet, it's still one of the most surprising and pleasing. Usually, I find myself forgiving all kinds of horrible quirks in free stuff, but there's no need to with Crystal. There's basically nothing not to like.
More to the point, there's a helluva lot to be pleased about, and grateful for. I'm kinda new to soft synths -- although I messed with hardware in the past -- so wasn't really prepared for an item like this, which is rich in features. Just the one feature of 'breeding' two separate presets kept me amused for an hour.
Crystal produces excellent pads, that's true. But that's only one aspect. There are many banks of excellent presets by other sound designers, and there's nothing to stop you creating your own. It's just as capable of lead voices as it is of making pads. It's 100 per cent stable, has a pretty decent online manual, and has consistently evolved over the years. It certainly has more tweakability than I know how to usefully employ at present, and always delivers something useful whenever I fire it up.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Crystal when I first tried it. A thread was started that raised questions about whether the plug-in was overrated (over which opinion was very much divided), which drew my attention back to it. It wasn't until I began to experiment with it as a lead instrument that I noticed how much of a presence it had in the mix. Browsing through Tim Conrardy's patches provided the inspiration to use it for atmospheres; the results were quite staggering. I have recently noticed myself moving away from pop-oriented music towards more ambient, atmospheric productions and this would not have been a reality without Crystal. If you haven't tried it already, you might be surprised by what you can do with it.
GUI Recently overhauled to give it a more conventional, industrial look. The layout is intuitive to tweakers; professional sound designers don't seem to have any issues with the more advanced controls (the rest of us might as well be watching Star Trek).
Sound Didn't grab me at first but it's like nothing else out there in the realms of freeware. As mooted by people on the forum, this is the closest thing to a freeware Absynth. The range of sounds is staggering; from Japanese-style plucks to warm, evolving pads and atmospheres. Everything from the conventional to the completely absurd!
Features The patch breeding feature is superb; extra points here for that alone.
Docs Green Oak provide documentation and a set of tutorials on their site. There isn't a lot more you could want for a free synth.
Presets The supplied patches are plentiful but there are hundreds of high-quality presets available for this synth. Special thanks to all those who took the time to make and share them.
Support It's free so that's a ten in my book. Developer support is not really an issue.
VFM See above.
Stability Works a treat in my host. No issues at all here.
Overall I have used Crystal to breathe life back into several of my older tracks; those that were built around demo versions of pricey commercial synths that have long since expired. Simply put, I was able to evolve my long-forgotten work into something that sounded new and exciting virtually effortlessly with this plug-in. Keep it installed even if you don't think you can use any of the sounds you've tried.
This has to be the most venerable of free-synths. Think of it as Rhino/Absynth-lite. A great 3-osc synth for beginners to learn programing envelopes and matrices. There are great tutorials on the site and the gui ain't all bad (aren't we all a little tired of knobs anyways?). I'll admit that the GUI can be intimidating (I'd like to see the Mixer functions with more differentiation) if you aren't familiar with synthesis but under the hood it has all the big league features.
I really like the sound of Crystal. It's not an overly bold "on-top" sound (as it can sound a tad thin compared to some of the newer commercial VSTis) but rather an "in-the-mix" sound. I'll often layer a few Crystal sounds as backgrounds movements or beats. It has some great exotic type sounds which can compete with the commercial monsters.
There are tons of presets delivered by the huge user group but you'll want to tewak yourself. I especially like it's soundfont sampler and ability to granulate waveforms. Also there is a patch breeder for morphing presets. Damn that's cool!
You can go incredibly deep with this synth so I recommend learning how to program it and then you can be prepared to program the commercial synths, but you might not want to make the switch.
I don't know where to begin to start describing this synth. It's free and in my opinion, competes with some expensive stuff out there. The GUI doesn't. But in its own way is perfectly good enough. There is a very nice feel to the GUI but it simply doesn't quite have the professional touch.....but what do you want for free!!!
Sound wise, this thing is brilliant. The sounds are stunning now that v2.4 is around with its SoundFont capability and Patch Breeder. Some truly amazing patches can be made.
One issue I do have is its CPU load. It isn't brilliant and requires a good, fast PC, but if you have anything better than a P4 2GHz then there should be no problem at all.
I highly recommend this synth, as its features and versatility are awe-inspiring, as the sounds you can quickly create are remarkable.
I know this looks insane, giving such a high rating, but since crystals' debut, I have used it more than any other synth. The gui looks daunting on first look, but after spending time with it (and you do have to spend time with it) everything IS rather logical (and it is a modular by the way!) What does it sound like? you ask..well it bleeps, gurgles and blurps, thick bass, squelchy leads and nicely padded pads. But is there more? Yes! You can add motion like crazy to your sounds..wave sequencing, arp the envelopes, draw the envelopes, modulate anything and everything on the page! So, how did I learn all this? I did something uncharacteristic of me and read the manual - it's there on the crystal web site. It's worth the read, and necessary to understand how it works. But it is clear and concise. Tutorials are available as well. Also, with the yahoo news group there is a direct line to the author. Questions are always answered quickly, usually by Glen, but sometimes the more knowledgable users chime in. So customer support, while I've never needed it, I have witnessed it in action. Crystal comes with quite a number of presets, which kept me content for a year. then tim conrardy came up with two new sets which set a new standard and inspired me to tweak and learn this synth even more. Crystal is pretty heavy on the cpu, but when you're modulating everything in sight and throwing the built in fx on, that's to be expected. Besides, that seems to be the trend with many of the newer synths coming out these days. Stability is a non issue, it's never crashed on me, even in Orion it's stable. It's amazing that Glen has chosen to give us this synth, as I know many would gladly pay for it. This is one synth that deserves a high rating.
Are Green Oak mad? They could make some serious money out of this baby! I know I'd pay for the privilege of having this synth within my arsenal.(when the cpu load issue gets sorted) Although there are easier synths out there to program,few can create the sounds that Crystal does and none of them cost you nothing. They say the best things in life are free, looks like the best synths are too!
it`s a great syth packed with all features one might need. but you have to bring preknowledge about modular synthesis.
now the whining :
1. you cannot use it raltime excessively in more instances, cause it eats too much cpu power ... hopefully this will change in the near future.
2. many people work in logic, and in logic directly it looses some parameters, even if you store the sounds in the internal patchbrowser of the plugin. you have to use the cainer plugin, then it worx.
the gui is not bad, but a little hassle to work with.
features are endless.
documentation is a little rudimentary, but its free, so we dont complain ;=)
support is good, they do anything they can for such a complex product (read this, glen ;=) and the updatepolicy is correct.on the website are many tutorials about how to use the synth (wich i found out now), there is also a userlist with over 1200 users and there are many sounds of the users you can freely download.
the presets (that come with the synth itself) are not even closely showing what you can do with it, but at all i have to say that i personally would get a synth like this for creating own patches, thats what its therefore because of its semi modularity.
value for mony is unbelievable, its great and free.
I have been using Crystal for quite some time and haven't got around to reviewing it...because I've been having too much fun using it!! I love this synth. Great for unusual pads, bass. Warm and complex sounds. The factory presets are excellent.
If you use VSTs, there is no logical excuse for not getting this synth, it's free! I have soft synths that cost over $100 that do not compare to Crystal. In fact, if Crystal were priced at $100, it would still be a great deal (consider Absynth, also a great soft synth, but definitely not free).
With Version 2.4, Crystal now becomes a ROMpler, Soundfont player as well as getting other enhancements. These are tremendous features. I would give Crystal an 11 if it was possible.
Crystal by far is the best free vst available today. You can use it for numerous types of music/sound. Crystal can produce anything from a piano to abstract noises. It really is up to the user on what crystal can do.
If you added reverb, flanger, or whatever your type of sound efecct to crystal you make the sounds brighter, darker, to your preference.
Creating sounds is simple enough that even a novice can figure it out with some trial and error.
In closing, you can read all the reviews you want on Crystal, but the best thing to do is to download it, try it out, and like everyone else, you'll agree that Crystal is hands down the best free VST on the market.
Crystal is amazing. This is one of the best synths out there.
The interface for Crystal is just fine. It does take a little getting used to, but after you play around with it a few times it makes sense. It's very easy to use and looks good to me.
The sound is incredible. This is a rare synth that can deliver a wide variety of sounds. I've used it in a lot of different tracks and don't know what I'd do without it. Crystal excells when it comes to ambient sounds and pads, but can do leads and basses to very well too.
Feature wise it keeps getting better every update. There are lots of ways to manipulate your sounds with this. The FM is very good and the 4 delay sends allow for some great texture in sound.
On the Green Oak website there's a pretty comprehensive online manual that gives you a lot of good information about using the synth, as well as easy to follow tutorials to help you get started.
The presets are amazing. These presets really show off what Crystal can do, and are all organized into catagories if your looking for a fast sound.
Green Oak has it's own forum on yahoo that they will respond to pretty fast, and also will help you through email. With Glenn there's no "fill in this box and we will respond in 72 hours". Post on the forum and he'll be posting back asap.
Value for money. Well, Crystal is free, and in my opinion it should be sold. There are lots of other synths out there that aren't worth half of what crystal is and selling for $50 and up. I can only imagine what kind of synths Green Oak will have for sale if this one is free!
It's never crashed on me. I've never had a problem with stability at all. Yes, it used to eat up some CPU on me back when I had me 400mhz PII, but with my new 2400+ Athlon, I've had no problems running it at all.
This is one of those synths that if your not using, you've got to start. Give it a try because from the minute you hear the first sound out of it you'll fall in love.
I've used Crystal since Glenn Olander unleashed the first version on us, and fallen into a tremendously rewarding affair it since the version that introduced - tsadaa - MIDI learn, in addition to the longest feature list in the VSTi world.
UI: Crystal's ultimate strenght is the user interface, which is IMO the best so far. It makes more sense to me than any other synth. Once you get over the unsexiest graphics since Atari days, you'll find yourself creating complex textures, tempo synced builds and tonal treasures that have no names before you give them one - and that's before you can say "I never thought I could do this"! Logical, clear and intuitive interface to endless possibilities of mangling. I think this is a remarkable achievement in synthesis.
SOUND: The native oscillators themselves, without any modulation, could be fatter. However, as you can use soundfonts as osc wforms, apply granular and FM synthesis (although only sine is available as modulator) and twist, loop & bounce the original sound to extremes the osc sound quality itself is not an issue.And Green Oak has actually developed the osc sound as well!!
FEATURES: I think it's ´nuff said that there is more than on any other VST synth. (Absynth comes close, but it has no tempo sync or midi learn and is generally more usable as a stand-alone)
DOCS: On-line manual, but due to the unbelievable development speed it's a bit behing reality. Anyway, it's well written with pictures, and new tutorials come with new features.
PRESETS: Lots of unheard patches of seriously inspiring quality, but Crystal is a explorer's Supertool, I would make my own no matter that the presets are good.
SUPPORT: Glenn recently introduced the Crystal Mailing list (Yahoo Group) which works like dream. Can't beat this one.
V 4 $ & STABILITY It never crashes and it's free :) How's that?!
Howdy ... It's been a while since I did a review but on this one I simply am under an obligation since they gave this (worth many dollars) one for free to me ! pro`s :
* easy programmable interface * the possibility to draw envelopes ! (yep like adaptive synth but better) * Its modular * drawable frequency modulation * tempo sync for delay and filters and modulators * band splitter * an astonishing row of effects
must I go on ? I could name a hundred uses for this beast and it would still be a thin review for this multi-purpose mega cool work of art. boundless possibilities for the use of this ... ranging from rhythmic effects to spread out pads any self appreciating / respecting computer artist / vsti musician should have this !
Well I feel I have to add to the glowing/growing database of reviews for this baby.
I really do not understand why this is free! Yes, it was a CM mag exclusive for a while, but that was only for a month or so.
The sounds are incredibly varied, warm, and most importantly interesting - I would even say that nothing I have tried yet (and to be fair I havent seen absynth etc..) sounds like this.
Just a couple of things though - a) Its v. complex (to my eyes) so; preset fiddlers like me may get a bit scared about dabbling! b) It doesnt sync very well to ACID 4.0......but there again, not much does!
Basically, this is fantastic - download it, put it on one of the temp-sync presets and just feel the ideas flow!
Crystal keeps on getting better and better.I'd be rehashing most of the reviews if I started raving about it,so here's some of the newer features; Soundfonts can be used as oscillator waveforms.While the 2.1 version only allowed 100,the new version allows up to 1024 soundfonts to be used as waveforms. Oscillator sync on a couple of the"analog"waves. Reverb-with no real drain on the CPU,by using one of the delay lines.Yes,you can have multi-tap delay AND reverb natively! Wave sequencing with the built in sampled waveforms. Patch morphing.The patches have to be consecutive in the .fxb file,but that's no real restriction. A patch browser-a really nice feature!Put all your Crystal patch banks in a folder(labeled CrystalPatchBanks),and you have immediate access to ALL your patches.Cool... An expanded mod matrix with 12 slots instead of the 6 of the original. etc;etc;etc. Crystal reminds me of an Oberheim Xpander brought to the software realm.Yeah,it can get CPU hungry,but it's got the potential to make sounds you've only ever dreamed of.A sound designer's paradise! Load Crystal into your host,call up the preset"Aligned Arp",put a panning delay after it and go into La-la land for a couple hours!Well done,Glenn! There's a fairly active users group at Yahoo where Glenn's always posting tips and tricks;be sure to check it out!
One of the most impressive VST synths around. Powerful, free, and unique.
3 voices (+ more envelopes than you can shake a stick at) allow for all sorts of useful weirdness. Suited to rhythmic textures, evolving sounds and much else besides.
GUI - Not everyone's cup of tea, but doesn't bother me. Sensible layout, nice clear sliders, doesn't sacrifice functionality in some misguided attempt to mimic the hardware look. (No fiddly knobs!)
Sounds - As others have said, the natural inclination is towards thinner, more metallic sounds. Warmer stuff requires more coaxing. Great for beautiful, impersonal sounds, capable of real melancholy also. Each voice offers 6 osc types, 20+ wave samples and now wave sequencing. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Soundfont import means that the range of sounds is now pretty much infinite.
Features - Too many to mention, growing all the time. Worth noting: entensive modulation routing, detailed syncable envelopes, multiple delays. Don't be put off by talk of Crystal's complexity. Deep, yes, but not daunting. Even for a synth novice like myself.
Docs - Good documentation at website, but Crystal is evolving so fast that the manual tends to lag behind a bit.
Presets - Quite varied and give an indication of Crystal's range, but haven't found too much use for them myself. Crystal really comes into its own when you start brewing your own sounds. Extra patches on website.
Support - Outstanding. Glenn is friendly, very helpful and open to suggestions.
VFM - Glenn has so far resisted attempts to pay him for his labour, but we'll wear him down eventually.
Stability - Fairly rock-solid. Occasional CPU overload on slower PCs.
No real negatives, alas. Every time I think of a lack, the next update seems to have anticipated it. Extension of Crystal's granular capabilities would be welcome, but that's just getting greedy.
So yes, it's bloody good. You're probably already using it. If not, you need a damn good talking to.
This is possibly the best free Synth available (Synth1 and Iblit are close). A LOT of Options, a really unique sound, gret Presets and a really usable Interface (ok, it's a bit ugly). Do i need to say more?
With the latest Update Crystal became a high-quality ROMpler as well.
Crystal, an already feature laden freeware synth has developed a lot in one version. 2.1 finds wavesequencing and sample loading. The later enables some warmth that is missing using the highly flexible synth engine. The well designed (though sometimes cluttered feeling) interface is easier to program than it might first appear.
Eight stage drawable envelopes with multiple lines and curves make for some fantastic modulations and modulations are a key here. Almost anything can be modulated, one voice can sound huge. You get up to three voices per patch so it is possible to do things that were impossible prior to (you guessed it) Absynth.
For pads Crystal is a monster as is it's CPU load. Beyond pads Crystal works well for leads although I personally don't use it for bass oriented sounds.
I find myself using Crystal mostly for ambient effects, pads and evolving, twisting mono synth lines.
For free there is nothing in it's class. It is of terrific value for all the things it does. The sound is of high quality and useful in many compositional styles. Slowly Crystal is becoming an alternative to synths like Absynth and shareware synths that while taking a different approach are not a lot further ahead on the technology curve.
Crystal is a synth worth paying for which makes it all the more astonishing that it is free. It is robust, has yet to crash in Cubase 5.1 or Orion Platinum and fits well in the kind of music I work with. If it doesn't fit for you add a sample and start creating.
Check out Crystal, the presets are excelent examples of what can be done with it. Other than the time to download and install you have nothing to lose and quite possibly you'll be amazed.
Performance improves substantially with a faster CPU but even as a monophonic synth there are timbres that can fill almost an entire mix.
It's aprox 8 months since I did a review of Crystal, and it's evolved so far since then. It was previously a very Wavestation-like synth (at least it could make very Wavestation-like sounds). Now it has overtaken the Wavestation by leaps and bounds and has become a master-of-all-trades-jack-of-none.
Crystal can now use Soundfonts in .SF2 format, so it has become a sampler with hugely impressive facilities (when you consider that there are plenty of apps out there that you can use to make your own .SF2 files from .wav files)
The modulation matrix now has doubled, which gives you 12 destination/target options + double the number of envelopes. This was my one bugbear with Crystal in the past - it could make very distinctive and unique sounds, but was limited to being merely a very capable synth by the smallish number of mod options available. Now there is almost no sound that you can imagine, that Crystal cannot make. There are modulations galore, and the number of synthesis options is almost overwhelming - granular, FM, resonant subtractive etc. with a hugely improved set of filters that add some serious oomph under the bonnet.
It has reverb FX alongside the other delay lines (which can give phasing, flanging etc anyway) so you don't even need to use FX plugins with this beast.
Hard sync on oscillators, and no doubt other additions soon, continue to make this a breath-taking piece of work.
That is one of the stunning things with Crystal - Glenn continues to make note of all users suggestions/bugs and implements all of the best ideas with amazing speed. It just grows and grows, each version almost transforming the synth before you've had a chance to get to grips with the huge synthesis capabilities of the last version. There is no equal for user support, period.
Every time you sit down with Crystal, you get lost in the myriad possibilities and wonder why you don't use it for everything. Not easy to programme, but huge in scope and sound.
really i see this synth changing society. normally cynical, i've been overwhelmed by the amount of free development and education happening in dsp on the web. don't get me wrong, there are some great freebies for pc out there, but this is a MASSIVE step ahead.
i see companies going out of business from this synth, unless they find a new way to "get with it" and start helping people learn and being modest about their needs/'r&d expenses.' take note, because things are changing.
this synth is powerful.. check out the envelopes! unbelievable!!! think SIX lfos are going to be enough for you?
and it sounds GORGEOUS!
and the cpu meter? the busiest patches are running less than some fairly unsophisticated 2 osc, 1 filter softs. hitting maybe 10% on a 1.2g athlon, smaller patches are barely jumping a line. tight.
at first glance i thought the interface looked kinda busy with the oscillograph thingy graphic, but look again.. it's very neatly laid out, uncluttered, logical arrangement.. THIS is the synth to use and develop from.. i've been stuck looking for a softsynth to write a subtractive tutorial for, everything w/o enough features or prohibitive cost.. no more!
i think a lot of people will learn how to patch on this synth.. the current presets are showy and would require a lot of 'disassembly,' but i'm sure in no time there'll be thousands of user patches available. watch! better yet, forget watching, use it!!!
what next? not even going to worry about it. welcome to evolution :)
i'm just wondering about his motives!!!! ;)