I planned to review D.U.N.E months ago, but only after spending many many hours with this synth do I really feel confident I can offer any useful insight.
At first glance it may seem that D.U.N.E is a fairly standard three osc, one filter, three envelope and three LFO per voice affair with unison. However this is not at all the case.
D.U.N.E stands for Differential Unison Engine, and what this does is significant for a few reasons to "get" what D.U.N.E is really about. What is so useful about this feature is that it is both not unison and unison at the same time. Unison on most synths is just a multiplication of voices, D.U.N.E can do that too.
You can think of it as an eight layer synth controlled from a single a single matrix, the brain of the synth if you will. So if you have three envelopes per voice for example then with all voices active you have twenty four in total. But that's the beauty of this design. If you activate all eight voices you still only have three envelopes, you actually have twenty one more potential envelopes. Unless you specify otherwise in the mod matrix, all voices will respond to all envelope and LFO routing the same. Then you can simply adjust one for a specific voice.
Its a good middle road between complexity and ease of use. There are some draw backs though. For example, you may change the speed of any LFO for any voice, but you must use more mod slots to do this and you cannot select the LFO waveform from the mod matrix, so you only ever have a choice of three LFO wave forms. You also cannot specify from the matrix whether the LFO for voice four for example resets or syncs. This can only be done from the front page. What this means in effect is once you get past using three LFO's you can then choose to modulate any voice with anyone one of those three and alter the the speed and phase of the LFO for that voice but nothing else.
It can be limiting, but at the same time it really helps to keep things moving. Too much complexity can just overwhelm people.
Now as for the OSCs themselves they are very good. D.U.N.E has a nice strong sound. Its smooth at the same time as it is sharp. Its difficult to describe, but I have been thinking for a while about its sound. Some have described it as flat and lifeless. Interestingly I can see why people would use those descriptions and at the same time disagree with what is meant. While I would say that the synth sounds flat and still I would not use the term lifeless. Its got a precise sound, but its not clinical, I would say its got a tight and focused sound but its not thin. Its not overly aggressive and its not overly soft either.
This is just my opinion, but after a lot of listening and experimenting I think D.U.N.E sounds just right for a lot modern electronic music. If you listen to some of the latest tunes people are favouring a lot of less agressive sounds. Not so much analog sounding, but not harsh digital sounding either. I am thinking for example of Yahel's pop star remix on Oakenfold's Four Seasons. Again this is just my opinion, but D.U.N.E to me is a new and interesting flavour and I think it sounds perfect for a lot of the new sounds being used. It can't do everything though. If I wanted an analog synth I would either buy one or buy an emulation. When making dance music you don't always want a largo overwhelming analog style sound.
However, while I don't always want the drift, dirt and instability of analog sound I do like to have decent analog styled filters for some things, what is nice is that D.U.N.E gives you a choice of lower CPU-consuming filters and Analog modeled filters, which sound lovely in my opinion and really match the rest of the synth in terms of sound character well.
The wave-tables give a huge expansion to the sound. They are all good, they are not always this good with every synth. You should read the manual about the wave-tables, you can do wave sequencing but there can be clicks, you have to work with it. If you want to scan through the waveforms though you can to a degree and its quite smooth depending on which waveforms you scan through. At about the centre of the table there are around 10 waveforms that are perfectly sequential in their harmonic content and are perfect for scanning.
I think Synapse-Audio have done a really good job with the effects, Especially the phaser which operates in three modes. The delay has a diffuse mode which is on of the better sounding delays out there. I expect it inverts the phase of one channel as it gives an wide stereo sound to the delay. It works just beautifully on a trance pluck for example. The reverb is good and here they give you a good choice. I think there are 5 algorithms, the first two are CPU savers, and they sound pretty good.
Most of the time unless I am looking for something specific, if I put the effects on I decide to keep them on, and apart from the reverb I might not really opt to add a third party effect, which says a lot. I also want to praise Synapse-Audio for their distortion algorithms. This might sound strange, but they sound excellent without sounding analog. Some people may think that analog distortion is the warm kind whereas digital distortion is harsh. So it either sounds analog or harsh. This is not true. In my opinion D.U.N.E.'s distortion fits the rest of its sound qualities perfectly, it doesn't try to sound analog but it does sound good.
Its obvious by now that I like D.U.N.E. I've always thought it had something special to offer in terms of sound and the feature set is great. I love how easy it is to set up complex moving patches. One thing I really appreciate is you don't have to delve into its complexity to get good sound. It sounds great with just a typical subtractive set up, meaning you really could just program simple patches and get years of good use out of it, and yet at the same time when you put the work into DUNE you really get great results, and that is a rare quality.
Finally, I want to add that giving it a 10 does not at all mean I think it is the greatest be-all and end-all synth or that it is perfect. My rating of 10 reflects how much of a place DUNE has in my set-up. It means I find it to be an integral part of my set-up, one which I wouldn't now want to be without.
adjusting the score to 8. Although I like the lowpass filters a lot I do not find the hp/bp/comb to be as good.