Harmor features a unique and modern additive synthesis engine that emulates classic subtractive synthesis as well.
Additive / subtractive emulation - generating sounds not possible with traditional synthesis methods, including the ability to draw custom filter shapes, and offering precise control over every aspect of the sound conception.
Image & Audio Resynthesis - allowing a faithful, sampler-quality resynthesis of audio, not a vague sound-alike often met in additive synthesizers. Images too can be imported and turned into sound.
Envelopes and articulation - as originally seen in Image-Line's flagship synthesizer Sytrus, are taken to new levels of features, flexibility and GUI integration.
Sound creation - possibilities are endless, but not bewildering. Stutter, mangle, stretch, pitch and manipulate both audio and images beyond recognition.
Harmor's biggest strength is also it's greatest weakness, and probably why there are so few reviews for such an amazing synth. You can use Harmor for years, and still feel like a noob only scratching the surface. That makes writing a review difficult. How can you give an in-depth review, when you feel so green behind the ears? You only need to watch a few YT videos (e.g. Seamless) or chat with another user to discover yet another side to this truly versatile beast.
To start off with, Harmor is an amazingly capable subtractive synth. It might be billed as an additive synth, but you can drag in your own waveforms without having to worry about setting any partials. You can completely ignore that side if you want to. You get 4 oscillators split over 2 parts, and you get to choose the mix between the 2 oscillators per part, as well as the mix between the two parts. Where Harmor comes into its own here is in the modulation options. If you've used FL Studio or Sytrus, this part will probably make sense immediately. If you haven't, you'll probably have a bit of a learning curve. Essentially, you can draw any envelope curves you can dream up, including loop points, for pretty much any parameter. Or you can just draw a standard ADSR instead. You also get an LFO for each parameter that is much more versatile than just a simple repeated wave form. Again, you can draw your own and do weird and wacky things. All envelopes and LFOs can be tempo synced or retriggered globally when you play another note.
I find the UI intuitive with drop-down menus to select the parameter you want to modulate (there must be around 70 to choose from) and another drop-down to select the source (envelope, LFO, keymap, velocity etc.). It keeps everything uncluttered while giving you access to a huge number of options.
This makes it extremely easy to create organic and evolving sounds. You also get 2 filters to play with that you can route in series or parallel. And in addition to the standard filter options you'd expect, you can also draw your own filter and resonance curves.
Of course, you can instead create your own waveforms from partials. Under the hood, Harmor works exclusively with partials, which is where it shows its additive nature. If you load a waveform, it will be analysed and broken down into the corresponding partials (which you can view and edit if you want). Everything Harmor is doing is happening at the partial level. Your filter curves are actually being applied directly to the appropriate partials' levels, not to the final audio output resulting from all partials being added together.
Now you can manipulate these partials in various ways, blurring them together or using the prism function to spread the partials across the frequency spectrum so they no longer act as harmonics. This can create all sorts of metallic and weird sounds. Of course, you can modulate the prism and blur settings using envelopes and LFOs. To help you understand what is going on, Harmor has a visual representation of the partials that are playing, and you can see how they drift and blur with your settings. This is immensely helpful. I suggest that you type "can i haz moar view" into the preset description box to make this visual element bigger (hidden Easter egg).
It's very easy to make ugly sounds by manipulating the partials this way. Quite a few of the presets that use these features in more extreme ways fall into the "weird sound fx" category. But they are actually great for creating more metallic tones, where not all the partials are harmonics. The right custom filter curve, and/or partials, and you are good to go! At less extreme setting they can also add bite or grit to the sound.
There's also a unison function, again applied to the partials, as well as a hamonizer that allows you to clone partials and add copies elsewhere in the frequency spectrum, either using addition or multiplication. But there's no way I can list every feature you get. Suffice to say, you can spend hours twiddling knobs just to see/hear what happens.
But that's not all! You can load audio and image files to use as your sound source instead of the oscillators. The audio or image is analysed, and broken down into partials. This means you can play any audio as a pitched instrument, and manipulate the partials. It can be fun to load random images, but I've found that algorithmically generated designs can work really well - things similar to the classic geometric screen savers that just drew coloured lines to make interesting patterns such as spirals. If you load an image, you can actually see the image in the view on the right as your audio plays, which is neat.
There are various ways you can interact with images/audio (which are essentially treated as the same thing). There are various speed settings as well as options for how to map content to partials. Different options here give very different results. You can use envelopes and LFOs to scrub through the image/audio and set an offset/play position. In theory, you can set the speed to 0, and load an audio file consisting of several single cycle waveforms and use the time offset to scan through the waves. I've only done this with images, but I can't think why it won't work for audio too, essentially giving you wavetable scanning as well.
The last section I need to mention are the in-built FX. Harmor has a nice selection of FX, and my god, do they sound luscious. You get distortion, chorus, delay reverb and compression to choose from. And because Harmor can never give you too many options, you get to choose not only the order in which the global FX are applied, but also the order in which the different sections of the synthesizer are applied. So you can first apply EQ, then use the pluck, then apply the prism effect and then filter the result. Or filter first, then phaser, then harmonizer. It's crazy.
As you can probably tell, Harmor is a crazy beast of a synth, and I'm actually trying to keep this relatively brief...
So is Harmor for you? If you are a sound designer, most definitely. If you like experimenting and making your own presets from time to time, it's a wonderful synth to do that on. Harmor is one of those synths I sometimes fire up just to see what sounds will come out. You can easily futz around for an hour without noticing how much time has passed. But if you are a heavy preset user, and the thought of doing more than tweak the odd knob is a turn off, Harmor is not for you.
Because it's so versatile, you could probably use it to replace a large number of synths. On the other hand, nothing can come close to replacing Harmor. That's why it's my desert island synth. It's the one that can do almost everything. I can make beautiful pads, punchy basses, silky leads. I can make ugly metallic clangs, dirty gritty soundscapes. I can sample myself going "ooh" and play it as a choir. Backwards.
I think there are too many 10/10 ratings on KVR, but Harmor is the one synth I have that deserves it. Well done Gol.
I've thought long and hard about how to rate this synth, and decided to go with a perfect 10, with the caveat that your experience may well be a zero.
What it boils down to is Harmor is THE synth for you when know what you're doing -- and the more you know, the better it is. However, if you're brand new to the synth game, or have a spotty grasp of the physics of sound, you're very likely to flail about uselessly until you get frustrated and quit.
Like a bicycle without training wheels or a bowling lane without bumpers, Harmor is very beginner-unfriendly. But it makes up for that by being extremely convenient for advanced users. The built in vibrato, tremolo, and pluck are obvious time savers, as is the suite of re-orderable onboard effects, but the real power is the additive-doing-subtractive paradigm. And I don't mean "power" in the "ability to do novel things" definition typically associated with synthesis -- although Harmor obvious ranks extremely highly (perhaps the highest) on this chart. Instead, I'm referring to the ability to work quickly.
You can dial in EXACTLY the harmonic profile you want. You can get the PRECISE filter shape you're looking for. You can create the SPECIFIC envelope behavior you desire. And you can do all of this in just a couple of clicks without ever fussing about with a modulation matrix. You know what's better than drag-n-drop routing? No routing at all -- just right click on the control, and then edit the envelope, LFO, keyboard tracking, velocity mapping, etc for practically every knob and slider you see on the screen. Once you get used to this paradigm you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Also, remember in other synths when you used to stack all those different oscillators at various pitches with different amounts of unison and detune? You'll never do that again. The unison on this thing reigns supreme. First of all, the fact that you have per-harmonic phase control and inherently linear-phase additive "filters" means that you have fatness and low end for days on this thing -- there's no phase cancellation or distortion mucking things up unless you want it. Second, you can adjust the unison detuning on a per-harmonic basis, which is a very direct and efficient way to achieve the type of unison timbre you're seeking. Again, this is another one of those things that you'll wonder how you got by without -- it's that good.
The sound, of course, is fantastic, with unbelievable quality and versatility. Forget about aliasing -- there is no aliasing here. There is no anti-aliasing here either -- it's additive-doing-subtractive, you don't need anti-aliasing. Now I'm sure that Harmor could be made to alias, perhaps through the distortion unit, but really, the clarity and strength of the sound is unparalleled in the software world. Digital FM is cool and all, but this right here is computer synthesis shining in a way that nothing else can -- with phenomenal CPU efficiency to boot! It's truly one of a kind.
But the thing I keep coming back to is just how quickly you can work with Harmor, assuming you know what you're doing. It's an expert tool for expert users -- beginners would be better served with something like Harmless. And even intermediate users should approach with caution. For instance, Harmor doesn't do straight-up PWM. If you know synthesis, and want to make a PWM sound, but don't understand what that means harmonically, Harmor will frustrate and confuse you. However, if you understand that PWM is a saw harmonic series attenuated periodically in the frequency domain at harmonic scaled intervals, with the size of that interval smoothly varying over the time domain, then you'll see that using Harmor's phaser in "harmonic" mode, not only can you can get that classic PWM sound, but you can do it better, and with a trillion variations that aren't possible in classic subtractive paradigms. Heady stuff.
And here I'm not even touching on the resynthesis capabilities, which are a whole universe unto themselves. But this review is long enough as is.
Image-Line is very clear about their target audience for Harmor. The manual sums it up well:
"The Harmor design philosophy is 'more is more', every feature, control and harmonic function was carefully selected for maximum effectiveness."
With this target audience in mind, and rating Harmor based on how well it serves that audience, stacking it up against the competition, it clearly merits nothing less than a 10 out of 10. The future of sound design arrived 5 years ago and runs on a cheap laptop. What a time to be alive.
When released in 2011, this was the future of additive synthesis. In 2017, no other developer has improved on what Image-Line achieved in this synth. The key of mastering Harmor as exceptionally powerful sound design tool is understanding how sound is formed from partials. After that, it can be used to make majority of harmonic and inharmonic sound types, from drums to plucks to strings and so on, all in one device.
On the surface, Harmor is notable for its "filter" modules, which go beyond filter curve paradigms of conventional synthesizers. Under the hood, this synth also realizes many other things which electronic musicians have dreamed about for decades. Harmor's graphical envelopes allow control of additive synthesis parameters in ways more convenient than any synth before it, including legendary devices such as Fairlight CMI and Technos Axcel.
When used with external image editors and image generators, Harmor's image function enables extensive control of gain and frequency of oscillator's harmonic partials. Compared to MetaSynth and other similar tools, it achieves good balance between complexity and usability.
If Image-Line ever decides to improve on this, one big possibility is expanding modules which are now called "filters" into "frames" that can animate sound. At the moment, changing parameters of "filters" and morphing between them allows 2 "frames of animation", but there is potential to expand the paradigm much further. Synths such as Image-Line's own Morphine and former Camel Audio's (now Apple's) Alchemy provide good points of comparison.
This review will be wierd. Usually I get to know new stuff pretty quickly, but with Harmor, it kinda didin't happen. I love IL stuff. Toxic Biohazard is one of my favs to date, bit I still don't know what to think about Harmor.
This confuses me a lot. It feels like developers thought: "Ok, let see what's cool today and get it all into one synth!" They made it at time, when additive synthesis was popular, so it's additive synth. ...but also you've got "regular" OSC's and the resynthesis mode which I'm not really sure how to switch to other way then just dropping image on certain tab. Also, while mentioning resynthesis, some kind of graphical editor wouldn't hurt. Now it just imports images. It has an unisono engine, some kind of light physical modeling included, some harmonization effects and so on. ...alltogether it's really nice and rich package, it just feel somehow unorganized.
Not bad. Not bad at all. When you manage successfulyl switch to resynthesis mode, I think it has even better results then Alchemy's spectral mode. As far as traditional sounds go, it's pretty good average. It gets interesting when you start messing with all those advanced features, but then you can't objectively compare it to anything. In other words, when you make it sound good, it sounds good, when you make it sounds bad, it sounds bad...
Same problem as with the features. There is a lot to explore. It uses IL's envelope framework to effectively modulate prety much anything ... but the way you "search" for the parameters is really a torture. You've got a lot of functions right in front of you on the "dashboard", but all the additive and resynthesis stuff is hidden. It's not a bad gui, it just takes much more time to get into in comparison with Toxic, or Sytrus.
I might be affected here, becouse I take extremely long times to finish my tracks, but it happens quite a lot that when I use Harmor, I end up replacing it by synth I know better. On the other hand, Harmor is excellent for this "I have no idea what I need, let's go turn some knobs and see!" kind of situation. While that, In synths I know, I sometimes end up with something I've made before. Not the case in Harmor. ...so ironically, it's over-complexity might be a realy good thing that makes the value.
Finally the wait is now over and this is the software synth everyone's been talking about. In many ways there are lots of similarities compared to like having a Roland VariOS but only in a software version. This one goes even deeper with enough synth options to blow your mind. I'm just now scratching the surface of what it's capable of doing and I feel this belongs to an elite class of today's top software synths like Omnisphere, Alchemy, Absynth 5, Vertigo, etc. Even in the same catigory of what it does, well I should say this one is darn good in it's own ways of making music and manipulating sounds with lots of potential behind this software beast. What's also good about it is that Harmor is a very small synth program and it doesn't take much of your HD space to install like most others do. My rough guess it's only a 10.6 MB program it's very small and you'll be very happy with the size and very happy with it overall. Image-Line sure did it again.
Agreed - this sucka turns samples into patches, instantly! That is schweet. The one downside is that it's a 32-bit program, so if your're running a 64-bit DAW that doesn't have bridging (I'm lookin' at YOU, Studio One V2!), then you are out of luck.
Spot on review, FarleyCZ. A great but somewhat confused (or confusing) synth, which I mainly use for it's powerful and transparent resynthesis abilities, it can turn voices and other samples into sonic taffy with a minimum of fuss. Creating synth patches on it? That hasn't really happened for me, but I'm sure others would gel with that part of it.
Yes, no doubt, Harmor is a wonderful synth. Image-line updated to 64-bit most of it's synths a few years ago. On my system I run both the 32 and 64-bit versions with Sonar Platinum. Thanks, aumordia for a very concise, well thought out, review.