I haven't used soundfonts for a while - partly for lack of a decent SF player in my current set-up - so I was very pleased to stumble across this freeware SF2 player from Prodyon and here's why: GUI Professional-looking without being flashy, the GUI is well laid out with all functions clearly labelled & easily accessible. The top panel is where you can load up to eight SF2 into eight seperate 'layers' and also adjust MIDI channel, pan & volume for each one. From here you can also load & save individual layers as a preset or all layers together as a multi. The right-hand panel is a browser giving you quick access to all your SF2s and presets. The rest of the GUI displays all the various editing options for the currently selected layer. Sound The sound is excellent - all my SF2s loaded without any problems and sounded as expected - there are several quality settings available and the included soundbank (see below) is also vey good. Features Each of the eight loaded layers can be edited with different settings for filter, drive, chorus, reverb and delay. You also get envelopes for amp, filter & pitch, a simple arpeggiator and a couple of modulation options per layer. This all adds up to a fair amount of sonic manipulation and, as an extra bonus, virtually everything can be automated via MIDI. The layer structure is well implemented and, as each layer can have it's velocity and key range adjusted, it is very easy to make complex multis using several layers. You even get a keyswitch mode allowing you to dynamically switch between layers. Most impressive is how this is all achieved vey simply and with minimum CPU. I can easily run all eight layers at reasonable polyphony at about 25% CPU on my laptop - much better than comparable plugins I have tried. Documentation There is currently no manual but this is largely compensated by the simple GUI and tooltips. I beleive a full manual is planned for the future. Stability Rock-solid on my set-up. Presets This is one of several areas where this plugin really stands out from the crowd. Unusually for freeware, it comes with a full soundbank of over 100 presets and soundfonts. This is excellent quality & covers basses, pads, leads etc. Two further banks are available to buy (with more planned) and these are both quality collections available for a very cheap price. Support Again unusually for freeware, the support for Phenome is very good. The developer has shown a willingness to respond to even trivial support queries and is very receptive to feature requests. VFM It's free so the value for money is 10 out of 10. The expansion soundbanks are also well worth the money.
In conclusion I really can't recommend this highly enough. For my money this is the best SF2 player available.
I am amazed that this plugin for Windows is able to contain as many features as it does. The result of many suggestions to an interactive development cycle has included in version 1.70, quite an attention to detail.
I found the most convenient method of loading SF2 files and navigating patches the easiest of any plugin I have used. A simple tree sits alongside the Channel window from which to pick SF2 files (and presets). Included patches are displayed below the tree. The simultaneous control of 8 layers of patches and included effects with one instance of the plugin simplifies the task of arranging to a single screen. Prodyon has provided the most convenient and easy to use plugin in my collection.
The number and depth of features goes way beyond what you would expect from a Freeware plugin, so also a 10 for Value. Since there is such a plethora of soundfont files available to music creators, the ability to create almost any sound and any timbre is the strength here. If the basic SF2 sound isn't quite what you had in mind, you can easily get the result you want by applying many effects. And automation is easily achieved, since every parameter appears to be controllable. Full envelope control can shape everything but the actual wave shape within the SF2 file, so sound control is maximized.
I also experienced very little use of CPU resources with Phenome even with a full boat of layers. Coupled with convenience and light resource usage it is now near the top of the list of my most used plugins.
The GUI is simple to grasp, with 8 standard mixing channels across the top. Clicking on a channel EDIT button gives you access to individual channel controls. My only gripe is the Channel area is a little dark and hard for my eyes to see - a lttle lighter please. No docs are needed to learn the basic controls. As you get into the effects controls, a more detailed explanation of the use of these effects would be welcome. The website provides an overview and several video tutorials.
Taking this plugin over the top is the huge Factory Preset package that can be installed as a separate download. Included are many SF2 files that can be used on their own or selected through the preset list. The sheer quantity of presets is staggering. Although, not outstanding in quality, the selection includes a huge variety of instruments that should allow anyone to find a close match for lots of needs. Then tweak the preset for a even better match. Compared to other plugin included presets, this is a 10.
No crashes were experienced (so far). And Prodyon appears to be ready to provide support for even trivial questions. Stability and support are both a 10.
Have been following the development of Phenome a while with anticipation and i must say that i haven´t been dissapointed.
I wonder why there isn´t a review here by now. It´s an amazing little (well "little") soundfont Player/VSTi with all the essential features one could need in their SF2-playing-needs.
User Interface: In the latest Version 1.6 the built-in browser is by far the biggest addition and helps tremendous with browsing presets and soundfonts. I can easily browse my huge soundfont collection within seconds. I also love that you dont have to double-click a soundfont to load it. One click. Done. That´s the way it should be!
All the control are in a nice shape and layout, at least to me everything is clear upon the first start (well, okay i must admit i opened it several times by now ;-).
I personally don´t like the default orange colour much, but each to his own taste. Perhaps in one of the next updates Phenome might be even skinnable? Who knows.
Sound: Phenomenal! Sorry, couldn´t resist. I´ve browsed and played now literary hundreds of my personal soundfonts and the quality vs CPU is fine. If i want to have that little extra bit of detail and crisp sound i can always set the Quality Mode to "High". But i´m fine with the default setting.
Didn´t had much time to check out the library, but what i hear so far is very nice for a freeware by an independet developer like Mr.Prodyon.
Features: Once again for a freebie this thing does what it does very well. I love the possibility to easily layer soundfonts for big fullblown orchestrations and arrangements. One moaned that 8 parts wouldn´t be enough - well then just open another Instance and there you go! The CPU overhead is minimum when opening Phenome. Of course when playing hundreds of voices i can easily hit the 50% mark of my DAW. (Dualcore CPU 2GHz). But when i pay some attention i can live with that perfectly. (It´s time to upgrade my DAW anyway). The built-in arpeggiator is also cool since it is one thing that i´m often missing with various other plugins. I can add so much live to a performance. One wish i have: Any chance of getting a flanger or reverb in the future? :-)
Documentation: At present there is none, so lets see when Mr.Prodyon comes up with a proper manual. (But for me it really doesn´t need one currently, most of the controls are self-explanary and there are also much helpful hints that pop up when you hover over a control).
Presets: As i said previously, still have to proper check out the factory library! What i have heard so far is really excellent!!
Customer Support: Never had any troubles with Prodyon so far.
Value For Money: Excellent! Of course because it is free :-)
Stability: Nothing bad experienced here so far, no crash, no problems. I hope it´ll stay that way.
So for a conclusion i can suggest Phenome to everyone who runs a Windows DAW and has a huge selection of Soundfonts and wants to browse and play them with a breeze. I have heard rumours that it won´t play some Soundfonts or something but until now i can´t confirm that. I had some Soundfonts where there was no sound at first but it was simply because those Instrument/Preset was located on different "Slots" than Number One. So i just clicked on the Preset and was able to choose the sounds afterwards.
Go and get it! :-)
PS: I apologize for any wrong sentences or mistakes, english isn´t my native language.