Phosphor is an oldschool additive synthesizer with added FM functionality. It's based on the Alpha Syntauri system from the early 1980s, but with some modern enhancements to expand its capabilities. The Alpha Syntauri was one of the very first software synthesizers. It was made for the Apple II computer and came with a special soundcard plus a full controller keyboard. I have Phosphor version 3.0 and never used any of the earlier builds, so this review is based on that.
Lo-Fi Hip Hop, Trap, Minimal Techno, DIGITAL 80s type stuff, deep/ambient Dubtronica and 8-bit/Chiptune stuff. It's actually quite stylistically versatile. You can turn off the oscillator aliasing and register noise for a cleaner, more widely applicable sound.
The overall character of Phosphor is cold, minimalistic and potentially dirty in a strictly digital way, which means no supersaws, thick analog sounds, or any in-your-face stuff here.
Phosphor has more hiding under the hood than it appears just from looking at pictures. Right-clicking on most parameters brings up a modulation menu, where you can apply 2 LFOs, velocity, modwheel, random triggering and more. You can apply an LFO to very short delay times, which makes various choruses, flangers, etc. I particularly like how you can modulate an LFO's SHAPE (called "skew" in Phosphor) with another LFO to add some interesting effects. There's the option for 2-operator FM synthesis in here as well, and since you're modulating 2 additive oscillators, you get much richer textures than if you were just modulating 2 sine waves. There are limitations, though. You can't use the envelopes to modulate pitch, so you're limited when it comes to making drums and FX patches. Also, you can't modulate any of the individual partials in the additive oscillator section - you're stuck with just using volume envelopes on the entire oscillator. There's no real filter, either, You can use the filters inside the delay lines for certain effects, but you can't apply an envelope to them, so you're not going to get much in the way of analog/subtractive type sounds in here. Phosphor is entirely digital and requires a decent understanding of additive and FM synthesis to get the best use out of it. There are enough synthesis options in here to keep me busy, but enough limitations to bring me out of the comfort zone and inspire a different approach.
There aren't many factory presets in here at all. Only 82! My new Phosphor soundset, called "Lo-Phi", helps remedy the situation with 100 brand new patches. These new sounds further explore the synth's capabilities and show Phosphor's sweeter side while remaining true to the original Alpha Syntauri's character. You can get "Lo-Phi" here: http://xenossoundworks.com/phosphor.html for only $8.95.
Value For The Money:
It's a good deal if you're looking for glassy digital sounds with some lo-fi grit, or you're a chiptune producer seeking something different than the usual offerings. If you want analog or uber-fat sounds, look elsewhere.