I'm done with Pigments. I so want to like it but I just can't. It's a really well thought out instrument that is a joy to work with but, at the end of the day, it simply doesn't sound good enough compared to the other synths I work with every day. I've had it for a couple of years now and I've only ever used it for generic sounds/parts to fill out a mix, never for anything where you might actually notice that it doesn't really sound all that good.
I love the layout and the visual representation of all the modulation - that whole system is top shelf. I like the way the "Engines" are implemented and the filter section is pretty good, too, without setting the world on fire. The GUI/UX is intuitive, well laid out, lends itself to a good workflow and there are more modulation options than I'd ever need or want. The on-board sequencer, too, is second to none, although it doesn't do anything I can't do in my host, so I've never used it.
In the end, my rating comes down to the sound. It just doesn't sound good enough in our mixes. It can do the little filler type things well enough but then so can dozens of freebies I use regularly. Where it can't seem to hold its own is when I am looking for a prominent part - a lead or a big pad kind of thing. It just doesn't sound big enough for those things, no matter what I try. It seems to have all the requisite parts - the V/A engine is very well featured, the Wavetable engine has loads of modulatable options, the Granular engine is quite capable, the newer Additive engine does what you expect and beyond that the filter is OK and there are plenty of other features to get the job done - but somehow it all falls a bit flat in the end. It's so frustrating because I really like working with Pigments, I just can't get it to sound as big as I need it to.
As with Hive, I have come to the conclusion that maybe I am just not the target audience for this synth. To me it feels like a Swiss Army knife. It does a lot of things well enough to get by in a pinch but when it comes to the big, important projects, there is no substitute for a good set of specialised tools.
When pigments was released I was doing all my work on Serum, and at the time, I didn't see that Pigments offered me anything I couldn't do on Serum.
That was a few years ago.
When I saw the $100 offer for the 3rd iteration of Pigments, it was a 'no brainer'.
In the last 10 years I have mainly worked with Serum, Zebra 2 and (more recently) PhasePlant. I have tried out many other synths like Ana2, Iris 2, Absynth 5 (back in the day), Avenger, Spire etc etc... but no synths hold a candle to Serum or Phase plant (I haven't used zebra 2 for about a year).
Pigments 3 sounds as breathtaking as Serum did when I first heard it many years ago. Pigments 3 is now my 'go to' synth for all styles of sound design.
Within a fraction of the time it took me to learn PP I have been able to get a genuinely 'new' feel to my patches with Pigments 3.
My expectations were that it would be as good as the other $200 synths, but I think it is significantly better, and could reasonably be priced at the $250 point. So, get it while it is at $100 and it will be the best value for money you spend on a soft synth for a very long time.
Very very satisfied customer (wish I could say that more often about other products and services)....
It's really hard to expand upon Ficciones review, which is really thorough. Pigments is a great sounding, MPE compatible softsynth. There are many, many presets that clearly someone had fun creating. Highly recommended.
free 2.0 update for current users: the new sampling features are great! If you want an instrument for creative sampling - deeply exploring the sonic potential hidden inside a sample - then Pigments exposes the best tools for that right on the surface. You can run it as a straight up sampler, with modulatable sample start (essential creative tool), 6 samples mapped per engine in round robin mode, random, key map, velocity map etc., or switch to granular mode - and here's the cool thing - when in granular mode the engine can alternately pick individual grains from the sample slots according to the mapping mode you've chosen, or you may choose the active sample with a knob (modulatable of course). Granular mode has tons of options and features, from max number of overlapping grains to modulatable grain envelope shapes - e.g. triangular, trapezoid - as well as grain direction, size, density, pitch, and left-right channel separation. Grain density can be clock-synced, including a per grain probability control for density. Each sampler engine also has its own shaper modes including bitcrush, FM and ring mod as well as a resonator. Great stuff.
Pigments is a monster synth that stands out in a field of monster synths. The sequencer / arpeggiator is unique, and the modulation system is a pleasure to use, making patch creation fast and fun. CPU usage is moderate, and the GUI is beautiful both visually and ergonomically.
The wavetable oscillators can display in 2D or 3D mode, with 2D giving a better representation of how the sound is being warped. Adding wavetables is a drag and drop operation - and yes, it can use Serum's wavetables. Pigments will also allow you to drag in any old wave file, however this yields mixed results and takes some trial and error and fiddling with master pitch. Creating wavetables from wavs is a bit of a black art at the best of times using the best of tools, so I hope Arturia will update Pigments with better wavetable creation tools. I've had good results creating single cycle waveforms with the free Hardcore and Softcore apps from Floats, then gluing them together with an audio editor, then importing into Pigments, but there ought to be an easier way. There are 119 factory wavetables though so just the default install gives you plenty of raw material. Once you've selected or imported a wavetable, you can push it further with audio rate modulations including FM, PM, phase distortion and wave folding, and dedicated mod oscillators. All these parameters can be modulated with the control mod sources, with results ranging from subtle to blistering. The phase distortion algorithm combined with wavetable index modulation is especially cool to my ears, and doesn't sound quite like anything else out there in synthland.
Which brings us to one of Pigments' best features: the control modulation. Select one of the colour coded mod sources in the middle row, then drag the mod ring around a knob, or click the plus sign that appears next to a knob on mouse-over, and drag any number of mod sources up or down in the middle row to assign modulations. Hovering over a knob or clicking the plus shows all the mod sources assigned to that control. It's visually appealing and encourages experimentation. Tracing mod assignments this way is easier than with a tangle of photorealistic spaghetti cables on the screen, in my opinion.
Despite the absent spaghetti it's very much like working with a fully modular synth, where you can use an LFO to trigger and re-trigger an envelope, and similar shenanigans. You get three each of: LFOs, envelopes, drawable function generators, random sources, and very clever modulation combiners that enable lag and value remapping. The modulators can trigger / gate / reset and modulate the parameters of other modulators, including each unit's synced or free running clock speed. One of the random sources is a Turing unit, which if you're not familiar, can generate varying degrees of randomness, partly-recurring sequences, and lock in a sequence once you hear something you like. Any of the mod sources can be assigned to the synth's master pitch, which can be quantized to snap to scales. The ease of use invites daisy-chain and loop-the-loop mod routings for pleasantly unpredictable results that aren't just noise - you can create cool generative patches that are greater than the sum of their parts.
The polyrhythmic arp / sequencer is a joy for anyone who likes to create evolving sequences. Gate, trigger probability, octave and pitch lanes can be set to different lengths and clock divisions, and the master clock rate itself is modulatable by any of the mod sources, which makes ratcheting sequences possible. There are also randomize and periodic randomize functions here, and optional scale snapping so the randomized sequences always play in key.
Another feature in Pigments that's nice to see is microtuning. I don't consider a synth to be a full fledged citizen of my plugin folder unless it has this.
Additions I'd like to see in updates: ring mod; the ability to drive the sequencer lanes using LFO zero crossings; individual reverse and pendulum motions for the sequencer lanes, or even the ability to scan across the lanes with a modulator; better raw wave import and creation tools for wavetables; and comb filter enhancements and feature additions for physical modelling. None of these are showstoppers though; it's already a bottomless pit of sound design potential. Two thumbs up for this mad beastie.