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User Reviews by KVR Members for Surge

Rate & Review Surge Now!

Reviewed By kuniklo [read all by] on 28th January 2006
Version reviewed: 1.02 on Windows.
Last edited by kuniklo on 28th January 2006.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful.
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Simply put, Surge currently occupies the sweet spot between features, ease of use and programmability in the vst world. It presents extremely flexible oscillators and a variety of very good filters in the most intuitive and efficient UI of any softsynth on the market. It's not a character synth like impOSCar and falls clearly on the VA side of the timbral spectrum but it's capable of a huge range of sounds in that flavor and is a sound designer and tweaker's dream.

Surge owes most of that flexibility to its oscillators. Unlike most synths that require you to coordinate two or more oscillators and a handful of modulation routings to move beyond a vanilla saw or pulse waveform, each of Surge's oscillators can do as much as most synths' entire oscillator bank. Each osc can run in a standard VA-style mode or in wavetable mode. In VA mode each oscillator provides modulatable shape, width, sub-oscillator level and width, self sync and detunable unison. In wavetable mode each osc provides modulatable shape, skew, saturation and format controls. This flexibility makes it a snap to create new timbres with a minimum of work. Surge also provides inter-oscillator ring modulation and limited FM routing to allow an even wider range of sounds.

Surge provides two multimode filters with arbitrary oscillator routing, several feedback loop modes and a complete array of filter types, from basic lp/bp/hp filters to comb filters and an unusual sample and hold filter for glitchy digital sounds. Sonically the filters aren't quite in the class of the very best vsts like impOSCar or Minimonsta but they still sound great. A bank of different wave shapers provides many options for dirtying up the sound.

In addition, Surge comes with one of the most comprehensive arrays of effects available on any synth, including not only the usual delay/chorus/reverb but also very useful pitch shifter and distortion effects. These can be used as inserts or routable sends and sound very good for onboard effects. Surge provides a simple preset system for effects which makes it quick to get back a favorite setting. Unlike most onboard effects, most effect parameters are modulation targets themselves.

Instead of hardwired lfos and envelopes, each modulation source can operate as an lfo or an envelope or as a simple step sequencer. The standard lfo waveforms can be further shaped by per-lfo deformation and envelope controls, making it possible to create the kind of complex modulation shapes that require multiple mod matrix entries in more conventional designs.

The thing that really sets Surge apart from other synths in this class with similar feature lists is it's phenominal UI. All the available modulation sources are laid out as small buttons at the bottom of the interface. Setting up a modulation routing is as simple as clicking on one of these sources and then clicking and dragging on the target control to set the degree of modulation. Suble highlights on the controls and mod sources give a quick overview of existing modulation routings. It's hard to appreciate how much faster and easier than a typical mod matrix approach is until you've spent some time working with it. It makes the whole process so effortless that you're much more likely to experiment with different routings and to come up with new sounds. In combination with the extremely flexible and modulatable oscillators there simply is no better synth for quick, on-the-fly sound design and tweaking. If you like to build sounds from scratch in the middle of a tracking session or you tend to extensively tweak sounds as you work them into a track you'll find Surge to be your new secret weapon.

CPU usage is quite moderate. The included documentation is somewhat minimal but covers all the features well enough and is more detailed and polished than that of most small-developers. In many hours of use I've yet to encounter a single bug or crash using Surge, in any combination of features. Surge isn't tied down by any annoying and counter-productive copy protection.

I can really only make one complaint about Surge, and it's that the bundled preset library, while good, doesn't really show Surge at its absolute best. There's plenty of good bread & butter sounds and a nice assortment of more exotic patches too but compared to synths like Blue or z3ta, the lack of top-notch professional sound designers shows. Hopefully Claes will be able to commision some sound design from someone like BigTone in a subsequent version. If you prefer synths with a big library of ready-to-use professional sounds then Surge might not be for you but otherwise Surge is simply a big step ahead of all the competition. It's not inexpensive but compared to everything else in its price bracket Surge is worth every penny. More than anything else released in 2005 it shows that the real innovators in the vst world are still the small independent developers.

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Discussion

Discussion

Discussion: Active
biomekk
biomekk
27 January 2012 at 9:23am

Had this one for a while now and it definitely fills the part of being the "odd VST amongst your normal ones".

What I like about it the most is the attack and the digital kind of grittiness.

And as said before the GUi is actually very user friendly. For example, the way you drag and drop assign things in the modulation matrix by "drag and drop" is something I really miss on more expensive plugins. Vember has really ignored fancy looks (yeah it's ugly ) and instead focused on making a practical tool.

liquidsound
liquidsound
7 April 2012 at 7:56pm

It just seat in every mix. It's truly a powerhouse and a learning tool for modulation and the effects routing is genius.

Architeuthis
Architeuthis
2 July 2012 at 9:16pm

I would like to say that Surge is the only synth I've used that I've been able to make crazy-scary renditions of acoustic sounds from woodwind to brass to dog vocal tracts. Surge is definitely one of the only synths on the market that allows you to explore these things because of its combination of featureset and tweakability. To tap into this, just enable the feedback routing, add feedback, add resonance in the filters, enable keytracking of filter, etc.

I will, however, agree that it does not sound sweet like modern synths. But what modern synths lacks, Surge definitely has. Its tweakability invites insanity.

dave40
dave40
3 August 2012 at 9:36pm

Hello everyone, just wanted to say I purchased Surge in Feb 2012 and haven't looked back yet.

Though it may not be the most technically advanced soft-synth out there it definitely has a certain something about it. I keep finding myself creating really exciting and attention-grabbing sounds whenever I just sit down and start experimenting with it. This is something I have not really found with the two other synths I have taken the time to learn in depth - Albino and Zebra.

Those 'in the know' say it is best to just pick one machine and learn to program it really well, as opposed to purchasing all the vsti's out there. So, following on from that I have made Surge my number one sound-software, along with Reaper and Halion 3. Surge seems to do a really good job of most of the basic sounds like bass, drums, keys and fx.

I think what makes it for me is it's fundamentally rock 'n' roll sound quality, everything sounds so fat and juicy with a great attitude - it seems incapable of making bland sounds. Claes, the developer, really has done a great job on this synth - it looks like he really knows about programming nice sounding oscillator and filter algorithms.

That's all for now, I've just got to go and program a totally overdriven, pulse-width-modulated, digitally aliased, resonant-comb-filtered, waveshaped, step-sequenced and delay-drenched monstrosity! Dave.

PUSHA
PUSHA
13 May 2013 at 12:36pm

This Synth is an absolute BEAST!!!!! How this doesn't get more attention or credit is beyond me. I cant wait to see what Vember puts out next cause I'm a huge fan of theirs. Anybody who hasnt tried this synth out needs to ASAP!!! Amazing work to those involved in the development of this great machine. Please tell me you guys are working on VST's to release soon or in the near future.

inkwarp
inkwarp
30 November 2014 at 12:13am

+10 from me. probably used this longer than most other synth plugs but i still find things it can do. once you know your way around it can pretty much fill any sound needs. a brilliant bit of kit :)

medicor
medicor
30 November 2014 at 10:11am

+1.

I agree, for me too, this is the synth that i have been using for the longest time. It has a unique sound and a great user interface, and even if it can't really compete with modern synths like Spire and SynthMaster, when it comes to modern edm sounds, it still has "it" and is great fun to play around with. To bad Claes/Vember Audio doesn't develop it anymore. I guess that Bitwig took all of his time.

Mattvk
Mattvk
18 August 2016 at 4:17pm

+1.

An evergreen in Software Synthesis with his a own digital character. Intresting how many still using these synth.

Good work.

torridgristle
torridgristle
28 September 2018 at 12:33am

Surge is now free and open source, the price and links should be updated.

Purple Six Recordz
Purple Six Recordz
22 October 2018 at 12:46pm

This VST is a keeper. So many sound presets and options for free VST is amazing. Love that there are a lot of sounds with dark, creepy vibe to them. :).

I also made a demo video for the VST for people to check out before downloading.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uetcIvY0fbg

Ivannn
Ivannn
16 May 2019 at 6:14am

Thank you for synth and for opensource.

How about a portable version of one?

It'd be really great.

Big up.

Oberlai
Oberlai
18 June 2019 at 7:04am

Just wanted to say I've created a FB group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/surgesynth/.

A few people from the project have already joined -- hopefully the group will help the synth grow. I'm a big fan of the synth myself, I think the modulation system is absolutely brilliant, combining LFO and envelopes that way. I'll be spending a lot of time with this synth :).

OllyAudio
OllyAudio
22 September 2019 at 12:19pm

I am impressed with this synthesizer. Its wide possibilities impress me. This is one of the best synthesizers to date. Although free.

StarfighterF104G
StarfighterF104G
24 September 2019 at 7:57am

Oh wow, have just discovered Surge - as others have noted, it's a bit odd, but once you start playing around with it, the capability really shines. Early days for me yet, but just mucking about with the A/B dual and split scenes takes me back to the good old days of hard synths where it was a norm (at least on all the machines I've used). Add to that the arsenal of patches already available, quality of sound and and parameter controls it's awesome - and goddam it, this baby is free!!!! Despite only a couple of hours in, the control layout, which initially threw me off, is actually very intelligently designed - the patch management is very clear and functional (love being able to add a comment and add my own category), the FX management looks very comprehensive, love the routing / filter configuration approach) and the wavetable capability looks very comprehensive, very quick to create an interesting sound.

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Surge

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