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User Reviews by KVR Members for Surge

Rate & Review Surge Now!

Reviewed By Introspective [read all by] on 20th June 2012
Version reviewed: 1.5.3 on Mac
6 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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I've owned Surge for quite a few years.

I bought Surge as a replacement for Z3ta+, which I found I was missing after switching to OS X. In particular, I missed the ability to modulate the wave-shape the way Zeta used to. Surge is not as flexible as Zeta in this regard, but it's nice to have some of those features back. I also liked the wavetable capabilities.

That said, I found that I really loved the straight saw sounds out of Surge: they are "crispy"... and while they have a slightly digital feel to them, I really like the tone. Dial up the "Happy" patch for an example. (And though Surge offers three variants of tone toward the top of the interface, I never truly found this tweak to make a big enough difference to be worth using.)

Surge is also adept at handling a myriad of other "digital" sounds... particularly FM. Though this won't replace FM8, it does have some great capabilities in this department, making it my second-favorite FM synth.

The presets are good... though they are not going to make you jump out of your seat, they cover a lot of territory, including basic sounds and really far-out stuff. Claes did a good job, here.

The UI is reasonable. Strange colors, a blocky, windows-like feel... but puts most of what you need in a very small space. I don't especially enjoy editing the FX, however (and by and large, I don't like the FX compared to other synths). Modulation routing is brilliant... one of my favorite synths for this kind of editing. Modulation in general is Surge's trump card: great possibilities with strong LFOs, good envelopes, a decent step-sequencer, and other tricks up its sleeve. The two synths that I find Surge most comfortably compares itself to (at least that I own) are Massive and Largo. ...another two wavetable synths. I own both, and I find myself reaching for them more often than Surge largely because of their UIs. Largo also sounds better, in general (better filers, particularly with drive), and is more flexible. Massive has a larger bass presence, but sounds much more digital than Surge. Massive's modulation routing is also one step up from Surge's, since you can see destinations immediately rather than having to click on each source. ...That said, Surge is capable of modifying the same destination with more modulators, if you need that sort of thing.

The sound of Surge is, overall, good. Not stellar, and it has a hard time competing with more modern synths. As a result, I've really stopped using Surge much. I still have a couple of weird sounds waiting to throw into a track here and there, and I certainly haven't uninstalled it, but I generally don't find Surge capable of keeping up with its competitors. I think it sounds about as good as Massive (though not for bass, where obviously Massive wins). Largo sounds better (again: it's the filters), but when you put Surge next to the most modern synths (Diva, ElectraX, Dune, Zebra, etc)... it's just not as "sweet".

That said, there are a few "weird" lead sounds that I really love in Surge and would be hard to reproduce in other synths ("Back to Tyrel", for example), and will probably make me keep it installed moving forward. ...I also just find Surge "fun". :) It's a synth with an attitude of its own, and I respect that.

Lastly, I'll say that of all the synths I own (about 20), Surge is in my top three for the number of patches I've written for it. It's a synth that invites editing.

I'm glad I own it. ...But I'm afraid I would steer people away from it, unless you're already well-stocked with the better modern synths. If you're looking for something quirky to add to an already-robust collection, then I heartily recommend it: Surge has a character and "spunk" that I'm sure you would enjoy.

FWIW, you can hear Surge presets being used in some of Infected Mushroom's more modern stuff, to give you an idea of how professional it can sound. ...if you like that kind of thing.

I should also mention that I've never had Surge freeze or crash on me, even though I've certainly put it through its paces.

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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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