Thorn is a modern software synthesizer, flexible and easy to use.
The sound engine in Thorn is built on spectral synthesis method, which gives you control over the harmonics involved into a forming process of a final timbre. Three Harmonic Oscillators with an additional Harmonic Filter cover all the needs for producing of a very wide range of modern sounds. Two analog modeled multi-mode filters with a zero delay feedback path provided to charge your sound and make it shine through the mix. Analog envelopes, LFOs and multi-stage envelopes can be used to modulate any internal parameter you would like to. Set of 9 high quality effects polish your sound and breathe life into it. For maximum fun Thorn provides a pattern-based Glitch sequencer.
Formats: VST / VST3 / AU / AAX.
Number of presets: 372.
Reviewed By BONES
November 26, 2018
I got Thorn cheap as a side-grade from the excellent Tantra effect but even at full price it is an absolute bargain. It would be easy for some to talk for pages about the synthesis method but I'm more interested in the sound that comes out at the end, not what gets put in at the start, so I'll try to make it more of a brief overview of what it's like to actually use.
The two oscillators use spectral (additive) synthesis to create both basic and complex waveforms. You get loads of presets and you can open an editor to muck around with the partials and change the sound, although to my ears you don't get much value from doing that. There is also a Harmonic Filter which removes certain partials, which I assume it is doing digitally, not like a normal filter (because there is also a Comb Filter in the other Filter section). Suffice to say that you have a lot of control over the way the raw oscillator sounds. You get a few options, like detune, pan, volume and unison per oscillator, and each of the three oscillators can be routed to either filter. You can copy/paste settings between oscillators. There is also a separate noise oscillator.
The Filter Section has two multi-mode filters with a great sounding Drive circuit that can add as much meat to the sound as you like. There are around 20 different filter types, that include everything except a notch filter (which you could make by using one filter low-pass and the other high-pass). You can definitely tell the difference between the different filters and you are bound to find one that works for whatever it is you are trying to do. The two filters can be locked together and you have the option of running them in series or parallel.
You get three ADSR envelopes, which include parameters for Key Track and Velocity, plus two MSEGs and two LFO. There is a Mod Matrix for making complex modulation assignments, as well as knobs where it's handy, e.g. envelope modulation of Cutoff. There are 9 high quality effects built in. Of special note is the Distortion effect, which is just about the best distortion I have ever used. It can be very subtle or completely bonkers, depending on the settings. There is also a limiter built into the output section.
There are two separate sequencers in Thorn. The Arpeggio is actually a fairly standard, easy to use step sequencer that works as an offset to the input note. The Glitch Sequencer is something else that really sets Thorn apart. Using both together can give some amazing results. I can't imagine how much more crazy it could get if you also threw the MSEGs into the mix. What's great about using these features in Thorn is that you can make things sound really harsh, like Massive's glitchy sound, or you can keep it smooth and interesting to add a bit of flavour or texture to an arrangement or a sound. It's extremely versatile.
Thorn comes with lots of presets and what I like is that rather than try to dazzle the user with all the capabilities of the synth, many of them seem to have been crafted to allow the user to take them and build on them to make your own sounds. Better still, you get lots of presets for different parts of the synth - there are preset waveforms, presets for the Harmonic Filter, presets for the Arpeggio and Glitch Seq and presets for the MSEGs. This means you don't have to do everything yourself or just use preset sounds. You can very quickly make something that is uniquely yours by combining a few of the existing presets into something new and brilliant (because all your work is brilliant, right?). It's all part of the attention to detail that includes nifty things like being able to shift each sequencer's events left or right to line up with the rhythm you are trying to get. It even has it's own undo/redo.
What I really love about Thorn is that it can have such a great character. The harsher, more digital stuff is good but when it gets all warm and analogue-like it really starts to stand out from the pack. It is great for big, beefy basslines, it has some absolutely sublime pads and the SEQ presets are simply incredible. Best of all, the way it's put together means that you can start creating your own sounds, which will be just as good, almost straight away. It is all so well thought out that everything makes sense from the first time you load it up. Download the trial and listen to some of the presets and you'll see just what I mean. It's so good I have run out of superlatives to describe it so I'll shut up.Read more
Reviewed By Tj Shredder
November 21, 2017
I have a lot of plug-ins now and very good ones too, but the last time I had so much fun, and got so fast beyond just browsing presets, was years ago with a hardware called Arp 2600.
The technical review was given already very detailed by ZaBong, No need to add to that. I keep it emotional.
Instruments touch you or they don't.
This one does and has a very responsive developer. I am controlling it with a LinnStrument, a perfect companion as the modulation posibilities deserve expressive controllers. Though it isn't yet MPE compatible, it is already just fun to play and fun to explore. Plus Dmitry wants to add expresivity for all these LinnStrument, Roli, Continuum and alike controllers... Definitely get at least the demo - the slight noise after 90 seconds is not pushing you out of the music. I bet you won't hesitate to get the real thing soon. A bargain till the end of the year and well worth after it as well...Read more
Reviewed By ZaBong69
October 30, 2017
Dmitry Schaes new synthesizer came as a surprise to me, as I was expecting a Diversion 2 rather than a completely new concept. However, having had an intensive test while producing a new track mostly with this new synth, I can say that I am very happy with Dmitrys approach here, none the least with the extremely fast and intiutitive user interface.
But let's start with the sound: Gorgeously digital on stage one. The three spectral OSCs provide a rich sound source, from analog waveforms to totally digital, yet harmonic stuff only digital synthesis can provide. On top of that comes a selection of spectral and real time effects, and a wavetable-like movement between up to 16 different waveforms. In combination with the excellent FM and RM implementation, you already have a very wide selections of sounds to play with. Next comes a harmonic filter, that, while less smooth than the spectral effects when in movement, can also do a lot for sound shapers like me. If you need noise, or want to add a sample, there is a specialised noise oscilator that can provide that very well. Oh, did I mention that there is unison with up to 8 voices per oscilator? But why mention that, as if anybody would dare to publish a synth in this century without the capability to sound like a Hoover in distress.
I would like to highlight that the FM implementation allows you to use the next oscilator as an input, and use the phase of the modulator osc to shape the sound. Great, this is not found on all synths with FM. OSC 3 is modulated by noise, opening up some classic tricks for percussion sound design.
If you are looking for a more warm and anlog sound than what you have seen/heard up to now, look at the filters. There are two of them, and the filter design (zero delay feedback) is state of the art, with one of the best filter distortion/overdrive sections ever found on a software synth. There is a variety of filters found here, all truly different, and all very much useful. Filters can work in parallel or serial, and sound sources can be routed freely, although not in a way to bypass them completely, which would be nice for sub bass oscilators. I would like to see a peak filter in the future, as this is a good alternative to an eq in a two filter design.
The modulators are a basic set of three ADSR envelopes, two LFOs and two flexible multi stage envelopes. As is always the case, I have my reservations about limiting the number of LFOs to two, as I use them freely running in my sound design for adding subtle movement, but there is a vibrato LFO that can be used as a third LFO if needed - but this has no selection of a waveform like the full LFOs. Modulation can be set up quickly by drag&drop, and fine tuned in the accessible modulation matrix - there are 27 slots, so more than enough for even the most advanced sound design journeys. A thing I haven's seen in any other synths is that the modulation targets do include individual steps of the arpegiator and the glitch sequencer. The doors to some serious generative music experiences is open. For sound designers who appreciate the insanity of recursive modulation: each modulation slot can be modulated itself from the matrix.
Apropos Glitch sequencer: This is a new effect, a sequencer that allows you to apply glitch effects of each step of a running sequence. As this sequencer can run with a different step count (up to 16) than the well endowed arpeggiator, this opens a whole world of strange sequences. The arpeggiator can also handle up to 16 steps and does its job very well.
The FX section is implemented as a series of up to nine different effects of good quality that can be ordered freely. It includes a compressor, and the effect parameters can be modulated from the matrix, as is to be expected for an 2017 virtual synth. Apart from the arpeggiator, glitch sequencer, effects and modulation matrix, all this can be controlled from one screen, with the exception of the waveform editors that you can access if you want to draw some sounds in the OSCs wavetables. You can even import waves as part of the spectral wavetables of as the basis of a whole table. The distortion unit is a little bit too heavy handed for many tasks, but if you are looking for raw poert, that is there.
If you have read so far, you probably have the feeling that some of this sounds very familiar. A synth with mostly one screen user interface, nine effects freely orderable, two LFOs and one vibrato - yes, Thorn seems to be Dmitry's interpretation of the One-Screen-Simple-But-Fast idea followed by the dance-and-trance school of synths such as Hive and Synthmaster One. But where Hive only provides basic virtual analog waveforms, Thorn hits home with editable spectral waveforms. And where Synthmaster One leaves us with a sometimes clunky GUI, the workflow of Thorn feels quite speedy and mature. Thorn punches well above its price point with regards to features and sound quality, and may be a good alternative to some producers for using power wavetable synths such as Serum. Thorn is not that light on CPU as I had hoped at first, especially if you use a lot of polyphony, but it is a synth where you can dial in good sounds very fast.
So what am I missing? Not much honesty, as it is clear that the user interface is designed for high speed, some features such as Zebra 2s or VPS Avenger's insane flexibility can be safely ruled out as impossible to square with this particular design approach. Some design decisions may seem to be needlessly restricting, such for instance only two MSEGs when there clearly is enough space in the GUI for two more. A third LFO would have been nice. But then, should I not rather embrace the limitations as given for now and use these restrictions creatively? Well, I always should, but with Thorn I may have found the synth that sits exactly where I need my set of features to be - not too much, but certainly not too few features either.
There currently some very minor bugs, such as the LFOs retriggering when notes do not overlap, but Dmitry is known as a very dedicated developer who polishes his synths such that you will not have for a fix for a year. Considering the current entry price offer of 69$, I can hardly find any reason not to jump into this offer, even if you, like me, already own more than enough synths. Even at full price, this is a bargain. Yes, Thorn is that special synth that may become your to-go-synth, at least up to the time when Dmitry finds some time for a Diversion 2.Read more
19 April 2018 at 12:04am
Just got the latest Computer Music mag today. In it, under Next Issue, they show next issue's downloadable vst, and it's... Thorn CM :)
I have to say this one had passed me by, but from a quick eyeball it looks like it gets 2 oscillators instead of 3 and 1 filter instead of 2, and the noise section is missing a couple of routing options; but for the cost of an issue of CM, it looks superb.
20 May 2018 at 5:19pm
Thorn CM is now available, and it's *extremely* nice. It had me at the first preset - I turned the Arpeggio option on and modified a couple of settings at random, and fell in love. Will definitely be buying the full product :)
10 May 2018 at 10:36pm
Bought it a few days ago, after reading that it would be in CM, getting excited and trying the demo. Had to have it. Using it in everything now. Has such a great clear sound.....really pristine. Sounds like some NI synths, such is the level of quality.
27 August 2018 at 1:10pm
this thing is powerful and many need to understand how easy it is to program.
8 February 2019 at 11:58pm
wow, one cool synth this! fantastic UI, fat dirty unique sounds. love it .
13 February 2019 at 11:20am
just did a video with TEC breath & bite controller 2 and Thorn CM. https://youtu.be/l7odPRhDoMA. Geek details at http://way.net/waymusic/?p=97. Want just the music? https://richrath.bandcamp.com/track/thorn-breath.
THIS POST HAS BEEN REMOVED
30 November 2019 at 10:37pm
Sounds excellent! Very few types of sound it can't turn it's hand to. And doesn't just do some types OK, and some great - everything sounds great. Love the glitch seq too, didn't think I would. Thanks Dmitry.