Every so often, a VSTi appears that breaks away from the pack of conventional subsynths, ROMplers, and (insert this month's trendy synthesis method e.g. FM here). V2 is not revolutionary - at its heart it's a simple subsynth - yet as a VSTi it's a highly original piece of work. Developers Farbrausch are well known on the demo scene for their tightly coded presentations and punchy tunes, and this incarnation of their audio engine as a plugin is a stunning debut.
For a start, V2 is 16-way multitimbral. Such is its range of sounds, it's quite possible to create entire tracks using one instance alone - and if you do this the plugin can export tracks in its own format for use with Farbrausch's audio engine. Using supplied code, your track can then be incorporated into your own games and demos - or shared and played back using a WinAmp plugin (and file sizes are tiny). What's particularly nice about this is that you're able to create these independant soundtracks in your favourite host rather than learning a new sequencer's workflow. The multitimbrality also helps with the efficiency of the synth, since much of the audio path can be shared. Even with a dozen different sounds running, this is one of the more efficient VSTis out there.
Each voice (except track 16, which we'll come back to) is essentially a 3-osc subsynth with some interesting filter routing, distortion, chorus, compressor, and a couple of LFOs. There's a handy modulation matrix as well, the size of which is controlled by the user (you add modulations as you need them, so you only see modulation options that are actually relevant to the current patch - neat). There's also a global section with reverb, delay, more filters, and final compression. Soundwise, V2 is a bit LO-FI but in an appealing way. There's an inescapable digital quality to its sounds rather than an analogue warmth, but it's not unpleasant and certainly not lacking in character. Overall this synth lends itself very well to trance and techno sounds - hardly surprising given what Farbrausch usually do with it - but is a great deal more flexible than many of the generic subsynths available. The interface is not very intuitive for subtractive synthesis though: There's a scrolling section which keeps the overall size of the plugin down, but this keeps half the controls hidden which is not really ideal - and having columns of nearly identical sliders doesn't help. At least there's some handy colour-coding.
The 16th track is reserved for V2's surprising speech synthesizer. There's a built-in phoneme translator (a very nice touch for this type of feature) and a workable system of synching syllables with note-on and -off messages. Simply create a synth voice as normal for track 16 and this acts as a 'carrier' while the speech synth acts as a 'modulator' - changing the character of the voice is as easy as editing the synth patch. The results are usually far from realistic, but they do add something different to the range of sounds the V2 is capable of - and there are some great examples on Farbrausch demos that manage to be quite intelligible.
There are about 100 presets included which show the range of the V2 quite well - although the more useable ones have already appeared in Farbrausch demos, so they recommend not using them again. Depending on your host, there may be a bit of a learning curve at first - multitimbral routings are not always the most intuitive - but it's worth persisting with this one. This is an excellent free VSTi, something a bit different, and - if you're a sonically-challenged demo or game coder - something of a godsend.