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Reviewed By benwalker [all]
May 7th, 2006
Version reviewed: 1.1.8 on Windows

The MS20... how to write a review on this beast....

Well, for starters lets concentrate on the things it doesn't do. Arpeggiator, built in effects, it only has two oscillators, the envelopes are fairly limited and the *on-screen* gui is a pain to work with because korg seemed to think that we would all enjoy scrolling around a window instead of seeing all the controls in the same view...

oh well.

However. What it does do in its most basic form, is bridge the gap between musical instrument and software. The fact that the MS20IC is a stricly one knob per control affair means that you have total hands on interactivity - something I don't think any other VSTi does. A lot of people have gone through it with spectrum analysers and so forth and done the "well its okay but there's this peak at 22.134Khz that the original does.." - which clearly indicates that these people need to get out more. I've never played the 'real' thing, but as far as i'm concerned this might as well be it. Hell it's the closest I'll get to an MS20 without risking ebay...

GUI, despite the annoyances from the screen version, has to get full marks for the MS20IC.

So how does it sound? Great - really good for basslines, odd weird effects and the filters are superb for running external noises through. I was playing around and before I could say 'homework' I was playing that riff from Da Funk... easily done. The band-pass trick with the High/Low filters is unusual and nice to play with, and the thing distorts to a resonant squeal with ease.

Features are dependent on what you're looking for. It's not Z3ta+ or Absynth, that's for sure, but if you want analogue leads, basslines and effects, look no further. Drop in a few effects from your chosen host for more silliness...

Korg do ship the original MS20 manual with it - can't get better than poorly translated chinese for authenticity - and the patching guide is a good introduction to using the patchbay. It does call for experimentation: which is probably the best way to get the most out of this synth.

Decent number of presets, but again the best thing to do is initialise the instrument from the controller and just play with it - the number of hours spent wondering "what happens if I plug a patch lead from there to there?" are far more fruitful than copying presets.

Customer support is good provided you look on the forums. I had a weird issue when I first got it, wherby the controller wasn't picked up as a midi device. Turned out that I had 10 midi devices installed since my old Edirol UA20 had been installed twice, and neither had been uninstalled since changing to my Firepod: Korg even provided a utility to ditch redundant midi devices so thumbs up to them.

VFM - this is the killer and will probably annoy a lot. I bought this in the UK from Absolute Music online for the grand total of 150GBP for the whole of the legacy collection including the MS20ic. That works out at 50GBP for the MS20+MS20ic - this thing is an absolute (npi) bargain!!

Stability is good so far. I'm about to move to a new DAW so we'll see how things go...
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Waldorf Edition: D-Pole

Reviewed By benwalker [all]
May 26th, 2004
Version reviewed: 1.6-ish on Windows

No Reviews? Oh well...

I got this as part of the Waldorf Edition deal, so bear this in mind for the VFM comment.

How does it sound? Well, it's a filter. But also a distortion, delay, ring-modulator and bit-crusher.

Filter: This is the 'meat' of the thing. Sounds good AFAIC. Has LFO modulation and an envelope follower built in, so does wonders for drum loops. Resonance will go up to self oscillation, and I couldn't hear any stepping/ladders or whatever.

Distortion: In a word, brutal. Even on a very low setting, the volume has to be drastically reduced to avoid blowing the speakers. Vintage warmth this isn't, but if industrial sounds are your bag - look no further.

Ring Modulator: does exactly what it says on the knob...

Delay: Again, nothing particularly amazing, but usable.

Bit: Great and will actually reduce the sound down to nothing :)

interface is fine (looks like a waldorf should), midi CCs respond well, hasn't crashed yet. No support though, so that gets a fat zero. Presets are few, but it's so simple it doesn't really need any. Documentation is in the form of a proper book - pdf haters of the world unite!

overall, if you consider it as a freeby that came with the PPG and Attack, you can't really go wrong. If you consider it as a filter with two synths along for the ride, it still works out fine...
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Reviewed By benwalker [all]
April 12th, 2004
Version reviewed: on Windows

Reverb is one of those things, along with a compressor, that's used all over the place - which kind of means you need to find a really good one, or have lots for different jobs...

... and so enter SIR. I'll spare the science bit, suffice to say that it doesn't have a sound or characteristic of its own, but rather borrows reverb tails from 'real' effects, rooms, cabinets etc. The upshot of this is that you can add the reverb from a £11k Lexicon, to your sampled/recorded drum track. Brilliant! Impulse reverbs are getting more common now, so there are loads of useable impulses out there on the web, or of course you can always make your own.

Interface - Basic but effective.

Sound - Depends on the impulse. 0/10 for that badly recorded impulse of my bathroom, 10/10 for the 960L, Eclipse, TC 6000 etc...

Features - Not as many knobs as say, Ambience, but then again it doesn't really need it. no damping or anything like that but the EQ is powerful, and the reverb tail can be cut, stretched and so on, so some great sounds can be easily produced.

Documentation - Doesn't really need it. Simple idea and it's easy to use.

Presets - None. But that's kind of the point. I'm giving it 9 because at least the SIR page has links to some impulse hosting sites. Be warned that these impulses can be big...

Customer Support - haven't had to deal with them, but since it seems to be a one-man operation, would expect support to be good.

VFM - No question, it's free...

Stability - Never crashed yet.

Make sure your host has full PDC, and run as a SEND effect. Either that, or only use it when mastering and use a lower latency/CPU reverb for recording. But come on... it's free. It loads top quality impulse responses. Works well and deserves a space on your hard-drive :D you won't be disappointed.
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Reviewed By benwalker [all]
March 23rd, 2004
Version reviewed: 1.1 on Windows

What? No reviews? here goes then...

I stumbled across this plugin after trying to find ways of messing up sounds, matrix-style (think of that "Neo down the rabbit hole" moment). Someone suggested a granular synthesis effect... and so I've found myself here.

So, what does this do? Well, without getting into the long science bit, all manner of weird, drawn out delays, glitches, and squeak sare possible. The effect is one of those things that has a unique sound, for spot effects and so on. Run an analogue drum synth through it (eg MicroTonic) and you might as well be listening to any of the Warp label artists... (think Autechre). Other samples work well and the thing really comes into its own when you start automating the controls via midi.

Interface - Simple but effective. Doesn't over complicate things. As Radiohead sang, Eveything in its right place...

Sound - As stated previously, great if you know that that's the sound you're after. Play around with it...

Features - Yeah, one trick pony, but it does what it's meant to do. The added midi implementation adds a lot of flexibility to the sounds possible.

Documentation - brief, but informative. Experimentation is the best way to learn it...

Presets - Lots. All good, and serve as a tutorial on how to mess up sound.

Support - Never spoken to them. Can't imagine that they wouldn't respond though.

VFM - It's Free. What more could you ask for...

Stability - Fine so far (SL2.0, XP Home). Only giving it 9 though since I've only had it a few days...

Overall, a great plugin effect for weird granular effects.
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Guitar Suite

Reviewed By benwalker [all]
February 15th, 2004
Version reviewed: ? on Windows

Being a guitarist first and foremost, I was interested to see what this suite of plug-ins has to offer.

So first things first - pull out a popular twin humbucker guitar and head straight for the Marshall. The sound is good, not unlike a lot of the modern solid-state amps you get today, but definately has that Marshall grunt behind it. The reverbs are like the spring units you find in 'real' amps, so it's weird hearing them in a software environment usually populated by TC and Waves. You forget that this is what amp reverbs actually sound like... oh and you really don't need any more controls, since this is what the original has.

Next, it's a strat into the Fender Twin. Great combination, and combine with a tape delay (eg karlette) for some vintage surf. The vibrato stands out as a runaway success on this emulation - a lot better than most plug-ins.

The Boss distortion boxes are all okay, but the TS9 is a lot better for those SRV moments. I'm also loving the Univibe (cue lots of renditions of Little Wing and Shine On...) and the PS-1. Would have preferred an MXR90 or Small Stone, but the sound is far better than a lot of phaser emulations.

No Documentation, but then do you really need it? The lack of GUI isn't a problem either - the sound is what counts. Overall, CPU useage is low and a good zero-latency setup allows for realtime listening, which is great. The sounds available are easy to mix with - no harsh digital-ness or other quirks, so for people wanting a decent guitar sound without the need for Amps, Mics and Mixers, should look no further. Best of all, it's free.
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Microtonic (µTonic)

Reviewed By benwalker [all]
January 10th, 2004
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows

Well, I was pointed at this after some adverts on the propellerheads site and I have to say I was so impressed (and the nagging got to me) that I had to buy it...

This thing is capable of pretty much all manner of electronic drums, bleeps, effects and other weird atonal noises. The interface is a easy to use, so modifying existing presets, or making your own from scratch is simple to do.

The feature that sets this apart from everything else is the pattern seqencer. If you've used Reason or ReBirth, this will need no introduction (there's a very strong swedish connection with this synth btw). Basically you don't need to sit there with a drum-roll style editor programming drum loops - its all done x0x style... Much simpler to use than other drum synths, and saves having to copy/paste patterns. Of course if you're a sadist, you can turn this off...

The presets give a good idea of what the synth is capable of. A lot of the built-in patterns form great track basis in their own right.

Overall, I really like this. It won't sound like a real drum kit, but then it's not supposed to... but if you make any sort of 'proper' electronic music, get it and you won't regret it.
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Reviewed By benwalker [all]
December 31st, 2003
Version reviewed: 1.2 on Windows

This will be the first proper VSTi that I've actually walked in to a shop and bought: and this was purely on the quality of the presets that came with the Demo!

Well, there's no denying that it's a Novation. To be fair, I'm into my Trance/Dance/Big-Beat style music and had been using Reason as my sole source for synths until I got this and Cubase. The presets just blew me away, the filters are warm and sound just incredible: I couldn't believe that this sound was coming out of my speakers... usual superlatives and so on - you get the picture...

So what do you get? 3 Oscillators, 2 LFOs, FM modulation, dedicated effects and that big fat Novation badge stuck across the GUI. It's easy to use, with intuitive menus. If you already own a K-Station, the interface is almost identical and you can send patches between the two. This also means that V-Station owners can import K-Station patches from the Novation website :) Patches are orginised in intervals of 10, so 100 is Bass1, 110 is Bass2 and so on. This makes it easy to browse similar sounding patches without having to guess the patch number.

I'll say it again, it sounds great. I thought this was going to be a dance machine but it really is so much more. I can get Vangelis style leads, Kraftwerk-y triads and a load of other bleeps, whilstles and sweeps out of this thing. And to think, I was going to get the Model-E instead...

Downsides: It can be a CPU hog, especially with some of the arpeggios and long decay notes. SL sort of slows slightly in some instances but catches up with itself once the first few notes are played. Bear in mind that this is me running 4 V-Stations, Effects and Reason at the same time... Note also that you're Restricted to 8 Note polyphony per instance (though you can run it in Monophonic mode and fatten things up with 8 detunable voices). Freeze helps though (SL/SX2 and Logic?).

So many things to explore with it, but I still find myself tweaking presets instead of creating patches from scratch. I'll get round to it one day though...


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