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Battery [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 7th February 2009
Version reviewed: 3 on Windows
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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(For Battery 3)
Really, I don't think there's anything more to ask for from Battery 3 - the interface is streamlined but comprehensive, and the sample library is brilliant.
I'll cover the library first. There are the basics, of course - TR-808 and 909, CR-78 and Linn Drums. There are acoustic kits ranging from heavy rock to pop to jazz, with several of them sampled in extreme detail. There are also a large number of experimental kits, one made entirely from basic waveforms with processing, one made from samples taken inside NI's Berlin headquarters, and many others collecting various unusual sounds. Of course, the question isn't the amount of sounds - there are dozens of programs that offer large sample libraries - but the quality of the sounds there, and when it comes to quality, Battery is hard to beat. The drum sounds are crisp and useable, and it's hard to imagine anyone exhausting the set. Battery will satisfy everyone from the pop musician looking for a quick preset to the experimental producer creating weird, glitchy sounds.
The interface is next. Battery is easy to use, despite its complexity - there's a sample browser that lets you load your own samples with ease, as well as a system of cell presets that lets you easily drop in different built-in sounds to create your own kit. Effects, modulation, and the like are all in separate tabs, so that you the GUI isn't cluttered up with controls you aren't concerned with accessing. Battery allows you to create your own sounds or use preset sounds easily, making it a real pleasure to use.
Massive [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 7th February 2009
Version reviewed: 1.5 on Windows
3 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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I've heard people say that Massive isn't a useful synth - that everything made with it sounds the same, that it sounds distorted and "digital," and various other insults.
Are they right? Not in the main, but a few of their assertions are true. Massive DOES have a distinctive sound, but that sound is one that fits into nearly any modern electronic music style - and one that can be obscured without too much difficulty using external effects. And it IS digital. It's a wavetable synth, after all - if you wanted a Moog emulation, you've come to the wrong place. As for it being distorted or high-range-y, this is simply a myth, mostly due to the presets included with Massive.
The one criticism of Massive that is completely accurate is that it's a CPU hog. There's no way around this. Use a polyphonic patch with Massive, and you'll probably be using quite a lot of CPU power. It's hardly debilitating, though - on my reasonably modest PC, 2 or 3 years old, I can and do run multiple instances of Massive along with many instances of other synths. And the result is worth it. Massive sounds great.
I could run through the features and break down the GUI for you, I suppose, but that's what the developer's website is for. I'll keep to the essentials: Massive is a powerful synth with possibilities that are impossible to exhaust. Its presets only show a fraction of the sounds it can create, from heavily distorted dupstep and DnB sounds to enormous trancey supersaws to (dare I say it?) analog-sounding sequences and basses.
String Synthesizer [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 4th February 2008
Version reviewed: 1.1 on Windows
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USER INTERFACE
Excellently done. Small and compact, pleasant to look at, and easy to understand.

SOUND
Stringsynth can create all sorts of analog string synthesizer sounds, from thick rez pads to thin, glassy layers. And they all sound gorgeous! Honestly, it would take effort to get a sound that's NOT good out of this thing. If you have any interest at all in vintage synthesizer sounds - and maybe even if you don't - this is a must-download. Simply amazing.

FEATURES
This is where StringSynth trips up a bit, but understandably so. It can do great string synthesizer sounds, but not really anything else. Now, understand, there are lots of different synth-string sounds to be heard; the number of great presets in the thing prove that nicely. However, this doesn't change the limited nature of the VSTi.

PRESETS
Lots of great ones, by a number of different authors. They're all great, and there's a very good variety of sounds; I'd say they explore the capabilities of the synth pretty thoroughly.
Organ One [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 4th February 2008
Version reviewed: 2.10 on Windows
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Organ-One could be called an organ simulator. It sounds like an organ, or like a synth organ patch, or...well, it can sound like a lot of things. It doesn't exactly like a real organ, since in the place of clicks, leslie simulations, distortions, and the other virtual organ standbys, it has an envelope generator (for amplitude), ring modulation, and an FX section you can use for flanging, chorusing, and all kinds of other weird effects.

It does have an organ vibe to it, though, definitely. It's rich and deep, rather than bright and shiny, no matter how you manipulate the drawbars. Looking through the drawbars you can find weird, swirly FX and metallic clicks beside the obvious organ patches, but even these weird sounds have a thick, organ-like resonance - even if its more the sound of a synth imitating an organ than a real synth. Feed it through an amp sim and leslie effect, though, and you'll see that it can also make some very believable organ sounds.

Add to all of this a decent GUI thats extremely easy to use, and you've got a VSTi that'll leave you wanting to put organs in your tracks for months!
Daedalus [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 28th January 2008
Version reviewed: 1.11 on Windows
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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USER INTERFACE
Nicely done UI. You can easily tell what everything does, and it's nice to look at.

SOUND
Well, it sounds like a VA. A good VA, at that. The filters sound solid, and with the modulation options its easy to create interesting sounds. Daedalus operates something of a middle ground between really innovative, complicated digital synths that don't even try to mimic analogs, and outright emulations that try their best to recapture classic sounds. This can be a little tiring - at times the synth seems a little bit bland, but its polished sound manages to pull it ahead of the legions of other similar synths out there. It sounds crisp, clear, and nonetheless also thick.

FEATURES
Basically, you've got two oscillators, two filters that you can route to essentially whatever you want. There's also ring modulation, oscillator sync, chorus, delay, and an arpeggiator, all of which work nicely if not incredibly. However, this is one case where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In combination, these parts make a synth that can create a very nice range of very solid sounds. It may not become the impossible-to-replace core of your synth setup, but it will prove a solid addition to any arsenal.

PRESETS
Decent, but there are very few of them and they don't really show the possibilities the synth has - in fairness, though, I'm reviewing the free version. From what I understand, the enhanced version, available for a modest donation, has many more presets.
ASynth [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 28th January 2008
Version reviewed: 1.01 on Windows
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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USER INTERFACE
Straightforward, pleasant, and very useable. Much like the rest of the synth.

SOUND
This thing is a vintage-analog beast! At its core is a multimode filter that not only covers the usual options - bandpass, allpass, bandreject, hipass, lopass, most with several different amounts of poles allowed - but also can be toggled between Minimoog, Xpander, and MS-20 imitations. The versatility this gives the synth can't be overestimated. It can go from crushing, dark resonant basses to pristine keyboards to outrageous self-oscillation (which is actually outrageously usable, more than any other freeware synth that I've tried).

FEATURES
This thing has two oscs, a filter, and an LFO. I'd give it a lower rating for being so barebones, but the filter - what a filter! - elevates it at least to an 8. I've seen plenty of much more complicated synths that can't produce nearly such a range of sweet sounds.

PRESETS
Lots of vintage analog-y sounds, as you'd expect. All of them sound great, and they do a great job of showing off the synth's capabilities, though the synth begs to be manually tweaked.

STABILITY
I've never had any trouble with this synth crashing and don't expect to any time in the future. Solidly programmed.
Triangle II [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 16th September 2007
Version reviewed: 1.1 on Windows
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Triange II is a solid VA monosynth, with a pretty good featureset. I wouldn't pay a lot for it if it was for sale (not with the amount of good freeware out there), but as a free plugin it's definitely worth your time.

Triangle II's sound comes from two main oscillators and a sub-oscillator. Its filters sound good, very thick and expressive, but they aren't as flexible as I'd like. Even with the delay, chorus, and other effects, this synth doesn't have as much variety as I'd like. You can make a good amount of sounds from it, yes, and they do sound good, but compared to many other synths (Crystal and Ouatmeal, for example) Triangle II isn't nearly as versatile as it could be.

To be fair, Triangle II's flaws don't stop it from being a darn good synth. It can make solid basses, cool (if bland) leads, and even the occasional pad. It has a nice, modern sound, not the earthy sound of a real analog synth but a cool sound in its own right. I'd say this synth is a must-download for synthesizer newbies, thanks to its straightforward interface and sound, and even worth a look for more experienced musicians.
Crystal [read all reviews]
Reviewed By mhemnarch [read all by] on 16th September 2007
Version reviewed: 2.4 on Windows.
Last edited by mhemnarch on 28th January 2008.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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USER INTERFACE
Every button and slider in Crystal is placed just where it's needed, and the synth is as a result remarkable easy to use, considering its complexity. It's also a very nice-looking synth, and has the best patch browser I've seen in any freeware synth (and better than the ones in many commercial ones).

SOUND
You know those stock analog sounds, the ones that every free VA synth seems to do, and do well? Crystal doesn't do those. You can't squeeze a typical supersaw or crunchy bass out of this thing without a lot of effort. So what does it do? Just about everything else. From glitched-up, snarly, hissing pads to so-pristine-it-can't-be-real chimes to massive (and really massive!) soundscapes to...well, use your imagination, or run through the presets. This synth will create sounds you can't get any other way.
I suppose I can break it down more. The oscillators, in particular, are a real strength of the synth, rich and powerful. The filters are likewise very thick and heavy, though as I mentioned, not at all "analog"-sounding. The effects section consists of four delays that you can use however you want--and with the modulation options being what they are, this means you can make phasers, choruses, flangers, comb filters, ping-pong delays, and unique effects that, at least for now, don't even have names.

FEATURES
I hate to write a review that sounds like a list, but I can't resist the chance to rattle them off. Three independent oscs, each with its own multimode filter, FM or ring modulation, hard sync (called "mogrify," who knows why), and soundfont loading that allows them to work as ROMplers or, better yet, granular oscs. 6 higly tweakable LFOs and multi-breakpoint envelopes that can be routed to whatever weird place your heart desires (which means, as many targets as I've seen in ANY synth), besides the envelopes for each oscillator's amplitude and filter. Four delays that have built-in filters and can be tweaked however you want - or tweaked using the envelopes and LFOs. Four-way frequency splitter.
That gives you a taste of the possibilities, but to really understand what this means, you have to download the synth and really dig into it. There's more to this synth that I could exhaust in a lifetime.
That said, I have to mention Crystal's one major flaw - its CPU useage. Many patches on Crystal have very modest CPU consumption, but others, especially when using a lot of polyphony, are outrageously CPU-heavy. Of course, all this means is that you have to render tracks a lot when using the synth, but it's still an unfortunate issue with the synth.

DOCUMENTATION
Extensive manual, nice tutorials - what more can you ask for? It was actually the first synth I ever used, and even for a beginner it wasn't impossible to get into.

PRESETS
The patches built in are brilliant. There's a factory bank, and the website has several others, and they all sound exceptional, giving a great taste of what this thing is capable of. Amazing stuff.