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Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on September 2nd, 2021
Version reviewed: 3.0 on Windows.
Last edited by Xenos on 2nd September 2021.

Phosphor is an oldschool additive synthesizer with added FM functionality. It's based on the Alpha Syntauri system from the early 1980s, but with some modern enhancements to expand its capabilities. The Alpha Syntauri was one of the very first software synthesizers. It was made for the Apple II computer and came with a special soundcard plus a full controller keyboard. I have Phosphor version 3.0 and never used any of the earlier builds, so this review is based on that.

Recommended Genres:

Lo-Fi Hip Hop, Trap, Minimal Techno, DIGITAL 80s type stuff, deep/ambient Dubtronica and 8-bit/Chiptune stuff. It's actually quite stylistically versatile. You can turn off the oscillator aliasing and register noise for a cleaner, more widely applicable sound.

Sound:

The overall character of Phosphor is cold, minimalistic and potentially dirty in a strictly digital way, which means no supersaws, thick analog sounds, or any in-your-face stuff here.

Features:

Phosphor has more hiding under the hood than it appears just from looking at pictures. Right-clicking on most parameters brings up a modulation menu, where you can apply 2 LFOs, velocity, modwheel, random triggering and more. You can apply an LFO to very short delay times, which makes various choruses, flangers, etc. I particularly like how you can modulate an LFO's SHAPE (called "skew" in Phosphor) with another LFO to add some interesting effects. There's the option for 2-operator FM synthesis in here as well, and since you're modulating 2 additive oscillators, you get much richer textures than if you were just modulating 2 sine waves. There are limitations, though. You can't use the envelopes to modulate pitch, so you're limited when it comes to making drums and FX patches. Also, you can't modulate any of the individual partials in the additive oscillator section - you're stuck with just using volume envelopes on the entire oscillator. There's no real filter, either, You can use the filters inside the delay lines for certain effects, but you can't apply an envelope to them, so you're not going to get much in the way of analog/subtractive type sounds in here. Phosphor is entirely digital and requires a decent understanding of additive and FM synthesis to get the best use out of it. There are enough synthesis options in here to keep me busy, but enough limitations to bring me out of the comfort zone and inspire a different approach.

Factory Presets:

There aren't many factory presets in here at all. Only 82! My new Phosphor soundset, called "Lo-Phi", helps remedy the situation with 100 brand new patches. These new sounds further explore the synth's capabilities and show Phosphor's sweeter side while remaining true to the original Alpha Syntauri's character. You can get "Lo-Phi" here: http://xenossoundworks.com/phosphor.html for only $8.95.

Value For The Money:

It's a good deal if you're looking for glassy digital sounds with some lo-fi grit, or you're a chiptune producer seeking something different than the usual offerings. If you want analog or uber-fat sounds, look elsewhere.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on March 29th, 2017
Version reviewed: 1.06 on Windows

This is a review of The Legend, a Minimoog emulation by Synapse-Audio. The software version I have is 1.06.

SOUND:

The low end has "oomph" without sounding boomy, and that filter sounds beautiful. She screams in extasy when you crank that resonance knob. There is an indescribable "dirt" to the sound I haven't heard on any other softsynth, which I personally like a LOT. As I've never played a real Moog, I don't know if that's supposed to be there, or if it's just part of the "Synapse Audio" sound. Either way, I like it.

These new analog emulations sound much warmer, dirtier and "alive" than what was available 10 years ago. Case in point: The Korg Legacy synths. LMAO! That company isn't serious about producing VSTi's, otherwise they would have stepped up their game a long time ago, either making a major update to overhaul the sound, or releasing brand new software. I love their MonoPoly and MS-20 plugins, but enjoy them strictly for what they are - modern synths for modern hip hop/dance music, with vintage looking GUI's slapped on them. The Korg VSTi's sound very plastic and cold compared to today's analog emulations.

EASE OF USE:

VERY easy and immediate. Legend has a more modern style interface that doesn't confuse like those purist GUIs often can. I would highly recommend Legend to people who are still new at creating their own patches and want to become proficient at the basics. You can just get creative and have fun with it without any extra clutter getting in the way.

FEATURES:

Personally, I like complexity and all the extra "clutter" mentioned above. Legend's feature set is more limited than the other Moog emulations I've played with. Like a real Minimoog, it isn't even velocity sensitive (yet?). You have monophonic, polyphonic and unison modes. The original Minimog was purely monophonic, so these extra modes are a welcome addition. You have 3 oscillators, 1 filter, and 2 envelopes. If you want an LFO, you have to use the 3rd oscillator instead of a dedicated LFO parameter. This allows for filter and oscillator FM, though, which is great for adding a rough and edgy character to your sound.

You get delay and reverb as onboard effects. I've asked the developer to add a vintage style chorus effect, which would be great for thickening up polyphonic sounds such as pads and keys.

PRESETS:

This is oldschool territory, and for the most part, the factory soundset sticks to the 70s/80s theme. You also have a folder with chord stabs, which have a strong deep/oldschool house flavor. A bit of self-promotion, but I have Legend soundset available at Xenos Soundworks, called 'RetroMania'.

OVERALL:

There's some tough competition out there, and each Moog emulation has it's own unique sound. 2 things really jumped out at me with Legend compared to other Moog emulations:

1) It's available in Reason RE format, and allows Reason users to fill that analog niche. The synths in Reason, while good in themselves, all have an obvious 'modern' quality to them. Legend is the perfect choise for Reason users seeking to add a retro flavor to their rig, especially when patching it up with Reason's included effects (chorus, phasing, etc).

2) The workflow is just perfect. On a more personal note, this was one of the few times a new plugin has _EVER_ inspired me to crank out a commercial preset bank in less than a week. There's just enough of a feature set to not feel constrained, yet it's limited enough that it really forces a more childlike and whimsical approach than with something like Massive or Serum. On those more advanced-level synths, there's always that "paralysis by analysis" factor which potentially slows things down.

Legend is my favorite Minimoog plugin, but that is only personal choice and preference. It is entirely up to the user to demo the various choices themselves and pick what they like best. There's also DIVA, Arturia Mini V, Minimonsta and Native Instruments' own Reaktor-based emulation (can't remember the name lol).

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on November 2nd, 2014
Version reviewed: XP on Windows

I don't typically review a synth unless it is either underrated, really cool, or just plain terrible. Serum earns a 9 out of 10 in my book. After checking out some videos of the synth on YouTube, I just _had_ to pick it up. It surpassed my expectations.

Overall Thoughts:

If you own N.I. Massive, many aspects of the patch design workflow will be immediately familiar. You have the same drag and drop functionality, where you can click on, say, an LFO, and drag it to any of the knobs. This functionality is combined with a mod matrix, so you both ways of working, which is really cool. The mod matrix page also allows further tweaking after you've set things up, such as altering the modulation curve, reversing the direction of the modulation, and adding an additional source to control the modulation (such as adding the modwheel to control LFO amount). You also have 4 Macro controls for further tone shaping, which users of Massive will be familiar with. Having said all this, I definitely think many Massive users would do will to pick up Serum as the sound between the 2 synths are different, and Serum has functionality that Massive lacks. IMHO, while I love Massive, I like Serum better. It's more customizable, so you can dig deeper and really carve out your own unique sonic niche. My only problem with Serum, currently, is the CPU usage. I'm on a 10 year old machine and just hitting 3 notes on a complex pad patch brings my CPU to its knees. Maybe the developer could add a "draft" mode in the future?

Features:

The wavetable creation features in Serum are phenomenal. You can draw your waveforms, or you can import any sound file. From there, you can edit the wavetable morphing in many different ways. This really gives the patches you create their own unique sound, as you are not limited to a factory wave set. You also have a wide variety of ways to warp the wavetables, including even FM synthesis with the other oscillator, ring modulating them, or more standard warping features such as wave bending, mirroring, PWM, etc.

You can also import samples and use them in the "noise" oscillator, which vastly increases the different kinds of sounds Serum can make. While I haven't tested it yet, it looks like you should be able use your imported sample as a modulation source as well.

You have a full suite of high quality onboard effects which can be ordered any way you like. There is also a very generous selection of different filter shapes, which even includes a plethora of exotic "filters" such as ring modulation, bit crushing, phase shapes, flange shapes, etc - even reverb as a filter shape...interesting :). You have 3 LFOs and 3 Envelopes. The LFOs are highly customizable. Aside from the standard shapes, you can build your own sequences and even push a button to turn your LFOs into one-shots/envelopes.

Sound and Presets:

Going through the presets gives the impression that Serum is mostly for hard, dirty and aggressive sounds, but the synth has a softer and more sublime side as well. Definitely NOT a moog or oberheim, but capable of more than just screaming in your ears haha :). I've made some sweet, chill leads and ambient pads with it. On the harsher side, I love the dubstep basses Serum makes - definitely gives Massive some serious competition in that area. This is where making custom wavetables really adds to the fun :). Since I compare Serum to Massive so much, I'd like to try and describe the differences in sound between the synths. Massive's filters are utter SHIT, which always bothered me because that has been one of my personal favorite synths. Serum's filters are far, far superior, IMHO. They can be uber-phat and really sing with the proper settings, or you could thin 'em up if you like. The character of Serum's unison is better as well. Not sure how to describe it, though. "Thicker" is the best I can do there lol. A synth's onboard effects is a big contributor to the overall sound as well. Compared to Massive, I find Serum's distortions "warmer", as well as the fact that you have far more distortion types. The chorus sounds fatter and is much more customizable. Massive's reverb is shitty, whereas Serum's reverb is decent. Also, Serum has an onboard compressor, which many of the presets make use of for that "squashed" sound which is popular nowadays. My only gripe with Serum's overall sound is its tendency toward strong higher frequencies, which requires some extra tweaking if you want to tame it.

Value for Money:

The wavetable customization and ease of use for that functionality alone is worth the asking price. It's all done from within the synth, so no extra outside work is required.

GUI:

One of the best GUI's out there. Very professional, easy on the eyes, and easy to navigate. The tabs are necessary as there simply isn't enough room on normal sized monitors to cram everything onto a single screen. but they are done in a way that doesn't impede your workflow.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on September 14th, 2014
Version reviewed: XP on Windows

Overview:

What needs to be said? Almost everyone out there already has it lol. It's a great synth and I like it a lot. Native Instruments is one of the top dogs in the VSTi game. They know how to make quality, and they offer enough features on their main synths that you never feel painted into a corner. Massive is one of the most stylisticly versatile synths out there. It even does 8-bit Chipmusic well enough to satisfy a diehard chiptune purist. For making Trap synth stabs, Massive would be my #1 recommendation. For techno/trance, it depends. You'll want it for the digital sounds and for making creative rise/drop effects, but Sylenth, Spire, Z3ta 2 or DIVA are better for the "main course" EDM sounds and house chord stabs.

Sound:

As far as personal tastes go, I'm right at home with Massive's character. It can be a dirty slut, and I really like that in a synthesizer. Brostep and hard DnB fans love it for those mean, "dirtier-than-porn" distorted basses, and fans of REAL dubstep enjoy the milder side of Massive, where you need the complex modulations and digital sound without the over-the-top distortion and craziness. It's a real pad machine, too - perfect for sounds that morph and twist, with subtle extra modulations adding texture. It does a pretty good job of EDM or oldschool sounds as well, but more effort and precise programming is needed to give it that warmth. IMHO, the sound of Massive's Unison feature is very "liquid" and "sterile", so I rarely use it for dance patches, but I do like it for Hip Hop and Trap leads since it more closely matches the character of the unison leads used on popular urban/hip hop songs. I think the way Sylenth and Spire handle unison are by far superior for those huge, party rocking EDM leads and synths.

Features:

It has a lot. All your standard needs are more than covered. What Massive really brings to the table, though, is the wavetable oscillators and how highly flexible those 4 envelopes and 4 LFOs really are. If you're a fan of sequenced patches, Massive absolutely has you covered. The LFOs have 2 other modes - a performer mode with a large variety of shapes for each sequence step, and a standard sequencer mode. You can even use the evelopes as additional LFOs via the "loop" function, with all manner of exotic shapes at your disposal. Another honorable mention is the insert FX, which you can really get crazy with. You can modulate those, and you can even modulate the global FX as well. Massive is a true workhorse synth and will likely be used quite often in your rig since it covers so much territory.

Presets:

They're awesome. Native Instruments are quite picky in that area and they don't just try to fill up space so they can brag about how many factory patches their synth has. Rest assured, you will not be disappointed. My favorites are the dark soundscapes, special effects and most everything in the Massive Threat factory bank. There's something for everyone in there. Self promo alert: I have plenty of Massive sets available at XenosSoundworks.com if you want to stop by and have a look.

Cons:

- Very digital sound, which some don't care for. Personally, I like that stuff, but I like analog warmth as well. In that area, U-He D.I.V.A. absolutely bends Massive over in the prison showers and calls it it's b*tch, then pimps it out to the other inmates for candy bars. There IS a reason why U-He fanboys are so devoted to Urs's work.

- Not the most efficient, CPU-wise, for those of us still using older computers. With today's machines, this won't be an issue.

Value for Money:

It depends on the person. Whenever Native Instruments has it on sale for $99 to $150, it's an absolute no-brainer, no matter what style of music you produce. If memory serves, the full price is $299? If so, i'd only recommend it for diehard dubstep fans, or brostep fans who need THAT sound, Trap producers (Massive's the best synth for that, IMHO), or people who are looking to make soundscapes and intricate sound effects/foleys without the headache of trying to learn Reaktor. If you're looking for sweet vintage sounds and need something as authentic as possible from software, U-He Diva is king. If your main style of music is EDM/Trance, Massive is prime choice for digital basses, but I would use Sylenth or Spire for the big leads and chord stabs.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on July 19th, 2014
Version reviewed: XP on Windows.
Last edited by Xenos on 7th August 2014.

Overview

Corona is an underrated gem that deserves more recognition, IMHO. I've come across quite a lot of synths, and I don't normally review them unless I find something particularly striking. In Corona's favor is not only its unique oscillators, but stylistic versatility and fresh sonic character. The sound itself is quite solid and the synth has potential for wide appeal if marketed better.

Sound

It has a very modern sound, clean and bright. Thanks to the neat phase modulation options in Corona's oscillator section, I've gotten some killer dubstep basses with that deep, metallic flavor, which is then run through 2 different filters and a bunch of different distortion options. At the end of the chain is the chorus, delay and limiter. Try using the delay set to very fine vales for a more subtle stereo widening effect. Works great on those "skrillex" basses.
In my opinion, Corona just plain sounds good. The basses that can be dialed in are hard and agressive, and the leads just plain sing. It sure as hell ain't analog, but it doesn't try to be. Like ReFX's classic Vanguard did back in the day, Corona embraces the digital sound, and does so with finesse by bringing its unusual character to the table.
A lot of the info I get on this synth suggests it is marketed more to the dance/edm crowd. While it does Dance/EDM sounds well enough, provided you don't _need_ the very best unison feature, the vibe I get from actually programming some sounds on it is more in the downtempo and breaks vein - Hip Hop, Trap, Dubstep, Breakbeat, Moombahton, etc. The charcter of the unison, chorus effect and oscillator phasing options lends itself VERY well to those genres. IMHO, it is THESE guys that Corona could have been better marketed to.
This synth has some good sounding filters. They definitely have a fullness to them, not the weak and lifeless character you find in some synths out there. Even the effects just sound good. Corona sings its own tune in beautifully digital ways without raping your ears in the 10 - 18 kHz range. The key with programming this synth is in having a soft touch. As the oscillators are based on a form of phase modulation synthesis, Corona is capable of some extremely harsh textures that would excite the dubstep, industrial and noise ambient fans. More subtle settings yeild laid back, singing leads, digital pianos, chill basses, and even those popular Trap stabs with a little trick using the arpegiator to get those abrupt stops.

Features

The star of the show is the "combine" menu within the oscillator section. It encourages you to experiment and find interesting tonal colors/interactions. It is a unique trick with tangible results, which Corona brings to the table in this competative market. There is a decent mod matrix with 8 sections which covers most of your standard programming needs. You have separate LFOs and envelopes for each filter, an amp envelope, mod envelope, mod LFO, and a dedicated vibrato section. The strength of Cornoa is not in having a huge feature set, but just sounding good in a fresh, current way. There are enough sound creation options that you won't feel your creativity is being painted into a corner. Where there is a lack, there is something to make up for it. The LFOs offer some non-standard shapes in addition to the standard ones. There is a wide variety of filter drive and distortion types, as well as filter types. Lastly, you have sample import. I personally don't use that function, though I might check into it more later. You can apply the same "combine" function on your imported samples, making them interact in unusual ways.

Presets

Corona is highly stylistically versatile. It does Trance, Hip Hop and Dubstep sounds all equally well. Browsing the factory patches definitely gives a different impression, though. They are mostly dance/edm oriented, with a smattering of stuff for other genres scattered about. The quality is variable as well. You have dance stuff from Cyforce, which is consistantly good, some good stuff from a few others, followed by the bulk of the patches, of which many were cool ideas, but didn't feel "polished". Self promotion alert - I have a set available for Corona, covering "non-EDM" genres: http://xenossoundworks.com/corona.html.

Value For Money

$169 for the synth. It's up to the person demoing it to be the judge. I'd say it's worth it to those that want to stand out from the crowd while still being able to make many of the same types of sounds those synths are known for. IMHO, it holds its own against the big giants Sylenth and Massive, while offering something under the hood that neither of them have.

Cons

- It's easy to cross the line from musical to chaotic and harsh with heavier parameter settings. Keep a LPF on Filter 2, adjust accordingly, and you're covered.

- Many people judge a synth by the factory patches, and Corona's included sounds are a mixed bag. A more solid factory set, IMHO, would have sold this synth better.

- Ugly GUI. I use the white one, which strains the eyes, but the "dark" GUI is even worse. The sections look a bit choppy. Perhaps a redesign that visually merges these blocky sections with the background would do the trick. From a marketing perspective, the developer might look into upgrading the GUI, as, unfortunately, looks matter in selling a product. He has a real winner on his hands, but I don't feel it was marketed well enough in several key areas for many people to see that.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on September 30th, 2013
Version reviewed: XP on Windows

This is a review of Madrona Labs' Aalto synthesizer software. I purchased it from the developer a good while ago, but only recently really sat down and learned this thing inside and out. As many of you know, I make commercial preset packs for a bunch of synths, BUT I normally don't write reviews for synths unless something really stands out to me from a synth buyer's perspective. Aalto is one such synth, and I've grown to understand why Aalto owners love it so much.

Interface/GUI:

One of the most logical and straightforward user interfaces I've ever seen. You can really _see_, visually, how each preset was made, just by looking at the color coded "cables" in the middle of the screen. MUCH easier to navigate than the chaotic spaghetti monster you see with complex patches on other modular synth software that tries to be as realistic as possible. IMHO, a more 'scientific', clean and sterile GUI beats old school realism every time.

CPU Usage:

MAJOR CPU HOG! When I made my MP3 demo for the 'Forbidden Experiments' preset bank, I had to bounce _EVERY_ Aalto track to WAV files. BUT, I'm on an older machine - single core, 3.6 ghz CPU, 2 GB RAM. The sound quality, workflow and interesting feature set make up for this, though.

Features:

Oh yeah :). Aalto is a very unique plugin. It doesn't offer a brand new type of synthesis, or totally unheard-of features, but it uses what it has in some unusual ways. The 'complex oscillator' is a blend of FM and VA synthesis, resulting in oldschool modular bleeps and bloops, crossed with a bit of a metallic digital edge.
I had a lot of fun with the repeating envelopes and loved the fact that you could, for example, take an LFO, and modulate the attack and decay times of that repeating envelope. The 16 step sequencer is the very heart of Aalto's special character, I think, and why it excels at strange, alien and mechanical sound effects. You have basicly 2 of them running. One where you set values for modulation, and below it, where you see the buttons, is a simple "on-off' pattern sequencer. You can route these as separate sources to affect very different parameters. Take an LFO, or envelope, and have it affect the "offset" parameter on the sequencer for interesting "scanning" effects. Another sweet feature is the ability to modulate the delay times for those comb filter and flanging effects.

Presets:

There aren't that many, but most of what's there is really good. I loved the 'machine' type sounds and they really turned me on to using step sequencers more often. I typically never liked that kind of feature before.

Value for the Money:

I believe I got this on sale for $99 a while ago. Definitely worth it for its strong points. I get sounds out of Aalto that just aren't possible to make in Arp2600V or Massive, for example (I actually tried it haha). It's also a _very_ good educational tool for learning more advanced sound design techniques, as the routings are so easily and quickly visualized.

OVERALL WRAPUP:

I would recommend Aalto to:

- Movie scorers looking to make sci-fi sound effects.

- Minimal Techno musicians looking for rythmic, evolving blips and bloops.

- Ambient or Future Garage producers looking to make mechanical soundscapes.

- Anyone looking for musical sounds that aren't the typical bread 'n' butter.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on March 13th, 2013
Version reviewed: XP on Windows

This is a hidden gem and a hell of a good deal - only 50 bucks. It may or may not sound like a real MonoPoly - I'm fine with it just as it is Where it shines is the amount of sonic ground it covers - from sweet and juicy vintage sounds, to ambient soundscapes, to blazing Drum N Bass reeses. Highly recommended to anyone building a starting software setup, as well as anyone looking for a good backup VA synth. This synth has the sonic versatility of software 4 times its price. I give the Korg MonoPoly a 9 in light of the low cost. For true analog emulations, there's better out there, but take just as it is, the MonoPoly is still a great value - modulation matrix with a large number of sources/distinations, a ton of effects, oscillator modulation, etc. Interesting irony....this is sold as a vintage emulation, yet is VERY good at making the latest fresh and current sounds.

Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on August 26th, 2011
Version reviewed: 2.0 on Windows
User Interface:

I quite like the way everything is laid out, especially in version 2.0, where the new GUI is larger, easier to read, and has a far better visual representation of what you are actually doing. At first, Z3ta can be intimidating to use, but with some practice, you'll "get" it pretty quickly, then programming new sounds becomes a piece of cake.
The Modulation Matrix behaves differently than in most synths, and that is the part that takes some getting used to. For example, in order to route the modulation wheel to close filter 1, it's not as simple as simply slapping "Modwheel" as the source, and "filter 1 cutoff" as the destination, then entering a negative value in the range slot. You have to put "ON" as the source, set "Filter 1 Cutoff" as destination like you normally would, THEN...you have to select a negative curve under the CURVE slot, select "Modwheel" under the CONTROL slot, then finally enter a POSITIVE value in the RANGE slot. Whew!! Man, oh man...when I first got Z3ta, I was tearing my hair out in frustration just trying to figure that out! The thing is, with added complexity like this comes added power. You can adjust the curve in how that filter modulation behaves. Select "Slow -" in the CURVE slot and then when you move the modwheel, the filter will close in a logarithmic fashion instead of a linear one.

Sound:

It ain't an Access Virus and it ain't Sylenth. It's Z3ta. It has it's own sound to it and I definitely like it very much. You can run the entire range from warm and analog all the way up to brittle, cold and digital. However you program it, with enough dedication to learning its features, you should be able to nail whatever sound you're looking for with at least 95% accuracy. Pay particular attention to the filter buses to get those lush, wide stereo sounds. Hell, let's take it further: with that and 6 oscillators, who needs a chorus effect? Combine the filter buses, some LFO action on the pitch on a couple of the osc's, maybe some light LFO on filter panning, and you made your own chorus effect. Sounds great on pads. Definitely try it and see if that works for you. Synths like Z3ta and Zebra really have quite a bit of leeway in defining their sound because they have a sufficiently high number of adjustable parameters that you can "bend" it well beyond the type of sound that jumps out at you on first impression.
Having said all that, I've seen synths with much more analog sounding filters. The digital character of Z3ta's filters become evident when you crank the resonance up. Then again, there's definitely some use out there for that character and I'm not complaining.

Features:

When it comes to the Z3ta vs Sylenth debate, THIS is why I pick Z3ta any day. Everytime. I'm a "mad scientist" when it comes to synths and that means I like being awash in a bunch of parameters just sitting there begging to be tweaked. 6 LFOs and 8, that's right, EIGHT envelopes can be assigned to quite an impressive list of parameter destinations. The number of LFO shapes on offer are simply astounding. Same goes for the oscillator waveshapes, and OMG, I love this -- the waveshaper parameters -- which can be tweaked on EACH oscillator separately. In Z3ta 2, you can also modulate these shaper parameters via the matrix and THAT is pretty cool :). Z3ta has those onboard effects like reverb, chorus, phaser, flanger, distortion, delay, etc, and...."meh". I like the delays and distortions, but the modulated effects and the reverb I'm not wild about, personally.
There are some features still missing in Z3ta 2, though. If Cakewalk adds new features in a future update, my wish list is as follows:

-Ability to modulate Evelope Attack and Decay values in the matrix.
-Ability to modulate Delay time and feedback in the matrix.
-An "Alternate" or "Flip Flop" source in the matrix.
-Ability to set the Decimator BEFORE the filter. As it is now, I don't use it much.

Documentation

They give you a PDF file that explains Z3ta's ins and outs pretty thoroughly, going over every single parameter and what it does.

Presets

They're good tutorial material for gaining an intuitive understanding of Z3ta's somewhat unusual mod matrix. From a musician's standpoint, there are a lot of them and IMHO, many of them are quite good, expecially the new ones in Z3ta 2. Check out the ones by Frank Genus ("FG"), BigTone ("BT"), and whoever "BC" is.

Customer Support:

At their very heart, I believe the folks at Cakewalk are good people who want to make their customer's happy. In my personal dealings with them, they always replied PROMPTLY to any questions I had. Example: I had trouble downloading Z3ta 2 at the Cakewalk store, sent a message and BAM!, they were on it right away. In regard to Z3ta 2's bugs and all the talk about that, I know as a business owner myself that there are many not-publicly-known variables behind the scenes at work which make it harder to get what you want done as quickly as you would like, as thoroghly as you would like.

VFM:

I got Z3ta+ during the $20 sale. It's easily woth more than the full price even as old as it is. There's a reason it's a classic and so many people swear by it.

Stability:

Z3ta+ - 10/10
Z3ta 2 - 5/10...currently buggy, but I'm confident they'll fix it.
Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on November 22nd, 2009
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
What?? A Rob Papen synth that hasn't been reviewed yet?? Alrighty then, I'll do the honors...

USER INTERFACE;

Clean looking and easy to learn. If you're familiar with Predator, you'll know your way around SubBoomBass -- exact same style. Everything is logically laid out where you would think they would be. Clicking on all the mini-windows brings up a pop-up menu listing all the options for that feature....and, like in Predator, there are a lot of them :).
On a personal note, I love the urban, graffiti look of the GUI and that orange background color...really has a nice oldskool vibe.

SOUND:

If you're not using the samples and just sticking to the VA waveforms and small number of digital waveforms, the sound is identical to Predator's, assuming you're not using some of the effects that are only in SBB, such as the bass enhancer effect. What I mean to say is, it sounds good :). Predator is one of my favorite synths, both functionally and sonically, and SBB definitely has Predator's sonic mojo.
SubBoomBass also has samples. They're intended to be used as building blocks for unigue sounds, so don't expect Kontakt quality there (although I'm sure Rob could make some wicked rompler synths if he wanted to!!). When using these samples in creative ways, you can make very unique basses, pianos, organs, ethnic style polysynths and rythmic effects which cannot be done in any of RP's other products.

FEATURES

Ok...now we're talking :). SBB is advertised as a bass machine, but it's actually quite adept at creating sounds in other categories as well, such as searing leads, emotive pads and intriquing special effects. People say that SBB is "Predator Lite", but that's not entirely true. Yes, it uses the Predator engine and the similarities between the two are obvious when demoing the two side-by-side, however, there are 3 very distinct differences.

1. As I said before, SBB has samples for oscillator choices on top of the usual Saw, Square, Sine, Noise and a few digital waveforms. The samples range from tuned ethnic percussion to abstract textural content.

2. SubBoomBass has a Waveform Sequencer. Predator does not. This option alows the synth to change oscillator waveforms in a rythmic fashion and opens up a slew of possibilities that neither Predator or Blue will give you.

3. SubBoomBass has a bass enhancer in the effects section. Predator does not. I find this effect VERY, VERY handy for creating cone-shattering subs frequencies you can both FEEL and HEAR. Let's see my beloved Predator synth try to do that :).

Features-wise, SBB has one free LFO, a filter LFO, Pitch LFO, one free envelope, a 4 X 4 free modulation matrix, an effects section with it's own special 2 X 2 mod matrix, 2 oscillators (with PWM available), 2 multimode filters, an excellent preset browser (just like the type Predator has).

DOCUMENTATION:

Honestly, I didn't even bother to read the manual. It's so bang-on easy to use.

PRESETS:

A snotload of very good bass and sequence presets. I only knocked of 1 point because of a personal preference...SBB can do so much more than just those types of sounds. But then again, Rob wanted to meet the demand for a quality go-to bass synth, and with SBB, I would have to agree that he certainly pull that off with finesse.
While I'm here, I may as well engage in a little shameless self-promotion :)...there's a bank of 40 Rave/Early House presets for SBB here: http://www.teamdnr.net/products/soundsets/underground-revival.

VALUE FOR THE MONEY:

For what you pay, it certainly has more value than the money is worth. It is Rob Papen's lowest-priced product but, like any RP synth, it oozes quality, is feature-rich and sits great in a mix.

STABILITY

Haven't had a crash with it yet nor have I noticed any bugs.
Reviewed By Xenos [read all by] on June 10th, 2009
Version reviewed: 1.5 on Windows
I was fortunate to get an assignment from Rob Papen to create a new soundbank for his Predator synthesizer, of which I was given a copy to work with. Honestly, I way underestimated this synth! Do not be fooled by Predator's comparatively low cost in comparison to Rob Panpen's other synths. This puppy has TONS of neat tricks and secrets hiding under the hood which are not readily apparent until you sit down and spend some quality time with it.

User Interface:

Very convenient layout. Everything is neatly orgainized into sections, which makes learning all the functions much more intuitive. Predator is actually quite a complex beast compressed into a relatively small space and there are quite a lot of options within the modulation and LFO sections. Clicking on a slot in the free modulation area will bring up a large menu, both for modulation sources and modulation desinations. I like this a lot better than having everything all on the screen at once.

Sound:

This is where Predator shines. You can create sounds that sit very well in the back of a mix and also sounds that slice through it like a hot knife through butter. The sound quality is most certainly professional and I have no complaints here. Predator has it's own unigue quality and a very modern sound. It does not pretend to be an emulation of an analog synth or a Virus, but what it does do, it does very, very well. I would recommend Predator as a great go-to synth in your arsenal. This isn't just a Trance synth, guys :). I got some nasty growling, metallic, Robert Natus-esque leads out of this synth that I wasn't quite able to do on other synths. This puppy can also do trippy, evolving soundscape pads with complex programming. Drum & Bass and Dubstep guys would love Predator as well. You really gotta check out the effects section. Rob Papen's synths have by far the best effects sections I have ever heard in a software synth. Dubstep style modulated delay speeds with an LFO modulated filter routed AFTER the delay in the chain... oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about :).

Features:

Like I said earlier, do not be fooled by Predator's relatively simple appearance and comparatively low cost. For starters, there are a very large number of oscillator waveshapes. You are not limited to just sine, saw, square and noise. There are all manner of esoteric digital waveforms for imitating such classics as the Ensoniq ESQ-1, Korg DW synths and other digital hybrids from the 1980s.
There is also FM capability, which adds a bit of extra edge to your sounds without outright emulating a DX7. This is great for gutteral, ripping high-passed leads and deep, digital sub basses.
The modulation section is the core of Predator's magic and the place where you will find all its hidden secrets. You have 2 slots for modulating effects parameters. Just about any source you can think of can be used for this. You also have 2 dedicated LFO slots. Then, you have an 8 slot free modulation section. With your sources you have all of what you would expect, but the magic lies in some of Predator's more esoteric options. "Offset" is a great and useful example. By routing this to an LFO, you are now able to do audio-rate modulation (very fast LFOs). You can modulate one LFO's speed via another LFO, the modwheel, aftertouch, or even one of the 2 free envelopes.
The Chord Play feature is a must-have for House and Techno folks. Simply play any chord, hit "learn" and that chord will be memorized and saved as part of your new preset.
The effects section is absolutely stunning. Not only are the effects themselves of high quality, but there are A LOT of them! Chorus, Flanger, Bitcrusher, Distortion, Comb Filter, Reverb, Multimode Filter, etc, etc. Each of these effects have a very large selection of parameters -- and each parameter can be modulated! Reverb size via an LFO? Yes. Delay speed via an envelope? You bet. Flanger speed via modwheel? Count on it :).

Presets:

This is the area where I think Predator could improve. The factory presets are quite good, yes, but there are many things Predator can do which are not shown in the factory sounds (audio rate modulations via "offset" parameter, very complex atmospheres, use of white/pink noise as a modulation source, heavily modulated effects, etc).

Value for Money:

Excellent :). For $150 USD, it's a great buy. Great sound, loaded with features and very stable. This would be one of my "deserted island" synths lol.