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Electron [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 23rd June 2003
Version reviewed: 1.01 on Windows
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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In reading the review TenneseeVic posted, I realised that I had never reviewed Electron. This is a gross oversight on my part, as I use the thing almost daily. Sure, I have lots of other VAs, but Electron has a few things going for it that make it one of my first call synths. First and foremost, there is the sound. The oscillators and the dual filter sound excellent, and while it may have fixed oscillator waveshapes, they are chosen well and do a good job creating most of the "clasic" analog sounds one might need. The interface is self-explanatory, and the synth is easy to get around. The addition of the X-Y pad adds a lot of power to the synth, allowing you to create sweeping ProphetVS style pads. With so many virtual analogs available, many with more features, why do I keep returning to this one for so many duties? probably the same reason I still reach for my little Moog Rogue or my Alpha Juno 1: It's fast, powerful and easy to program a sound I want quickly and without interupting my workflow or killing my inspiration. I've never had the thing crash, and even if I did, Muon is responsive to any customer needs. I rarely use presets, but there are lots available for Electron and they seem useful and well-thought out. They always make a good starting point for creating your own. Documentation is good if you need it, though I never have. The interface tells it pretty much how it is. Once upon a time Electron sat alone in this price-point, but these days there are multitudes of synths available for cheaper or free, yet they rarely can compete with the sound quality that hides under Electron's polished silver hood. In my book, Electron is still a winner, maybe even more so than it used to be. Now, it's ease-of-use, ability to produce superb results, and clean and uncluttered look give it an edge over synths with proliferation of knobs and sliders when I need that sound and I need it fast.
Tau Pro [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 9th August 2002
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows
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At the risk of having torch-wielding villagers chase me into the woods, I am not overly enamored with the Roland TB303, and it's offspring. I don't DISLIKE it mind, but it just isn't a sound I've ever felt was versatile enough for my needs. However, I recently got the Electron synth from Muon, and the sound was so fantastic, I began to look at the Tau Pro. The more I looked, the more intrigued I became, and eventually decided that I might want to give it a go. The demo track on the site was the clincher, for while it DOES have the "traditional" 303 bass riffs, it also has a lot of other interesting sounds from Tau Pro. First thing I noticed when I opened it was the sheer variety of waveforms. There are a number of different types, but unlike some synths, these really SOUND different from each other. Just switching from one type of sawtooth wave to another has a drastic effect on the timbre generated. The other thing that is immediately apparent is that this synth has that elusive "punch" factor. No rhetoric here; Tau Pro makes a sound that punches you right in the middle of your chest. There are some unusual filter slections, and they help to give Tau Pro a unique and versatile sound. And that's the thing about this synth. While it's initial aim is to give you 303 sounds, to expect ONLY 303-style sounds from it would be a mistake. With a little tweaking, I have been able to generate patches that go far beyond the typical "analog" sound. So far, my favorite use for it is as a "PPG-like" bass synth, but with more presence than PPG. The interface is self-explanatory, and the documents are there, and complete, if you need them. Dave is a constant figure around this and other forums, offering guidance to those that need it. The onboard presets are good, but not to my taste (remember, I am not the intended audience for this sort of synth). For thirty bucks, you really can't go wrong. Tau Pro has achieved a semi-legendary status, and it is well-deserved.
DS-404 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 8th August 2002
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
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There are a load of samplers out there at the moment. When you need dense, crazy sample twisting, no doubt you'd go to Kontakt or VSampler, but for basic sampling duties like your granny use to do with her Emu, DS404 is pretty tough to beat. You're not going to find built in effects, realtime time-stretching or even disk-streaming here, but you WILL find a solid workhorse with a comprehensive set of killer filters. If you have the CM101, Electron, or any other of the excellent Muon offerings, you already know how good that sounds. Well, this time there are a ton of 'em, from the usual low-pass 12 and 24 dB variety to some somewhat esoteric types I've not seen elsewhere. You get a whopping 640 megs of great sounds (some of which are mine!), and all for the cost of a magazine. A few of the sounds had some trouble spots, but CM have already offered downloadable, fixed versions. You get a four page tutorial in the magazine, and an excellent electronic manual, so you ought not to have any trouble getting around. If I have any complaints, it's that I initially found myself trying uselessly to adjust the parameters by scrolling the text values, instead of using the "function keys". I soon got accustomed to the way the interface was set up, and now I find that I can fly across it when programming sounds. In fact, I have more expensive samplers at my disposal, but I find myself coming back to the DS404 for my daily sampling duties. The keymapping is brilliantly implemented, and there are enough synthesis functions to change a sound beyound all recognition. It's multitimbral, and thus you can create some pretty thick layers. Muon's support is always top-notch, but you'll likely not need it. The DS404 is as stable as stonework.

I think the magazine is selling out rapidly, so if you want the sounds included in the extra disk, you'd better get on it. I'm sure, though, that more are to come, and I the sampler itself will be available on future issues.
Sonik Synth [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 21st June 2002
Version reviewed: 1.2 on Windows
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Dammit, it looks amateurish to rate solid 10/10 on a product, but there's no way around this. Sonic Synth is a magnificent VSTi. In fact, the only gripe I can come up with is the color of the SampleTank interface, but this is a Sonic Synth review, not a SampleTank review. Retina burn aside (it's REALLY bright), the GUI is easy to get around, and I never even needed to peek at the documentation. I was making music a few minutes after getting Sonic Synth out of the box.

The sound of this thing is just stunning. I trolled through patch after patch, and found nary a clinker. Favorites include the "Brain Damage" and "Lindsay Steelingham" guitar patches, as well as the breathtaking acoustic basses. Are they perfect sounds? Well, no, but neither are the sounds made by real players with real instruments. It's apparent that these sounds are designed by people who PLAY their instruments. Every patch I called up resulted in much extended jamming. That's the highest compliment, in my book. The attention to detail is staggering. The Mellotron voices have surface noise (on purpose) and you can FEEL the bow scraping the violin strings on the string patches.

There is a thorough manual to help you get the most out of the SampleTank engine, surpringly weighing in at 40 pages. That's pretty good for such a dead simple GUI.

Customer support? You're joking, right? I mean, Squids has displayed his dedication to his customers daily since I first visited KVR. Not to mention, he tells great stories an can play Genesis' "Rapids"!

Haven't seen an issue with stability. It's been rock-solid from the moment it was installed.

Is it worth the price? There's no question. I mean, it's got more content than a handful of hardware workstations, but costs a fraction of any one of them. The sound quality makes the most expensive hardware device seem shoddy by comparison, and puts most sample libraries to shame. Know anyone who has any use for my old soundfont discs?
pHATmatik Pro [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 28th May 2002
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
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Hot diggitee damn! I don't know why, but I was hoping to write the first review of pHATmatik Pro. I'll tell you, every so often a music product comes along that's destined to be revered. pPro is such a product. There have been plenty of loop rearranging tools, from the venerable ReCycle, to Cakewalk's somewhat less originally named Cyclone, and of course, Propellerhead's Dr. Rex from Reason, but pPro pretty well flattens them all. It's got every feature I wished for from the others, and it's a VSTi, to boot. It's interface is easy to understand (I made a song with a pre-beta version, LONG before there was a manual), and it's loaded with thoughtful extras, such as "drag-and-drop" support for both slices and the MIDI files it generates from the loop. it's transient detection is pretty much the best I've yet encountered, and the slicing is VERY accurrate. The editing section allows for minute editing/mangling of each slice, and the master section supports a lovely comb filter, as well as tempo locked delay and LFOs (2). There are plenty of ways to render a loop into a wholly new creation, too many to go into here. Suffice to say that even a handful of loops can provide a wealth of new material. By it's nature, there are unlikely to be presets, but then EVERY sound is a pPro preset, isn't it? The sound quality is top-notch, and it's frighteningly stable. Even beta versions out-performed some expensive name-brand plugs I own. The customer support is exemplary, and it's creator, Art, is attentive to the user's needs, and pretty dang cool, too. Is it a value? How much money do you spend on loop-library discs? pHATmatik Pro will give you an infinite variety of loops for about the same price as a CD full of those crumby ol' static loops. It's a rare oppurtunity to watch the birth of a product that's poised to change the way people approach making music, and I feel priveleged to have been there from the beginning. Thanks Bitshift.
Pentagon I [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 26th April 2002
Version reviewed: current on Windows
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I've gone through literally dozens of analog synthesizers in the twenty-three years since I bought that first Moog Rogue, but two that have stayed by my side are the Yamaha CS-60 and CS-40M. The latter has some features I've rarely seen implemented on any other synth, including the ability to send multiple LFO waveshapes simultaneously to a number of destinations. This makes for some great twisting, percoloating rhythms. I've not heard anything like it elsewhere, until I got the Pentagon 1. It has THAT sound. That elusive, special quality that would gaurantee "classic" status in the hardware world. Many softsynths get used more out of convenience or economy. Not this one, though it qualifies for both descriptions. This gets used because it SOUNDS good. Outside of a modular environment, I can't think of anything you might not be able to do with this. FM (the old kind), ring-mod, noise generators, it's all present. The interface is fairly easy to get around, though any synth with this many features might take the novice a bit of time to grok. There's an online manual available as both a Word doc and a PDF file. This does a fine job of explaining the many functions of the Pentagon 1. The ability to create your own waveshapes for the oscillators is a bonus, and even more so is the unusual ability to create user LFO waveshapes. Nice touch. The onboard sounds cover a lot of ground, and as usual for RGC presets, they are imminently PLAYABLE. These are the kinds of sounds for which low latency was invented. There has never been so much as a hint of instability from an RGC product on my system, but even if there were, the customer support has always been exemplary. At it's list of $99, you don't have to pinch many pennies to afford it, and you'll be getting more than your money's worth. There are only a handful of softsynths I find indespensible, and it's remarkable how many of those say "RGC Audio" on the front.
DR-008 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 11th April 2002
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
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Okay, so I gotta confess, I hesitated reviewing this because earlier this week there was a debate raging about the review ratings being too high, and I knew I'd look like a gushing idiot when I wrote this. But, you know what? This thing is absolutely lovely, and deserves near-perfect ratings. First, there's the interface. Well, it aint pretty on the surface, but it gets the jobs done, and manages an awfully lot of information in the space allotted. The modular approach allows a lot of flexibility, hence complexity. I briefly glanced at the electronic documentation, and it seemed thorough enough, but frankly, the interface is so intuitive, I've not looked at the manual again. No paper manual, so an eight for documentation, but like I said, I've not needed it. How does it sound? In a word, marvellous. The combination of synthesis and feature-packed sampling modules makes this all the drum-machine I'll need, and more. I've always used drum-machines in a very utilitarian fashion; load a bunch of samples, get the beat down. With DR-008, however, I'm INSPIRED, and that's invaluable, isn't it? The various modules have presets, and the presets cover more than I'll need in this lifetime, including the dear old CR-78 and Acetone sounds. However, I still have a blast crafting my own sounds with the various modules' editors. Angus of FXPansion seems attentive to his customers needs and questions, and a nice enough guy, at that. He's earned the respect of many here at KVR, and that's a good sign. I've not had any trouble with the DR-008, and have worked it pretty hard this week. It never faltered, or gave me reason to think it might. Oh, and I forgot to mention the fantastic 16-step sequencer module. Man, that's cool; sequences zones accross the keyboard. I got it with the SONAR 2 XL upgrade, but would gladly have forked over the $149 asking price. Fantastic!
Cyclone [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 7th April 2002
Version reviewed: current on Windows
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I've been playing with Cyclone for a few days now. It's a good idea, one that has it's precedent in the Dr. Rex player in Reason, and some hardware samplers such as the Yamaha CS6X. It's really like merging ReCyle and a hardware sampler into one plug-in, only you are using ACIDized loops instead of .rex files. That's okay, as I feel that ACID and Sonar's time-stretching functions are better for sustained material than ReCycle is. However, you can ONLY import ACIDized waves or plain old wave files, no .rex files at all. Once you have the loops in there, you can alter the pan, pitch, and level of each slice, again, very much like Dr. Rex. Unlike Dr. Rex, it pretty much ends there. There are no filters, no LFOs, no nothing to really manipulate the sounds AFTER the slices are panned, pitched, amplified. The GUI is dead easy to understand, and there's a chapter in Sonar's manual on operating it. There are no presets, I've not even seen a tutorial on the disc, unusual for Cakewalk. However, it's pretty easy to figure out, and like the rest of Sonar 2, stable as heck. I suffered a dropout when trying to change the pitch of a slice while everything was playing, but nothing serious. It IS a lot of fun to play with, and having sixteen loops at a time sync'ed up can be a blast. It doesn't tax the CPU a bunch, either. It makes for a nifty arrangement tool, but I can't help but wish you could manipulate the sound of the slices more. It may usher in another rash of "stuttering" sample-based music, ala Art Of Noise, I'm afraid. I haven't had to call Cakewalk's support for some time, but if I did, I'd probably get the same well-rehearsed easy answers I've gotten in the past. It's always the drivers, you know. Seriously, tho', they help work it out in the end. It was a free plug-in with Sonar 2, so VFM is high enough. As a synth/sampler, it's okay, but as an arrangement tool, it really shines, and that's how it'll get used most often around here.
GalactiX [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 4th April 2002
Version reviewed: current on Windows
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What a great week! First, Triangle II, now GalactiX! First, the sound. It's certainly bucks the trend, with a decidedly "digital" feel. The vocal oscillators are a nice touch, and will be perfect for spacey pads. There aren't too many knobs, but I like the "preset" approach to the envelopes. This reminds me of my old Ensoniqs or the Yamaha TG-33. You lose a little control, but they essentially force you to "get the job done" and get on with making music. The whole thing is pretty self-explanatory to program, too. It's elegant in its simplicity. They get bonus point for the science-fiction theme, 'cause I'm a fan of the genre! Rene's presets appeal for the same reason (plus they are good!). Yes, CPU usage is a bit on the high side, but it never crashed. The only gripe I have is about the reverb. It's a nice touch, but I'm not nuts about the sound of it. It'll work in small quantities, but, heck, we have access to so many reverbs already, it's a non-issue, and IT"S FREE! I have no clue about the customer support, but they provided me with a free addition to my sonic arsenal, so points all around! Thanks, guys for making a good week even better!
Triangle II [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Scot Solida [read all by] on 2nd April 2002
Version reviewed: current on Windows
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Holy criminy, what a beautiful synth! This thing looks and sounds amazing! I already credit RGC with producing the best sounding analog emulations around, but this thing surpasses them all. The improvements to the interface are thoughtful and appreciated. I particularly like the method by which waveforms are selected. And the MIDI "learn" mode is totally unexpected in a free synth! Makes working with the breath controller, well, a breeze. The manual is better than those included in some very expensive plug-ins, and does a fine job making the features of this little wonder clear. Built in reverb, chorus (a delicious chorus, by the way), and a DDL ensure that you'll be encouraged to add your own patches to the brilliant presets that are included. Lots of good basses, and some BIG sweeps are included. It says "RGC Audio" on the front, so you know that the customer support is beyond reproach. And free! It's fer-crying-out-loud-free! It gets one tiny, insignificant black mark for that last booby-trapped preset. Don't touch that one! This thing is a pure joy. And, I'll tell you, Rene is a real Artist with a capital "A"...
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