Given the sophistication and novelty of Crystal, you can make a case that it was/is the most GENEROUS free VST ever. And there's some tough competition for that title.
Learning to use it is an education is synthesis.
The .sf2 was the topper. All of sudden, untold GB of sample data became fodder for Crystal's bottomless mangling architecture.
Crytsal is a synth I would program for fun and exercise, not in support of a song or composition but just for its own sake--every bit as much as Cameleon 5000.
It's strength, obvioulsy is movement and modulation. I loved it from the start, but it wasn't til I heard the Tim Conrardy banls that I was able to understand its rhythmic potential. The enevenlopes are still the best of their kind, imo, not that I've checked out all the "competition." The frequency splitter is a trip. The Mod Matrix is pretty much bottomless, for all intents and purposes. Stability is excellent, CPU usage can go from modest to extreme. .Sf2 support was a brilliant stroke.
It's weakness, frankly, is in (the lack of) thickness and solidity of its core sound and an LP filter that to my ears is no great shakes. I am not able to coax fat, high character lead sounds out of Crystal, but so what? Keeping in the free domain, we have Synth1, Triangle 2, and the Iblits for that.
Crystal is, uh, an absolute gem. Glen/Green Oaks' generosity with this one is truly humbling.
I've been lusting after Sylenth1 for a few months after hearing the buzz and trying the demo. Sonic character is a subjective thing, but in case you haven't already heard, Sylenth has a lively, thick, animated sound that bests most VAs I've heard. That's the good news. The bad news is not bad news: Sylenth is a bit under-developed in terms of functionality at this point, especially and most importantly in terms of modulation routings. This barebones functionality is heightened by the rather hefty price tag--Sylenth is a fair bit more expensive than other more felxible subtractive softies such as Pentagon 1 and Minimonsta.
So the thing that will sway this review of Sylenth is...the future. I'm onboard. I bought in. Unlike hardware, softies have no durable value except that which is provided by the developer via updates and upgrades. I am hoping that this synth will do a lot of growing in the months and years ahead. If it doesn't, I will certainly feel that I overpaid for this.
Sound: Fine, liquid, nice. Good filters. Very decent effects section. I am not primarily an "electronic" composer. I use synths for oddball textures and specialty sounds in my sorta Gypsy indie prog pop songs (for lack of a better term...). I think Sylenth will come in very handy for high character "analog" sounds--even thought presets are very much geared to the electronic crowd.
Stability and CPU efficiency: excellent so far.
Presets: all of a kind really, which is to say they show off the synth's limitations well. Everything is pretty by-the-book subtractive.
Features: let me be clear--Sylenth's limited scope is a plus, not a minus. It sets strict limits on what it is and what it isn't. That is fine by me. My complaint is that, even for a strcitly defined subtractive emulation, Sylenth is under-featured. The list of mod destinations is paltry. I esepcially miss the ability to address envelope stages via the mod matrix. As I suggested above, the samey-ness of the abundant presets betrays a synth with very limited routings. How about a 4x16 step sequencer, like Evolver's, to make up for it? That would be fun. Study Evo's mod destinations as well.
Value: weeeeeeeel, this is the big question. LennarDigital is really onto something with their engine, to my ears at least. And everything it DOES have feels well designed and rock solid.
Again, I'm nervous about this purchase. I feel as I bought a synth with a bunch of empty bays. I will use it and enjoy it, but I really hope the Developer stays on top of it and delivers value commensurate with the price he is asking.
I can't believe I've never taken a minute to review this little bit of freebie perfection, so there you have it. I don't write anything that could be described as electronic music stylistically, but I'm amazed how much I find myself using this thing for its quirky and character-ful sound. I'm sure its sound can be created on other synths and fx, but why bother? The Cheeze Machine has total vibe and a surpisingly lush, musically useful output.
In a recent project, I layered it with Dan Dean's solo strings for Giga. Shorten the envelope A and R so it can keep up with a fairly eventful string arrangement. Wow, what a neat, phasey depth it added. The point of this, I guess, is that it's not for pads only. It can track lines as well, and sound pretty good, even though it doesn't have distinctive "attack characterstics" in its own right.
It layers beautifully, it mixes well. It's just a little piece of pure happiness, really.
It's right up there at the top of my freebie list (Well come on; Crystal's kinda blown it for everyone else, hasn't it?)
Chainer is simple perfection. It's satbility, ease, and efficiency has simply convinced me that VSTis are a reliable, professional part of my aresenal. I was not convinced of this before.
I have a dedicated softsynth computer that I treat essentially as a multi-synth "tone module," midi'd up to my main DAW. I tried numerous hosts with varying degrees of success and stability. Most of them were way over-featured for my needs and were not CPU efficient. Chainer is just ideal for me. Rock solid, transparent, and I seem to get:
a) significantly more instances of synths and effects out of my CPU than with my last main host.
b) less crackling, clicking, and crashing than I've experienced with other hosts.
It's odd that a non-sound-making application would be the most inspiring purchase I've made in some time, but it is absolutely the case. I feel like I'm breathing freely and moving confidently in the VSYi world for the first time.
PS, I commend the developer on his enlightened demo. The only lacking functionality is loading saved presets, but you can save them anyway, and the demo will open with your last configuration, so you can actually get to work on the demo and not sacrifice any moments of inspiration. Because of this, I was very quick to purchase Chainer after only one evening with the Demo. So "lightly restricted" demos can pay off in good customer relations. Good job.
I've been holding off on reviewing Dynamo for a couple of months now, figuring I would eventually get around to really exploring all or most of its 25 or "ensembles." Well, I haven't and I've decided the reasons why I haven't will form the core of this review.
Interface(s): Not a strength here. Faults on several levels--scrolling, unclear and unexplained terminology that the little roll-over pop-ups do little to illuminate. The interfaces and lack of adequate documentation are probably the two major factors that have kept me from getting the most out of this package. The third factor would be some issues with stability.
Sounds: There are some fine ones. As someone else noted, there's a sonic consistency from instrument to instrument, even though they supposedly represent radically different modes of synthesis: FM, Wavetable, standard subtractive, and a variety of hybrids. For some reason, I find that dynamo excels at synth sounds that have a stringy, plucked quality, a rubbery bounce, which I actually like.
Some of the emulations--Many Mood, Sh-2, etc., are pretty good. Some of the fx are pretty. However as my bud Bobro (Kosmolith) would say, most of these sounds lack a solid "kernel" that would let them hang in a mix with acoustic instruments. They sound great on there own.
If you can figure out the relative strengths and useful applications of these many and diverse instruments, you'd probably do better with Reaktor, build your own. If you, like me, are looking to build your programming chops, you might do better with one flexible unit like Pentagon I on which to focus your energies.
Dyanmo is, thus, a problematic package. But I have no regrets. I got it as part of the Future-Retro Bundle, with the glorious B4. If I consider that I paid full price for the B4, then I got Dynamo for a mere $65. Certainly worth that.
I bought the Pentagon 1 based in the sheer volume of stellar reviews here, as well as my experience with Triangle II. So expectations were obvioulsy very high (for the highest rated instrument in the KvR universe!).
I'm pleased with the Pentagon and glad to have it on board. Some features that I really like: 1 page interface extrememly usable, well designed. You just stride right into programming. Compare that with the innumerable opaque faces of Dynamo, which I also just purchased...no comparison. Everything in Pentagon is more or less hard wired, but it's not problem because there are *a lot of wires* in the form of dedicated enevelopes and lfos for just about everything, and because of the outstanding MIDI learn functionality, through which my many-knobbed Z1 has become a dynamite Pentagon 1 controller.
Documentation is outstanding. I'm a bit of a programming newbie (though an old hand musician) and this manual is more complete, lucid, and concise than any I own. Rene should do a couple of writing workshops at Roland and Korg (and NI for pete's sake--the Dynamo manual is an uninformative embarrassment of quaint marketese. Please tell us what the g**&&*&amn buttons do!)
The sound. To me the oscs sound warm and rich, and I really like the filters. When I compare the naked Oscs with my Z1, the P1 holds up well. My dedicated softsynth machine has an audigy in it. I'd like to hear it through some real class converters. But there's no doubt that P1 has a sound worthy of the word "professional." I'm sure it stands with all the good VAs in terms of its basic modeling. I can't say the P1 has ripped my head off and replaced everything in my rig. I am a guitarist/songwriter afterall...
It sure is an elegant and good sounding piece of software, though.