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ArtsAcoustic Reverb [read all reviews]
Reviewed By timaeus222 [read all by] on 13th December 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.2 on Windows.
Last edited by timaeus222 on 13th December 2012.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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I use FL Studio, and its Fruity Reeverb and Fruity Reeverb 2 are pretty limited. I've used AAR for a few months now, and along with the Uhbik package (Uhbik-A, in my personal opinion, is the only one that comes close to AAR), I never find myself missing the perfect reverb sound to use in any of my songs. In regards to AAR, I either find what I need in the unbelievably realistic presets, modify some to taste, or make my own from scratch in the midst of writing a song. Breakdown:

GRAPHICS:

I like it. There isn't anything I would change about it, and I dabble in graphics design myself.

QUALITY:

The quality of sound from AAR is incredibly detailed, and makes me wish I have better headphones than my current Shure SRH240A ones so that I can get the full effect. I've used AAR with many different virtual instruments, ranging from high quality sample libraries like Neo-Soul Keys and Strawberry Evolution Electric Guitar, to VSTi's like Zebra and TruePianos, to even free soundfonts! AAR can make even a free soundfont sound good (the soundfont itself just has to not sound absolutely terrible. ;D). Also, regardless of whether or not you make a good or bad preset, the quality itself sounds fantastic. It's extremely difficult to go wrong with this quality.

FEATURES:

This is unbelievably customizable. There's wet/dry (of course), decay, attack, predelay, density, diffusion, room size, room type (small, large, dense, slapback, strong, etc.), modulation, high/low cut customizable knobs with visual representation for damping, and more! What I like most, aside from the time graph, the high/low cut and damping frequency visual, and the freedom for room type, is that you can double click the knob/slider to enter in a manual value for the knob/slider! It's incredible how many reverb plugins don't do that.

USABILITY:

The interface is extremely user-friendly. First is the time graph and frequency representations in the GUI. It lets you know exactly what it is you are modifying. The possibilities of reverb effects are (subjectively) endless. If you can't find what you need in the 200+ presets, you can always make your own. It only took me about 2 or 3 days to figure out what every knob and slider did, and I have never extensively made my own reverb presets before I purchased this product. It's literally the first reverb I think of when starting any song.

SIZE/RAM/TECH STUFF:

I don't particularly remember what the file size was (it's quite small), but I can recall the RAM consumption was minimal. If I had to estimate, I would say loading 5 instances on FL Studio wouldn't add more or too much more than 100 MB to the physical memory. Definitely good for about 99% of customers' music-making computers.

VALUE FOR PRICE:

I don't regret buying this product for a moment. AAR is, by far, the best reverb plugin I've ever used. It's completely worth the $189 or 189 euros, if not more. You'll get the immediate satisfaction as soon as you give it a valid test (i.e. piano with a reverb preset meant for piano, rather than, say, guitar with a reverb preset meant for synth pads).

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I highly recommend it for anyone who's looking for professional-sounding reverb. IMHO, this cannot be beat.

- Timaeus

Neo-Soul Keys 3X [read all reviews]
Reviewed By timaeus222 [read all by] on 12th December 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.0 on Windows
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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The deep sampling on this library is unbeatable. 12 velocity layers?! Some may think it's overdoing it, but I think it's just enough. I've been using this for only a few months, and it's definitely my go-to EP/Rhodes. I've been able to use it on non-jazz/RnB/chillout songs too.

GRAPHICS:

Fantastic. The graphic design is suitable, top-notch, and memorable.

SOUND QUALITY:

Stunning. The included presets are really interesting, and really demonstrates the flexibility of customization for this library.

FEATURES:

The customizability is phenomenal. The velocity curve is a good addition for accurate emulations. Then there are all those options! Bark, Tine, Key sounds, Pedal sounds, etc. A nice set of effects are included too---Phaser, Flanger, Delay, Distortion, Chorus, and Spring Reverb. The Treble/Bass adjustment sliders actually make a useful difference, thank goodness (I've seen some plugins/libraries that have that and it didn't help them much).

LAYOUT:

The layout is highly intuitive, and the priority menus are most dominant. Chorus and Spring Reverb, EQ, Vibrato, Amp Sims, and various Tone knobs/flippers take center stage, while miscellaneous FX have submenus. The keys graphic at the bottom made me think they would animate when I played, but they don't. That's not a big deal, just something I noticed. Oh, and I think the Neo-Soul Wurli preview graphic on KVR is missing a few things on it, like some flipper and slider graphics. Odd.

SIZE/RAM/TECH STUFF:

Usable size, typically expected RAM consumption for something of this nice quality. It comes as 8 GB of samples, so go grab Kontakt and compress those files! ;) Note that it works only for Kontakt 4.2.3+, if I remember correctly. Might have been 4.2.4+. I highly recommend grabbing a semi-weighted MIDI keyboard if you want to "play around with it" to make some really realistic stuff! Of course, its velocity curve helps simplify the realism with velocities if you just have a cheap simple MIDI keyboard like mine. :)

QUALITY FOR PRICE:

Price probably marginally exceeds quality, but that's only because I rarely ever buy something virtual over $100. That's only at first. After you actually try it, with time you'll feel like you should have paid 50% more. ;)

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Would I get it if I were any random person with the money to spare? Yes, definitely. I highly recommend this to anyone who strives for high quality organic songs.

- Timaeus

Orchestral Strings One [read all reviews]
Reviewed By timaeus222 [read all by] on 11th December 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.1 on Windows.
Last edited by timaeus222 on 13th December 2012.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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I don't have a clue why people are complaining so much about this plugin. The sound is quite nice with the right reverb and sequencing. I'm not an orchestral expert by any means, but the sound quality is great, and "good" at worst. After analyzing the MIDI tutorial, it appears there are keyswitches (I didn't read the manual or the description. ;D), but I'm sure they're in the manual somewhere. So there's some thought in this.

QUALITY:

The spiccato, staccato, and pizzicato specifically are really nice. I don't hear much of a difference between "Default" and "Sordino" other than maybe less bass on the "Sordino", but regardless, both are not too good. The polyphonic blend is what makes it sound fake.

RUMORS:

The Max Volume knob does decrease the max volume when you rotate it counterclockwise. It works fine for me. Set the Min Knob to 0% and Max Knob to 100%, and you've got yourself the full velocity range.

FEATURES:

The cons:

What I don't like about this is that if you play around with it too much, it can randomly overload your output and it'll automatically mute itself until you reload the entire project file. So I don't think I'll be using this unless I've already written in the notes with downgraded instruments first.

It does not remember your presets perfectly. Even if you save a preset, it'll load the default voice mode when you try to load your saved preset, so remember to change the mode if you need to.

The vibrato is pretty terrible. It's LFO, and it's fake. If I ever use that, I'd literally only use it up until 0.0050 mix (pushing the modwheel up by less than a cm). Nothing else I can say there.

No round robins is killing this plugin. The sound quality is great, but it's all machine-gun. Sounds like 3 or 4 velocity layers, but I think 3.

Now the pros:

I absolutely love how you can change the mic "position" of the sound. The reverb is quite nice too. It's within a free plugin though, so don't expect it to be mind-blowing; that title belongs to ArtsAcoustic Reverb. ;) I'm not sure why there's a "Basic" and "Advanced" interface, though. They don't really look alike. I'd expect "Basic" to have less, but it just has different knobs in general. Oh well, not a big dealbreaker.

Very RAM conservative, unlike actual orchestral libraries. Rendering doesn't take a few hours either, unlike an orchestral soundfont I found at one point (an orchestral soundfont, taking an hour to render 1 minute of song, really?).

The keyswitches allow you to save some physical memory. There aren't too many, thankfully. One instance of Orchestral Strings One is all you need, unless you're like me and you use reverb presets specific to certain types of articulations. Regardless, good reverb does this some major justice.

USABILITY:

Well, it's definitely not too difficult to figure out. The sequencing table is pretty nice, but it's not intuitive. Great idea, but the usability of it could be polished more. It would be nice to be able to click-drag to test notes out more quickly, for example.

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Overall, pretty good. This would sound good as backup, but never fully exposed. I also don't really like how it might overload and cause you to completely reopen the project file, but otherwise a nice product.

- Timaeus

SynthMaster [read all reviews]
Reviewed By timaeus222 [read all by] on 7th December 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.1 on Windows.
Last edited by timaeus222 on 13th December 2012.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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SynthMaster Review:

Okay, this is literally a first-time use for me, so this review is solely based on my first encounter. I do, however, already have sufficient knowledge of synthesis techniques.

INSTALLING: 10/10
When installing, for some reason it creates a folder called VstPlugIns, which was placed in Program Files. You can definitely browse for the right folder, but if you didn't, then you'd have to find the folder yourself by organizing by Date Modified. Not too big an issue, but it would be nice if it was edited so that it detected the .exe file for any DAW that exists, and then looks to find a folder called VstPlugins, regardless of character case. At least, that's how I think it works. Alright, on to the usability.

FIRST-TIME LOOK: 7/10
It's quite overwhelming, actually. First of all, the plugin dimensions aren't customizable, and that would be a nice feature for those with a semi-small screen. Seeing the flowchart style for the routing wasn't what I actually expected. It makes this plugin seem more complicated than it might really be.

The first thing that genuinely confused me was that the waveforms on the Oscillator wavetables... didn't match their description! The sine wave looks fine, but the triangle wave honestly looks like... a hybrid sine wave? The square wave looks like... a fin wave? They sound normal, but look different than expected. Compared to other quality synths, the basic waveforms sound exactly the same, which is good.

I like the idea of the browser, since it's useful. It reminds me of NI's stuff. The adjustable velocity curve seems unnecessary, as most if not all DAWs have one already.

The FM patches are quite nice, although there are some artifacts in some cases, like the Suitcase MKII. Great sound there, but I'm not sure why louder velocities are meant to add more grit like that. I get the idea, but the grit sounds like distortion almost. Though this boils down to essentially sound design choice, so I'll stop at that.

Just the bass patches tell me that SynthMaster is capable of analog (Fender Jazz MK), dubstep wobbles, vocoded sounds (Dubstep Aei), FM synthesis (Space Station II), PWM, pitch envelopes (Dub My Step BT), possibly ring modulation (Thick Electroknocker BT). That's a nice set of things you can make, but if I can identify all of those, what else can I identify? That's the idea. If I can't identify what's possible, then this will be a hit---but I can. An extremely good synthesizer will make it very difficult for you to exhaust your ideas. What puzzles me though is why some FM patches that are clearly labeled in their name as FM aren't classified by the creator under Frequency Mod, but oh well. That's just something with individual patches.

EASE-OF-USE: 5/10
I'm seeing too many things at once on one screen. This interface leaves me unsure of what I can really do on this. It's tough to keep track of what I've already done because it all looks pretty much the same on any patch.

It's strange how not everything can be modified by anything. For example, I wanted to modify Drive on the Distortion FX with an LFO, but the program said it's not possible. On some other synths (like Omnisphere or Zebra), it is. I'm not sure why that limitation is needed---this is a virtual plugin.

VALUE FOR MONEY: 9/10
It might be worth a bit less than $99, maybe $79 would be a fair price. There's lots to it, but it's difficult to use, and the sounds don't sound inspiring.

GRAPHICS: 10/10
No complaints. Looks good enough.

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Overall, it might be something you'd pull up every now and then to look for an inspiring sound, but it's a hit-or-miss. I ultimately have no clue how I can use this plugin well enough because there are too many windows to the layout. It's not good, but it's not bad either. Probably a 8.2/10 for me, but I gotta round down for KVR. I don't want to be a hater, just being honest here. It's essentially the ease-of-use that's bringing this down.

Zebra [read all reviews]
Reviewed By timaeus222 [read all by] on 3rd December 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.5 on Windows.
Last edited by timaeus222 on 13th December 2012.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful.
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Zebra... This is an extremely unique product that far surpasses any other u-he product, as well as most other synthesizer plugins. Its versatility and usability are impeccable.

I never find myself truly lost in what I do in Zebra, and I've been able to create some creative and amazing sounds! There's such a wide amount of sounds anyone can create with Zebra. Synth Leads, FM Basses, Resonant sweeps, and even some organic stuff, like Brass, Strings, Weather effects, Keys (Rhodes, EPs, etc.), Organs, etc. Your limitation is your experience.

Let me analyze this plugin in more detail.

QUALITY:

The sound is pristine quality. I've managed to find and create sounds that need 224kbps and above to sound like it should. ;)

GRAPHICS:

Customizable skin. It comes with the default and Unempty Dark Horse. Dark Horse is a neat skin, and if I had used that more, I would keep using it. The reason I emphasized that is because the two skins have different colors AND structure. Alas, I got used to the default skin, so I'm more comfortable making patches on that. My advice is to pick one you like best first, and then use that from that point on. ;) And of course, people make skins for that, so check that out at: http://www.u-he.com/PatchLib/skins.html

SOUNDS:

The default patches that come with Zebra are enough to write a few full songs with literally all Zebra instances. But what if you want more? Over 45 FREE soundbanks have already been published to KVRAudio's Zebra Patch Bank page, and 125 FREE soundbanks at the Zebra patch library page! Want to know how inspiring Zebra is? There's your evidence.

SYNTHESIS/SOUND DESIGN:

From what I've managed to do in Zebra, it's capable of FM, RM, Modular, Additive, and Subtractive Synthesis; PWM, Sync Mod, and Waveshaping; and many others. There's nothing more I'd want from Zebra than what it already has.

MEMORY:

It's about 11 MB on the physical memory on the initialized patch, and it can get higher depending on what patch you use or make. AFAIK, most patches usually reach about 11~30 MB physical memory, which really isn't that much at all.

EASE-OF-USE:

What I love most about it is that it only shows what you are using, nothing more and nothing less. That way even the least advanced person can know that what he's looking at is what he needs to edit to have a noticeable change. I seriously believe the GUI is unmatched. It's probably because Zebra gets so much respect. ;)

POSSIBILITIES:

It initializes with a raw, monophonic saw wave as one oscillator and one envelope. From there, you can do many things:

- Modify the oscillator with Detune, Sync, Pulse Width Modulation, Envelope Restart, Effects (16, I think. Might be more.), or Modulation using Envelopes/LFOs/MSEGs/Velocity/etc.

- Add an FM oscillator module and feed the VCO through the FMO to get a classic FM sound. Maybe you can add an envelope with no attack, little decay, no sustain, and default (15%) release (that gives you a rhodes-like keypressing sound). Maybe you can raise the pitch and modify Envelope 1 to have no attack, little decay, no sustain, and a long release (that gives a plucked sine wave).

- Add a Comb Filter module and feed the VCO through the Comb. From here you can mess with the Feedback, Distortion, Tone, Flavour, etc. I've witnessed woodwind, orchestral strings, brass, and picked string instruments (i.e. guitar, banjo, etc.) trying out the Comb filter.

- Delete oscillator 1 and start with FMO, Noise, or something else instead, and challenge yourself!

- And plenty more.

Many people have made patches for this product, with a bunch of free ones on http://u-he.com/PatchLib/zebra.html. Check it out on that page, and you'll find some amazing stuff!

I highly recommend this to anyone with the money on hand. Eventually, it'll be your favorite plugin of all time!

- Timaeus