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Viper [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 2nd June 2018
Version reviewed: 1.02 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 2nd June 2018.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Its June 2, 2018 and Viper was just released in 64-bit. For someone like me that has dozens of VST synths, I occasionally spend money on something that ends up being little more than a waste of time and added clutter on my machine.

THIS IS NOT THE CASE here.

This synth has unusual sonic characteristics and an unusual response to tweaking that makes this baby stand out as a great addition - even for those who own Spire. The approach is just different enough, and the arp in particular is amazing.

Plus, many of the sounds are really extraordinary and so easily tweaked to get them working in new directions.

You really couldn't ask for a more powerful argument that hardware synths had that special sauce in them - and that's what makes VIPER occupy a unique position - it emulates THAT.

So I was waiting to review VIPER because as a 32-bit plugin it was still common to overwhelm my CPU with it when using a lot of voices and so on.

The 64-bit version comes through - and noticeably overcomes that issue.

Also, this version has a whole new bank of presets.

Thank you ADAM.

One senses this has been a labour of love. Not unlike what the guys at U-he or Reveal Sound would do if they dug back in from scratch with what they'd learned as machines and their processors have become more capable.

BioTek 2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 29th April 2018
Version reviewed: 1.6.5 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 29th April 2018.
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I'm very new to the new Tracktion team. I'd heard about them once or twice, but never saw any of their work in any detail. Purchasing Mackie mixers caused me to encounter "Lite" or early versions of one of their Tracktion DAWs, but as I've always felt overwhelmed with the number of DAW products available, with all their various strengths and weaknesses, I was afraid to try to learn its advantages. Until this month I didn't realize that Tracktion, early on, was really instrumental in developing some tendencies (contextual editing workflows built into the GUI, and track/clip freezing to name 2).

In toying with this for an hour or so, I find this to be one of the most well thought out ambient sound design tools out there. Make no mistake, there is a lot of deep function to understand, but right out of the box you can get your sound moods going faster than with anything, and I mean anything else. I've tried much of what's out there, and there are a great number of tools with certain better features, and certain better GUI sections, etc. Where this plugin shines is in having such a sheer volume of creative potential that isn't found elsewhere, allowing constant morphing if you like, note by note fx if you like, mathematical playgrounds if you like, etc., etc.

Well done to the team at Tracktion for getting this accomplished, and I am looking forward to trying out Biotek 2 which is set to drop momentarily, which has apparently added granular oscillators to the possibilities, (just when Propellerheads also have pushed forward in that direction which is nice - its always interesting to see multiple new takes on an old method.).

Biotek 2 also is said to add new filter types and an improved graphical design, but there's so much in here as it is that I can only hope to understand it over a number of months.

If you do sound design, trap, film scoring, ambient or chill type music, I think this baby will be a happy surprise even though it may seem slightly more expensive than certain other tools. Its like instead of buying a package of spice frozen meat, with biotek you're getting a whole fridge full of inspiring foods to create with and sample. And no, they are not toxic or labeled biohazard if you don't want them to be. (Which assumes you're not a zombie).

Nerve [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 14th March 2018
Version reviewed: 1.24 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 19th March 2018.
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I'm still giving Xfer Nerve 5 stars - even at the $200 price point, but technically its probably only a little above 4.8.

Particularly the customer support is not to be beaten. (I own every plugin by Xfer Records except Serum, which hopefully will change soon.)

It has great sounds (Although Chris Cowie's pack on Loopmaster is great as well - really gives the polish in terms of matching sample and pad levels, EQ and dynamics.)

I spent this past week digging back into the drum-machine-related vsts I own, or those that I have demos of. Nerve is near the top of the heap in terms of dance music. I recently picked up Spark 2, and I also compared Nerve to Fxpansion Geist 2, and Izotope Breaktweaker. Regarding Spark 2, I'm waiting to hear back from Arturia on why so many of the sounds seem stuck in 2-state velocity (64 or 127)... Regarding Breaktweaker, I watched the interesting Plugin Guru video on it that shows how one can achieve Swing (strange that a swing knob functionality isn't included in Breaktweaker).

Nerve has not only a late graph (use the SHIFT key along with your left mouse button to drag on it, or you will be forced into a 16 division resolution.)

Nerve has extremely good sounds.

Nerve has quite, quite a bit more in its arsenal of EDM-modding of playback and filter properties than does Spark 2. Its slicer function is better as well.

Nerve sounds fantastic and its sound exports sound great.

While dragging individual pads and full mixes is a breeze and works flawlessly, I would rather have a GUI location where the full mix is dragged from (as programs like Spark 2 allow) - because pressing CTRL ALT SHIFT at the same time one is dragging is tricky.

Nerve has a per pad side chain compression - This is the main reason I decided to give it 5 starts. This is such a cool feature. actually you can take the side chain "detection" signal from multiple pads and apply different amounts of side chaining compression, simultaneously, from that pad or pads to other pads. This means that from right within Nerve you can hear a mix-ready rhythm track (after all you can load any wave file you want into the pads, bass, guitar, whatever). This is a tremendous and brilliant feature and more percussion plugins should implement things this way, because things like perc and hats in electronic music really need to be reduced at critical down beats - its just the way things are now for the modern musician and its so helpful that Steve understood this.

On the negative side, the screen size of NERVE is fixed and relatively small by today's standards (although I like the optional horizontal mode). Its also hard to see the name of your loaded preset and drum kits, at least for me in Reaper and FL studio it is...I need to mouse over the place where these would normally be - where the current folder is listed instead of the preset name... I get why the current folder is important to know. But I would like to also see the name of the preset and the name of the currently loaded drum kit! For me occasionally looking up to see a kit name like that always helps to jog my memory into remembering a source of good sounds in the future... While auditioning, you'll be changing among several kits every few minutes if you're like me, and after hearing some "reasonably good sounds" and moving on, you'll realize maybe those were actually very good. Now what were they called? It just makes it more likely that you'll remember the names if there's a name written on the GUI. Same idea with the preset, it helps to see its name.

Also on the down side, I feel that although the pattern methodology is interesting and useful, relative to Geist 2's Scene and Song modes it leaves a little to be desired (even though it has an interesting plus which I'll get to. Geist 2 lets you organize a complete sequence that can play back for you automatically. It lets you record a complete song as well. So I think Nerve could really use a refined song mode on a separate page. One good thing in Nerve is the global mode off switch. When you turn the global mode off, your chains of patterns play back independently based on the pad row length, which can be independently adjusted. (Playing patterns in Geist 2, Breaktweaker, and Nerve can all be done with independent pad row lengths. However, Nerve pushes the envelope by literally allowing their to be an independent chain of sequences for each pad.. Wow.

One thing I need to recommend, is to be sure to get the latest manual if you purchase Nerve. I had trouble finding it and Steve pointed it out where it was. Some of the hotkeys in the 2010 manual included in my installation were not up to date and this left me wondering about certain of the features. For example, the SHIFT key.

Lastly, (and this is complicated - unless, especially, you are a Geist user and have become familiar with this..) NERVE allows triplets but they are accessible in an unusual way that takes a little getting used to. Basically its Alt right click while dragging horizontally over the "late" graph. This creates triplet timing. If you have 16 hi hats you'll think you've lost your mind, because this will turn them into 12 triplet sixteenths. Steve explained to me that the pads are not polyphonic, so even though the late graph for the last sixteenth of a quarter note position (one in each set of 4) is pushing the beat over onto the next quarter note, because this creates two quarter notes at an identical "tick" only one can play. Geist 2 has a similarly tricky method of handling triplets - well 2 methods actually. You can use engines and set one as the triplets engine, and play patterns from both engines simultaneously. A little strange, but it works. A second method available in Geist 2 allows the triplets to reside in the same pattern. It was difficult to find this:

Convert timing
This function, available by right-clicking on a pattern memory key, allows the 'resolution' of a
pattern to be changed without altering the position of events in the pattern. It can be useful if
triplet steps are required rather than 16ths, for example.

Well, personally I think Nerve's method is basically about as good.

Summary: For techno, EDM, and all its variations, NERVE is way up there with Geist 2 (which I haven't reviewed but which I would give at least 4.5 stars as well). Nerve has a great audio engine, does pre-calculated effects (which Geist 2 does not do to my knowledge - and this is an important advantage for Nerve) and Nerve comes with sounds arguably more suited specifically for the EDM style of music - add Chris Cowie's pack for about $30 and you'll have more EDM styles as well as some exceptional Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, and Dubstep to name a few.

Another advantage of Nerve over Geist 2, is that drawing in the note patterns in Geist 2, if they have changing velocity, is typically a 2 step process for each event. You click the note into place, and then drag up or down to set its velocity. In NERVE you are presented with two options, 1 lane and 16 lanes. Since Nerve defaults to the 1 lane view, when you click on the graph you've created the note at the velocity you want all at the same time. You would think you could do the same in Geist 2, by accessing the velocity graph. But you can't. Geist 2 forces you to click twice, once in the note lane, and once to drag the velocity (whether in the graphs view or in the full lane view you still click to enter the note and then drag to adjust velocity). On the plus for Geist 2, it has scene and Song modes that NERVE, lacks. Spark 2 does have a Song Mode, but its not better than the version in Nerve. Geist 2 has the edge on these modes by far. Another thing that Geist 2 does well is let you record loops on the fly, and even record a whole series of them, moving to the next pad, and the next, and so on, and the sample quality is superb. Lastly, Geist 2 has 64 pads in 8 engines, whereas Nerve loads one kit at the time, but has quite a number of pattern chains, which can be configured to loop from 1 to up to 8 patterns according to your choice.

There really isn't a single "greatest" tool for these kinds of sounds. I'm glad I own Geist, and Nerve is exceptional as well. I don't use breaktweaker as much, but its probably something that needs, ironically, tweaking. (I think the "edge" sound its good for is partly due to the unique glitch modes, and also possibly the added synthesis in the drums - which I could adjust if I spent the time - but these are unique and worthwhile nonetheless).

I also Hope that Spark 2, Geist 2, Breaktweaker, and also Nerve will get more significant updates (Geist 2 needs some bug fixing primarily). Beat Anthology 2 by UVI is another tool, that I have yet to use - which allows mixing synthesis with samples. I haven't yet used Revolution or Evolution. Revolution has samples of 14 old school drum machines (not as many as Spark 2). But the sound of Evolution concerns me, because the synthesis seems a little over-simplified - it could be better than what's in Spark 2, but I don't know and won't know until I spend the $. Fxpansion Tremor is not geared exactly to the kind of ambient music I make, and I haven't gotten around to trying Rob Papen's Punch.

There are some other dance/techno/hip hop tools I have missed. (I'm not including BFD3, Superior Drummer 3, and the other acoustic drum vsts..)

Please add feedback. Thanks.

Superior Drummer 3 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 3rd February 2018
Version reviewed: 3.1 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 6th February 2018.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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I came at this from the perspective of wanting to know if I, as a BFD3 owner, could benefit from Superior Drummer 3, sufficient to justify paying the additional $400. It is interesting to compare the two, now that I own both.

From having both Superior Drummer 3 and BFD3, BFD3 sounds better for a number of things if it is properly dialed in. Excuse me if there are errors; this is from memory. In BFD3 the realism of cymbal swell for instance is superior, excuse the pun, to the SD3 smoothing algorithm.

It appears from my first few days in SD3, also, that the Groove FX of BFD3 are a little superior to the "apply swing" and dynamics adjusting tools in SD3. Why? Because apparently you can apply to selections, preview and undo in BFD 3.

I believe you can do almost as much in SD3, except it appears you cannot, at the click of a button, "preview" the changes that correspond to those features in BFD3, while editing them. You can do this in BFD3 which is awesome, because it allows you to hear many adjustments without having to go around clicking the undo button all the time. Also BFD3, I believe, has 100 or so undo steps available. SD3, per their manual, appears to support only one. (Or they should be more clear in the manual).

Also, BFD3 does a better job, apparently, of allowing for quick editing of the MIDI map - because once initiated, you can press a series of MIDI keys to map all the articulations in a drum piece - no mousing and menu-digging. BFD3 also features an editable kit with visuals that reflect infinite possibilities (except I think there is a limit of about 32 pieces.)

On the other side of the argument, Superior Drummer was a great purchase for me. I am glad I have both. But Superior Drummer is the result of work with a pro at mastering drums. The levels-matching makes switching out your drums and finding the right balance in your particular preset for your particular need extremely easy. Frankly I will be using both, with SD3 as the core for working in genres that are either mostly rock, or rock and electronic. I will add sounds from BFD3 in this case. If I'm doing something with percussion however, SD3 has nothing whatever in that field, except some of the plunky stuff from SD2, and a couple of claps, and a cowbell. BFD3 has an expansion that is quite a good percussion library with a number of very useful and realistic pieces.

Ultimately, for me, as a core kit, and also especially for working with Rayzoon Jamstix 4, you can't beat the feel of having your own master drum engineer to set up your initial playground of sounds for you. BFD3, while it has equal sounds in many cases, and sometimes better ones (but variety is welcome in professional situations anyway), requires constant attention in terms of levels because not only are the stock presets not the best in representing the most-used sounds (they are better at variety than SD3..)

But IMVHO the individual kit pieces load (stock) with variations in room and ambience and overhead, that should have been more standardized rather than attempting to highlight the character of the piece - because while I understand it, it is simply too difficult a work flow and too tempting to fiddle with improving sounds. Because you have a lot of variables, mixer routings, variations in groove velocity per preset, and so on. So not only should there be refined kit presets, but it also helps to have each piece well-dialed to correspond with the other samples in the library. SD3 did an astoundingly successful job on this.

I still think the sounds are a bit more rich in some cases in BFD3 - but more time spent with SD3 is in order.

I haven't begun to use the song creator feature in SD3, nor have I done much with the groove editor. BFD3 has a few more options for note entry in the grid (it still lacks some basics also) and can paint rudiments which is very cool.

Another distinction between the Superior Drummer 3 and BFD3 is that the sounds in BFD3 are dryer if you want to go in and add ambience more creatively. Not that you can't go entirely dry with the Superior Drummer Kit pieces. But I think the moment you begin to bring in some of the authentic sounding recorded ambience, they are suddenly quite awash in ambience, whereas even when you add overheads, room mics, or ambience mics into the BFD3 sounds, you get the sense that the original sound is recorded with mics that are well isolated, so that you can back off those mics and still get left with a very full and snappy sound. On the other hand, with SD3, backing off reveals that part of the character coming from the ribbon and condenser mics is somewhat critical, versus the directs - I like what BFD3 and SD3 did; each has its place. But in terms of coloration, I find that the direct/close mic sound of SD3 is a little enhanced/washed out already (depending on if this is a good mixing trick, or getting in the way of your creativity) by the mic characteristic and the placement. I'm no expert on how drums are mic'd. It would be interesting for another user of both products to respond.

[Actually I did find a comment on a forum by a more experienced SD2/SD3 user, who expressed this concerning the new Rock Foundry SDX, which has been released after the release of SD3, and perhaps has some similarities].

Song Creator: I tested this out first with my own user MIDI files, and couldn't get it to work. It kept producing the same parts no matter which of my beats, reggae, rock, and funk..., I dragged in. I was befuddled so I did the same thing with one of the included grooves. Presto, it worked as advertised. If this is true, that user MIDI isn't going to work well with Song Creator, then its nicely geared to match the other feature, of SHOW WEB SHOP MIDI. This whole thing is very disconcerting because to me it was totally implied that user MIDI could be used. And creating a bunch of song parts from Toontrack grooves, that follow the genre choices of Toontrack, isn't so supportive of musicianship and creativity that I strive for in my workflow. I'm not a drummer, nor do I have a drummer in my band, and so I have little use for Tracker (which allows converting user drum tracks to SD3 tracks). Albeit if a person purchased the whole Toontrack MIDI library, ultimately there would be some overlap between some desired rhythmic patterns, and the ones Toontrack happens to have created. But I am hoping this is some sort of user ignorance or software problem, and that user MIDI will eventually work great. We'll see. I will update this review if I hear back from Toontrack...

One other comment in passing. SD3 essentially only has 4 hi hats, albeit with some brush and rod artics. You have plenty of kicks and snares. You have cymbals enough to go around. Why not have 7 DISTINCT hi hats. C'mon guys, add some more variety, or this review will not be discredited.

Finally, SD3 looks outstanding, and not only can be sized fully (even in Reaper) but windows can be detached in it.

Hope this helps anyone wishing to have a comparison.

RealiDrums [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 14th January 2018
Version reviewed: 2.1 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 14th January 2018.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Okay, I really wanted to give this 6 starts and 8 stars. 6 for adaptability and 8 for fun to use. I did not pay full price, so that should be kept in mind - but I think its unfair to judge the product on a such a marked up price - when clearly it is no longer being sold at such a high price point. This is an intelligently produced product that has several things going for it. There are just a couple of items that a buyer might want to know about lest they imagine it to be more than it is. For $200 it is still probably a good buy for me, particularly because I'm a bit of a hi hat & drum pattern freak, and the main unique capability, as you will see from the videos around on youtube, allows access to the jamming of a drummer who's name I am not aware of, whose performances were intricately split up on a 1) per-kit-piece and 2) per note density per segment basis. To use them one uses a "Groove Generator" and has the option of turning on or off the kit pieces, and adjusting a slider for complexity. This is not the first place we've seen this functionality, but Mike did a great job of doing all the labor-intensive work and putting it into this effective package! Great for dabbling and working on sketches, where one wants to hear some stylized drum part options for a fledgling track.

I found a number of the product developer's drum choices and mixing approaches to be particularly good. Especially the high hats (particularly a few of the 10 that are included), which are particularly troublesome to locate - in a state that has uses across many genres. There are also about 15 ride cymbals, 38 snares, 7 kicks, about 10 toms including brushed toms. Included also are 10 fairly decent percussion sample sets. (When referencing instrument numbers, I don't actually know how many velocity layers each kit piece uses.) Limited editing of the mic mixes is sort of understandable. The goal here is to have a condensed product (uncompressed its around 3.41 gigs.) It is very simple to adjust the eq with the basic controls provided, and the developer claims they've dialed in the sweet spots with respect to those controls - something I can't entirely vouch for, but I think it may well be at least relatively true.

The drag and drop to DAW track function is fine, and creative. One can have it drag a bar, a fill, or one's most recent entire performance (I guess this means bookmarked by the pressing of the play/stop button or a play/stop latch key on one's keyboard.)

There are 4 areas that I feel are a bit lacking relative to a similar program.

1) Firstly, one cannot add grooves.

2) Second, there are only 6 swung fills. There are 43 fills in total. One can drag the fills into a DAW along with the grooves, and adjust swing.

3) When playing the program (hitting play on the Kontakt library itself) the groove is auditioned. The groove does not audition merely by hitting play in my DAW (Reaper). In other VSTs there are methods to get them to either play back or not play back, according to the DAW play controls.

4) No swing control. BFD handles it by using an overlay, a groove effect console, which adjusts everything in real time according to the settings adjustments.

5) Can't add to the groove or fill libraries.

6) Can't add one's own samples.

7) The Mic Mix should be a pair of knobs perhaps, or at least give more than 4 steps. It currently gives "Close, Room, Rock and Beast" Mic mixes. The difficulty is that "Beast" is more or less a bit like Led Zep's drummer. IOW its useful as a specific technique, not so much as a typical mic choice for a metal guitarist, as if on a smooth slider. There is a reverb control in Kontakt.

8) Not much control of the compressor function. The compression amount slider doesn't seem to produce noticeably compression effects, with respect to all of the drums. Perhaps a separate compressor setup is needed for some of the individual kit pieces?

9) Kit piece articulation is provided, but limited: Kick, snare, snare alt, snare side stick, brush sweep, hh closed, hh semi, hh open, hh foot (only four hi hat articulations is not a lot when realism is desired) Tom Hi, tom mid, tom low, ride 1, ride 2, ride 3, crash 1, crash 2, crash 3, crash 4, perc 1, perc 2, perc 3. You can select your percs from the following list: tamb 1, tamb 1 stick, tamb 2, tamb 2 stick, cowbell, woodblock, metal, snare side, snare side 2.)

I''m happy with the mixing and sounds, and the "Groove Generator", and this is an extremely portable library in terms of size and CPU footprints. I did find a particular groove which seemed to produce musicality errors (overlapping of swung values and non-swung values perhaps?) when adding and removing parts, with the complexity sliders adjusted, that seemed to get better when switching to another groove and then back. (The groove is called Teacher 110).

Bottom line is this; its true that it takes a great deal of work to hone in a specific mix for a specific track or to agree with one's ideal in tastes. This product bypasses all of that fairly effectively, if you are working on tracks that must meet some typical consensus of middle-of-the-road or hard rock.

The Groove Generator essentially takes a skeleton from a real drummer, doing his embellishments, and organizes these embellishments in such a way that they move (per individual sliders or one master slider) both in respect to the kit pieces included, as well as the overall density - a very useful mechanism for drum programming. But it would be nice to at least allow the user to add some swing to some of the grooves, and to provide a similar product to produce drum fills (ala Slicy drummer, fill in drummer, Drum Tools Performance Designer, etc), from a decade a go.

With those products (no longer available) one could achieve something totally flexible. One could generate (albeit not using a slider, but a button) new variations to any pattern, and could adjust the swing of any pattern from slight to major. With Fill-In drummer, one could do the same with fills, including match the swing of the fills to the swing of the parts (by using the same proportionate setting).

Those 9 above items are not really complaints. I can see where a small VST product house like Realitone has their hands full. They were mainly focused on the realism of studio-produced drums and certainly achieved something of note. There are a great deal of other products out there that have different sounding drums. The Jamstix product line has a different, admittedly much more controllable "complexity" manipulation - but basically you need to delve into a bit of deep thinking. Not everyone has that kind of time on their hands. Also, a bit of care with mixes and busing are helpful with Jamstix, and upgrading the kits to get additional sounds may be necessary depending on what you want. For a user who is looking for more instant gratification, this could be just the right product, with fairly well chosen and mixed drum pieces, a reasonable set of groove opportunities, and a reasonable collection of fills. Nothing insanely nuanced about it, but easy to fit into your tracks.

So for a decently mixed set of drums that takes no work to set up (and with the benefit of using embellishment from your other vsts and sample libraries to augment the result), the ability to sketch out a track is enhanced by owning this product. No, in reality one cannot tell it to jam and invent fills on the fly. Nor can one can't tell it to perform a series of changes gradually intensifying or de-intensifying the complexities of the various elements (which would be interesting). But then again, BFD didn't provide such a complexity slider for groove generation. Many drum VST products are either too much in a niche category sound-wise, or take significant work to master, and significant work to adjust for track needs.

So its a good job and the reputation for support is exceptional too I might add.

Lunaris [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 4th January 2018
Version reviewed: 1.12 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 4th January 2018.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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The sounds in this program are phenomenal. I was looking for quality in a Pad or Cinematic Ambience Creation tool, and after dabbling with it for a number of hours, I know I've made the right choice. There are some other powerhouses out there, including Arpology, that basically offer a different set of tools (and Arpology is much more expensive, but that's another story). But nothing as important as getting just the right vibe for your project, and of the other "blending" Pad vsts, this one caught my attention immediately, partly because I used 2 other Luftrom releases in the past.

On the weaker side, the two hiccups I've had since purchasing this are 1) I had an older version of Kontakt in one of my folders, and my DAW was using that version (after migrating my VST folders to 2 different PCs in the last several years), completely unbeknownst to me. [That was totally my fault, but I blame Native Instruments - at least I would do so if I was less sober right now] 2) I have a disappointment in the way the step sequencer section functions. Nevertheless, since I already own Arpology that's sort of beside the point, and probably will get corrected in a version or two.

The sound designers on this collection, per the manual, include Arksun, Bigtone, Himalaya,
Luftrum, Martin Walker, Adam Pietruszko, Twolegs Toneworks, Brandon Clark and Michael
Lyon. I now imagine that these designers are experienced professionals, because I have not purchased a collection I've liked better. You can dial in combinations that really sound authentic, personal, and continuously intriguing.

As with some of the other similar products, this is basically a blending product, comprising 4 layers.

The layers are called A, B, C, and D. Each Layer has its own amplitude envelope, resonance, resonance cutoff etc. They can all be pitched up/down up to 36 semitones. There are 6 delicious filter types. All the layers allow the selection of Pad Sources.

But C & D in particular include other sound sources, which, wonderfully, includes synth transients, field recordings, and synth soundscapes.

I think what I was most blown away by was selecting some of the synth transients to combine with my sound. What a fantastic idea to include such a great collection of them here. I can sample them out and use them elsewhere too, which is really a boon.

You know, having this it really feels like owning a real bank of hardware synths and having 24 hours a day to fool with them, compressed into the blink of an eye.

The 3 added effects for the group of pads in the preset include Random (keeping your env, mod, filters, and FX the same but swapping out random selections for A, B, C, & D. The two others include Time Stop, and Filter Split. Time Stop is fairly obvious, it is like placing a hold on a reverb - which can be incredibly useful if you are a soundtrack designer. Filter Split is a unique effect that intelligently sets up filters between the different patches, and can be selected multiple times until the right combination happens.

As afforementioned, I did experience a bit of vertigo when I wasn't able to understand how the step sequencer functions, to make basic semitone moves. But hey, the goal here is more of an unpredictable, more ambient result, so I'll leave that for my Arpology, Kirnu Cream, and Omnisphere Live Mode.

Basically the remainder of the Library is self explanatory. Each of the Layers have a main tab, flux motion tab, envelope tab, and fx tab. Flux motion works well, comprising filter, volume and pan settings. Per the manual, "clicking the 'generate' button will change the underlying low-freq algorithm behind the mod, applying new subtle motion to the parameters..." - Auto-generated at the press of a button. :) The MOD Sequence tab has two sides: The Sequencer/Modulator side allows sequencing of Pitch, Filter, Volume or Pan (But only 1 at a time). The other side is the LFO side, which includes two LFOs (one of them free-running), each with their own destination and type of waveform. Samples&Hold is one of the choices, which is intriguing. At a button press the LFOs can be sync'd to your DAW tempo.

The FX are noticeably exceptionally high quality, including Chorus, Distorion, Phaser, EQ, Delay, and Reverb. The reverbs are IR-based, with some wonderful presets.

But basically its the quality of included sounds in this Kontakt Library that makes it, they surpass, as a group, anything you will likely ever find in one place. I think the package is easily worth 4 times the price, and although I'm not wealthy by any stretch, I can't see how I could better spend that money.

ANA 2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 4th January 2018
Version reviewed: 2.0.3 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 4th January 2018.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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This is a first impression review. If you're here because you watched Plugin Guru's video on ANA 2, that's how I learned about it as well (Its a good overview if not). I just purchased this a day ago, so I reserve the right to adjust the review in the near future. Okay, this is a decent synth that may be well, well worth your money. From what I can tell its a really good synth, particularly appealing to me in 5 particular aspects:

1) The features of the synth are particularly well thought out, kind of based on Omnisphere (in terms of mod matrix layout and combination of wave file (in the sampler) with wavetable sound source) meets Serum (the importable wave tables), meets Spire, meets a Kirnu Cream-style pair of arp and chord memory sections (with the Kirnu Cream functionality I think making a number of people's heads turn, especially since not everyone has understood or mastered Kirnu Cream in the first place, and it has both a single-note-to-chord-memory module, and a basket arp memory (which has three 6-basket octave positions, which is a bit wider than Kirnu's).

2) Extensive modulation capability. And I mean extensive.

3) A Three wavetable Osc section and also a three Sampler Osc section - each of which may be loaded with user tables or samples.

4) Feature 3 plus the modulation features and the G-envelope, and a number of other other features, make this a very good synth to design unique and rich sounds in.

5) Overall this is one of the most easy to learn synths I have seen - or it could just be me, but I mean, the layout is really just left to right, down, left to right, down, and so on, and each part of the flow makes a lot of sense to an uninformed synth user like myself.

I saw one user complain that he didn't understand the Arp section, which is understandable.

As a result of this complaint, if others express the same one, then my advice to Sonic Academy would be to add a traditional arp and step sequencer to the list of features because that certainly wouldn't hurt. And getting your head around the new manner of thinking provided by Kirnu is a little bit of an undertaking.

The way it works, AFAIK, is that baskets are available in memory, that receive a set of incoming MIDI Note On's (such as if you hold down a chord with several notes). A graphic display lets a user choose which basket to play the note from, while the "arp/sequence" is running. (Unfortunately from what I can tell here, in this synth, (not in Kirnu) it isn't simple to impact the note velocity coming back out. One could design a G-envelope pattern and do it that way, but to have control of the velocity of each note in the arp on a second screen, as Kirnu does, would be helpful.

But that brings up a drawback of Kirnu not present in this synth. I've always felt it was extremely liberating to have step sequencers built into synths as opposed to VST arp players (or Ableton's Note FX) that route MIDI into a soundsource. This is because the inherent modulation chain of the synth can involve kinds of "retrigger", or not involve them, whereas with MIDI you pretty much have the retrigger (or it would take a very sophisticated programmer to purposefully artfully ignore them in some particular set of rules). So if you play a note and your synth has a step sequencer, the amplitude envelope will not necessarily be a factor in the sound of each note - a much more glissando effect. So it is an advantage to have under your control a development team that is in the process of redefining these functions - there are a great many possibilities.

As far as the Sampler Osc section, my first experience with it was an extremely good one. It is very well laid out, with an intuitively understandable set of controls. It was easy to create non-clicking loops, and there is a built in high pass filter at the front of the chain, for those times when you want to add a vibe without overwhelming your mix.

The reason I only gave this synth a 7 is because I feel that the amount of work that went into the programming/sound algorithm design is limited relative to a synth such as Spire, and the 500 plus factory presets have some goodies, but do not cover the breadth of the Spire factory sounds. Of course, this is about a third less expensive than Spire (Edit, spire is now 30% off, at about $130, so strike that for now), and with Spire one also gets addicted and wants to load up on 3rd party sounds, which is even more money. Personally right now I'm not tempted to buy the ANA 2 Sounds. Yet. Until I do a bunch of sound design stuff with its Sampler Oscs.

But Spire kills as far as sound quality. Full disclosure: VPS Vengeance, and Falcon, two other synths I have the fortune of owning, also manage to demonstrate some power for the bucks in terms of presets and sound quality that will hopefully come with time for this baby. Omnisphere 2 is a powerhouse for cinematic sounds, but also has a very good sounding synth engine. Falcon kind of covers a bit of the territory in their macro aspect that Omnisphere 2 doesn't. Although I think Spire, Vengeance, and Falcon each have unique appeal that extends into territory that none of the others cover, the EDM genre is a particular field with particular needs. I haven't explored Dune 2 long enough to judge where it sits, and as of yet I haven't owned Sylenth, nor have I gotten any of the products of u-he, although I keep telling myself that is the next step. In fact, that was where the money was slated for that I used to pay for ANA 2. Or maybe Tera by VirSyn because I demo'd that and loved its sound. But clearly I'm a sucker for the arps/chord memory stuff since I'm not a good keyboardist and not getting much better as time goes on either. Thus far no one has reproduced the Omnisphere Live mode functions, which are equally helpful (it lets you play slightly ahead and locks your rhythm in - ANA 2, are you listening?

As far as the sound algorithm design, I think the guys at Sound Academy are probably on the right track but need to tinker a bit. They seem to have a pretty good, maybe great, Virus reproduction. Maybe they just have some work to do to create a bit more magic with some of the other sounds in terms of their approaches - or its the FM side of things that's turning me off, that's making their preset library suffer. And I think putting together a great sounding FM Synth is incredibly hard. And it could be a matter of filters as well, although there are a great many in here, I'm no expert on their quality.

Overall though, with features such as up to 9 unison layers per wavetable OSC, and some very powerful modulators, along with 3 Sample Oscs that are available for user sounds, there is enormous potential here. The deep level of experience when it comes to things like FM synthesis is beyond my pay grade, as are topics like what makes a hardware synth sound (in a positive way) the particular way it does.

But I predict you will get a lot of mileage out of this, and if you are a non-keyboard player, and have something like Ableton or Bitwig, it will be much easier to work out progressions, even impossible to play ones, using a single chord memory preset (CMD preset) and the arp functions in ANA 2 (stored as separate presets), than writing MIDI into a clip by hand. Its a creativity-inspiring feature to be sure. Basically if you own Spire, Cthulhu, and Kirnu Cream, you are exceeding this functionality pretty much, but I defy you to do it at this price.

If I clear the wax out of my ears (they are clean as far as I can tell - but hey, do you have a flashlight, maybe you can check for me) I may raise this 7 star review up a point. But I'm happy I made the purchase and am looking forward to watching the further development.

VPS Avenger [read all reviews]
Reviewed By moonchunk [read all by] on 13th December 2016
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows.
Last edited by moonchunk on 14th December 2016.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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I'm overall very satisfied. I was choosing between Parawave Rapid and this. While Parawave Rapid offers the ability to import MIDI Files (Great!) it isn't yet about allowing a user to import their own wave files. What made me purchase Vengeance (Sound) Production Suite Avenger was not the long name (although it is clever - helps searchers find it on Google and Youtube).

What made me purchase it was the ability to import my own waves. But I found a lot of other reasons that it is a good choice. I still may get Rapid one day, and Serum one day (I got Amaranth Cycle instead, which allows me to draw and drag my 3D waves while recording them - which might be one of the cooler things out there - but its not as well supported as Serum - in fact, I don't know if its supported at all, please send its developer a check so he can afford to continue!).

But this newcomer Avenger is one of a few dozen truly monster synths out there that are clear workhorses, and it is one that is not only flooded with usefulness, that screams, "work with me today", but one that comes with hundreds of great well-crafted patches that are not, as some of the nexus patches may be, so finalized as to be the inverse of inspiration.

There will definitely be some work needed to nearly "perfect" this softsynth workstation, adding many additional desirable tools to it. But its combination of features is unique, and compared to synths of several years back, it can just seem rather boundless; providing less frustration, more ease, more good compliments from others... In fact this is really such a good effort that its hard to be nitpicky. Just the fact that it is a great synth that already has a great sounding drum machine and sequencer built in is a hard one to match. (But getting it to play your song with you, that's not one of its more perfected applications... How do you make it switch to the next earliest or next latest drum sequence, or MIDI trigger drums while in drum sequence playback mode?)

I would say that it should be possible with a few enhancements to give a lot of other companies a total run for their money. In the mean time it is cutting edge and probably will get a lot of traffic but won't truly dethrone anyone.

But still, if you're into owning more than one heavy-hitter virtual synth, particularly if you like playing in some amount of EDM, this may truly deserve your consideration. Because if you have another synth, no matter what it is, I doubt if you will find this combination of both useful EDM or experimental sounds, AND inviting editing tools.

I'm not easy to please. When I first listened to a couple of sounds in their preset library I did not think it sounded very good. I really had expected "something", and did not hear that "something" right away. Which initially turned me off.

But later, after enjoying the layout and synth editing features, arp, step, mod, drum, and keymap pages, when I finally actually began going through the included library, (which is well demarcated and fairly searchable), it immediately flipped to a reaction 180 degrees from that one. (As the other reviewer pointed out, there are slightly less sounds than was stated on their promotional page - really? did they decide that a few of those "included" ones were keepers for inclusion in a later package :) But nevertheless, there are some very good ones here, including some very useful guitar-ish sounding and keyboardish sounding ones.)

After I adjusted my volume (read LOUDER) I realized that because this synth is more designed for a certain style, EDM, it needs to be a heard a little differently than my other large library synths - the dynamics interplay such that they belong, well, in your face. Not that EDM is all this synth is good at, but my point is just that really good sound designers all produce work that is original. It can take a moment to get used to it. I haven't been particularly focused on EDM, but am planning to incorporate a bit of the feel here and there in my work, and am looking forward to using some of these sounds right away.

But many original sounds are included. While it is possible that they are original to me only because I do not own Nexus, and only have about 5 Spire libraries, I still think there are very definitely some gems in the library that you will probably not have from elsewhere, and will probably want.

Yes, I do own Spire, and even though i purchased a number of the 3rd party expansions, it hasn't completely filled my need for such sounds (I guess it wouldn't be doing its job unless it made me feel like acquiring more anyway.) But I'm more interested in creativity, rather than using or exploring other people's work. Spire hasn't been a synth I've really enjoyed doing editing in, the way I do it in Falcon or Omnisphere.

The setup of synth tools in Avenger, like in Falcon, is a more up-to-date entry, with a certain amount of wave table synthesis, and wave table user creation (but less than 256 as in Serum, much less than the 600 + that Waves Codex allows), combined with virtual analog synthesis. It doesn't combine this with physical modeling and granular synthesis as Falcon does (unless I'm mistaken). The filters are decent - not the best in the world. But it is good to have a modulate-able pitch edito, r a reasonably concocted step sequencer, arppegiator, and a very nice included 16 measure drum sequencer. (But why are there less than 5 modes of arpeggiation - that's a lack - this is not up to Kirnu Cream).

It does provide 7-Voice/4 Octave "V-Saw", which is killer, in each of the 8 OSC sections.

It can use quite a bit of CPU but that doesn't mean it isn't programmed well. I experienced no crashes or weird behavior whatsoever, and from what I tested the CPU usage appears to be reasonable for the amount of processing.

At this point, in addition to Spire, Twin 2, Omnisphere and Falcon, and was not expecting something particularly game-changing (ALL of these can sound really good and have their own uses). But after a day or two I was actually grateful I made this purchase. It is different and workable, both in enough quantity and quality to make the overall grade.

Possibly off on a complete tangent here, by Vengeance Sound calling their synth Avenger, they remind me of Judas Priest's album, Screaming For Vengeance, with what looks like a metallic falcon on the cover, which is coincidental because Falcon is one of the more recent synths that this one is competing with. I think they are giving UVI a run for their money. I want to continue to see this kind of competition and we as users are definitely benefiting.

As I have stated, some of the cons for this include a less than stunning filter library, an Arp toolset that is not quite top-level, and less than full-blown competition for some of the other Wave Table players. And it appears true that there are only 4 AMPs modules, although I haven't explored this situation. (Omnisphere has two AMP modules per 8 patches).

There is some confusion to be had when you try to figure out where to turn things on or off, and how the routings work. The videos are helpful, but a little too quick in some places. I found myself loading random patches to try and find some that could help me understand such basic features (as turning things on and routing).

So, to get my 10 stars, it needs a few optional enhancements, not necessarily one specific one. I recognize this is a creative, very time consuming creation. it will never be all things to all people. But make it excel in at least one more area.

What could it use first? These are just some ideas that came to me:

1) More than 5 or 6 Arp modes.

2) MIDI import into arp and drum patterns.

3) Might be overboard, but I would love this: Equivalent of Groove Lock within Omnisphere and Stylus RMX. Groove modifying of such arp and drum patterns (use of non-quantized MIDI timing) so that a composer can get one or both of them matching a groove, rather than just simply swinging. Moving samples early & late relative to the grid is a start, but can also be implemented on the pattern itself, triggering patterns (relative to their chosen start point but also relative to pattern groove shifting - see Geist).

4) Groove import (from MIDI) into Arp and drum patterns (selecting to use groove from drum pattern groove for Arp, or vice versa). (If MIDI file is too short, groove is repeated in the 4 arps, or in the full length of the drum pattern.)

5) Another mode or two of portamento.

6) Trigger mode by 16th note, not just beat and bar (usually 16th note is included - why not here?)

7) Ability to load more drum sequences/patterns on the fly, and use MIDI key switches to trigger them.

8) Ability to simultaneously play drums from one keyboard layer, while in drum sequence playback mode (I couldn't figure out how to do this...).

I probably missed a lot of ideas that other users have mentioned elsewhere. But in summary, I'm excited for this product and a happy customer, because its design incorporates a combination of great tools that differ enough from other products out there, in a useful way, that I will turn to it regularly for inspiration.

Falcon usually has a sale going. (For me, I received a $100 voucher and was able to use that to pick up the Synth Anthology 2 for only $4 dollars - which is a great library. Twin 2 (think insanely smooth filtering - modifiable and modulate-able and drag-editable) is I think less than $150 at this moment.

There are definitely some other great buys. But I think this one is a close contender if not a winner for many of us.