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Harmor [read all reviews]
Reviewed By aumordia [read all by] on 28th August 2017
Version reviewed: 1.3 on Windows
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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I've thought long and hard about how to rate this synth, and decided to go with a perfect 10, with the caveat that your experience may well be a zero.

What it boils down to is Harmor is THE synth for you when know what you're doing -- and the more you know, the better it is. However, if you're brand new to the synth game, or have a spotty grasp of the physics of sound, you're very likely to flail about uselessly until you get frustrated and quit.

Like a bicycle without training wheels or a bowling lane without bumpers, Harmor is very beginner-unfriendly. But it makes up for that by being extremely convenient for advanced users. The built in vibrato, tremolo, and pluck are obvious time savers, as is the suite of re-orderable onboard effects, but the real power is the additive-doing-subtractive paradigm. And I don't mean "power" in the "ability to do novel things" definition typically associated with synthesis -- although Harmor obvious ranks extremely highly (perhaps the highest) on this chart. Instead, I'm referring to the ability to work quickly.

You can dial in EXACTLY the harmonic profile you want. You can get the PRECISE filter shape you're looking for. You can create the SPECIFIC envelope behavior you desire. And you can do all of this in just a couple of clicks without ever fussing about with a modulation matrix. You know what's better than drag-n-drop routing? No routing at all -- just right click on the control, and then edit the envelope, LFO, keyboard tracking, velocity mapping, etc for practically every knob and slider you see on the screen. Once you get used to this paradigm you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Also, remember in other synths when you used to stack all those different oscillators at various pitches with different amounts of unison and detune? You'll never do that again. The unison on this thing reigns supreme. First of all, the fact that you have per-harmonic phase control and inherently linear-phase additive "filters" means that you have fatness and low end for days on this thing -- there's no phase cancellation or distortion mucking things up unless you want it. Second, you can adjust the unison detuning on a per-harmonic basis, which is a very direct and efficient way to achieve the type of unison timbre you're seeking. Again, this is another one of those things that you'll wonder how you got by without -- it's that good.

The sound, of course, is fantastic, with unbelievable quality and versatility. Forget about aliasing -- there is no aliasing here. There is no anti-aliasing here either -- it's additive-doing-subtractive, you don't need anti-aliasing. Now I'm sure that Harmor could be made to alias, perhaps through the distortion unit, but really, the clarity and strength of the sound is unparalleled in the software world. Digital FM is cool and all, but this right here is computer synthesis shining in a way that nothing else can -- with phenomenal CPU efficiency to boot! It's truly one of a kind.

But the thing I keep coming back to is just how quickly you can work with Harmor, assuming you know what you're doing. It's an expert tool for expert users -- beginners would be better served with something like Harmless. And even intermediate users should approach with caution. For instance, Harmor doesn't do straight-up PWM. If you know synthesis, and want to make a PWM sound, but don't understand what that means harmonically, Harmor will frustrate and confuse you. However, if you understand that PWM is a saw harmonic series attenuated periodically in the frequency domain at harmonic scaled intervals, with the size of that interval smoothly varying over the time domain, then you'll see that using Harmor's phaser in "harmonic" mode, not only can you can get that classic PWM sound, but you can do it better, and with a trillion variations that aren't possible in classic subtractive paradigms. Heady stuff.

And here I'm not even touching on the resynthesis capabilities, which are a whole universe unto themselves. But this review is long enough as is.

Image-Line is very clear about their target audience for Harmor. The manual sums it up well:

"The Harmor design philosophy is 'more is more', every feature, control and harmonic function was carefully selected for maximum effectiveness."

With this target audience in mind, and rating Harmor based on how well it serves that audience, stacking it up against the competition, it clearly merits nothing less than a 10 out of 10. The future of sound design arrived 5 years ago and runs on a cheap laptop. What a time to be alive.

Sylenth1 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By aumordia [read all by] on 13th February 2017
Version reviewed: 3.028 on Windows
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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I bought Sylenth1 because my DAW came with a bunch of advanced synths that were just way over my head. Almost immediately, great sounds were flying out of my speakers faster than I could dial them in. But eventually, I felt I had gone as far as I could go with such a simple synth -- so I sold it. What a mistake that was. Nothing else hits the sweet spot the way Sylenth1 does -- believe me -- and it's the only synth I've ever purchased twice. Now I have a couple hundred patches programmed for it, and I still stumble upon new, useful, wonderful musical sounds seemingly without trying.

I don't think any other softsynth has as much sprezzatura as Sylenth1. Also, you can't beat its sound quality / CPU usage ratio.

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