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Reviewed By projectdan [read all by] on 8th April 2005
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows.
Last edited by 90909 on 8th April 2005.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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You'll all be wanting to know, is this synth something to hold in high e(Steam)?, or is it a (Steam)ing pile of pooh? well read on to find out.

Steam is a wavetable type synth made with Synth Edit and inspired by Ensoniqs Fizmo hardware synth. The standard edition has 6 voice polyphony. It has 2 wavetable oscillators which can be frequency modulated, and also allow you to import your own specially tailored wave files.There are 2 filters that can operate in serial or parallel and some fancy filter options with features that differ from the norm. They have extra features that operate in sideband mode comparing 2 filter poles and performing operations on the 2 readings. This gives peak additive, subtractive, phase, differential, divergent, pole shift and pole swap modes in addition to more standard modes! This adds extra sound potential to an already very quirky synth.
It has a 5 row LFO mod matrix with many different mod destinations. There are also options to route the filter and pitch envelopes to second destinations, either as they are or inverted. All envelopes have velocity mod of amount and rate. It has poly, mono and legato modes.

The synths sounds alive, it can give very wild textures and can easily sound unstable, like its going to go into a strop and throw a mental :) You can have a stab at more conventional sounds with it by either putting more standard wavetables in or just using one cycle of the wavetable etc, but this would be missing the point of this synth. It sounds very individual, it has character in abundance. If you like synths to sound like synths, and not piano's or bagpipes etc then you'll likely get something out of this synth, just dont expect it to replace your GM soundset!

With most things there are always things that could be improved. With this synth it would be reassuring to have something to indicate some of the value ranges for parameters, and would certainly help to start off with. You will also benifit from reading the manual, but that should be obvious.The manual does explain most of the main features but doesnt cover everything. It has fairly high CPU use, but if you watch the release times (alot of the presets do have long release times) it should be ok for most. It would be great to be able to choose polyphony setting, but it seems Synth Edit cant do this as yet (I hear it might be coming in future though). It has different character and feature set to Kubik (another wavetable based VSTi), I like both and there's plenty of reason to own both if you like wavetable sounds. YOu can get a mono version of Steam for free to try as a demo.

All in all this is a great synth thats full of character, the developer Mr Xoxos gives great support and its selling for a low price of $20, though I think there will be a group buy on soon that will give the opportunity to get it for $10!! If you see it going for that sort of money you would have to be a GM sound set loving fool to pass it up :)
So to summarise, it isnt a (Steam)ing pile of pooh!
Reviewed By projectdan [read all by] on 29th December 2004
Version reviewed: 1.2a on Windows.
Last edited by 90909 on 29th December 2004.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Unison is a 6 oscillator synth with 3 paired sets of oscillators. Each pair can be added, mixed, ring modulated, FM or synced together. The oscillators each have variable shape sine, square, saw, tri & noise options as well as user waveforms built from upto 64 harmonics that can be manually set or derived from wave file analysis, this allows a huge variety of possible waveforms. The Oscillators then have there own pitches, tuning & volume set. There is also a unison feature for each pair that allows a copy of each oscillator pair to be modulated against its self with tuning amount and modulation speed. The 3 paired oscillators can be configured in 4 different paths, parallel, serial & 2FM paths. The oscillators then have options of which of the 3 filters they route to, or an option to route to all 3 filters at once.

The filters have 14 different types or a bypass option. Options are low, high, BP, BR with 12, 24 pole and state variable options as well as ring modulation and comb filters. Each filter has volume and key tracking parameters. The filters do a great job of shaping & mutating the sound & have a vintage character to them.

From here the output of each filter can route to any or all of the 3 effects cells. There are 10 effects to choose from, delay, 4tap delay, comb filter, chorus, ensembler, phaser, reverb, distortion, wah wah & cutter. The effects have good editability and have seperate pan and pan mod options. The effects are of a good standard & fairly light on the CPU. The Effects have a variety of routing paths and there is a global vibrato, tremelo, widen, 2band E.Q & compressor.

There are 6 envelopes with 6 stages each with retrigger, velocity and mod options. The LFO's are flexible with -&+ sine, square, saw, tri and noise waveforms with sync, retrigger onkey, freerun options and velocity mod options. The waveforms also have smooth, phase, distort, bit reduction, tracking & delay parameters! This allows for very flexible modulation. There is more though! There are six 16 step sequences with smooth, retigger, freerun and swing parameters amongst others.

To make the most of all these modulation sources there are 3 fixed path modulation matrix (one per oscillator pair). Mod sources can be routed to volume, oscillator pitch, shape & combination parameters (add, ring, FM etc), filter freq & resonance. Each source can be used in varied amounts for each matrix, which allows for a lot of modulation!

The options area has oscillator & FX routing as well as arpeggiator and poly settings. There is a control setting area that allows velocity, mod wheel & aftertouch amounts to be set for vol, shape, mix, freq and Q and a filter smooth to zeduce zipper effect. There is a global area that allows adjustment of global volume , each oscillator pair volume & a global volume envelope with attack, decay, sustain, fade & release. Midi learn, latch is available for all control parameters. There are usefull copy and paste settings options for many different sections of the synth.

Unison seems fairly straight forward to use (given the amount of parameters and options), it keeps most of the main editables on one screen & you just click through envelopes, LFO's and stepsequences & global editing options etc to show in there own little areas. Though I do wish there where options to use the keyboard or right mouse button for more precise value changes. This is only a minor niggle on an otherwise fantastic synth.

It sounds vintage, in a Radiophonic Workshop/scientific equipment with a soul type way. It has real depth to its sound & can sound big and full very easily, especially with its unison features. It is probably aimed at pads primarily, but this is just a fraction of what it can do. Its wealth of features & routing options allow for a huge range of distinctive sounds, from leads to over the top sequenced riffs. I just find the tone & layout of this synth very conducive to sounds that I like. If you dont like to make sounds yourself, it comes with a number of banks containing hundreds of presets to give you something your after. It also has a usefull randomize section where you randomize sounds using settings for different areas of the synth such as, each oscillator, filter the envelopes, Lfo's & sequences etc. This is much more usefull than just having a global randomize, doesnt have to be as hit & miss.

I got this as part of a synth pack deal that ConcreteFX always have on offer, & this makes their synths even better value. Their synths are some of the best value out there but as part of a synth pack it has to be about as good value as commercial software synths get! I really dont know why this synth isnt more talked about, it seems there are plenty enough people (judging by the talk on forums) into pads and big sounds that this synth excels at. Dont let this one sneak past you, download the demo go through the presets, turn a few knobs & see what you think.
Reviewed By projectdan [read all by] on 11th December 2004
Version reviewed: 2.11 on Windows.
Last edited by 90909 on 21st February 2005.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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Kubik is a wavetable/wavetable sequencing synth. It has 2 oscilators (upto 4, count unison modes), which are wavetable based. This means the oscilators are made up from between 1 and 64 seperate waveforms, wave position is modulatable. They can be drawn individually by drawing the wavefrom or adjusting 64 harmonics. It can also anaylize wave files in segments and resynthesize them, its not intended to be highly accurate but adds to the ability and intrest of the synth.

It has a list of preset waveforms in catagories.This is a very usefull thing to have and makes for good starting points. There are many more neat touches as far as making wavetables goes. It has menus for editing and modifying your waves and wavetables. Options such as reverse, normalize, smooth, move to zero for waves. Options for editing/modifying waves are, distort, FM,low & highpass filter, ring mod & phase distort. You can perform morphs & interpolate, where any gaps in the table without waves in are interpolated or morphed! Each oscilator has its own volume , pitch, tuning, pan and wave offset amount and unsison features. There are wave shaping options such as bit, S&H,Phase, Rectify and Pulse Width.

All this is before we even get to the filters! Which sound very good, it sounds sort of sophistocated in its standard modes. However it has more exotic modes such as formant,comb,ringmod & noise. They have keytracking and a vari amount , depending which filters used has a different function.There are 2 filters & 4 routing options.

Next you choose how the filter outputs are mixed or interacted, they can be added, subtracted, mixed, ringmod, FM, waveshaped, sync, sample and hold, or PWM. These options allow a very wide range of sounds to be generated. These can give wild results, especially when you consider how complicated the sources being interacted can be to begin with! Metallic and otherwordly sounds are easy peasy with this synth.

The envelopes and LFO's are very flexible indeed. Envelopes are upto 32 sections with variable slope. Its easy to latch the mouse on to points without having to be too precise & double click to add points. You can set your own loop sections (which is easy) even loop the whole envelope. There are preset/saved envelopes, & randomize options. LFO's are also flexible, they have sine, saw and square components mixed together, can be modulated by velocity and have smooth, humanize, symmetry parameters, also have their own delay, attack and decay options.

There is a Mod panel it allows LFO's, keyboard parameters and midi control sources to modulate the destinations. It has 4 slots and phase, smooth and humanize parameters to control modulations. There is also a full mod matrix with 20 slots which can transfer settings from the pre wired envelopes and LFO's & allows you to modulate loads of parameters with a huge range of sources.

Kubik has a 2 wavetable sequencers. This is a 64 step sequencer, it allows you to sequence several set parameters. This is very cool, it can be displayed numerically in rows and columns, it isnt difficult to use like that, and also has a visual editing option which can help to make viewing relative values at a glance easier.

Theres are global control sections where an arpegiator lives and you set poly/mono, bend ranges and filter smooth amongst others. There is a global attack and release control which is very useful. I would love a full global page with more extensive global controls! There are also very usefull midi latch options for the parameter sliders.Polyphony can be set from 1-16.

Finally we come to the effects. There are 2 main effects cells. Cell A & B they both have modulation/distort, delay,reverb,comb filter. Then it passes to an E.Q, compression, widener, vibrato and tremelo. They sound good, & add a lot to an already superbly equiped synth.

Theres plenty of good presets & banks (some v good). Kubik has many little touches that show alot of thought been put into it, and its paid off! It can sound warm if you want, but it can very easily sound harsh,fizzy,abstract,biting,raspy & metallic. The interface is good and you will soon find your way around. There are some good tips in the manual, it really does pay to read it.

Support is very good, bugs are sorted very quickly when they're posted and Jon has a very cool and pleasant attitude both on the forum and in emails. He welcomes suggestions and appreciates feedback, and is obviously a hardcore synth nut, so I have no problem buying his products.

This is a very powerfull synth as it stands, and it keeps getting better with each update!. I would recommend this to anyone wanting something exotic. Its capable of a very wide range of sounds, warm to harsh and many intresting ones inbetween, and its ok on the CPU too. If your only half intrested in it, its worth trying out, and at the price is very good value for the features. It takes time to know this synth, and Ive got to know its a gem.