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Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on December 31st, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.42 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 31st December 2022.

The only limiter/maximizer you need. Dead simple, and helps you intuitively understand limiting and compression in general, whereas other more complex compressor plugins can leave you not understanding what exactly you're doing for years. No fuss with installation or activation.

The only thing you need to know is that it make quieter things louder than already loud things, and all without introducing clipping. A very desirable trait, since sometimes we want quieter things more audible in an overall mix, but we want to ensure that we're not distorting. Which is great not only for music but also streaming/podcasts. This of course lowers (or tightens) the dynamic range, and increases any pronounced noise floor. So it should be used sparingly if you wish to preserve dynamic range of say, a piano.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on November 3rd, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.0 r2 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 3rd November 2022.

A one-trick pony synth, in every aspect. All you're really going to do is choose Pulse (which allows Mod to work, for PWM), or Multi, which is a supersaw or unison type sound. It has a early softsynth vibe--a particular character of the synth, and I suppose people have given it the moniker "that classic Koblo sound", perhaps it was used on some early 2000s dance tracks.

I can appreciate limited synths as a welcome challenge, and I can appreciate distinctive synth character, but this one irks me a bit. It doesn't sound bad, the multiosc paired with external LFO controlling pitch does make for a fairly compelling retro-y trance line, but all the presets end up sounding the same, hence one-trick pony, you're ultimately going for a specific supersaw sound that this Viibra2000 offers. And I'm sure it holds up in some ways for simplistic leads and basses. But it's stability issues make me not want to do much more with it. Couldn't they have added a dead simple LFO for vibrato and PWM!?

Honestly, I found myself more impressed by the variety of preset names rather than the sounds themselves. It takes talent to think up all those names for what's basically just different pulse widths and saw envelopes.

Anyway, a big problem it has is that it goes crazy with polyphony, and uses a ton of CPU on a single core. I'm running a brand new 2022 Ryzen 7700k, it's insane. The usage I was seeing does NOT at all proportional to the sound delivered. If I want to see 80% single core on a single instance on a modern CPU, I'll use the beast Repro thank you very much.

Another problem is that I've experienced crashing. I almost never see crashes, even a lot of similarly old plugins are more stable than this, so there's no excuse - it's some sort of programming error, a shoddy ASM subroutine exception no doubt.

Perhaps if it were free or open source (It's $30 - at this point, 100+ free synths vastly surpass its pitiful abilities!), self-contained in a single DLL, and didn't use so much CPU when release is high, I'd give it a proper chance. All in all, a very limited and skippable synth. This only made me nostalgic for Reason Subtractor or a classic Nord Lead, which both have a similar vintage digital VA character, but way more versatile and usable.

Edit: Another problem with it... it wont let you choose the last preset in the list! And there's no Load button to choose presets manually.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on February 27th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows

Never have I seen a plugin that required 30+ minutes of "preloading".

It literally just sits on "Loading: 0%" when I try to run it in Savihost.

Instant pass.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on February 25th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.091 on Windows

A nice virtual modulator synth made in SynthEdit (with apparently a lot of custom modules!). It's laid out nicely and you can swap in any modules in any of the slots. My only gripe with this older version is the CPU usage can get wildly out of hand and some patches cause a lot of glitchy unbalanced audio and DC offset issues.

This is the predecessor of the newer XSRDO Analogy, so maybe check that one out as it's much better.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on February 18th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.1.3 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 18th February 2022.

It's like a Juno 106 mixed with a bit of Virus B/JP8000. Really fat and modern sounding. It's almost like a Charlatan take on Sylenth1: you only get the essentials, but in return you get fast results.

The last guy bombed his review because he couldn't get the presets to work? Firstly this thing's so simple you don't even need presets if you have even a 5th grader's synth editing skills. Secondly, it comes with a LokomotivFactoryPreset1.lkb file. I didn't even install it, just extracted it to obtain the DLLs. You load in banks through the preset menu, it's not rocket science.

Anyway back to the synth. It oscillators sound great and super rich. The filter is good but boosting resonance cuts volume down in a bad way - I hate when filters do that, makes me never want to use the resonance. The CPU usage is a bit more than I'd like, but still serviceable. It's not a super versatile synth, so you won't need 100 instances anyway. It's really trying to force your hand to make leads and pads. It can do nice basses as well with a little finessing. GUI is needlessly large for those with smaller screens - it could've been optimized a bit better.

I like that the portamento is polyphonic. It doesn't do the best job at picking which notes to slide, but its there if you want it. The AutoPWM is a nice touch, freeing up the LFO for something else. However, multiple LFO destinations would've been appreciated. I like that the sub oscillator shape is continuous (morphs between each point). I like how the Hard Sync always stays in tune and has a lot of bite to it. A second Envelope for modulations would've been a good addition, but at least the filter envelope amount can be inverted. Also, it would've been nice to be able to tune the pulse and saw a fifth apart (lets be honest, they're three separate oscillators being layered under the hood...).

So overall, this is an incredibly usable synth you can master in a day. It's a great performance lead synth that cuts through mixes like butter. It's very late 90s-2000s, getting you that incredibly rich supersaw sound. It's a bit of a one trick pony, but if you go expecting that, you won't be disappointed.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on January 30th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 30th January 2022.

Out of all the TAL reverbs, TAL Reverb II is the one I keep reaching for. It just has a great warm vintage vibe to it, and sounds lush and otherworldly; the mid range is very present and highs don't easily overpower. Evokes the late 70s/early 80s. The EQ section, while confusing at first, allows for a lot of subtle shaping, so it can be tuned to perfection.

The original TAL Reverb sounds vaguely similar to Reverb II, though it lacks the mid range lushness. It's either too dark or too bright, by comparison. The damper knob comes in handy, but it just lacks the shimmery magic touch that Reverb II has. It also seems to lack certain algorithmic sophistication; a bit more artificial than the rest. Still usable, just fairly average, although it's strictly 32-bit.

TAL Reverb III is the weakest entry, in my opinion. As someone separate from me described it: Tinny. It lacks mid range even more than Reverb 1, and its high end is overly airy. I almost get the impression that it's using a bandpass filter against my will. Furthermore, it sounds 'wavy', as if there's a hardcoded LFO modulating the pitch that can't be turned off. That said, it has an extremely long decay time, and so might be useful as a character reverb to achieve a long, bright, exaggerated sound. It's not terrible, just not my type.

Finally, TAL Reverb 4. It's a high quality, unobtrusive and balanced reverb. It's bass/treble response is tight, and its brightness is very pleasant. Definitely evokes late 80s/early 90s. It doesn't have much mid range warmth, but it's way better than Reverb III. It's Diffuse knob can bring in some shimmering, but it doesn't quite reach the "hybrid delay-reverb" effect you get in Supermassive or Xhip Reverb. It also has a modulation section, if you want to wobble the pitch.

Here's the breakdown:

1. TAL Reverb II (for its vintage character and flexibility)
2. TAL Reverb 4 (for its simplicity and natural tone)
3. TAL Reverb (nothing special, just a baseline)
4. TAL Reverb III (its feedback-based design might displease some).

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on October 28th, 2021
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 28th October 2021.

FMMF implements what I like to call "Broken FM".

It's trying to be a 4-op FM synth like the TX81z but it fails spectacularly. I've found it absolutely impossible to make a usable E-Piano or Brass sound. The operators do not work at all as they should. The AMP sliders should be controlling the FM modulation, but most patches have them all at 100% and they are hardly modulating each other. For that, I regrettably must give it a low rating. I'm surprised this got 3rd place in the competition. I expected something at least better than Uno FM, but it's actually worse. If you want a good example of a 4-op FM synth, see eFemme, Exakt Lite, or even Panzertank PM4 which was also made in SynthEdit.

That said, if you want weird sound effects, industrial or chiptune sounds - you might find something here. But this certainly can NOT do basic DX100 or Mega Drive 4-op FM sounds. I invite you to prove me wrong and upload some patches to KVR.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on July 29th, 2021
Version reviewed: 2 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 23rd July 2022.

I'm giving it four stars only because it's been exactly 6 years since it was updated, and it desperately needs quality of life and bug fixes. Otherwise I'd give it a 5.

At first glance, Charlatan presents as a very simple and limited virtual analog synth, but what sets it apart is its quality analog oscillators and filter. It's oscillators and filters sound excellent and lively, made better by the subtle (almost unnoticeable) analog 'drift' effect employed under the hood, which is uncommon in free plugins. Also, it's kind to your CPU meter, so don't be afraid to use more than one instance.

In essence, Charlatan is somewhat comparable to Roland's Juno-60 or Korg Polysix in terms of capabilities and philosophy. But it actually has more features, such as a proper second oscillator, oscillator sync, ringmod and true polyphonic unison. It could also be considered a stripped down Jupiter-8 (or Prophet-5) with a touch of JP-8000, but in general, it's its own take on the classic poly synth.

Because of its limitations and wanting to keep things simple, you likely will not stray too far from typical 80s sounds like basses, pads and poly sounds. It's just not as versatile as your typical semi-modular hybrid soft synth. Though with the unison feature, it can very useful for Trance, Techno, House, and other surprising areas. Charlatan is particularly great for basses; some of the best 80s style basses I've heard in a free plugin! It holds up even for synth brass, stabs and 90s trance sounds. It can do string machines, transistor organs, and all sorts of other keyboard sounds as well. With its noise oscillator, it makes surprisingly useful filler FX. It's even possible to squeeze out dissonant drones and usable drum sounds.

So in essence, it's dead simple and limited, but that's not a bad thing. Limitations breed creativity as they say. It sounds good enough to easily fill the 80s polysynth role, but is versatile enough that you can still find new and interesting timbres by experimenting. Also, don't neglect on the Unison and Stereo modes. Older versions of Charlatan did not have this, but they can really add a lot to the sound.

That said, it's not perfect. Osc 2 can only be detuned up to 6 semitones, which means... no perfect fifths. Does the creator have a vendetta against fifths, to stop at exactly 6?! There are also bugs. Sometimes I found patches don't load properly, glitches out, or don't sound right, particularly if in POLY mode. And it doesn't seem to honor initial pitch bend messages for fine tuning, though this may not be exclusive to Charlatan. An additional way to alter the drift amount would also have been huge in a free plugin. But these are not deal breakers.

Using it with a chorus greatly augments the synth (this goes for any poly synth really): The free TAL Chorus LX is a great load-once-and-forget chorus, but any decent BBD or multi-voice chorus will do, but that's a whole other topic. Also you'll want a good reverb. TAL's free reverb plugins are well-suited for the job (I personally like the older TAL-Reverb-2 for its tone) Then there's also Supermassive (free), which can be warm and spacey.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on August 19th, 2020
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows

3.5/5. Vivaldi is a straight-forward 2-op FM synth, where you can layer up to 4 parts. Each part is made of very basic components: Three oscillators (carrier, modulator, LFO) and two ADSR envelopes. The envelopes control the level of the oscillators, but the LFO can be sent configured to multiple destinations extensively.

Unfortunately, if you want to emulate classic Yamaha-style FM, this is not the place. I tried to recreate the classic Brass sound, but the envelope or feedback just wasn't providing enough 'umph' on the attack. Even the extremely limited 2-op FM synthesizers Yamaha released are capable of this, as found in various OPL emulation plugins JuceOPLVSTi and vst2413, so it is down to differences to the architecture itself.

Though while not a strict emulation, it does its own thing rather well, and has a pleasant soft FM sound, with still being capable of its own flavor of harsher tones. Definitely more pleasant than other free FM plugins such as Uno FM or mda DX10.

I would recommend Vivaldi MX over the original Vivaldi, as it's essentially a free upgraded version (more polyphony, multitimbral etc.). Also, it's big brother Ganymed is a 3-op FM synth with 2 parts instead of 4.

Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on September 11th, 2019
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows.
Last edited by cyrb on 6th January 2020.

I love going back to old synth plugins just to see what can be done with them. Neon is apparently the oldest VST instrument there is (came with Cubase 3.7 in July 1999), so that's right up my alley. I've given it a go, made a handful of tracks and sounds with it, and here are my thoughts.

Pros:
The 3 waveforms (tri, saw, sq) ... they could have just made it a plain square.
Being the first.
Woodgrain panel.

Cons:
Only 5-note polyphony (even though it's supposed to be 16).
Oscillators waveforms are low quality and sound like they have a permanent low-pass filter.
Filter lacks an "Envelope Amount" control.
No individual waveforms for oscillators, or Osc volume mixing control.
Osc2 detune only goes 7 semitones back and forth, so no octave higher/lower possible.
ADSR envelopes are a bit clicky even when turned all the way off
LFO depth (mod wheel) is weak, as well as the pitch bend range is weak.

In summary: It's not good at all. And being old isn't an excuse. Both Model-E (Steinberg) and Pro-Five (Native Instruments) were created before Feb 2000. That's less than a year later. Then Native Instruments came out with FM7 in Feb 2001, which to this day is one of the best FM synth plugins ever made. And Neon could have been better.

It's oscillators are pretty bad. Neon is advertised as having two oscillators, but the only thing you can do is detune Osc2 up or down 7 semitones, not even a full octave... There is no oscillator mixer or individual waveform selection. And that's fine, the real crime here is how horrible the oscillators sound. Look at the output through any analyzer and you'll wonder what happened to the high end. The high frequencies are all filtered out, so instead of rich harmonic square or saw waves, you get these bland waveforms. And they get worse the lower you go. It's almost like they're using a single-cycle .wav file for each oscillator!

The filter is also pretty bad. It's weak and you can barely hear the effect of turning the cutoff down or resonance up. And the filter envelope is hard-coded to react to the "sustain" level as the amount, no "amount" knob to speak of.

Even heavy EQing can hardly save this synth. Give it a shot, and see for yourself. Steinberg still offers it as a free download. It can make borderline acceptable basic sounds thanks to the ADSR envelopes, but even the waveforms of the NES sound better than these do.