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Neon [read all reviews]
Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on 11th September 2019
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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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:
16-note polyphony is flexible when dealing with long releases (as opposed to 8)
The 3 waveforms (tri, saw, sq) ... they could have just made it a plain square.
Being the first.
Woodgrain panel.

Cons:
Oscillators sound horrible and have no high frequency harmonics.
Filter sounds horrible and has no "amount" control.
No individual waveforms for oscillators, or osc volume 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.

DX10 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By cyrb [read all by] on 15th June 2019
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
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mda's DX10 is a simple 2-operator FM synth (3-op if you use the special FL Studio version). It has no GUI, instead you are presented with 16 parameters in your host's default interface.

A lot of people seem to compare it to Yamaha's classic FM synths, but let me tell you: it's not comparable. It cannot even be compared to a Yamaha 2-op, such as the OPL sound chip. Where Yamaha-style FM is more warm and punchy, DX10 is more metallic and acid-like. Everything seems to sound like that UK "Donk" bass sound as you crank up the modulation amount. Also, its envelopes are rather limited. Instead of ADSR, it uses a sort of strange ADR/DSR envelope. In comparison, the OPL2/3 used ADSR, the DX21 used a ADDSR, where a secondary decay rate is applied to the sustain, and in the DX7, a freeform 5-point envelope is used.

Suffice to say, you cannot model 2-op Yamaha sounds accurately using DX10 (without losing your mind that is), you can however use it for its own merits. One of those merits include a waveform modulator, where you can modulate between a sine and "saw" approximation that contains additional harmonies added to the fundamental sine.

It can definitely sound interesting in its own right if you play to its strengths, but don't be fooled, it's not a Yamaha clone, and you will be hard pressed to make any decent brass sounds.