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Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on September 9th, 2003
Version reviewed: 1.3 on Windows
You'll see from the ratings given for this synth that it's good - how good depends on how you work and what you want from a synth. For sheer flexibility this semi-modular synth is just about unsurpassable, judging by my experience. From a corking 303 bass preset to crazy noisy pads, with leads, glassy strings, bells and very convincing drum and percussion sounds in between it is an almost complete sonic palette for any sound artist. With its several different and combinable synthesis elements Tera provides incredible opportunities for genuine sound design, especially those for whom unique atmospheres are key (e.g. ambient, electronica).

A special word about the interface, since for me it epitomises some fantastic thinking about how synths are used. From the outset it seems to employ a hardware "look", but don't be fooled. When was the last time your hardware knobs became transparent when they are not in use? When was the last time your hardware knobs disappeared and re-appeared as appropriate? In addition to these great design ideas, there are some very special little touches which deserve mention: 1., the way the parameter labels convert to values when in use, and 2., the way that there's no need to click on parameters to change them, simply hover your mouse over, see the parameter change colour and then edit (using cursor keys too). These are small but very clever elements of a GUI, which, albeit rather large, is refreshingly intuitive.

Other big plus points to note are the incredibly flexible routing, very complete and easy modulation options, user-definable arpeggiator, and the top notch filters and effects.

Value for money - I bought Tera used at a good price, and therefore this is potentially skewed in its favour. That said, street prices are not so exorbitant now and if I knew then what I know now, I'd still think it was relatively good value, especially in comparison to hardware (if hardware could do what it does).

Customer support is excellent - I even got a personal welcome e-mail from them after having the license transferred to me (the same day it was requested). You can't ask for much more than that. It would be nice to see more presets and activity from users. Updates have been provided frequently from v1.0.

This review is a mere minor scratch on the surface of an impressive and deep synth. Admittedly, Tera is aimed more for the sound designer or the musician interested in creating sounds that are truly unique and inspirational. It is, however, quite a work of art in itself and is a joy to experiment with... I'm learning from it whilst having fun - making this a genuine synth for the long-haul.
Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on August 4th, 2003
Version reviewed: 1.08 on Windows
Rhino has undergone some significant changes since its first release and the latest (1.08) is a good time to review. As ttoz has already said, the banks which are now available for it amount to a massive library of highly usable, high quality, inspiring sounds. Since the initial release the filters have been much improved, the effects section has been expanded and enhanced, CPU usage is down and there have been several other major improvements especially to stability. In short, if you tested it early on but it didn't appeal, try it again now.

As far as value for money goes this is amongst the best. I got it at the initial launch price, but even at the current price you are getting an incredibly flexible synth with absolutely top rate support.

For evidence of the flexibility first turn to the banks. Amongst the sounds you'll hear very rich filters, syncopated rhythms and extreme effects, some of the lushest pad sounds you'll get, and absolutely crisp and clean digital sounds. Certainly it does FM very well indeed (load in the DX7 bank for example), but there's so much more to it - everything from analog basses to spacey ambient pads. For more flexibility reckon in the drawn envelopes for just about everything - for individual oscillators and their parameters plus waveshaping, velocity and keyboard tracking and so much more. Then for even further flexibility figure in the 6 definable user parameters which allow control over virtually any aspect of your sound in real-time. For evolving pads this gives Rhino a distinct advantage whereby timbres can be changed on-the-fly, mutated and developed at will.

Rhino stands out as a synth which has matured into an advanced platform for sound design. Whilst it's complicated in terms of capabilities, it's also a joy to tweak. It rewards dedication however - so if at first it seems overwhelming then a good read of the documentation may be necessary. The manual is excellent and there are tutorials for creating particular sounds or using particular techniques, which is always useful. Some learning and experience may be required to get the most out of Rhino, but even out of the box it's strong as the banks are so good.

The interface is skinnable and newer skins are available all the time, however the original one works fine for me. It's clear and easy to navigate and gives you good feedback information for parameters.

It's very difficult to summarise Rhino in a pithy way, since there is such a lot to it. If you haven't tried it, or are skeptical about it, then I would recommend downloading the trial version and just enjoying the presets. They are a great taster of what the synth is capable of... I find it difficult to believe that anyone could fail but to be impressed by both the sound quality and sheer flexibility of Rhino.

An inspiring synth. It's one of only a few that I sit down and just "play" as a standalone instrument directly using a keyboard just for the enjoyment of playing it.
Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on July 31st, 2003
Version reviewed: 2 on Windows
It's surprising and a bit of a shame that that VAZPlus doesn't get more coverage. It's a great introduction to the world of VAZ (and I believe there are plans to create a path for Plus owners to upgrade to VAZ2010 and the full VAZModular).

VAZPlus might be initially confusing with an interface consisting mainly of sliders and drop downs (rather than the more familiar knobs and envelopes), but once explored it makes sense and provides for easy tweaking. Ideally I would prefer the option for a "reversed" or "neutral" colour scheme which isn't so tiring on the eyes, which is where a mark is lost on the GUI rating.

The sound of VAZ is great and the wealth of presets demonstrate it well. From squelchy leads, analogue strings to belting basses it does them all with aplomb. It does solid bass/lead sounds and the more squelchy leads best of all, however. It's one of my start-up synths when I'm creating now, particularly when it comes to basses. Flexible routing (particularly in the filters cutoff section) and MIDI learn makes for a lot of tweakability and live playability. Just about anything and everything is MIDI controllable/automatable. The filters sound great to me and are very flexible for the kind of music I do which is atmospheric EBM/electro/etc. It's also very apt for trance/acidic styles, but given the depths it has it could be used in a multitude of settings.

What sets it apart from other synths at this price range (and many above) is the ability to route to sequenced patterns. I barely use this for pitch patterning, since I have my hosts for that, but since you can assign the non-pitched sequencer patterns (2 of them) as internal controllers you have a lot of power there for modulating parameters such as cutoff, resonance, overdrive and so on. Syncing to your host using the VSTi version is a breeze. The arpeggiator is also useful, if only for me sometimes it's just a means for testing out the modulation patterns.

Stability has never been an issue. It's not crashed once in several different hosts and configurations. CPU usage is excellent. Customer support is good: Martin has responded to questions I've had promptly and efficiently. The help files are decent and easily accessible, and there is an online downloads/forum area for users.

Given that you get both the VSTi and a standalone version as well as a large amount of presets, value for money is also excellent. I don't think I would personally gain much from having the enhanced mixing capabilities of VAZ2010, and yet VAZPlus is very good taster for the VAZ family.

It's difficult to do VAZPlus justice in a review, since its sound is where it shines - it has warmth but can easily become as nasty as you wish. It's amongst my best purchases and certainly one of the most used. No regrets at all.
Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on June 24th, 2003
Version reviewed: 2.0 on Windows
One of the most valuable things about KVR is the contact with developers and being able to see things develop and come to fruition. A brilliant example of this is Ethereal. The first version didn't have a welcoming GUI, the sound was sometimes glitchy and the CPU usage hopped about a bit. It always had potentially to grow and with version 2.0 it has come of age.

This synth does exactly what its name suggest but a lot more besides. Expansive and evolving sounds are its forte, though. With a very good set of initial sound choices (including user-definable), Frequency Modulation, Additive Wave options, two filters (each of 11 types, and assignable to any of 8 envelopes), drawable envelopes and internal effects it's a powerhouse of flexibility. There was no manual at the time of writing, so I will mark on the basis of the previous version's manual.

Some of the presets understandably showcase the more metallic timbres and complicated sounds and sound-effects it's possible to generate. But, it's a very simple task to get more conventional sound from it. What's most impressive though is the ability to generate genuinely useful textural and ambience-style sounds so very easily.

The change of GUI has done a lot for Ethereal. The envelope drawing can be a little fiddly, but certainly easy enough, and there are big improvements there in comparison to previous versions. The right-click pop-up menus are a little dark, however. CPU usage and stability is phenomenal really when it's considered alongside the output. A lot of the sounds don't require much polyphony and on my Athlon 1900+ even when they do, CPU usage is often only slightly above 10% - well worth it.

As for support, Jon at ConcreteFX is excellent. He's present here, extremely responsive to comments and bug reports and keen to improve the products all the time. Ethereal has turned into one of those synths that is worth exploring and rewards learning. If you're looking for something a bit different and need any kind of ambience or effects for your tracks, then this is a good instrument to try. Even if you're not, Ethereal does 'traditional' sounds too, making it extremely good value for money.

Preset "Angels" shows off Ethereal to its fullest - download the demo, switch to this preset, hold down a key... and wait... and wait. Awesome ;)
Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on February 21st, 2003
Version reviewed: 2.11 on Windows.
Last edited by Gargoyle on 21st February 2003.
I joined the AnaMark train at a good time, just before the latest 2.11 release, which saw a number of areas which were expanded or improved.
This is an outstanding instrument, both in terms of the features you receive for the price and for the character of the instrument. It's capable of things you'd expect on a much more comprehensive (and expensive) instrument and what's more it has "guts". Without a doubt, this is a synth with which you can truly explore a wild variety of sounds. It probably appeals most for expansive leads and pads, but with the 17 waveforms, 3 oscillators and an almost bewildering array of modulation and effects, the limits are wide. It's most likely to appeal to techno/electro/dance palettes, however, with that emphasis on that kind of modulations and filters you often find. Most of the noise effects are in that same area.

Some key + points:
- Oversampling options give you a good control over CPU usage.
- Great envelope drawing capbilities.
- The interface, although on multiple pages, is clear and consistent.
- Random bank generator which provides some instantly usable tones and other interesting ones for tweaking.
- Definite "character" which you might not hear elsewhere.

Minor - point is the preset handling, but it doesn't hold you back. Another minor point is the volume control which it would be nice to "fix" at the global level to avoid the sort of bursts that can blow an eardrum or cone.

I'm loathe to really shout about this synth, since I'd like to keep it all to myself and claim the credit for the output it gives... but the thing is out there now, and you should probably try it. This has been the best kept secret in the VSTi world.
Reviewed By Gargoyle [read all by] on January 25th, 2003
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
I feel compelled to submit a review about this VSTi simply because I, like many other people, possibly judged it by the image above. Simply, don't do so - that would be a mistake.

OK, the downsides first - 1. the interface which really doesn't do it justice and can be a little fiddly in operation 2. the preset management is a little awkward and 3. you'll find your CPU usage often getting a touch high at times.

On the positive side, the array and depth of sounds you can extort from beneath that interface is worth a listen, from lush pads delivered with smooth aplomb through to some very intense leads (see preset number 5 aptly named ***BIG***) which are as good as any you'll hear for a synth in this and somewhat higher price ranges. The presets showcase the instrument off well. Unlike the Space Synthesizer which specializes in certain sounds, Fatsondo very quickly shows itself to be useful across the board.

The "processor" section is a really intriguing feature here - one tweak to it and you can transform sounds completely. As a whole the instrument is immediately gratifying and it has that important engrossing "tweak" factor.

I've seen many more VSTi's for a lot more money failing to deliver the quantity (there are lots of options here) and quality that you get with this.

Do yourself a favour... ignore the interface image above and give this a go. I hope that Mikael will do some work on the GUI because I have no doubt that by doing so and possibly getting outside help it will send this little beauty into better company... company it deserves to be among. I have been evaluating Fatsondo heavily over the past few days and feel I have really only scratched the surface, which I think says a great deal about it.

[customer support rating solely based on the web site and ordering process]