Most reviewers here are guitar players, I imagine. As for myself, I've never even struck a chord on an electric guitar.;-) But I grew up with The Ventures, The Shadows and The Spotnicks and I use Music Lab and Orange Tree in the box with TH-U, AmpliTube, Kuassa, Mercuriall and Scuffham S-Gear.
Swanky Amp sounds different to my amateurish (in this respect) ears. It sounds alive, even with virtual axes, that's my subjective impression, and it positively invites dial twirling and experimentation. Definitely a keeper for me.
The VirtualCZ rates high among the software synths I really regret that I bought. I understand that it is a sonically accurate emulation of the original h/w and so, I guess that my disappointment should be equally directed at Casio.
I find the sound more dated and wimpy than virtually any softsynth that I own (a license for). The envelopes appear so soft that it seems virtually (!) impossible to get any 'snap' out of the VCZ and ballsy it's certainly not. I wonder what kind of music people use it for? Chorused pads?
For myself, I find that I need a whole chain of fx after the VCZ in order to mangle the basic sound into anything remotely interesting, although the lack of snap is difficult to compensate for. Comparing it with a roughly contemporary synth, the DX7, is like night and day – the old Yama is certainly snappy where I find the Casio spongy and soft.
Obviously not my sort of machine, but hey! – who am I to discuss taste? No doubt the VCZ serves the musical interests of a number of people – it's just that I can't quite identify myself with those interests.
This "Orchestral Strings One" is a ridiculously ineptly programmed Maize Sampler plug-in, stuffed with samples likely ripped off from some commercial strings package.
In its latest Mac version, 1.2, VST and AU, (the Win version is 1.3, apparently), it has first of all a new 'feature' - it only works monophonically! That is, one note at a time, until the release stage of the preceding one has finished! Or should that be a 'bug'?
As before, the Max Volume control is a hazard to your hearing (and monitors) - the fully CW position ('Boost') is the quietest one and the CCW position, labelled 'Cut', produces an ear busting shriek.
There's really no reason to go into further details - this is pathetic garbage and if the 'Award Winning Producer' intends it to showcase his other products, you can imagine what you're in for. Caveat emptor!
Playing the Devil's advocate here, I basically agree with most of the views of the other reviewers. So, I'm going to ocus on the VS aspect,
Arturia's 'Prophet V2' V/VS hybrid in Version 2 sounds like melted butter, the photorealistic GUI even animates (albeit slowly and hesitatingly even on a fast i7 machine) when you change the emulated synth (V, VS or V+VS). Cute!
Now, I'm no great aficionado of Virtual Analogs per se. I never owned a Prophet Five and I have no desire to. But I owned a VS for a couple of years, until I couldn't stand the interminable glitches and problems. For instance, controllable aftertouch (which is a vital tool of expression in the VS) depended on the synth sitting on a 100 per cent flat and horisontal surface. As soon as I put it on a stand, it would add aftertouch all by itself because the case twisted ever so little. The authorised Seqiential service guy grew really tired of me (and the VS) after a year or so.
No such problems with Arturia's take on the VS. And it sounds beautiful. It really does!
The problem is – it doesn't sound quite like a VS.
A VS should screech and rasp and cut with a razor sharp digital edge. It should alias. And it should also be capable of producing the slickest analog strings I've ever heard.
Arturia's VS is too polite and polished. In fact, even though the factory patches are available, sometimes I have to really guess at which of the original sounds it's doing its to emulate.
Thinking that perhaps my memory had been dulled after many years, I fired up Vector Sector, the (unfortunately abandoned) virtual VS that was created by General Vibe, including people who had worked on the original Sequential Circuits instrument.
And there was the VS vibe as I remembered it!
The 'Prophet V2' VS emulationsometimes comes reasonably close, but in the end – no real cigar. And, in the buggy tradition of Arturia, Prophet V2 in VS mode crashes Live 8 in flames (Mac 10.6.8) every time I try to tweak the oscillator levels or waveforms.
So it seems I'll have to keep my aged G5 PPC Mac to be able to run Vector Sector, since it was never updated to run on Intel machines. Or can I hope that Arturia will get the VS right in (a hypothetical) version 3, with its warts and aliasing and all?
Having played a real, electromechanical Hammond M100 with a real Leslie for many years, I'm somewhat attuned to what a Hammond should sound like. For a long time, I was searching for a suitable MIDI:ed replacement, first in hardware and then in software.
I have NI:s B4 and B4 II and was never completely happy, especially not with its overdrive emulation, which sounds harsh and brittle, and with the less than totally convincing Leslie sim.
Then I discovered VB3, and realised that my search was over. The sound is, to my ears, totally convincing. The overdrive has that rich, creamy character that NI flunked and the Leslie sounds authentic down to the woosh of the spinning horns and bass baffle and the click of the solenoid as you toggle speeds. Of course you can tweak the levels of these mechanical effects from OFF to obtrusive.
Guido's attention to detail is evident in the almost complete tweakability of sound and controls. In the latest, 1.4, version he has finessed the Leslie sound even further (as a foretaste of VB 2.0!) and, thankfully, re-introduced CTRL #64 (sustain pedal) as a control source for Leslie slow/fast – you can even choose if you want the pedal to work as a toggle or just activate fast speed when you keep it depressed.
V 1.4 AU also plays nice with Digital Performer on Mac OS 10.4 and Tiger, which was a bit of a problem earlier.
VB3 has been completely stable on my Macs, running OS 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5 with Logic 8, DP 5.13 and Live 7/8.
Shareware or not, I consider VB3 a totally professional product and, to my mind, a head above the other Hammond emus on the market. On top of that, Guido's prompt user support and readiness to listen to suggestions is in a class by itself.
Thoroughly recommended for anyone looking for an authentic Hammond/Leslie playing experience in software.
A long time ago, I owned a Sequential Prophet VS keyboard for a couple of years. I sold it because I got fed up with OS bugs and a troublesome keyboard. For instance, if the synth wasn’t placed absolutely flat, the case would twist and as a result the keyboard would send aftertouch all by itself!
But I’ve missed the unique sound of the VS ever since, and so I was very happy to discover that General Vibe, the somewhat enigmatic company behind VectorSector, was releasing a Mac OS X version and at the very reasonable price of 129 USD.
First of all – does it sound exactly like a VS?
I don’t know, exactly. Sorry, it was too long ago…
Does it sound good?
And it really does sound very much like what I remember from my hardware VS, including all the factory patches.
Interestingly, General Vibe has come up with some rather witty alias names for the original patch names, presumably for copyright reasons. For example, the original patch #44 Anahorn has been renamed HubertHoratioHornblower, and #03 Volkanik is Vesuvian in the VectorSector version.
The bad news is that most of the parameters, except the wave numbers, use different denominations compared to the original VS. So, you can’t simply type in the values from old VS patch sheets and there’s no way of dumping sysex into VectorSector.
Also slightly disappointing, the Doubling feature of the VS is missing, as well as the rather natty arpeggiator.
However, VectorSector is not a great CPU hog and on my 1.3 GHz G4, I could easily invoke two instances of the instrument, effectively emulating the doubling feature. Can you spell F-A-T?
One feature that would have been very handy is a way of soloing the 127 waveforms that are identified only by numbers 0–126. The VS had a special program for auditioning waves using the joystick while disregarding filters, effects and envelopes. Something similar should have been simple to implement and would have made it so much easier to find the right sound building blocks.
And sadly, there’s no MIDI learn feature. So, you can’t move the virtual joystick in realtime from a MIDI controller – velocity, pressure, mod wheel and keyboard position are the only available external controllers in the modulation matrix.
Surprisingly, there’s no documentation at all with the download. The rather sparse website has some basic information on the synthesis principle, with a five months old promise of ”more info soon”. I’m not holding my breath.
Happily, the excellent original Sequential manual is available as a free PDF download at www.retrosynth.com/docs/pvs/index.html. Apart from making for interesting reading about what was a truly groundbreaking synth, it gives a thorough and pedagogic tour of the programming of the VS.
However, the General Vibe VectorSector isn’t very hard to get to grips with, if you have a smattering of programming experience. Just changing a couple of waves and tweaking the filter settings will quickly give you new and surprising sounds.
And, to recap, the VectorSector really sounds great to my ears. It’s quickly become one of my favourite VIs and it’s strange that it hasn’t created more of a stir in the communities, considering that the hardware VS is a sought after, cult status item. Download the demo and give it a spin – it has a unique sound, with a huge palette of colours.