Summary: This is one of the best sounding synths around. Even without effects, it sounds great. And, its CPU load is less than most. It is a bit lite on options, but that is easily overlooked.
Interface: The interface is cleanly designed; however, it takes a while to get used to the rocker switches. It is not obvious at first which position is 'on' and which is 'off'. Small nit, though.
Sound: This is what it is all about. I cannot say that ive heard a synth that can better Asynths raw sound. (And since there are no onboard effects, that is all you get).
Features: Here, the synth falls a bit short of its potential. This year, what moves me is sound quality and 'elegant simplicity'. Features, in and of themselves, are beginning to annoy -- especially when it gets to multiple redundant copies of modules and the like. But simplicity does have its limits. Asynth only has the one LFO as a modulation source. In this case, I wish for more: any of ring modulation, hard sync, FM, pitch would be nice additions.
Documentation: The included docs are fine. Really, there is not much to document.
Presets: The included presets are excellent. Especially, the first 32 or so. In spite of the lean control set, there is a surprizing variety to the sound pallet.
Support: Antti provides a contact email; but to be honest, Ive had no need to use it.
Value: Excellent. It is donationware; so we determine this ourselves through our donation choice.
I feel this is currently the best of BONES efforts; and perhaps the very best SE design ive seen. A very powerful, clean sounding little synth. In my opinion it is a bit lite on features, but then everything which it includes is useful.
Actually, that is the primary benefit of buiding with SE -- you build to suite yourself. You can *afford* to leave stuff off and tailor the synth to your exact idea of perfection (in this case, BONES idea).
The little Karma is a refreshing change from the trendy "everything plus the kitchen sink" monster synths of the past two years.
GUI -- A little too dark for my tastes; but the green indicators *really* stand out well. From an artistic standpoint, it is very well executed; it has a professional look to it and it flows better than most synth designs (considering everything here at KVR).
SOUND -- This synth delivers. The sound is pure SE, and that is actually a good thing. You might be surprised to learn that there are only a handful of synths out there with better quality oscillators. And, you can easily prove this to yourself; heres how...
Pick any two synths and do an AB comparison of their saw wave. Turn off *all* modifiers (ie, amp envelop, filters, effects), so you are just listening to a single, pure osc. Pitch the synths up two octaves and compare notes in the highest octave your ears can hear. Now, pitch the synths down two octaves and play notes in the lowest octave. Finally, play a chromatic scale in the middle octave, listening carefully for changes in timbre. There should not be any changes; if there are, it is a weakness of the osc.
SE passes all these tests with flying colors; you would be surprized at many of those which do not.
Unfortunitely, SE does not have the best filters. They are very good, but not the very best.
FEATURES -- Karma has a well rounded feature set. It is a bit lite for my tastes (just a tad), but it does have enough to produce a wide variety of sounds.
DOCS -- It has been brought to my attention that there are, in fact, docs; a nice touch. But this synth is obvious, and it has tooltips; nothing else is needed really.
PRESETS -- By freebie standards, it is rich. By pro standards, a bit lite on quantity.
SUPPORT -- BONES is always available here at KVR to provide support, mainly in the form of opinions.
VFM -- excellent; this is a forth order iterated design, executed with class and style.
STABILITY -- There are some issues here; namely with the dual mode toggle and with mono mode note sticking. For me, the work around is 1) dont toggle dual while playing 2) dont use mono mode.
in a way, this could be textures little brother. however, it has a few key features of its own.
the biggest selling point is that sweet, fat LP filter. it is among the best ive heard, including commercial synths.
the interface is simple and straight forward. there is not much to it really, just a single osc, filter, amp and filter envelops, and delay.
oh yes, and the arp. this is the other gotta have feature. i *really* like this arp. it remembers the midi note sequence, so you can get some really funky arps with ease. the hold, gate, and retrigger buttons are all nice touches as well.
i think it is intended to be a bass synth. as such, it is second to none that i have seen. but this little beauty can do a lot more than just bass. check it out.
pro -- super duper filter and arp
con -- a little light on features (not for a bass synth, but i just wish it had a few more controls). the interface is a tad too small and dark for my aging eyes
the sounds great, and the filters are among the best ive heard. with the filter's drive, well implimented resonance, and dual peak design, you can get some powerful sounds that many few others can touch. an interesting feature here is the osc 'harmony' setting, that adds another voice at a frequency offset. perhaps this is more cpu efficient than a second osc ?
pros -- clean, solid sound. excellent filters. easy to program.
cons -- fixed modulation routing, trance gate does not appear to sync to host tempo properly
i cannot say enough good things about rhino. the most important thing, it sounds great.
i challenge anyone in the market for a synth in this price range -- compare rhino's presets to those of any other. in my book, the presets mean a lot; if the synth developer and his right hand man cannot enthrall me with presets, what are the odds i will be able to do any better?
after spending about six months with top ranked synth demos, this is the one i choose. it certainly was not the first synth that came to mind, as i was a bit put off by the plain-jane interface. but during my evaluation, this is the one i kept coming back to.
what sets this synth apart is the wide range of high quality of sounds that anyone can easily produce. in fact, you have to work fairly hard to create a bad sounding preset on this synth.
the interface is different than most, but in a good way. rather than focusing primarily on knobs for adjustment, most of the adjustments are presented graphically. for example, the osc amp envelops are done this way, where you reach into the plot, drag points, and shape curves. to me, this is much more intuitive than twiddling ASDR knobs. more importantly, it provides infinite control; rather than limiting you to just a few slopes.
the typical analog-like controls are conveniently presented at the top level; and you can create a ton of great sounds there. in "analog" mode as i like to call it, using none of rhinos esoteric features, just two additive osc with conventional wave shapes, envelops, filters and effects, the sound tops most others *designed* to do only that. however, rhino goes far beyond the basics, and provides the most complete (almost overwelming) feature set of any synth in its price range. from that standpoint, it is almost like getting an AB... and an FM... in one package. the six osc FM mod matrix is a real winner; with its DX7 sysex import (sort of; it loads them and they sound good, but as of this writing they do not sound the same).
as for osc wave shape options, you've got it all -- about 100 built in osc wave shapes / loops, an additive wave tool to roll your own shapes, a wav file reader, and a wave shaper to modify them. like most features, the wave shaper has its own graphic envelop.
if there is a downside to this synth, it is cpu usage. rhino can bring the fastest of todays cpus to its knees; but i believe that is because rhino has so many features which can be simultaneously used. in my personal back-to-back comparison with other synth demos, using *the same number of features*, rhino was typically equal or better in cpu usage.
perhaps cpu's will get faster as time goes on.