AF’s Weblog

March 16, 2009

Sonic Charge Synplant: The Test

The Secret Sound of Plants
Sonic Charge Synplant: The Test

Since the dawn of synthesizers, there have been many types of synthesis to emerge. But the same can not be said about their approaches to work flow or interfaces. With Synplant, Sonic Charge has taken inspiration from the world of plants and their growth patterns in order to come up with a new way of creating sound. Marketing ploy or innovation?

Overview

Ouverture

The first thing to know about Synplant is that it’s an AU and VST plug-in that’s Mac and PC compatible. So far, so good. But soon we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. First of all, the interface is quite minimal: a big round dial, referred to as a “bulb” (it kind of looks like Ueberschall’s loopeyes), surrounded by 12 buttons that represent the 12 half-steps of an octave, a patch selector/browser, four buttons and seven sliders, and that’s all (for now). The way it produces sound is as follows: you plant a “seed” in the center of the “bulb” and grow branches out from this seed (yes, really). Pretty original, right?

Let’s try it, then. A click in the middle of the screen, and a seed appears, accompanied by a brief sound (each seed contains its own particular sound). You can also right-click, which opens a menu offering, amongst others, the same function (more on this later). You can always jot down the name of the seed just in case (in order to stay within the botanical theme they’ve chosen some complicated ones), but you can’t choose one directly since new seeds are chosen randomly. One solution: open a Seed and save it as a preset without touching any settings. This can be done in a separate folder. Just as an indication, after generating 215 Seeds (whoa. ..), I only had four duplicates (same name, but not the same sound). Sound production is completely and utterly random.

Then, from out of this seed grows 12 branches, each corresponding to the notes of the octave on the outside of the bulb. When the branches are at there smallest (like when a seed is created), their sound is identical to the Seed. One of Synplant’s main principles of sound creation is to elongate these branches (in real time) to get a different sound.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Longueur variable

No doubt, originality pays off. First of all, the presets show that you can get all kinds of sounds, from typical FM pluck (with mod wheel effects) to ethereal choirs, a pseudo-Rhodes to an unstable pad, a classic lead to a prog pad, all with the surprising results that using the mod wheel brings.

But where this synth is really interesting is in its sound production, which forces us to rethink our whole approach. It’s more like a voyage rather than thinking in terms of frequency, timbre, pitch, etc.. And, if you accept this premise, you have to admit that the interface is absolutely brilliant. What’s rather reassuring, is that in terms of sound you don’t come across new sounds that are totally unusable (there are some, but not many), which is something you might assume after seeing the interface. There is always a direction to explore in one of the branches.

A few small drawbacks, like the unnecessary “complexity” of the envelope or the lack of clarity in the filtering, do not spoil the pleasure of working with Synplant, which generates as many new sounds as it does new compositional ideas. So, marketing gimmick or innovation? Innovation, kudos to Sonic Charge.

AudioFanzine décerne au Synplant de Sonic Charge l'Award de l'innovation.

In light of this test, AudioFanzine gives the Award for Innovation to Sonic Charge’s Synplant..

Concept
Originality of the interface
Quality of the interface
Inventiveness
Sound Quality
Oscillator Quality
Seed creation due to complete chance
Richness and diversity of tones
The ability to refine sounds
Numerous modulations
Many presets
Midi Learn
CPU friendly
Interactive help included
The price

Manipulate Genes interface sometimes unclear
Only one envelope
Why not include a simple ADSR?
Filtering and envelope need getting used to
No aftertouch

To read the full detailed article see:  Sonic Charge Synplant Review

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1 Comment »

  1. Great review. I’ll be doing a writeup on Synplant myself so do check it out.

    Comment by phatsobrown — November 9, 2009 @ 11:38 am


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