AF’s Weblog

July 4, 2012

iZotope Iris Review

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  iZotope Iris Review

iZotope is famous for its effects, audio processing and restoration tools. Now, the manufacturer enters the world of virtual instruments with the launch of Iris, its first synth. Knowing iZotope, we expect nothing but a very original approach. Are we wrong?

Test system

MacPro Xeon 3.2 GHz
OS 10.6.8
Logic Pro 9.1.7
iZotope iris 1.00.74

Introducing iZotope Iris

iZotope iris

The instrument is available on iZotope’s website, alone or as a bundle including the synth plus two sound libraries: Wood and Glass. The latter include 260 and 150 samples, respectively, plus almost 100 programs each. You can also buy them separately for $29 or $49, while the instrument alone costs $249. Iris is sold with a 4GB sample library and countless programs.

You get a standalone version and several plug-ins (AU, VST, VST 3 and RTAS) for Mac (Intel only) and Windows with 64-bit support. The instrument also includes the latest Radius version, the time compression/expansion and pitch shifting software called Radius RT.

The installation of the synth and libraries, as well as the registration, went smooth and easy. Registration can be done on a hard drive or with an iLok (it’s a good thing to have the choice) using the serial number provided during purchase.

Now let’s take a closer look and a listen…

Conclusion

Some of my friends who make sound synthesis directly in iZotope RX2 will love Iris. This synth definitely has an original approach when it comes to re-synthesis, even if there are some brilliant and famous competitors like Alchemy. The selection of audio content with tools that recall graphic design software is quite a unique experience. It almost makes you feel like a beginner because you can’t anticipate the result of your selection (and every experienced user knows how a sawtooth will sound when processed with a 4th order filter and 50% resonance). In this respect, Iris is a new, exciting sound weapon.

Iris is no all-round synth that provides bass, pads, leads, etc. like a good subtractive synth. On the contrary, if you want to create weird sounds combining authentic and synthetic sounds on a very original way, or if you like to experiment with every possible audio material to create something new every time, Iris will be a dream come true! All the more considering that the algorithms are almost perfect and its design and ease-of-use are pure joy, making this instrument accessible for almost anyone interested in sound synthesis.

So, is it a success for iZotope once again? Yes, definitely…

2012 Innovation Award
Advantages:
  • Concept
  • Three samples players plus Sub
  • Amazing Radius RT
  • Graphical selection tool
  • Surprising but perfect design
  • Ease of use
  • Very simple and comprehensive MIDI Learn
  • Effects
  • Comprehensive sample bank included
  • Many presets
  • iLok or Challenge/Response authorization
  • Leads to a new creative approach
Drawbacks:
  • Could have more complex envelopes
  • A filter is missing in the FX section
  • Sometimes, lack of fatness in the lower frequencies
  • Pay attention to CPU load

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  iZotope Iris Review

March 29, 2012

Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

Arturia has been launching a myriad of products since early 2012. Among the new products you’ll find an Oberheim SEM emulation with new custom features. Let’s have a look at the beast…

Something is for sure: Arturia’s team never stops working! They are constantly updating their existing products and have launched Analog Experience, Oberheim SEM V and MiniBrute in a very short time. The Oberheim is the latest addition to the series of legendary synth emulation plug-ins that started in 2003 with the Moog Modular V, followed by the Minimoog, CS-80, Prophet 5 and Jupiter-8 simulations. Arturia even attempted to create a virtual version of another legend of Tom Oberheim’s company, but they didn’t succeed…

It’s probably not necessary to present Oberheim, a mythical company that has had its successes and troubles after being bought by Gibson and Viscount. The SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module) was the first synth officially presented by its inventor in 1974. It was brought to life again in 2009 with a Patch Panel providing all 33 internal connections as mini-jacks and a Midi to CV Converter. These new features certainly gave customization ideas to Arturia: their virtual version also has many new features.

Introducing Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Test System:

  • MacPro Xeon 3.2 GHz
  • OS 10.6.8
  • Logic Pro 9.1.6
  • Arturia Oberheim SEM V 1.0, later 1.1

Out of curiosity, and because I always read that all Arturia synths sound similar, I compared the Minioog V and SEM waveforms (in this order) as well as a filter setting at 3,406Hz with maximum resonance (the release parameter settings are different but they have no effect on the sound in our example). Look at the screenshots and listen to the sound: No similarity…

Conclusion

Let’s be clear: I have no ’74 SEM in my studio. So a one-to-one comparison is impossible. I have only my memories of when I played the instrument and the many records where it is used… Therefor, it would make no sense to say this plug-in is an exact and faithful copy of the original. However, the virtual synth does share many things with the original synth: the features, the spirit, the typical Oberheim sound (soft filter clearly different from Roland and Moog filters). In short, don’t hesitate to add this tool to your synth library if you’re looking for SEM sound.

However, we also found a few problems: the envelopes/effects extend to the next preset, audible steps in some modulations. But considering the huge possibilities, the sound and the wonderful modulation section, we can only praise the quality of this synth. The ease-of-use, that doesn’t limit the sound possibilities, makes it the ideal tool to start in the world of sound synthesis.

Advantages: 
  • Same sound DNA as the original hardware synth
  • Design
  • Ease of use
  • Faithful to the original concept but more comprehensive
  • Modulation section
  • Amazing 8-Voice Programmer
  • Almost fully synced
  • Good product manual
  • Excellent Midi Learn function
Drawbacks:
  • Some bugs
  • Envelopes/effects extend to the next preset
  • Some audible modulation steps
  • Maybe the price, compared to similar products (DIVA for example)

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.