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Modulate This Exclusive: First Look at Tone2's New ElectraX Virtual Synth

Gladiator 2 is one of my primary go-to synths. I just love the sonic range and the way it cuts through the mix. Prior to Gladiator I was using Vanguard and I still use Slayer 2. Both Slayer and Vanguard’s audio engine were also developed by Tone2. So, needless to say I’m a huge fan of Tone2’s work.

I’m happy to report that Tone2 has been hard at work at a brand new monster synth called ElectraX (click images to show larger view).

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They’ve been running a closed beta with sound designers and recently sent me a copy to try and have given me permission to share this info on Modulate This.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
First let me say ElectraX sounds incredible. It is a 4 layer instrument and each layer is a complete 3 oscillator synth. So, it’s kind of like having the power of multiple Gladiators and then some. In my testing, even with 4 layers on, the synth was incredibly CPU friendly.

While ElectraX clearly inherits some elements from Gladiator, it is laid out in a different way that makes it more immediate and easy to program. Skins can be setup-changed by editing the 'ElectraXskin.txt' file found in the ElectraX folder (I switch skins for some interface snapshots below).

Each synth instance is accessible via a tabbed interface. Another great improvement is there is lot more animated visual feedback as you program. For example, the waveform display for each oscillator animates to show the effects of PW modulation. I also appreciate that almost all knobs and controls bigger making programming easier.

While the magic of Gladiator came from the innovative HCM synthesis engine (see this post), ElectraX offers a more familiar PW (Pulse Width) parameter for sweeping through harmonic content for modes that support it. The PW can then be modulated by a huge number of modulation sources. I think this approach allows for a less abstract and more familiar and predictable method for achieving a huge range of harmonic possibilities - especially when you consider you can combine and mix synthesis methods across so many oscillators and layers.

SYNTHESIS METHODS

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One thing I always wished Gladiator had was the ability to load my own samples as oscillator sources. I also wished there was a more immediate FM modulation method. Well my wait is over. Each oscillator offers a choice of 13 different synthesis methods which include 45 oscillator types!

  1. Virtual analog
  2. FM
  3. Samples
  4. Wavetables with re-synthesis function and the ability to load own waveforms
  5. Ultrasaw (up to 10 detuned OSC at once)
  6. Fractal (a completely new synthesis method)
  7. Phase distortion
  8. Waveshaping
  9. PWM
  10. Sync
  11. Noise
  12. Ringmod
  13. Vocoder

AUDIO ENGINE

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The audio engine supports psychoacoustic processing, polyphony, legato, glide mode, analog and quality settings.

FILTERS

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ElectraX has 23 dual multimode analog modeled filter types including:

  • 9 analog modeled filters with self oscillation
  • Lowpass/Highpass/Bandpass 12dB/18dB/24dB
  • High precision digital filters: Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass, Notch
  • Equalizers: LowShelf, HighShelf, Peak, Wide
  • Special types: Phaser, Comb+, Comb-, Vocals, Aliaser, Ringmod

Each filter has selectable drive model which include:

  • Tube
  • Soft
  • Fuzz
  • Asym
  • Crush
  • Shaper

LAYERS

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Each layer also includes:

  • Dual multimode distortion/waveshaper
  • 3 LFOs and a Step LFO
  • Four Envelope generators
  • Arpeggiator
  • Insert effect
  • Flexible modulation matrix

EFFECTS
There 18 effect types are:

  • Reverbs: Hall, Cathedral, Room
  • Delays: Delay, Delay band, Ping Pong, Multitap
  • Chorus, Ensemble, Phaser, Flanger, Rotary
  • Trancegate, Compressor, Ampsim, Equalizer, Surround Encode
  • Vocoder

FRACTAL SYNTHESIS

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One of the new synthesis methods is called Fractal. Fractal oscillators work with a new type of synthesis based on chaotic systems. According to Tone2 “Four different modes available each uses a mix of chaos and predictability to model its output”. They described the modes as follows:

  • Fractal1: Models a real crazy analogue circuit which randomizes between asquarewave, a sine, a sawtooth, noise or feedback. PW controls it's double-minded mood. The tuning mostly follows pitch.
  • Fractal2: Can be sine, feedback, granular, screaming, flute or sawtooth. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.
  • Fractal3: Can be sine, square, bandlimited noise, granular or feedback. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.
  • Fractal4: Can be square, granular or lowpassed noise. PW controls the level of chaos. The tuning is mostly predictable and rudely follows pitch.

GLOBAL PARAMTERS

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Global parameters include a MasterFX processor, EQ (Low, Mid, High), Volume, and one of my favorite new additions “Mod Wheel”. Mod Wheel is very handy when you are doing sound design work from your laptop and don’t have a controller hooked up.

FACTORY PATCHES
One of my favorite things about Gladiator was the sheer number of patches that shipped with the synth and were available as add-on libraries. They are extremely well programmed and make for great starting points for tweaking as well. Even though ElectraX is still in beta, there were already a huge number of incredible patches that make use of all this horsepower.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I’ve only had limited time with ElectraX and have barely scratched the surface, but I’m pretty blown away. I think Tone2 has a real winner synth here and ElectraX is going to provide an even bigger harmonic range, and a potential for more complex sounds with more movement and expressiveness. They made some great user interface choices that simplify programming even though there are many, many more parameters to manage.

If you are a Gladiator user, there is enough similarity in the user interface that you’ll be able to hit the ground running with ElectraX. For new users, the wide range of presets and interface improvements shorten your learning curve and make the synth usable right after install.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

  • PC: Windows XP, Windows Vista 32/64, Windows 7 32/64, Windows ME; Intel Pentium4 compatible CPU with at least 800 Mhz; 512 MB RAM
  • Mac: Mac OSX 10.4 or higher; G5 or Intel Mac with at least 800 Mhz; 512 MB RAM

TECHNICAL SPECS

  • PC formats: 32-bit VSTi, 64-bit VSTi, standalone
  • Mac formats: VSTi, Audiounit; Univeral Binary
  • Supported samplerates: 44,1 kHz; 48 kHz; 88,2 kHz; 96 kHz; 192 kHz
  • Multicore CPU support; SSE2 support

AVAILABILITY AND PRICING
According to the official web site the synth should be available in December. No pricing or launch date was available – but I can vouch that this is not vaporware.

LINK

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com

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