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Tone2 Saurus Synthesizer: First Impressions and "In Use" Video

Tone2_Saurus_screen

Last week, my friends at Tone2 released their latest virtual analog synth Saurus. I'm a huge fan of Galdiator and was a beta-tester for ElextraX - both of which are all over my last two albums -  so I was very excited to see what their take on a streamlinked modelled analog synth would be.

First Impressions

I’ve been playing and programming it almost with almost  every free moment since it released. Here are some things I really love about Saurus:

  • Great sounding circuit-level oscillator and filter models, especially the filter feedback and drive
  • Waveform morphing with PW changes
  • Easy on your CPU compared to other synths that model at the circuit level and instances share resources so you can insert many instances into a set without audio dropout
  • Straight forward and tweakable interface (Tone2 made great choices on what to include)
  • Killer modulation matrix with some cool new sources like the “x” modifier, voice output
  • A new take on ElectraX’s arp and gate where both are combined into one interface
  • LFO’s that run at audio rate (just use the mod matrix to patch LFO to Osc Pitch and you have FM)
  • Basic but solid essential built-in FX (Chorus, Reverb, Delay)
  • A fresh take on noise on both oscillators with morphable FM/AM noise source
  • Pink and white noise as a modulation source in the matrix
  • The factory patches sound great and since they heavily use the mod matrix - they also provide great insight into how to take advantage of the new modulation features. I’m learning a lot just by reviewing the mappings.

Some things I would like to see in an update:

  • Add FX params as modulation targets
  • Add the “\” arp step type for note glide as implemented in ElectraX
  • Add a comb filter type

Who’s It For

I think Saurus is a great synth for up-and-coming producers and synthesists because it straight forward and follows a classic workflow. It’s also only $119 US which is a great value.

Seasoned players are going to love the sonic range, tweakability, and low CPU usage. As a controllerist, I find it super expressive when mapping it to my Novaiton RemoteSL MK II Keyboard in an Ableton Instrument Rack.

A buy is a no brainer and this just might become your goto subtractive virtual analog.

In Use

This is video of a single patch improvisation I recorded in one pass with no edits  using a single instance of Saurus. I only use the built-in effects. I start with a factory patch in the "Lead" bank called "1970s Soloist H". I only touch the computer once during the performance in the middle to turn up the gain in the mod matrix so that LFO modulates pitch. Prior to recording I mapped all sorts of parameters to my Novation Remote SL MK II Keyboard:

  • XY map to Filter and Rez
  • Bank 1 of the top 8 knobs are mapped to filter parameters and OSC Balance
  • Bank 2 of top 8 knobs are mapped to effects parameters
  • Bottom row 8 knobs are MIDI mapped to Oscillator noise type AM/FM, LFO Speed, Glide rate
  • The first 4 sliders map to the volume ADSR
  • The next 4 sliders map to filter ADSR

I used my projector to paint my wall with Saurus to the knob movement you see on the wall is in real-time and corresponds to my controller movement.

Links

The demo MP3s don't do Saurus justice. I recommend you download the demo and try it yourself. Make sure you try velocity, aftertouch, mod and pitch wheels on every patch.

Grab the demo here http://www.tone2.com/html/saurus_synthesizer__vst_au.html.

Full disclosure –while I did get an NFR copy of the software, I don’t benefit financially if you buy Saurus. I’m just a big fan of both Saurus and Tone2.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Official Web Site: www.MarkMosherMusic.com
Listen/Download Albums: www.MarkMosherMusic.com/music.html


In-Depth Review of Percussa AudioCubes in Use with Ableton Live

modulatethis_audiocube_review 

Back in November I purchased a set of four Percussa AudioCubes. I've spent quite a bit of time working with them as a an interface to Ableton Live. In this hands-on review I'll explain what they are, how    they work, how I'm using them with Live and also offer some tips along the way.

What Are AudioCubes?

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Audio Cubes were invented and are manufactured by Percussa, a small privately held company in Belgium. Each AudioCube is a portable self-contained computer that acts as a tangible interface. The cubes detect location, orientation, and distance information from your hands and/or other AudioCubes. This information (MIDI or OSC) is then routed to your favorite music application via free software that is provided by Percussa. The software runs both on MAC and PC. I'll be focusing on MIDI, Windows, Ableton Live, and the MIDI Bridge application in this review, but will offer a summary of other Percussa apps at the end of the review.

What Can They Be Used For?
Common uses are music performance, visual performance, sound design, composition, DJing, and installations. You can also use them as lo-fi audio generators.

Continue reading "In-Depth Review of Percussa AudioCubes in Use with Ableton Live" »


Sylenth1 2.2 Review - Midi Learn, Midi Program Change, Velocity Sensitive Keyboard and more…

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I tried Sylenth1 when it first came out and didn’t buy it. I thought the oscillators and filters sounded great and loved the straight-forward interface but felt it was lacking some features I’ve come to expect in modern virtual instruments.

Sylenth1 came to my attention again because of the group buy in December. I’m happy to report that Lennar Digital has done a great job adding features and improving the synthesis capability since launch – so much so that yes - I bought another VA Subtractive synth :^).

Key 2.2 features that I really appreciate are Midi Learn (persistent from project to project), copy/paste for envelope and filters, Midi Program Change support (I can walk through programs using my Novation Remote SL).

Another 2.2 feature I use a lot more than I thought I would is the velocity sensitive GUI keyboard. It’s such a simple idea but makes it much easier to preview and tweak presets that use velocity as a modulator when using a laptop. Simply use your mouse to click towards the top of the key emulates a key press with little velocity. The further down you click on the key, the more velocity is sent to the Sylenth1.
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As I work with Sylenth1, I’ve also noticed how incredibly warm and dynamic the oscillators and filters are. It’s much more like working with a hardware synth. I think it compliments Predator nicely.

The master effects tab interface in the center screen makes tweaking effects and programming arpeggiator a snap. The arpeggiator can also be used as a modulate source. This makes it possible to use the arppegiator as a gate and more.

2.2 ships with over 1,300 presets which cover a wide range of musical styles and are a great starting point for tweaking.

Lastly, I want to mention that Slyenth1 is incredibly CPU friendly.

In my opinion Sylenth1 is well worth €139 and I encourage you to give Sylenth1 a try even if you have other subtractive synths. I’ve really fallen in love with it.

Links

www.markmoshermusic.com
www.modulatethis.com
www.twitter.com/markmosher


Modulate This Review of Rob Papen Predator Virtual Synthesizer

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Introduction
I just spent a few weeks immersing myself in Rob Pappen's Predator Virtual Synthesizer.  I've reemerged and decided to share my thoughts on this synth with a review.

Overview
Predator is a virtual analog synthesizer for Windows or Mac that runs as a plugin (VST, Audio Unit, RTAS).  It ships with a huge library of presets, and built-in tools for patch browsing and search.  It also has some innovative features such as preset morphing, intelligent preset variation, and chord memory.

Sonic Range
Even though Predator is primarily a subtractive synth, it can produce a much wider range of sounds than your average analog synthesizer. This is made possible with a powerful yet straight-forward  three oscillator architecture. For each oscillator you can select from one of 128 wave  forms. In addition to analog waveforms, Rob Papen has included, additive, spectral, pink & white noise as well. Each oscillator also has Pulse Width Modulation and oscillators 2 & 3 have modes for Ring  Modulation and FM Synthesis. In plain English, you don't need to understand complex harmonic structures to produce complex sounds quickly.

FX

Predator_gator Predator allows for 3 effects per preset. The list includes Mono Delay, Stereo Delay,  Comb, Reverb, Chorus, Chorus/Delay, Flanger, Phaser, Wah/Delay, Distortion, Low  Fi, Amp Simulator with 5 models, Waveshaper, Stereo Widener, Autopan, Gator,  Vocoder, FX multi-filter, 5 Band Equalizer, Compressor, Ensemble, Cabinet Simulator,  Multi- distortion and AutoWah. Two FX modulation sources are available for connecting midi or synth controls to FX parameters. 

The "Gator" effect is a trance gate. "Vocoder" is a 32 band vocoder that can use either samples or sound (input) that is fed into Predator as a modulator. So, creating cool vocoded effects is a snap.

I should also mention that there is a stand-alone version of the effects processor called PredatorFX which allows you to use these effects on any audio channel in your DAW.

Arpeggiator

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Predator has a 16 step pattern based arpeggiator with some excellent features that might make you use this arpeggiator more than the one in your DAW.  Some stand out features include the ability to enter note values for a step by using your midi keyboard. You can also set note velocity, swing and slide amount controls.  One really cool feature is the ability to use an  arppegiator step as a free modulation source. You can even control  arpeggiator latch using a midi sustain pedal. Lastly, you can copy, paste, clear, move, reverse, randomize and turn off / on controls, for both selected steps or all steps.

Right Click and  MIDI Learn

The interface supports right-click for access to additional parameters. For example, you can reset a knob to its default state or execute MIDI learn to map knobs and sliders on your controller to a Predator parameter.

One Page Interface
What’s amazing about Predator is that almost all the parameters fit on its clean one page interface.  A few parameters require you toggle to a different panel (see this article). The layout is logical and simple and if you’re familiar with subtractive synthesis you’ll be creating new custom presets in no time.

Conclusion
There is something for everyone inside of Predator. Musicians and Producers will love the large library of sounds, the bank manager,  and how easy it is to "tweak" using the single page interface. Sound designers will love the flexible Free Modulation scheme with 8 modulation routings for connecting 40 modulation sources and 65 modulation destinations.

At $149 EU/ $179 US you'll be hard pressed to find a virtual synthesizer with more bang for the buck. For many I think this will become their "goto" synth.

Learn More
I’ve covered the core elements of Predator in this review but there are many, many more features I’ve left for you to discover. Checkout the links below for more.

Mark Mosher
www.modulatethis.com