I’ve taken some time over the last few days to explore the new FXpansion bundle of soft synths DCAM Synth Squad. The bundle comprises three synths—Strobe, Cypher and Amber—and a multitimbral layering and control plug-in called Fusor that holds up to three synths in any combination and adds effects processing, keyboard management, step and control sequencing and global modulation routing. All devices come in Mac/Win standalone and plug-in (AU, VST and RTAS) formats.
DCAM stands for Discrete Component Analogue Modelling, and FXpansion has modeled each of its synths’ modules at the circuit-and-components level. Their goal is to have the synths respond the way hardware devices would to normal as well as abusive parameter settings.
The simplest of the synth trio, Strobe, is a one-oscillator synth, but that one oscillator features waveform mixing and octave dividers, and you can stack up to five detuned copies of the oscillator. Its versatile filter has 22 modes and overdrive. For modulation you get two ADSR envelope generators and a waveform-mixing LFO. At the other end of the complexity spectrum, Cypher features three oscillators with audio-rate cross modulation, dual multimode filters with flexible routing and an extra LFO and envelope generator. Both synths have a basic arpeggiator and neither has any effects (that’s left to Fusor).
The third synth, Amber, is a string-machine emulation using divide-down-oscillator architecture. It has no arpeggiator (you can arpeggiate it in Fusor) but adds chorus (a must for a string machine) and a formant filter. The three synths come as both virtual-instrument and effects plug-ins. The effects versions replace the noise generator with audio input, which makes for some unusual, MIDI-controlled synth and effects combinations.
Each of the synths features a powerful modulation scheme called TransMod for which I’ve posted a short screencast. Fusor offers a similar scheme, called FuseMod, that provides cross-modulation between synths, as well as from Fusor’s LFOs, envelope followers and sequencer.
All these synths sound great, and to my ear, the analog inspiration comes through. None of them are especially light on your CPU, however, and when you stack them up in Fusor you’ll probably find yourself doing some track freezing. No demo versions of the synths are availble, but you’ll find both audio and video demos on the FXpansion Website, fxpansion.com.
A few minutes ago I learned about Moog Music’s latest product, a less expensive version of the Moog Guitar called the Model E1. Okay, a retail price of $3,495 ($200 more with a tremolo bridge) still isn’t cheap, but it costs considerably less than the only Moog Guitar available before now, the $6,495 Paul Vo Collector Edition. The new production model features the same electronics and all the same capabilities as the original and comes with chrome hardware and in your choice of three finishes. You can read more about the Model E1 here.
I’ve recently read two thought-provoking articles about how the music business has changed. One of them is about how musician Imogen Heap has harnessed the Internet, and social networking in particular, to generate enthusiastic advance publicity for her forthcoming release. The other one is about how the biggest profits in music are now being made by staging concerts rather than by selling records. The music business is in such flux, I can hardly wait to see what happens next.
Legendary guitarist and music-technology innovator Les Paul has died today at the age of 94 of complications from pneumonia. Although very well respected as a guitar player (he worked for years in a duo with Mary Ford), Paul’s biggest contributions to the music world were his technological innovations in the areas of multitrack recording, delay, and the design of the solid-body electric guitar. The Gibson guitar model that bears his name is perhaps the most iconic guitar in the world.
Those of us on the EM edit staff wish to express our sadness at his loss, and extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
For more about his life and work, read this obit from our sister magazine, Mix.
Watch some videos of Paul in this blog from Newsweek.com:
If you’ve been waiting for an OS X Leopard compatible version of U&I Software’s Metasynth, you’re patience has just been rewarded. Metasynth 5 sports a bunch of new features along with streamlined operation and better file handling. You can download a PDF detailing the new features here and a demo (160MB) here.