Published by Lights on 31st January 2012
When you give your product a name like SynthMaster, you have to be pretty confident that you have a powerhouse on your hands. So when I gave SynthMaster a try, I was naturally skeptical that it could live up to its name. After all, could this really be the Master of all Synths? Can this synth really be that deep?
I have spent several late nights with this product and the answer is…. (a qualified) yes. SynthMaster is that deep. There aren’t many synths that cover as much ground as SynthMaster and do it as intuitively as SynthMaster.
The qualification is this—SynthMaster is for rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty—It’s insanely powerful, and it’s not hard to get the hang of it. It comes with a load of presets, but presets aren’t its strength. Making your own sounds is where SynthMaster really shines.
First let’s start with the basics.
KV331audio calls SynthMaster a “semi-modular” synth. In practice, while you can’t route anything to anything else, you’re unlikely to find a limitation. The synth architecture includes 2 layers each with 2 oscillators, modulators, and a completely configurable effects chain that includes inserts and sends.
Not only do the oscillators allow you to choose from common waveforms, but there’s a treasure trove of samples and single cycle waveforms you can use in place of an oscillator as well. And if that’s not enough for you, you can import any WAV or SFV file you want. You can also use wavetable/virtual analog, wavescanning, additive, vector, noise, and pulse synthesis as well. I’m pretty sure KV331audio didn’t leave anything out there. Each oscillator has its own parameter page that comes up when you select the type of synthesis you want to use, and some of them (like the additive and wavescanning pages) are quite deep in their own right. There’s a tremendous flexibility in even the basic oscillator setup, before you even get to modulation…
Each oscillator can be fed by or modulated by one or more modulators. You can modulate phase, amplitude, or frequency. You can also feed in audio. That’s right. Insert SynthMaster on an audio channel and target it with a MIDI channel and you can feed the audio stream of the channel into SynthMaster directly or through any other oscillator waveform. You can come up with some pretty crazy effects doing this… but you’ll have to figure out the finer points of this on your own as there aren’t any presets that leverage the audio inputs.
All of the synth basics are there, but SynthMaster gives you way more than most synths. A routing table along the right hand side allows you to keep track of them all: 4 global and 2 voice LFOs that can be easily routed to just about everything (and set to have additive or multiplicative effect), several envelope types (ADSR, multistage, 2D), keyscalers, and then there are the effects…
There are digital and analog modeled filters (and you can do cool things like adding distortion into the filter process), and a full-featured effects chain that include Distortion, LoFi, Compressor, Phaser, Ensemble, Chorus, Echo, Reverb, and Vocoder, which takes advantage of the audio input. Each layer gets its own effects and there are globals that you can use as send effects.
But wait, there’s more. There is a full featured step-sequencer style arpeggiator that will work in all of the standard modes, chord mode, and sequence mode. And you can import your own MIDI patterns into the arpeggiator as well.
Finally you get several MIDI-controllable “easy” knobs that let you set up parameters you want to easily tweak and 2 assignable X/Y pads.
And to top it all off, you get a rich patch browser that lets you browse by type of instrument, style of music, etc. to help you easily find the right patch or a good starting point for your own experimentation. And the patch browser is ingeniously online so that without leaving the plugin you can easily browse an online catalog of sounds hosted by KV331audio.
This is a monumental work and clearly a labor of love which I expect to continue to evolve and improve. Because it’s so vast, SynthMaster has a few areas that are not as mature as others… but that can only be expected given how vast this plugin is. Synth, effect, creative workstation: SynthMaster earns its name.