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borg64 10th January 2012 12:58 PM

Access Virus TI Desktop
If memory serves, the Access Music Virus TI Desktop was my fifth physical synthesizer, and if Oto Machines hadn't so graciously updated their firmware to allow for Biscuit to turn into the Der Oto monosynth, it would probably have been my last. The Virus really does cover a lot of bases. Not to mention… wait for it… basses. (I'll go grab my coat then.)

The 'TI' moniker stands for Total Integration and in essence, that's what you get. This digital synth sports the fairly common MIDI In, Out and Thru ports on the back, but the real treat reveals itself upon connecting it to your computer via USB. The Virus can actually function as a pretty complete audio interface, featuring 1 stereo input and 3 stereo outputs, as well as S/PDIF I/O, with 192 KHz D/A conversion. It's even got surround sound capabilities, if you're into that sort of fancy-pantsy stuff. But to be honest, I never gave a damn about all that stuff. I bought it as a studio noise-maker first and foremost, and holy bananas, Batman! - what a noise-maker I got. Lets hold that Total Integration thought for a bit while I ramble on about some of the core features, ok?


I'll caveat this right away and confess that I'm a synthesizer layman, at best. I turn dials and twist stuff around until the stuff pouring out is something I feel will upset someone, and then I save it as a preset. Simply put, I get by, but a lot of the techier talk flies well above my head. All this said, I have a sneaking suspicion you could concoct pretty much anything with the Virus TI if you dug in deep enough.

There's 3 oscillators and loads of oscillator models to kick off with, ranging from the classic bread & butter ones (sine, saw, pulse, triangle), to HyperSaw, wavetables, granular and formant stuff. I.e., there's no shortage of sources to play around with here. The dual multimode filters sound stunning (Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass and Band Stop), including the Analog Mode: four MiniMoog lowpass filter emulations. There's also a filter saturation stage to get things nicely grittied up. Pretty much everything in the Virus world can also be neatly modulated to the moon and back again, should you so desire. Up to 6 control sources (e.g. the mod wheel, LFO 1 to 3 in uni- or bipolar mode etc.) can modulate up to 3 destinations each (that's 18 in total!) - you can even modulate the extensive mod matrix itself!

The effects included are no slouches; reverb and delays, including tape delay emulation; 6 chorus FX, including a rotary speaker emulation; a phaser with up to 6 stages; a frequency shifter module (modes: Ring Mod, Freq Shift, Vowel Filter and Comb Filter, that last one capable of some wonderful craziness when playing liberally with the Frequency and Resonance controls); 25 distortions and saturators ranging from mild overdrive to obliterating madness; 3 band EQ; and 9 'Character' processors, including a nifty speaker cabinet emulation. These are all high quality weapons, making sure you'll get far in your sound designing adventures without having to resort to additional plugins or hardware. You can apply these in separate effects chains to each of the 16 multimode parts as well, thus creating very complex sound layers, within the unit's DSP limitations.

It's worth mentioning that many of the current effects weren't there from the get-go - Access added them through free firmware updates. The effects can also be used to process external analogue and digital signals, thus the synth also serves as a multi-effects processor. For example, one of the more recently added effects, the Atomizer, lets you glitch up and mangle incoming audio by replacing it with looped slices of itself (the audio stream can also be reversed or gated) using your keyboard or MIDI input source, reflecting Access Music's intentions to not solely focus on 'internally' created noise.

Below the LCD, three user assignable 'Value' knobs allow for direct control over the settings and parameters you want to fiddle with the most when playing around with your newly designed patch. But if the mere thought of creating sounds from scratch is starting to give you a rash, you need not to fear - there's currently more than 7.000 presets available for free on the Virus website, created by professional synth junkies such as Depeche Mode, Richard Devine and many more. And the library's growing.

Oh, and it also comes with a customizable 32 pattern arpeggiator, which can also - as of the OS 4 firmware update - be used as a modulation source.


Well, by now things are starting to get just a little bit complicated running and managing from the Virus' tiny LCD screen, and although theoretically possible, it would require a lot of menu diving while also probably taking up a disproportionate amount of your brain space trying to remember everything. And when in a complex mood, it's very easy to lose track and accidently mess up that Patch To Rule Them All you were just mere seconds away from creating.

Here's where that whole Total Integration thing conveniently slides in. The Virus Control plugin (AU/VST/RTAS) makes for a very useful interface for controlling the hardware right from your host. Combined with the helpful online tutorials, exploring the potential of the Virus becomes a joyful and rewarding journey that encourages experimentation. There's is no comparison from a design and tweak perspective; it's fun doing it directly on the hardware, but everything comes together so much faster and more powerful through the plugin interface that it becomes increasingly hard to go back clicking through those LCD menus. Simply put, the marriage between hardware and software is damned near perfected in this sense. The GUI is fairly simple to follow, and although I'd love to have more direct visual feedback (simple animations of the arpeggiator's progression and the current state of the Mod Matrix for example), most of it makes sense if you just think things through and don't stress too much.

However, and here comes my rant regarding the Virus TI: there are some issues with keeping things synced up and running properly with this plugin, especially if you're also streaming the generated audio through the Virus' USB connection. Although it still greatly irks me personally that Access has yet to add official plugin support for Reaper (it loads and kinda works in this mode, but it's iffy enough to be almost unusable for critical work), it's not 100% stable in Logic either, which is a supported host; yes, it behaves far better than in Reaper, but even when following the recommendation to use the Virus on a dedicated USB bus, audio glitches and sync-losses are too frequent to write off as rare bugs on bigger projects with lots of other effects and virtual instruments. On top of this, DAW automation occasionally gets screwy, and in order for things to get up and running again it's usually wise to reload the plugin altogether. Playing around with the buffer setting usually mends the sync related ordeal to some extent, but that also makes it trickier to use Virus Control alongside effects and virtual instruments of the CPU-hungrier persuasion - and the maximum buffer setting that Virus Control can work at is 512, although less is usally more in this case, with regards to stability.

There are naturally workarounds, apart from using good ol' MIDI. The one I prefer - when sticking with Reaper - is to simply bypass the Virus Control plugin's USB audio streaming capabilities altogether and route everything through the unit's main physical outputs instead, which also have a dedicated section in my patchbay for further hardware mangling. Route the signal back to the audio interface you're using, and it behaves like any other hardware synth except it's being triggered by a sort of advanced hybrid MIDI bridge, freeing up the USB load considerably while still letting you access the plugin interface for programming and overview.

If I really want the 'complete' plugin experience, USB audio and all, this is one of the few times I much prefer Logic to Reaper; it's a totally different experience for the better there, and the sync issues are more occasional than omnipresent if the project isn't ridden with too much else going on. I would of course prefer the whole data stream issue stabilized and sorted out properly, with Reaper added to the official 'supported hosts' list, but to be honest it's usually more fun than inconvenient to route stuff out to the patchbay anyway, rather than just using the Virus as a DSP-boosted soft synth.


Now, onwards to some hardware practicality. The desktop version on review here is rack mountable, should you decide you don't want it cluttering up your… well, desktop. The procedure is easy and the little hex key needed to perform it is included inside the box. The whole I/O connection part on the back of the Virus TI can also be angled so it ends up facing 'into' the rack, rather than upwards. The latter I believe to be the case with pre-TI desktop models, so it's no longer necessary to leave a couple of Us or more free above the synth in order to fit your cables. Nicely sorted.

Being nitpicky, the plastic buttons have a somewhat 'dead' uninspiring feel to 'em, clicking quite hard and loudly when depressed. As with the buttons, all dials are identical and they too feel a bit cheap, but actually work quite nicely with smooth turning action. There are plenty of red LEDs on the panel to translate what's going on in the current patch, and a bright white LED in the middle of an Access logo lights up each time one of the parameters you're currently messing with end up at its patch-defaulted state. Nice touch.

All in all, the Virus TI is as far from being a one trick pony as I can imagine - leads, basses, pads, noise and FX: it does everything extremely well. The Virus Control plugin makes tweaking and patch designing a lot easier, and although it's easy enough to get started if you have at least a little experience with synthesizer topology, the reward lies in diving in deep and through experimenting lots. It's a remarkable machine with a fantastic post-purchase value, through constant free upgrades from a company that seems very focused on keeping their existing products constantly evolving. Sure, it isn't cheap off the shelf, but you're actually getting a lot of goodies packed into that box. And until Access decides otherwise, the box will keep evolving with no extra fees involved for the owner.

Digital or not, the Virus TI sounds amazing and you can lose yourself for hours just tweaking up your dream patch. It really is that much fun. Highly recommended.


- The potential! The flexibility! The sound!
- The frequent firmware updates adding new functionality.
- The online tutorials, the free updated patches… Access does it right.


- Requires a whole USB 2.0 bus to itself for optimal performance in plugin mode, and even then it occasionally feels unstable.
- Limited number of officially supported DAWs.
- I should have ponied up and gotten the keyboard version.

rob3000 27th December 2013 08:16 PM

Access Virus TI 2 Desktop
The Good: First Impressions, features, build & sound quality, and ease of use

As far as sound goes, first impressions were really quite good. This thing makes some *massive* and out-of-this-world sounds! From your run of the mill filtered sawtooth pads to freaky sound effects, the TI2 is very flexible, mostly due to the crazy amount of modulation possibilities. Each voice has 3 oscillators, a sub-osc and a noise osc. Mono/FM/Sync/Unison options are present as well. Osc 1 and 2 are full featured and OSC 3 is semi-featured. By full featured, I mean there are several "modes" (classic, wavetable, granular, formant, and variants on the last 3), each mode featuring between 64-100 spectral waveforms, with the wavetables being fully sweepable either smoothly crossfaded or in an abrupt fashion (and anywhere in-between). Of course the usual suspects are there as well in the form of Saw, Tri, Sine, Square and Pulse. While Osc 3 does not have as many features as 1 & 2, is completely usable nonetheless. Add 2 great-sounding resonant multi-mode filters with low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, and band-reject modes, with filter 1 offering an additional "analog-mode", described as a Moog emulation. 2, 4, and 6 pole options as well as serial, parallel and split configurations lead to an unusually flexible filtering section.

With 2/3/4/5/6/7/8-voice Unison (that's usable in mono or poly due to the unit's high polyphony), this leads to some *fat*, thick sounding patches. 3 LFOs (with a multitude of mod destinations) and 4 envelopes are present, as well as a 6-slot/18 destination modulation matrix that lets you modulate pretty much any parameter in the unit. Rounding things out are a competent effects offering with about 8 categories, most having several sub-variants. The usual delays, reverbs, chorus/flanger are present, as well as some not-so-common effects such as a phaser, 3-band EQ w/sweepable & variable Q mid, vocoder, ring-mod, along with several (10-15) types of overdrives & distortions that go from a mild warm up to complete decimation. To top things off, many of the effect parameters can be targeted by the modulation matrix as well as the LFOs.

Top notch hardware quality featuring an attractive, sturdy metal case with a tasteful wooden accent strip in front. The 30 or so potentiometers have a great feel to them, and their topped with pretty nice knobs. Indication LEDs are plentiful and very helpful showing the various state of the parameters. The 40 (or so) buttons are well shaped and have a positive click, but their very slight travel feels slightly cheap, though completely functional. The only gripe I have is the inevitable external power adapter: the AC cable and brick are average quality, but the power cable to the module is is a bit lacking or cheap. Overall comment on build quality: Very nice!

Programming/tweaking this unit is very nice not only due to the >30 knobs and >40 buttons on the front panel, but the logically laid out and nicely flowing programming structure overall. Just about every parameter can be changed and the result heard in real time; latch a note on your keyboard, and just go to town twisting the knobs! All major functions have a dedicated knob or button, with some features accessible thru the use of a shift key and a knob or button. In addition, every parameter can be adjusted from the LCD menu (more on this later). The control panel is laid out in a logical fashion, and after a day or 2 with the unit, I could move around quickly an easily and get to where I needed to be in a snap, even if it involved digging into the menu system: yes, even things that require use of the LCD are quick to get to. While using the physical controls, the LCD helpfully shows the setting(s) you are tweaking the current value, and the "default" value as programmed. Below the LCD are 3 "soft" knobs that are used to adjust parameters that are accessible through the LCD only, and to the right are buttons to step through menu pages and also single +/- buttons for fine tuning the currently selected menu item. Ease of use: Well done!

As far as the VST functionality/"Total Integration" goes, I did not have any issues using it, but to be honest, I'm not interested in that functionality very much. My limited testing using the VST (AU actually) in Logic 9 and X showed it to be functional, but as I did not run it through any real-world uses-cases, so I can't really comment on it any further. The OS updater works well, and patch editor/librarian is nicely laid out, functional, and looks really good: a rarity! Usually the editor/librarian is an afterthought that feels like a tacked-on feature, and they are usually non-intuitive, clunky, ugly, and for some reason a fixed (tiny) size that forces you to squint at a high-res screen. Not in this case; Access put some real care into the software and it shows.

The Bad: Pricing, Value, and so-so effects

Now the down sides: first off, for the asking price I feel the TI 2 desktop is not the best value. Had it been priced at 75% of the current asking price, I would have a different opinion, but for what you get, it's really expensive considering not only the competition, but the flaws as well (see more below).

The effects, while plentiful and competent, leave a bit to be desired. I was expecting to hear top-notch effects across the board, seeing as this unit has serious DSP power and digital effects have been around for literally decades. Yet I was really not impressed at all. I would rate the reverbs as average sounding, but with higher marks for the many options available. While the Phaser is really quite good, the Chorus variants I felt were below par. The delay is nice and flexible, as are the distortions and the EQ. Nothing really jumped out at me though and made me think, "wow, cool!". Overall, I'd rate the effects as a solid average and therefore somewhat disappointing. Not that they sound bad, just that they are unremarkable for the most part.

The documentation is average, and glosses over a lot of important information. For example, one of the strengths of this unit is it's controllability via MIDI: there are about 100 parameters mapped to MIDI CCs and variable in real time from a sequencer or MIDI controller. BUT NONE OF IT IS DOCUMENTED! I'm stumbling across it by twisting knobs and sliders on my MIDI keyboard controller! Luckily, someone was nice enough to document all of this and post it online in the Access forum. And while the included "how-to" synthesis PDF manual was a really nice inclusion for beginners and those unfamiliar w/the Virus, it is somewhat outdated and refers to patches not even loaded on the unit. Very hit-or-miss. The quick start type docs are pretty good, but the parameter/explanation reference, which is usually the most important document, is below average. No, the docs are not as atrocious as the typical Roland documentation, but they're nowhere near the level of what Korg typically provides.

The Ugly: Bugs, Instability, and crackling digital outs

I decided to use S/PDIF for audio at first. The Virus did not like the 48kHz my interface is set to, and kept complaining via the LCD about out-of-sync something or other. Additionally, there was crackling in the audio like you'd hear in a DAW with the buffers set to a too low value. Then the unit locked up forcing a power cycle. After restarting the unit, it would not re-sync to my interface and insisted on running at 44.1kHz over a 48kHz connection. (This does not sound good, BTW!) In the end, instead of tearing my hair out, I just went from the analog L/R outs and into my interface which "solved" that little issue. First red flag.

A bigger downside however is the software/OS stability of the unit itself: it is very buggy and somewhat unstable. For the record, I was using TI2 desktop hardware with OS version ( public beta was completely unusable, BTW). You will need to know where the Panic/All-notes-off front-panel key combination is at, because you'll be using it A LOT. Just programming the unit from the front panel, I repeatedly get a bunch of stuck notes, sometimes so bad that I had to power-cycle the unit. On average during programming a patch, I'll get a stuck note once every 5 minutes, and have to power cycle about once an hour. In addition to stuck notes, the unit would sometimes scramble a filter parameter: for example, I'd be adjusting the EQ mid gain amount with a note latched, and the filter 1 mode would switch from low-pass to high-pass. This happened several times, and was repeatable. So you'll want to save your work early and often! Second red flag.

Just a general observation: while it is good that Access provides updates to its products, it also is apparent that this is an unfinished product that NEEDS to be updated, because of the bugs I ran into. This really leaves a bad taste in my mouth because the main reason I prefer hardware over software is the usability and reliability factors. With hardware, you turn it on and play, period. It just works. In this case, however, I'd have to say "it mostly works", and this is not acceptable for a product in this price range.


The great sound and flexibility of the Virus TI2 desktop unit is somewhat marred by it's bugginess, unstable OS, average sounding effects, and high pricing. I buy hardware synths because I want to turn a unit on and just play or program the thing. Crashing keyboards/sound modules are unacceptable at any price, and I would never recommend this to be used in a live performance because of the stability issues.

I love the sound, don't get me wrong. This thing is fat, juicy, awesome, and unique sounding! But because of the flaws (especially at this price point) I'm probably going to return it and get something else...

electromage 5th March 2014 01:19 AM

Access Virus TI 2 Desktop
Last year I bought a Virus Ti2 desktop from a chap in Bristol. It was 11 months old, bought from Digital Village in Ealing. It all checked out in so I paid £1000.00 and all was good. I took it home, tried to do a global reset and the switch failed.
A quick call to Digital Village and I find out that as the company had gone pop and been resurrected I had no warranty. I spoke to Access and they said, send it to us. Luckily the guy in Bristol was stand up and it went back through DV.
After several weeks it came back, minus an LED lens, after several emails to and from Access they sent out a replacement.
Now all has gone dead, several conversations with Access and to quote “I'm very sorry, but I was wrong in regards to warranty transfer after a 2nd hand sale. I spoke to our sales manager and the warranty is solely in place for the original buyer and the shop this was purchased from. In other words the warranty is not automatically transferred over to a new owner in the warranty period. This also means that all necessary repairs will be charged for in this case, especially if Digital Village is not willing to handle this with the unit not being in possession of the original owner anymore”. From Jörg at Access!!!!!
This means that any paperwork is worthless. Even after several emails like this. “The unit definitely needs to get serviced in this case. I would recommend to send an email to the contact person at Digital Village that you guys contacted the last time with this and keep us on CC. Due to the unit still being under warranty this needs to go through the dealership the unit was purchased from. There is a 24 months warranty on the unit”. From Jörg at Access!!!!!
What I would suggest is that we all need to think about just what we are buying, what coverage we really have and just how we sell stuff in the future.
I have a record of all the polite chat from Jörg at Access. I just wonder what others feel about the situation is with regard to kit that keeps breaking down and the guarantees are worth less than the tissue they are written on.
By the way does anyone know where I can get this paperweight fixed?

jditmer0 1st September 2015 08:56 PM

The features on it are absolutely amazing and it would be unbelievably awesome if most synths had these. It has a two unison supersaws which can be detuned to taste and you can adjust the width on each. If that isn't enough unison for you, you have the option to unison the two unison supersaws... acting as a second unison making a crap ton of saw waves. Lets count. So that makes 8 saw wavs for the first supersaw plus 8 saw waves for the second supersaw (total 16 saws). Then using the second unison feature, you can unison up to 8 voices of the previous saws so that's 16 X 8 = 128 saws! Very cool. Too bad the quality of the sound is just not there.

I bought the Virus TI in hopes that it will provide me with that gritty warmth that we all strive for. Instead I found that it was only a slight improvement from high end Virtual synthesizers. It still sounds thin and brittle just like everything else. Virus TI is considered to be "virtual analog" which is NOT analog. It doesn't even come close. If you are looking for a fat analog gritty warm sound, do not buy this.

It has major sync problems as well and tend to be very glitchy. Troubleshooting only goes so far with this thing.

I vote to stay away!

nielsd 31st January 2016 11:07 PM

Bread and butter sound synthesis
Between my Zoo of synths the TI is my bread and butter synth for poly and multi timbrale sounds. The sound is punchy and excellent. The Software editor is a bit small and non ergonomic for my taste, but very helpful. The huge library is the best i have seen until today.

The analog outputs sound a bit "thin" - i prefer USB Ort SPDIF.

There is no AAX available until today (access told me, that this is impossible because of the non-realtime bounce features of AAX). It would be nice to get any of the 16 channels out as audio channels over USB, but this would require a newer USB standard connector.

The sequencer is a bit "thin" and fiddely to work with - further tracks and the ability to save and copy tracks would be nice.

Anyhow, this synth makes fun and produces professional sounds. Will be further interested to see new features in later Firmware updates.

TheOmegaShadow 10th February 2016 12:06 PM

Access Virus TI 2 Desktop
I bought one of these to sit on top of my Virus KB, for more polyphony primarily and for the new OSC types and the COMB filter. The context is a studio synth, no gigging, only recording, sound design and sometimes multitimbral use.

Relative to the Virus B, it's much faster to program, there is still menu diving but the 3 data entry knobs under the screen make it much faster to alter the settings without dedicated controls.

There is considerable aliasing in the high-mid to high registers, but for basses and melodic lines which is making me consider a Nord Lead 4 for more of the bright sounds I would want to cover using a VA synth.

The virus excels in the oscillator and modulation capabilities department, you can craft a very wide palette of very usable sounds and the effects section can hide some of the aliasing using some of the mild distortions to give the bright tones a bit of sizzle and bite. but overall like you've probably read in other reviews, the classic oscillators are relatively dark compared with the likes of Nord Leads and anything analogue.

The effects are decent, and each channel/patch in a multitimbral setup has it's own dedicated effects, which is great. It uses more DSP but if you're multitracking you probably have better effects in your DAW and you can have some more polyphony as a tradeoff.

This device is great for multitimbral sequencing, it's easy to navigate between slots to change patches and alter sounds, I do not use the Total integration capabilities, but in my experience just testing it out, it worked fine. I was aware of the issues others have had with this before purchasing this unit so I decided not to bother with it, adopting the same workflow I use with all my other hardware synths. If the TI not working is a deal breaker I would test one on your rig first before deciding to purchase.

The filters are OK, the analogue style LP filter is better than the standard LP in lead sound situations but uses more DSP, the envelopes are OK, OK not being great but they are certainly not the worst, nothing beats the snap of real analogue but percussive sounds are possible and the envelopes can be modulated for a better snappier curve.

The Oscillators are great overall, the variety cannot be beat in my opinion, the wavetables and grain oscillators are worth it in my opinion but read the manual and play with it instore to decide for youreself, modulate them and experiment, my only gripe is there should be individual OSC volumes for all 4 oscillators instead of 1-2 balance and a buried OSC 3 volume parameter. But you can get around it with some creative modulations depending on the sound you're trying to get.

The TI can emulate some of the best vintage sounds like Minimoogs, Oberheim OB-x, and Prophets, convincingly for stage applications it's a no-brainer, the virus is a small box that's reliable and relatively cheap and easier to procure a replacement if any disaster occurs like theft/damage etc. but for some people there's no substitute for real analogue and I respect this but risks are real.

In the studio, if you can't afford the real analogue synths this will be a very versatile hardware unit, for those who do have tonnes of analogue beasts at their disposal, the TI would be a great songwriters synth to get basic ideas down, then determine the best analogue synth for the job and re-create the tone on it for overdubbing.

Overall I'm very happy with the unit, it's extended palette and ease of programming is very inviting and I can spend alot of time creating good usable sounds and it does NOT feel like a waste of time, difficult or as RSI inducing as the menu diving on the Virus B. My Virus B is now used for classic sounds, mostly bass tones, and the Virus TI for melodic and mead tones but the TI is capable of all the Virus B tones, you can do a midi DUMP directly from the old virus units to the newer TI, I personally think the IT sounds tighter in the bottom end which is good and bad depending on the sound you're going for.