Featured Lethal Audio Lethal by Tommy Zai
Lethal by Lethal Audio is a cutting-edge ROMpler synthesizer with exceptional sound quality and an expansive core library. It’s designed to be a go-to workhorse that delivers right out-of-the-box, and it does not disappoint!
• Purchase process requires filling out some basic info and creating an account
• Download and install involves two files — Lethal App (11+ MB) and the Core Library (5 GB). Depending upon your internet and processing speed, this might take up to a half an hour to complete
• Serial number can be found on the user account page of the website.
• During first launch users will be prompted to enter the authorization code. Note: An internet connection is required for activation (offline activation is not available).
• There are no dongles!
• I own a few major DAWs, and Lethal worked perfectly as a VST and/or AU in all of them. I am not able to test in ProTools.
After activation, the initial launch reveals a flat, modern, sexy GUI with just enough buttons and knobs to make it interesting without being scary. The color scheme of the skin is combination of dark shades with cool blue highlights. Initially, I wished it were more 3D, but the flatness grew on me. It’s clean and utilitarian in a sensual way.
Left Side: Amp, Filter, Pitch.
Right Side (core functions): Noise, Unison, Vibrato, Stereo Expander, Drive (saturator), Shine (aural exciter), Chord (octave), Polyphonic, Glide, Main Volume, Meter.
Bottom: Library (core and user), Arpeggiator, Trance Gate, FX (Bitcrusher, Chorus, Delay, Distortion, EQ, Phaser, Reverb), Source = Amp/Filter/Pitch destinations for modulation wheel and aftertouch, pitchbend/Shift/Tune/Polyphony, System (version, license, path, etc.).
WHAT IS A ROMPLER?
A rompler is an instrument plugin that is similar to a sampler player. It stores Read Only Memory audio samples as instrument patches — hence the term ROM-pler. It does not record audio (sample), and it has limited or no waveform synthesis capabilities. There have been several hardware synths/modules using rom-tech and software romplers released over the years. However, many units have fallen short of expectations with subpar sound quality, limited selection of instruments and patches, and the high cost of add-ons. A few of them were really good, but sadly most of them were terrible. I tossed more than one rom-based hardware unit in the trash, and recently ditched a software package because I couldn’t afford the expansions. Lethal is a rompler, and it’s damn proud to be one! It redefines and renews this type of synth by providing users with a vast collection of patches that sound stunning and expansions that are promised to be affordable!
One by one, I previewed the Core Library presets. They are automatically loaded by clicking or by navigating with the < or > arrows to migrate from one to the next. They are neatly arranged in basic categories (Bass, Guitar, Leads, Live Instruments, etc.). Almost all of the presets in each category sound amazing — somewhat reminiscent of Virus and my favorite soft synths. Of course, not every sound will suit everyone and every genre; still, there aren’t many duds in there. The library boasts a wide variety of tones, ranging from pristine textures to aggressive leads and all the stuff between. All electronic instruments and genres are represented, with synths and EDM being slightly favored. The overall timbre and frequency response leans towards a wide modern sound, and there is enough vintage flavor throughout to satisfy the retro palette. The patch banks are well-organized and easy to access with over 1200 instrument patches and even more drum and perc hits. Patches load quickly. I especially dig how the factory presets are simply named 001, 002, 003, etc. Many are slight variations of one another, which is fine since there are plenty of sounds overall. I also have a theory —by nature, many of us will choose patches based partially on the coolness of the name instead of the integrity of the sound, e.g., Sonic Bass Burst will have a better chance of getting playing time over Little Fella, even if Little Fella is better. For these reasons, I believe a large library better serves users with generic and sequential patch names.
Lethal does, however, provide a User Presets folder to uniquely name and save favorites!
Processing: Did you ever listen to a patch that sounds otherworldly, but when you bypass the FX the patch is lifeless and dead? Well, there are a few heavily processed offerings in this core library, and most of them hold their own dry. In general, the included effects serve as icing on the cake — high quality and tastefully sprinkled.
Favorite Patches (so far): Basses, Pads, Leads, Kicks.
There are romplers and sample players on the market that practically give their synth away and then suck the user dry with expensive add-ons. This is a new product, and there are no expansions available as I am writing this review, so I was curious about the price and policy. Lethal Audio is currently offering an early bird incentive. Registered users qualify to receive all expansions until June 30th, 2017 at no additional cost. Still, I wondered if this would become a money pit like some of the other rom-based synths. I wrote the developer and was extremely encouraged by their response. Although they could not commit to a price at this time, they assured me, “Expansions will be extremely low cost. Guaranteed.” This news is very refreshing and encouraging.
I WILL NEVER USE A ROMPLER
I’m a synth snob — a purist. Until now, the thought of me using a “rompler” was laughable. After all, I’ve owned and programmed nearly every hardware synth designed through the early 90s. In addition, I maintain a sweet collection of the best soft synths. I’m too cool and too experienced to use a rompler. It’s beneath me. Still, I accepted the challenge to demo and review this plugin, and I went into it with an open mind —determined to do my best. I quickly discovered the look is elegant; the design and workflow is intelligent; and the sound is sweet. I needed to be intellectually honest and ask myself some questions. How often do I program a synth patch from scratch? When was the last time I used a sampler for sampling? I concluded that nowadays I’d rather spend my valuable time laying down tracks instead of creating patches. I like to work fast, and it’s more efficient for me to flip through my sound bank collection to find the sound. I still love my soft synths and samplers, and I will never part with some of them. My favorites are well documented via my user reviews. However, how can I turn my nose up at a rompler when all I do is load huge sample libraries into Kontakt?
My conclusion is this — each piece of audio software is a tool, and whatever tool gets the job done is worthy of a place in the virtual toolbox. The morale of the story — Never say never! I plan to use and abuse this killer rompler!
In addition to all the rom-based conveniences and ultra high quality sound, Lethal provides users with powerful sound shaping features that are usually only found in generator-based synths. This is quite a unique feature set that makes Lethal a bit of a hybrid synth.
Amp: All the usual suspects and a couple bonuses: Envelope with attack, decay, sustain, release, velocity, and amplitude; LFO with sync/beat, wave (off, tri, sine, saw, square, exp) as well as rate, amount, position, and fadein; Curves (attack, decay, release)
Filter: Smooth and deeper than expected with a responsive envelope and LFO. I wish it was a little wetter, but it’s still very useful.
Pitch: Same controls as Filter (+Tune), but of course different results. Capable of sinister pitch effects.
Arpeggiator: Simple, yet effective for previewing purposes and basic sync’d rhythmic stuff. Won’t replace a powerful apr/seq plugin, but fine for getting ideas down.
Trance Gate: More comprehensive than Arp, featuring deeper settings. Includes some good presets, but wish there were more.
Up to six effects can be chained together via drop-n-drag. Chains may be saved. There is a bit-crusher (pleasingly destructive) chorus (smooth), delay (tempo locked), distortion, EQ, flanger, phaser, and reverb. It’s a nice option to have these effect built-in. There is a convenient master bypass button if/when needed. I will probably use a combination of on-board effects and 3rd party plugins. The effects are not amazing, but they are very useable.
FIVE FAVORITE FEATURES
• Lovely streamlined interface
• Extensive core library with tons of useable sounds
• Fantastic sound quality
• Affordably expandable
• Surprisingly stable for a first version
• 64/32 bit
• Priced right
• Enthusiastic, friendly developer — great customer service
• Stand-alone version
• Virtual keyboard or button for previewing patches
• Non-tempo-synced delay for creative freedom
• Resizable scalable GUI with easy reset
• Layering and morphing between patches
• Additional Trance Gate presets
• Improved reverb
• As expected, CPU efficiency is decent, even with multiple instances, but naturally there is some fluctuation from patch to patch. Adjusting the buffer can help. Please continue to optimize performance during updates
WHO IS THIS FOR?
Lethal is designed for eMusicians, producers, film and game scorers, DJs, and anyone else who creates music on a computer. It provides surprisingly rich control over patches (Amp, Filter, Pitch, Noise, Unison, etc.) and makes it easy to quickly select the perfect sound for tracks. If you desire a large assortment of top-shelf instruments, patches, and drum sounds that provide instant, yet everlasting satisfaction, Lethal is for you! If you’d rather focus on writing and producing songs — Lethal is for you! One online forum poster said it best when describing people who could be happy with Lethal: “Any serious working pro in the EDM scene, the average Nexus user, people who like to get to the point, and lazy people like me.”
WHO IS THIS NOT FOR?
Lethal is not designed for sound designers and synth wizards who love to program generator-based patches from the ground up. This is a rompler! There are many groovy synths on the market that use pure forms of synthesis, e.g., subtractive, additive, physical modeling, wavetable, etc. These options will better suit you. If creating advanced synthesis patches is your true passion — Lethal is not for you. Yet, synth gurus might be surprised by Lethal and secretly launch it while no one is looking. This synth is also not geared for real instruments. While it provides some useable live patches — if you want “real” - Lethal is not for you.
Lethal is a deadly beast that is fun to use and sounds awesome! It takes rom-based technology to a new level. It makes it easy for users to quickly access a diverse collection of amazing sounding instruments and patches without having to skip over a zillion fillers. Working fast and furious will keep your muse amused! If you are looking for a go-to synth with a powerful audio engine and an expandable library, look no further — your search is over! Will Lethal replace your beloved Sylenth1, Spire, LuSH, Diva, SynthMaster, Monique, ArcSyn, Arturia V-Collection, Synplant, M-Tron Pro, or your AAS modeled synth collection? Probably not! But you may find yourself using this rom-tastic bread-n-butter synth as your meat-n-potatoes and saving your favorite other synths for the spices. Check out the demo and keep your wallet close — you might need it! Overall, this is a fantastic maiden release, and I look forward to checking out future revisions and expansions. Without hesitation, I give Lethal my two mortal thumbs up. If I had a hat, I’d take it off in honor of Lethal Audio for restoring my faith in a rompler.
Note: If for some unforeseen reason, a user decides to give/sell his/her license to someone else, Lethal Audio has an excellent transfer policy — “simply deactivate the license from your system and send an email request to support with the new users name and email address.”