Arturia V Collection 6 by Sound-Guy
Arturia V Collection 6 - KEYBOARD LEGENDS REDISCOVERED
If you haven’t already seen/heard the classic synths in the Arturia collection, take a look/listen at their web site. There are some truly excellent instruments available.
Arturia have updated their V Collection with four added synths which brings the total number of instruments to twenty-one (or more by my count - see below). The new synths are the Buchla Easel V, the DX7 V, The CMI V and the Clavinet V. Each is $199 if purchased separately, but if you purchase the full Collection 6 for $499, you get these four instruments plus 17 other classics, and Analog Lab 3.
If you are on a budget and want a huge set of sounds selected from the full collection, you can get Analog Lab 3 as a separate program, with almost 7,000 presets from all 21 instruments. This is included in the full V Collection, but at $149 by itself, delivers a lot of sounds and flexibility for the money. And Analog Lab 3 is actually more than a sample of the full collection. More on this below.
How Do They Do It?
Arturia has used circuit modeling and physical modeling to create reproductions of classic synthesizers, organs and pianos. This is a very different approach from using sampled sounds as some others do, and when done right yields an instrument with the full adjustability of the original and the possibility of sounds not attainable on the original. For electronic instruments, circuit modeling done right can yield exactly the same sound as the original instrument. Sampled instruments, on the other hand, require some tricky cross-fading and other morphing tricks to make sounds that are not static, and they require large sound files. For a synthesizer in particular, the sampling approach limits the possible sounds since no one can sample every combination of parameters a synthesizer can use.
A circuit modeled synthesizer, on the other hand, enables the user to adjust any control of the original instrument, which means dozens to hundreds of dials and switches (and maybe a patch panel with dozens of cables!). Arturia have even gone a step further than just matching the original controls by providing expanded parameters, additional voices, and other enhancements. The result is that each Arturia instrument can do pretty much everything the original did, and more.
In addition to a dozen classic synths, Arturia have modeled a dozen acoustic pianos, three organs, three electric pianos, and a string machine. It’s a vast collection. And yet the full collection is less than 5 GB. A set of sampled sound files covering this many instruments would likely be twenty to thirty times that size and still not have the full range of possible sounds.
The Simple Approach
If you want to take the easy and economical route with the ability to tweak some (but not all) parameters of the original instruments, Analog Lab 3 will get you going quickly. It has examples from all the instruments of the full collection, and access to a subset of their parameters (a maximum of 20 for each instrument). Just quickly auditing the presets would take days. In fact, as of the latest release (6.1) there are 6,691 presets! Listening to just one minute of each would take over a hundred hours, two weeks if you put in 8 hours a day.
Analog Lab 3 includes an excellent search tool that enables filtering by synthesizer model, instrument type (bass, lead, pad, etc.), sound style, etc. You can quickly find an "aggressive acid lead” for example, or a “mellow ambient pad”. You can modify any of the presets and save them as user presets, even set up playlists to access a number of sounds quickly for live performances. This version will keep you discovering and developing sounds for many weeks, months, maybe even years.
Analog Lab 3 by itself does not provide access to all the settings of each instrument, but you can access all the controls of a particular model within ‘Lab’ if that model is installed on your system.
What to Get?
If you want only an emulation of, say, a Moog Modular, there is the option to buy just one instrument ($149 for the Moog Modular). Each instrument can be used in standalone mode, or as a plug-in for your DAW (VST, AU or AAX ). If you also have Analog Lab 3, it can link to any instrument installed on your system, enabling you to adjust all the parameters of that instrument and save a new preset that will show up in both Analog Lab and in the individual instrument’s User Preset list! Very useful! And you can change any of the Analog Lab’s twenty controls to control any parameter for a synth model you have installed. You could then control the parameters you set up, in real-time while playing, and use a playlist to quickly switch patches and/or instruments.
The Full Package
The other extreme from purchasing only a single instrument or Analog Lab 3 is to get the full collection. The complete set includes the Analog Lab and ‘twenty one’ separate instruments, although you’ll see only twenty instruments listed in the main list! Turns out there are actually two different Prophets, Prophet 5 and the Prophet VS, included in the Prophet V folder, bringing the total to twenty one, but there is also a third Prophet ‘model’, which is a hybrid of the VS and model 5 which can produce sounds no real Prophet could! So, twenty two instruments? But wait, there are also two different VOX Continental models provided. Twenty three instruments? Oh, there are also two different Stage 73 electric pianos. So maybe 24 instruments? And there are a dozen different acoustic pianos. So claiming only twenty-one instruments is a bit conservative!
How Do They Sound?
I listened to sounds from every model in the full collection and found the presets to be excellent. One of the new instruments in V Collection 6 is the Fairlight CMI, a legendary and groundbreaking instrument I dreamed of back when I was first getting into electronic music. But at $30,000, it was only a pipe dream! With this collection you can have the sounds of a CMI, as well as a whole studio of "classic keyboards", for a lot less, and taking up a lot less space!
When you load any of the separate instruments into a DAW or standalone mode, it takes from about 10 to 30 seconds depending on the complexity of the instrument, and your computer. Oddly, the Analog Lab will pull up any instrument in less than a second, likely because it has only a small subset of the controls available. For example, the Moog Modular standalone version takes about half a minute to load and be ready to play on my PC. The Analog Lab can pull up one of its Moog Modular presets, or any of your Moog Modular presets, in under a second.
The presets available with this collection are invaluable since trying to program a Moog Modular or Fairlight CMI from scratch is a major challenge. In addition to the presets, there are pdf manuals for each instrument, and they cover the instrument’s history as well as providing details of operation. Between the presets and the pdf manuals, you should be able to gain a good understanding of how to program each of these great classic instruments in reasonable time.
Speaking of the Fairlight CMI, it was the first major sampling instrument that was also a synthesizer and digital audio workstation (CMI means Computer Musical Instrument). As a sampler, it could record any sound and then manipulate it in many ways, although the original CMI Series II, on which the Arturia version is based, used only 8 bit audio at a 32 kHz sample rate! Arturia expands its capabilities with 16 bit sound at your DAW’s sample rate, longer sample times, an extra additive synthesis engine and additional modulation options.
CMI V Complete with Floppy Drive!
The Other New Faces
The new DX7 V also expands on what a real DX7 could do, while making its FM sound generation control more user friendly. The DX7 V adds more waveforms (25 per operator, rather than just a sine wave) and each operator can have its own multi-mode filter and feedback loop. There is even more, including three envelope types, an arpeggiator and a sequencer, two modulation envelopes, and 32-voice polyphony. This DX7 goes far beyond the original, itself an instrument that made some wonderful sounds and was used on many famous albums, and still holds the honor of being the biggest selling synthesizer of all time.
DX7 V with expanded user interface
The Buchla Easel is not as well known as the DX7, but the Buchla company was as famous as Moog back in the 70’s and is still in operation today, now making modular synth units, as well as a new hardware Easel. Don Buchla was a contemporary of Robert Moog and developed some unique sound generation and control interfaces. He didn’t like using a piano keyboard to control sounds, and his synths attracted the more avant-garde musicians. The Easel was originally released in 1972, and from the Easel V you can understand its appeal to the more radical side of sound! It is capable of subtractive, AM, and FM synthesis, and includes a virtual patch cable system to provide a surprising range of sounds. Its keyboard does trigger sounds, but often surprising and quirky acoustical effects, and not in a traditional keyboard scale! As an aside, the Buchla site has the original Easel manual available as a pdf, and it follows the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury ‘hippie’ style of this synth!
The visually unique Easel with it colorful keyboard
The Clavinet V brings back the unique electric piano sound of the 70’s. The Arturia emulation includes five stomp boxes and a Fender Twin amp, so the plinky sound of the keyboard can be modified in many ways. In fact, there is both an auto-wah stomp box or, as shown below, a wah pedal that can be controlled with a MIDI expression pedal. Even beyond those sound effects, there are Arturia Advanced Settings, as with all the V Collection instruments, in this case with string resonance, release time, key release noise, dynamics, hammer hardness, hammer noise level, pickup noise and overall tuning. A very adjustable and playable instrument.
The Clavinet V with the Advanced Controls shown
The Rest of the Pack
Likewise, the other instruments provide excellent sounds, and their pdf manuals provide an education in the history and use of each one. It’s like a short course in the development of keyboards, with instruments you can actually program and play. The pianos included in the collection are physically modeled, with the usual suspects for grand pianos (American, German and Japanese), some uprights, along with some oddities like a plucked grand piano, a glass piano and an aluminum piano! They sound fine and are responsive to playing dynamics, and while maybe not the most exciting instruments in the collection, have some extra tricks in their repertoire, such as adjustable hammer-strike noise, adjustable key-off noise, adjustable lid position, adjustable soundboard resonance, even changes of hammer hardness and position of the hammer striking the strings!
The older classic analog synths like the ARP 2600, the Moog Mini and Modular, and the rare Yamaha CS-80 are each excellent both in their realistic graphical views, and their sound capability. The Moog Modular is the giant of the synths, with not only hundreds of controls, but a full patch bay where you can run all kinds of output signals to inputs. Not as easy to program as many modern synths, but what wonderful sounds it can make!
The Moog Monster Modular complete with patch cords
One instrument that really impressed me is the Hammond B3. Not only are the graphics beautiful, but all the controls from keyboards to drawbars to the Leslie are very responsive. You can move drawbars while playing, and can adjust the Leslie controls and switch between slow, fast and braked Leslie with realistic results. And there is more. Advanced settings allow you to control ‘leakage’ between tonewheels and between drawbars, adjust the overall background noise (the tonewheels on a classic B3 were driven by motors!), set the key-click level, and even go beyond a real B3 with other tone modulations like dynamic variation of the drawbars. In addition to the Leslie effects, there are five stomp boxes, a delay, phaser, chorus, flanger, and overdrive. And there is a 32 step sequencer, not something found on any real B3.
The B3 V includes bass pedal drawbars, along with the upper and lower keyboard drawbars. The keyboards can be controlled by different MIDI channels (I used channel 1 for the upper keyboard, 2 for the lower, and channel 3 for the bass pedals.). One odd issue is the the current B3 V manual does not show the bass pedal drawbars (apparently the first B3 V release did not have them), but you’ll find them on the instrument itself, between the upper and lower keyboard drawbars, just like the original. The graphics of the B3 V do not show the bass pedals since there is no room in the image with the Leslie and five stomp boxes, but it is fully playable and covers two octaves, like the real thing.
The Arturia VOX Continental V has a bass pedal board that can be shown or hidden, and like the B3 V, the bass pedal can be played using channel 3. The VOX comes in two layouts, one with expanded drawbars, as mentioned earlier, and there is also a choice of two VOX engines (original and the later J70). There are a few other settings in the Advanced mode, background noise, key contact age effects, tremolo and vibrato settings, and micro-tuning of each note in the musical scale! The VOX also has a single stomp box that can be selected from six types. It may not be a B3, but it can make some fine, expressive sounds!
The VOX Continental and the Wurli organ include the ability to use an amp/cabinet or a Leslie rotating speaker effect on the output, while the Clavinet, Farfisa and Stage 73 keyboards have an amp/cabinet output. All of these output ‘cabinets’ can be bypassed for a direct output so that you can use other amp FX plug-ins in your DAW. While the Leslie effect is not the most realistic I’ve heard, it’s very usable, and the cabinets provide a good range of tones.
In addition to the B3 and VOX having ‘stomp boxes’ available, three other standalone instruments also include them: the Farfisa, the Stage 73, and Wurli. So there is great flexibility in sound modification even in the standalone mode, and of course you can always add any additional FX you have in the DAW mode.
Every instrument has Advanced settings available either by clicking a down-arrow in the upper right, or in some cases clicking the edge of a panel or a dedicated access button. The hidden panels show additional parameters, some that the original instrument had, but also Arturia additions that vastly expand sonic capabilities. There isn’t room here to describe all these enhancements, but they enable you to take every instrument off in ways never conceived of in their heyday.
And, like the Analog Lab, each instrument has an excellent search tool that enables filtering presets by various criteria, and the ability to save any changes you create to a new preset. And each instrument also has a Playlist function allowing you to set up multiple presets for quick access, just like the Analog Lab, except in this case all the presets are within one instrument.
And instrument windows, as well as the ‘Lab’ window can be sized from 60% to 200% of the ‘normal’ size (normal is just under 1200 x 1600 pixels) to fit a range of screen sizes and resolutions.
And Yet More
Every instrument has a MIDI learning mode to set up control using a MIDI controller for almost every parameter of the instrument, including advanced controls behind the hidden panels. The B3 for example can have its drawbars, vibrato, volume controls, all the Leslie controls and stomp box settings MIDI controlled, as well as the advanced settings like key click volume and tonewheel leakage.
At the lower end of MIDI control, pianos have about the fewest settings, but even with these you can control the advanced features like hammer-strike noise, and pedal action using MIDI controllers! At the other extreme, the Moog Modular has over 200 MIDI controllable knobs and switches. More than my keyboard controller can handle at once! But using a DAW, you can program automation for any knob or switch you wish.
While on MIDI control, because Arturia have used circuit and physical modeling, changes made to any synth or piano/organ parameter while playing will result in a smooth transition in the sound. A sampled synth can use some modifiers during play, but not provide such extensive control of timbres.
In short, an amazing collection of instruments with excellent flexibility and wonderful analog (and digital!) sounds. It would take volumes of writing, not to mention months of my time to fully describe all that is available in this collection, so you should look back at Gearslutz reviews of V Collection 5 and earlier for more details. Note that some issues described in reviews of previous versions have been fixed. I found no significant problems, only one rare stability issue on only the Modular V described below, and find it hard to think of what more I could want in the current set of instruments.
If you already have an earlier version, or a few of the V Collection instruments, you should look into the CMI V and D7 V at the very least. If you are into avant-garde, far-out, crazy sounds, the Buchla Easel V should be checked out. And if you can play keyboards like Stevie Wonder, the Clavinet V should be on your list. If for some reason you haven’t tried any of these classic keyboard simulations, you are missing a good bet.
Being able to hear classic electronic instruments as they sounded new, and as they can sound with added modulations and effects, means months, even years, of discovery. If you are interested in the history of analog and digital synthesizers, and how they are programmed, the manuals alone are very informative. And the emulations of these classics are all very playable, so when you have spent enough time viewing the history and hearing some of the sonic possibilities, you can make some great music with them. Highly recommended.
A vast collection of classic analog and digital synths, along with electric and acoustic pianos, and some organs thrown in. A truly great accomplishment.
Excellent sounds, extreme range of timbres, and rather accurate graphic representations of the originals.
Each instrument can be scaled from 60 to 200 percent of normal size with full resolution to best fit different screens.
Very informative manuals with history and operating information for each model.
Great presets, 6,691 of them in the full collection, plenty to help the user get started with useful timbres.
On April 26, 2018, an update to 6.1 added over 100 presets (from 6,554 to 6,691 total), and also added Native Instruments Kontrol capability and improved browser design.
This collection is huge and the instruments each have a unique set of parameters that can require many hours or days to fully understand. You may note that I gave "Ease of Use" 5 stars because to my thinking, these are easier to program than the originals, though some people will disagree! Learning new techniques is a good part of such a collection, and the opportunity to learn to program a real Fairlight CMI or a Moog Modular is rare!
Can soak up a lot of your time! Writing this report took much longer than I’d planned because every time I went into the studio to check some detail, I ended up playing with sounds for an hour!
I did observe a couple of audio 'hangs' which I saw only with the Modular V and only when I was playing keys, while at the same time switching presets (not a really useful thing to do). It caused the instrument to be silent even though the graphics showed keys being played. It occurred only twice in hours of use, and I have not been able to repeat it. This was reported to Arturia, who had not observed it in their testing, so it was likely related to my specific hardware/software configuration.
Another minor inconsistency is with toggle switches. On some instruments they switch by clicking one side or the other of the image, while others require dragging the cursor, starting on the tip of the switch. Once you figure this out, no problem, and they work fine under MIDI control.
All in all, an excellent collection. See the Arturia site for details: Arturia - Details