Arturia V Collection 7 by Sound-Guy
Arturia V Collection 7 - More Keyboard Legends!
It’s been over a year since the Arturia V Collection 6 was announced, and they are back with new instruments and a new expanded version of the Analog Lab. As with the last release, there are four new instruments, although one is actually an update of a previous instrument, answering requests from users for the bass pedal board view on the B3, and adding additional features.
Actually, the previous B3 V had pedal drawbars and played the pedal notes fine in Multi Mode using an appropriate MIDI channel - you just didn’t see the pedals in the instrument view. This was because the FX pedals images and the ”Leslie” cabinet were in the way. They’ve solved that (something that didn’t bother me in the least) by removing the foreground equipment and making the B3 pedals visible, and when you wish you can view and adjust the stomp boxes in a separate FX window. And the “B3” sound "engine" has been furter improved and now includes seven tonewheel organ models: 1960 A100, 1961 B3, 1962 C3, 1963 B3, 1964 A100, 1968 C3 and 1969 C3, along with five rotary speaker models, four stomp box FX slots (with twelve FX types), and a room convolution reverb.
As before there is a drawbar modulation system that can add depth to sounds by automatically “moving” any and all drawbars, and there is still the full set of editing controls for things like tonewheel leakage, key click volume, and motor noise. If you can’t get a tone-wheel organ sound you want from this organ set, you’re doing something wrong! Starting with one of the presets (48 are provided) should be informative, and of course you can modify a preset or make your own from scratch. Like every instrument in the V Collection there is an excellent search tool and filter system that helps quickly find a sound type appropriate for a given musical style. And the sound? Wonderful! Definitely will be my go-to jazz organ.
New Kids on the Block
The three other instruments are new emulations of two classic synths, the EMS Synthi series (Synthi V) and Casio CZ series (CZ V), and an electro-mechanical tape replay keyboard, the Mellotron V.
The EMS Synthi (VCS 3) was a pure analog semi-modular portable synth (VCS means Voltage Controlled Studio) that came in several versions including a portable unit in a briefcase. First released in England in 1969, it was much smaller than the Moog and Buchla synths from America, making it a truly portable instrument. The different modules were connected using pins placed in a matrix at intersections of sources and inputs, a clever design that eliminated the wired patch cords used in synths such as the Moog Modular - although the wonderful Moog Modular V in the Arturia V Collection includes “magic” patch cords that disappear when you move a cursor over them so you can clearly see other inputs, outputs and controls.
The Synthi V is a fine digital recreation of the Synthi AKS, introduced in 1972 that included a simple sequencer, and has features beyond the real unit, including polyphony up to four voices (original was monophonic), and an Advanced panel with multistage-multifunction envelopes, a step sequencer, joystick parameter controls, a 4x7 modulation matrix, and three FX slots with ten FX types. And there is the Arturia Search and Filter tools to help find sound types and musical styles.
As always, Arturia provide presets (296 in this case) to help get you started since programming even a simple analog synth like this requires some thought. You can put pins in randomly and will only occasionally get a sound out! The manual clearly describes how the Synthi functions, and how the sources, like oscillators and treatments, and inputs like envelopes and filters, interact. A truly fun and surprisingly flexible synthesizer. I already had two emulations of this synth, but as usual, Arturia have surpassed the others by a long way.
Another Japanese Classic
The CZ V is an emulation of the Casio CZ phase-distortion digital synthesis design. My first keyboard synth was a Casio CZ 5000, the flagship of Casio in the mid-80’s, with sixteen voices (only eight if you used two oscillators per voice) and a built-in 8 track sequencer. I was sorry to sell mine. Actually, my first one was destroyed when the studio building was struck by lighting. That event smoked a lot of gear (mixers, amps, keyboards, monitors, etc) and I sent it to a Casio service center, who pronounced it “totally dead”. I found a clean used one that I ended up using for years, then sold it when I bought two Casio VZ8M modular units with enhanced phase-distortion sound generation. By that time I was fully computerized for sequencing and no longer needed the limited 8-track recorder in the CZ 5000. However, my VZ8M’s just may be up for sale soon - the Arturia emulation sounds very much the same with similar settings and is much easier to program than using the buttons and menus with a small display on the VZ8M’s.
As always, Arturia have added features such as two 8x8 modulation matrices with “24” sources and over 40 destinations. I put “24” in quotes because four of these are “macros” and three are “combinates”, a special macro that combines two sources in a mathematical way (added, subtracted, multiplied or divided) or as a cross-fade. Truly astounding modulation possibilities!
And rather than only 8 voices with two lines (oscillators) per voice (each “line” is made up of two different waveforms) , you can have anything from monophonic to 32 voices at a time. Add flexible envelope control (up to 16 stages) and four FX slots that can be split between the two lines, and there are enough possible sounds to keep you experimenting for weeks, months or more. And to get you started there are 453 presets provided along with the Arturia Search and Filter tools. And the sounds are truly wonderful.
The Mellotron was one astounding machine when it was introduced in 1963, a year before Bob Moog introduced the Moog modular synth, and 16 years before digital synths were available. And the Mellotron V is even better than a real one!
The original Mellotron used a series of tape strips (not loops as some people have erroneously stated) that were mechanically moved over a set of playback heads by the direct pressure of a roller activated by the key that was pressed! Quite an astounding design that worked better than one might expect, at least when they were new and properly adjusted. As with the other new instruments of the V Collection 7, I already had a couple emulations, but both are very limited, though they sound close to the real thing.
The Arturia Mellotron V takes it to a new level with both realistic limitations of the original (8 second maximum sample length) if you wish, and the ability to loop samples, even forward-backward looping, and play up to three samples concurrently and cross-fade between samples (the original could play only one of the three samples on each tape strip at a time). Add to this 65 "original" factory samples with 66 presets (each preset uses up to three samples), the Search and Filter feature, and you’ve got a lot of sounds organized well. But it gets even better - you can add your own sounds simply by making short audio files (8 seconds maximum) and the resulting possibilities are endless. Of course, since this is software, Arturia could have raised the 8 second limit, but there are lots of samplers that can use any length sound file, and this is a Mellotron! The 8 second limit is part of its sound, and part of the technique required to play it. It never stopped the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Tangerine Dream, the Bee Gees, or David Bowie from using a Mellotron. And, as I just mentioned, you can loop the samples if you want a longer sustained sound, which could not be done back in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Mellotron V includes four FX slots with twelve FX types available, an “amp/rotating speaker” slot and a room convolution reverb. You can also adjust the “tape” flutter and saturation, mechanical noise, and the noise floor, again something a real Mellotron can’t do, and these issues were both part of its “sound” and often a source of frustration for users! And a real Mellotron played notes as they were recorded with no velocity control - the Mellotron V not only provides volume control with key velocity, but can also vary the flutter level using channel aftertouch!
Then there is the new Analog Lab 4. If you are on a budget and want a huge set of sounds selected from the full collection, you can get Analog Lab 4 as a separate program (see Arturia site for pricing since they often discount for owners of other Arturia gear). The beta version I tested had 7,591 presets! The final release has even more - 8,486 presets! There are samples from all the V Collection instruments, plus samples from Arturia’s Pigments synthesizer. Pigments is not included in the V Collection since it is not a classic keyboard (Arturia Pigments), but if you have it, you can access it from Analog Lab 4, and if you don’t have Pigments, you can hear samples of its sounds. The Analog Lab is included in the full V Collection, but the standalone version delivers a lot of sounds and flexibility for the money. And as I pointed out last year, Analog Lab is actually more than a sample of the full collection since it can link to any individual instrument you have (all of them if you have the full collection) for full control of any parameter.
If you have only the Analog Lab, you’ll have access to a subset of the instrument parameters (a maximum of 19 controls plus volume, pitch-bend and modulation), still a good set of controls. And if you have any of the Arturia hardware keyboard controllers attached, Analog Lab will automatically present the controller view for your model, and the virtual knobs and sliders will respond directly to any adjustments you make on your hardware. Makes it very easy to use any of the supported sounds with a live keyboard.
Analog Lab 4, like every instrument in the V Collection, 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.
Not Sample Players
Other than the Mellotron, which was the original sample player, these instruments to do not use audio samples. Arturia has used circuit modeling and physical modeling to create reproductions of classic synthesizers, organs and pianos. This yields instruments with the full adjustability of the original and with Arturia’s added FX, expanded parameters and modulation features, brings the possibility of sounds not attainable on the original. And, as always, almost every parameter of every instrument can be assigned to a MIDI CC controller. I have been extremely impressed with Arturia’s approach and sonic results for years, and the new instruments of version 7 add even more possibilities.
What to Get?
It’s up to you! If you want only an emulation of, say, the Mellotron, there is the option to buy just one instrument. The Arturia site can show you the price, depending on what what you want and what Arturia products you already own. Each instrument can be used in standalone mode, or as a plug-in for your DAW (VST, AU or AAX - 64 bit only - note if you have 32 bit plug-ins of any earlier V Collection instruments, these can still be used). The other extreme from purchasing only a single instrument or Analog Lab 4 is to get the full collection. The complete set includes Analog Lab 4 and all the separate instruments, and is 399$/€ (intro offer) for new users, 299$/€ for Arturia gear owners, and 199$/€ upgrade for Arturia V Collection 6 owners. If you don't have the V Collection already and are not on a very tight budget, the full package is extremely reasonable at about 15$/€ per instrument. If you are on a tight budget, the Analog Lab provides a lot of sounds and flexibility for the money. For more on the V Collection instruments carried over from V Collection 6 and earlier, see the Arturia site and last years review ( Arturia V Collection 6 ).
I tested beta versions of these emulations using a PC Audio Labs Rok Box with Intel Core i7-4770K CPU @ 3.5 GHz, 16 MB RAM running Windows 7 64 bit. CPU usage varied from model to model, from approximately 0.6% at idle to 1.3% running multiple notes (CZ V), 0.7% at idle to 2.1% with multiple notes (B3 V2 and Mellotron), up to 1% at idle and 6.5% running the Synthi V. Latency was 48 samples for all instruments. The full V Collection 7 requires about 16 GB of drive space.
Once again Arturia have added excellent new instruments to their amazing collection of classic keyboards with excellent flexibility and wonderful analog (and digital!) sounds. 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. And if you are interested in the history of analog and digital synthesizers, and how they are programmed, the manuals are very informative. These classics emulations 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. A truly monumental accomplishment. Highly recommended.
A vast collection of classic analog and digital synths, along with electric and acoustic pianos, the Mellotron, and some excellent organs thrown in.
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, UHD and Retina compatible.
MIDI control of almost every parameter is possible which, combined with seamless, glitchless operation when parameters are changed, enables an even greater range of sounds beyond the already vast range available the each instrument’s advanced modulation and FX features.
Very informative manuals with history and operating information for each model.
Great presets, 8,486 of them in the full collection and in the Analog Lab, plenty to help the user get started with useful timbres.
This collection is huge and the instruments each have a unique set of parameters that can require many hours or days to fully understand. However, learning new techniques is a good part of such a collection, and the opportunity to learn to program a real Fairlight CMI, a Moog Modular, or an EMS Synthi is very rare! In fact this “con” could be considered a “pro”! I am certainly not complaining!