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Review: Tone2 Electra2 synthesizer plugin

Related: , , , , Posted in reviews on Oct 13, 2014 - comment 0 comments

Being a fan of the original ElectraX synthesizer, I was really looking forward to see how Tone2 would push forward with the successor, Electra2.

The award winning Electra2 is not only one of the most powerful synthesizers ever – it’s the complete synthesis solution! Explore the vast musical universe of multi-synthesis oscillators, analog modeled filters, chaotic fractals, samples, psychoacoustic processing, flexible modulation and an immense sonic range.

Tone2 Electra2
Electra2’s GUI is reminiscent of ElectraX, but with a more subdued color scheme.

On the surface Electra2 looks pretty much the same as ElectraX, so if you are familiar with ElectraX you’ll find all panels are in the exact same place. In fact, Electra2 is downward compatible so it completely replaces the previous version.

The update includes a new patch browser and over 700 additional patches, 16 new effects, a sample editor, physical modeling synthesis, 5 new filter types, enhanced sound quality, improved user interface and many more improvements.

On the whole the interface is just a little more refined, with a subdued color scheme that to me is easier on the eyes. Subtle coloring is used to indicate which layer is active and you get interactive feedback of modulations. If you are new to this synth, I think you will find the layout to be quite straightforward and easy to program.

One of the main features of this instrument is its layers. With 4 individual multi-timbral synths and a wide range of synthesis modes, Electra2 is great for creating complex sounds. Tone2 has made some improvements like “Multilayer edit”, which allows you to make changes to all layers in one go, which will speed up sound design considerably.

With the addition of physical modeling synthesis, Electra2 now has no less than 14 different synthesis models, including wavetable, PD & FM, subtractive, virtual analog, ultrasaw, and more.

Electra2’s new sample editor features a bunch of tools to make working with samples easier, including autotune and auto loop. I found it a bit surprising to see that Electra2 still only supports mono .wav samples, with up to 10 seconds in length at 44kHz. Stereo samples will be summed to create a mono sample.

Each layer in Electra2 has up to 2 filters with a wide range of filter types and a drive parameter to add pre-filter harmonics to the audio. One insert effect can be assigned from a 30 types, including delay, reverb, chorus, compressor, etc. Furthermore, we have 3 LFO’s and a step LFO, a 10-slot modulation matrix, arpeggiator, 4 envelopes (amp, filter & two free), and a master FX slot.

Electra2’s versatility shows when browsing the astounding amount of factory presets — well over 1,200 in total.

Check the demo track below to hear some of the sounds of Electra2.

So what do I think?

Product: Electra2 by Tone2
Format: VST/AU
Price: $189 USD
Like: Ease of use, multi-layer, versatile
Don’t like: no support for stereo samples
Verdict: 9/10

This new version includes a good amount of new features and improvements. Some can really speed up your workflow, others are under the hood. For instance, Tone2 made an effort to improve its Psychoacoustic processing, resulting in a more transparent sound. I have to admit I haven’t done any extensive A/B testing but Electra2 sounds great to my ears (as does ElectraX). The CPU usage is also quite low, even when using multiple layers.

Electra2 remains a formidable, easy to use synthesizer for both the beginner and the advanced user. With its 4 layers and more than a dozen synthesis methods, this plug-in is a proper workhorse instrument that excels in versatility.

Tone2 is offering a free trial version of Electra2, so check it out and see how you like it.

More information: Tone2 / Electra2

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Review: ModeAudio Hover drones & textures

ModeAudio Hover

With the Hover sample library, ModeAudio takes on the world of drones and textures.

Packed full of strange, floating tones, waves of noise, rasping, metallic textures, deep bass and circuit-bent synths, this release brings you 100 carefully prepared atmospheres to pour seamlessly over your mixes.

All the sounds move to their own internal rhythm, dancing and metamorphosing into exciting, unusual sonic forms.

The samples are categorized in 6 folders:

  • Ambiances (30)
  • Bass Drones (20)
  • Guitar Drones (10)
  • Metallic Drones & Textures (10)
  • Noise Drones & Textures (15)
  • Synth Drones (15)

The ambiance themes come with 3 samples each that can be layered. So you have something like a main bass or synth drone sound that you can layer with a texture, soundscape, some noise fx, etc. Other folders simply have a collection of individual 20 to 58 second recordings.

All files have descriptive titles including an indication of the type of sound, where applicable (noise, texture, bass, scape, etc).

The audio clip below demonstrates some of the sounds included in this pack.

So what do I think?

Product: Hover by ModeAudio
Format: Wav (44.1kHz/24 bit)
Price: £15 GBP
Like: Nice variety of sounds, well designed
Don’t like: some samples could be longer
Verdict: 8/10

Dark brooding bass, evocative melodic guitar scapes, sputtering noises, otherworldly synths, rhythmic crackles, reverb drenched goodness…

ModeAudio has recorded a nice variety of sounds using a diverse collection of sound sources. These drones and textures are on the more creative end of the genre, with lots of movement and dynamics. I personally like this a lot, but for some of the samples I really wish they were longer to allow a more elaborate development of the sound.

In short, the Hover pack includes a lovely bunch of well designed, quality samples that are great for cinematic/underscore works, game soundtracks, ambient music, and more.

More information: ModeAudio / Hover

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Review: Diva Ex Machina soundset by The Unfinished

Matt Bowdler is one of my favorite sound designers. As The Unfinished, Matt has established himself in the genre of film scoring with many top quality sounds for synths like Zebra, Omnisphere, Massive, Virus TI, and more.

I’m always excited to see a new title, and especially when it’s for one of my favorite plug-ins, like u-he’s Diva virtual analog synthesizer.

The Unfinished Diva Ex Machina

The Ex Machina soundset features a full bank of 128 sounds for Diva. The focus is on analogue type electronic sounds, suitable for film scoring and electronica.

Ex Machina is something of a special synth soundset as it includes all the patches I designed for the composer Nathan Furst to use in his score for Need For Speed. I have to thank Nathan and DreamWorks for very kindly giving me permission to share the sounds I designed for Nathan. Also in this soundset are a number of other sounds inspired by the work I was doing for Nathan.

The collection features a plethora of warm, punchy basses; ethereal, drifting pads; gentle, old skool sequences; deep, dynamic basslines; classic, spacey leads; and sinister, evocative soundscapes. All programmed with a little musical, kinetic energy in the modwheel, as you would expect.

As with many of Matt’s other soundsets, there’s a lovely walkthrough video showcasing the sounds in Diva Ex Machina. Check it out below to get an idea of what’s included in this set.

So what do I think?

Product: Diva Ex Machina
Format: .h2p for u-he Diva
Price: £19.99 GBP
Like: Superb sound design, flexible sounds
Don’t like: —
Verdict: 9/10

Well, I can be fairly short here. Absolutely. Stunning. Sounds.

There is such a high level of quality in these sounds, and they are so full of character, I deeply enjoy playing each and every one of them.
That said, the leads and pads are definitely my favorites. Some of these mesmerizing sounds just keep me noodling. So inspirational.
Also, I should mention the soundscapes are amazing. Hold a note and sit back. I know we’ll be hearing some of these sounds on the screen.

Anyway, I said I was going to be short, so just get this pack, it’s simply brilliant.

There are some more audio demos on The Unfinished website and you can download a free demo pack with 15 presets for this set so you can check it out for yourself.

More information: The Unfinished / Ex Machina

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Review: Lacuna Sound Vol.1 Landing for Spire

Lacuna Sound Vol.1 Landing Soundset

The Vol.1 Landing Soundset by Lacuna Sound offers a collection of patches for the Spire synthesizer by Reveal Sound.

Vol.1 LANDING – 64 arps sequences and rhythmic presets
Suitable for EDM house trance progressive and electronica production

The Landing soundset focuses on rhythmic sounds. The patches make use of Spire’s arpeggiator and step sequencers, to provide melodic sequences and for modulating various parameters to create moving sounds.

Here’s a quick run through the patches. One note was pressed for each preset.

So what do I think?

Product: Vol.1 Landing Soundset
Format: Reveal Sound Spire soundbank
Price: $16 USD
Like: Nice movement in sounds
Don’t like: Sounds are a bit fx heavy
Verdict: 7/10

Vol.1 Landing is a bit of a hit and miss for me. I like quite a lot of the patches, but I’m actually not so crazy about arp/seq type sounds. So what I usually do is turn off the arp and see what’s left. In this case I did not find many sounds that stood out, and they are quite fx heavy.

Perhaps Lacuna Sound has rushed into the sequencing and animating aspect of the patches, where more attention could have been given to the base sound design. That said, the soundset does deliver some tasty sequences and the movement in the sounds is nicely done. If you like using arp sounds then this pack has plenty to offer.

A free demo pack with 8 patches is available to download, so check it out and see what you think.

More information: Lacuna Sound

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Review: Bronto Scorpio Dimensions soundset for Diva

Bronto Scorpio Dimensions

Dennis of Bronto Scorpio Music has recently released Dimensions, a soundset for the Diva virtual analog synthesizer instrument by u-he.

The goal was to take the limited structure of Diva and get the most out of it using various little tricks.

The result is 64 new patches, which range from classic synth to more modern, futuristic and even somewhat experimental sounds.

Here’s a breakdown of the patches:

  • 9 Arps
  • 9 Bass
  • 8 Chords
  • 6 Drums
  • 7 FX
  • 10 Pads
  • 5 Plucks
  • 10 Synth

The patches make good use of modwheel, aftertouch, pitchbend, etc. so those who play the keyboard well will benefit from a good dynamic range.

I had a short run through the patches, so check the video below to get an idea of what you can expect from Dimensions.

So what do I think?

Product: Dimensions by Bronto Scorpio
Format: Patches for u-he DIVA
Price: 10 EUR
Like: Fantastic chords & pads, very dynamic, great value for money
Don’t like: —
Verdict: 9/10

Dennis managed to bundle quite a lovely set of patches into this bank. Within these 64 patches there is a good amount of variety, and every single sound is very well designed. It seems that synths like Diva tend to bring out the best in sound designers.

While all patches are really good, the chords and pads are my favorites. There are some absolute gems in there, good for instant inspiration.

At just 10 euros I think Dimensions is a no-brainer. You can hardly go wrong, but if you’re still not sure if this set is for you, make sure to check out the 10 free demo patches available from the Bronto Scorpio website.

More information: Bronto Scorpio Music / Dimensions

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