Mini-review: u-he ACE (Any Cable Everywhere)

Related: , , , , , , source: ACE Posted in reviews on Dec 18, 2009 review disclaimer - comment 18 comments

Before I start, let me just state that this is actually not a review (nor is it a mini-review).

I downloaded and installed u-he’s new ACE synthesizer some time ago and I finally got around to taking it for a spin today and I got so excited about it I just wanted to write down some first impressions.

ACE (Any Cable Everywhere) is a virtual modular synthesizer. If you are not familiar with modular synthesizers just take a quick look here.

u-he ACE (Any Cable Everywhere)
u-he ACE (Any Cable Everywhere)

The modules of ACE are pretty standard, including a set of the most things like oscs, envelopes, filters, lfos, etc.
You get 25 signal sources and over 30 signal targets, which is plenty to patch around but it might look a bit simple, compared to… something like this, this, or this.

So ACE isn’t trying to be some kind of ultimate modular synth, that’s clear. What it does seem to do is produce some of the fattest sound I’ve ever heard from a virtual synth plug-in.

I don’t know what Urs Heckmann did to get this amazing quality but it is absolutely stunning. Deep basses, thick pads, glitchy percussion, classic lead sounds… ACE does them all.

Note: ACE can be quite CPU hungry, especially on high quality settings. You *can* set change quality to draft, standard or good to save CPU but it does change the sound quality quite dramatically in some cases. Just compare preset “BT punchy chicago” in draft and accurate modes. It saves about a third of CPU usage on my machine, but you will really want to have the sound you hear at the accurate setting, trust me. Sounds amazing…

It’s not just the sound that is so compelling, the programming of the synth itself is lots of fun too. Dragging cables around is a very nice way to experiment and learn how (modular) synthesis works.

ACE also has a few tricks up its sleeve like self oscillating filters, a mapping generator which lets you create variable values for notes (can also be using as an LFO waveform), FM modulation/cross-modulation, some crazy circuit bending parameters, and more.

Anyway, to cut to the chase — so I can play with ACE some more, this synth is superb. I can’t remember the last time I got so excited about a synth plug-in (yes I do, it was Loomer’s Aspect).

So what do I think?

Product: ACE by u-he
Format: Instrument plug-in for PC (VST) and Mac (VST/AU/RTAS)
Price: 69 EUR

For me, ACE is one of the best virtual synthesizers released in 2009.

Head on over to u-he.com and go grab yourself the demo and give it a try, it is fully functional with only some vinyl crackling every now and then.

And let me know how you like it!

More information: u-he / ACE

D16 Group Sigmund
  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Enjoying ACE lots. I’m planning to spend some good amount of time digging a bit deeper in my Christmas holidays.

  • Jason

    ACE is fantastic. I consider myself one of the early adopters, as i snapped it up in the final beta, but with U-he synths how can that be a bad idea? U-he offers superb personal support and Urs Heckman is an extremely kind responsive individual. I haven’t had this much fun with a software modular since Arturia’s collection. The interface is super-clean and intuitive. The manual is clear concise and offers hidden tips to squeeze the sweetest juice out of ACE. You can get oscillations from driving the filter, using partial settings on the LFOs.. the ramp.. the mod mapper.. creative use of the multiples and sound source etc. The sounds and expression one can trick from this thing are otherworldly, not-to-mention the sound quality potential is fantastic. I can honestly say that if you are a programming enthusiast you will without a doubt enjoy ACE immensely.

  • John

    I try a lot of demos but I hardly ever end up buying VST synths. ACE blew my mind. I bought it and I haven’t looked back since; I’m totally addicted

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Mark Mosher just posted a great video tutorial on ACE: http://www.modulatethis.com/2010/01/u-he-ace-video-tutorial-patch-cables-101.html

  • Jason

    @Ronnie – Yeah, Mark did a great job of covering basic patching. I recommend it to beginners. :)

  • http://varietyofsound.wordpress.com bootsy

    ACE is ace!

  • http://soundsandgear.com SoundsAndGear

    I’ve never heard of this one, now it’s on my radar to check it out man, thanks.

    Looks clean, I like that, I stray away from most modular plugins because they just tend to look a little too messy for me.

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Hi Joe! Ace really isn’t messy, its GUI is really easy to understand and the sound is just wonderful.

  • http://soundsandgear.com SoundsAndGear

    Cool, that’s what has me interested in it lol…I’ll definitely have to check it out at some point!

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    Checking some soundsets for ACE, will have a small review up soon!

  • http://soundsandgear.com soundsandgear

    Cool man, keep us posted yo!

  • Jason

    Great idea! There are only, I believe, 3 commercial sets, of which I own 2. The best for me so far are the sets included with ACE. Urs has some fantastic designers working with him on those factory banks, esp. in the case of ACE IMHO. My opinion of the commercial sets that have been release thus far (that I own) is that they are very hit or miss, but the prices have been quite fair.

  • Jason

    P.S. It is the CFA Sound Cabledance set that I have not tried, mostly because I have all of those type of sounds I need. I am sure it will be one of the better ones you will review. The Team DNR one has some nice expression features within some of the patches that really grabbed me. I love it when the designer puts effort into making patches with expression, evolution, modulation, MIDI control, etc. It provides more ways to use the presets AND more avenues of inspiration.

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    CFA Sound’s Cabledance and Soundsdivine’s Joy of Sound are on my list. I’ve only checked the Soundsdivine one so far, which has some outstanding sounds and many patches have great modwheel action.

    I plan on posting a little video of me messing around with the patches.

  • Jason

    Yes, it is a very nice bank, the Joy of Sound. I found some favourites in there too. You are right about the MW action. Nearly every patch has it. Can’t wait to see your video mate. Great idea.

  • Jason

    I got a hold of CFA Sound’s CableDance now. It is Fantastic. It really brings out the best qualities of ACE as far as its thick warm sound. The Basses and Synths are just great and very nearly fit directly into any electronica mix. One bad point is that there are absolutely no performance options. Not so much as one single MW assignment even, however that being said, the sounds live on their own with good harmonics/attacks and bodies being thoughtfully tied to velocity settings instead. Highly recommended set.

  • http://www.deadeddy.com Edwin

    Anything from Urs is great. I can’t afford this Synth presently, but considering the shocking service some VST companies have been getting away with, buying Ace and for less than $100 is an absolute no-brainer. I have everything else he has released and it’s good to see a dirty fat synth compared to the squeaky clean clarity of Zebra. Can anyone point me to some home-programmed evolving ambient samples? I’d be interested in what it can do for non-dance / downtempo / ambient stuff.

  • http://rekkerd.org ronnie

    @Edwin, I haven’t done too much programming on ACE yet, not in that area anyway, but CFA Sound’s CableSphere and SoundsDivine The Joy Of Sound have some sounds that will do fine for downtempo stuff.

    I did a little video demo of SoundsDivine a while ago: http://rekkerd.org/mini-review-soundsdivine-joy-of-sound/

    Did you have a listen to the audio demos of these products?
    http://www.soundsdivine.com/mp3s/SD_ACE_Presets_Demo_INDV_1.mp3
    http://www.soundsdivine.com/mp3s/SD_ACE_Presets_Demo_INDV_2.mp3
    http://www.cfa-sound.com/demos/demo_ace_cablesphere.mp3

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