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.
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?
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!