Review: Rob Papen Predator
Rob Papen’s RG synth didn’t quite charm me as much as I had hoped for, mainly because of my expectations of it being something else than it turned out to be.
So how about Predator, a synthesizer more akin to Papen’s previous offerings, Albino and Blue.
Predator has been out for a while now, but it recently got a considerable update with version 1.5, improving the preset manager, arpeggiator, modulation options and much more.
Predator v1.5 key features
- 3 Oscillators with 128 waves included Analogue, Additive and Spectral type of waveforms plus pink & white noise generators.
- Tempo sync-able global Pitch LFO.
- Analogue modelled stereo Multi-mode Filter with LFO and envelope.
- Modulation Matrix with 8 free modulation routings, 40 modulation sources and 65 destinations, plus a secondary modulation source & control.
- 16 step arpeggiator, which can be used as a step sequencer or as modulation source.
- HQ effects blocks in serial mode, featuring a large collection of effects.
- Comprehensive preset management, including preset variation controls and preset morphing.
- Lots more…
Rob Papen’s idea for Predator was not only to create a powerful synth with plenty of options, but to make sure it would be fun and incredibly easy to use as well.
Easy of use starts with the interface. Taking a look at the GUI you’ll find pretty much everything on a single page: 3 oscillators, a filter section with a dedicated LFO, an amp section, various modulation options, an effect section and various preset options.
Easy to use doesn’t mean simple sounds
The oscillator sound sources have tons of waveforms to choose from (128 each, and you can even load your own) and include common parameters like PWM, sub and spread and the special symmetry (sym.) control, which allows you to shift a waveforms midpoint.
You might be familiar with this principle in square wave pulse-width modulation, but Predator can actually apply this symmetry to any waveform, allowing you to dramatically change harmonics and formants of waveforms.
Features like these make Predator an incredible versatile subtractive synth. It’s actually a 3 operator FM synthesizer as well.
The filter section is also feature-rich, sporting a multi-mode filter with envelope controls and a dedicated LFO, and a second filter provides for even greater control of the sound.
Need to further shape the sound? The modulation options of Predator will not let you down. There are 2 free envelopes and 2 free LFO’s, which each have its own destination. Furthermore there are 8 slots to set your own modulation connections in the modulation matrix (40 sources, 65 destinations). Behind the modulation panel is the arpeggiator, featuring an advanced pattern/sequencer. The arp doesn’t just work as a regular arpeggiator but can also be used as a modulation source to create advanced rhythmic patterns.
To round things up we have three effect slots available, with 24 effects to choose from for each slot. Delays, reverb, distortion, vocoder… it’s all there. The effect section also has a modulation matrix where you can set up two sources to modulate effect parameters.
As Predator also comes as an effect plug-in — PredatorFX — you can use its filter, modulation and effects to process other sounds as well.
I’ve skipped over a few things (pitch mod, amp section, play modes, etc.) but I think you should have a good idea of what Predator is all about.
Oh, one more thing!
Predator comes with a large collection of excellent presets, readily available to shine in your productions, which is great… but I’m often looking for that slightly different, “unique” sound. Something I haven’t heard before, that inspires me. Now perhaps I’m a bit lazy in this regard, but tweaking a patch for hours is not really my thing, so I’m always happy to find any kind of sane randomize functions in a synth.
Predator has 4 randomize buttons which each affect a different part of the patch (synth/effect) and can be set to change parameter values at a specified amount. It is very easy to generate (slightly less bread ‘n butter, but still very usable) new sounds. Love it! There’s also a morph function which lets you morph between two presets, instantly creating exciting new sounds. Yum!
Predator has a list price of 149 EUR (included VAT) / $179 USD and is available as a download from the Rob Papen online store. The boxed version is available from selected distributors.
So what do I think?
I love Predator’s “keep it simple” approach. It has great audio quality and tons of features, yet with a GUI that has everything in the right place, it’s not complicated to program at all.
For those who don’t want to program anything, Predator comes loaded with great preset sounds, and its preset variation and morphing features are excellent for creating new sounds. I would love to have these options on every synth I use.
While some of the preset banks seem to aim at (bread ‘n butter) trance/techno sounds, Predator is great for all styles of electronic music. It is capable of hard leads, warm pads, rhythmic soundscapes, phat basses… you name it!
So, two thumbs up for Predator, an easy to use & versatile synth with a great sound.