Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn Sync 2

Product: AdrenaLinn Sync 2 Plug-in
Manufacturer: Roger Linn Design
Platform: Mac VST/AU (Mac RTAS and Windows VST/RTAS expected in July)
System Requirements: Mac with Intel processor, OS 10.5 or above
Price: $99
Demo: Free 14-day trial

Last fall, I did a review of Roger Linn's first foray into the world of plug-ins, AdrenaLinn Sync. My conclusion was, that although it was a plug-in that showed a lot of potential, its reliance on the now defunct Pluggo platform, its ho-hum interface, and rather non-descript filters kept it from being a product I could recommend. Now Linn is back, in partnership with WayOutWare, creators of highly regarded Arp 2600 and Axxe emulators. AdrenaLinn Sync 2, has been fully re-coded from the ground up and is available absolutely free to those who purchased the first version.

Installation is the standard drill. The plug-in will function fully for 14-days in demo mode (a great policy, by the way!), after which you will need to purchase an authorization code to have it continue functioning. Note that the install will replace any previous version of the plug-in on your system. (UPDATE: Roger tells me this is not supposed to be the case and in fact isn't the case for most users, but this is what appears to have happened on my system.)

The most immediately obvious improvement to AdrenaLinn Sync 2 is in the new interface. Instead of the flat, frankly kind of boring interface of the first version, the new interface is a lot easier on the eyes and more pleasant to work with. It's also thankfully quite a bit larger. The actual layout of the plug-in is mostly the same as the original, with some bits moved around and a few new controls here and there, but it is close enough to the original layout that if you're comfortable with it, learning the new version won't take any time at all.

Instead of rehashing all the features of the first version, I just want to concentrate on what has changed since then. You can refer to my review of the original if you need more info. But to give you the Cliff's notes version, AdrenaLinn Sync 2 is a plug-in designed to produce rhythmic effects with a chain of filter, distortion, limiting, volume/pan, and delay, modulated by a syncable LFO and 32-step step sequencer. So here's what's new:

• Fully "hard-coded", so it no longer requires the Pluggo software to run. This was the first version's biggest stumbling block because Cycling '74 dropped support for Pluggo, and eventually, as OS revisions happen, it will stop working. The dependence on Pluggo also meant the original couldn't be used in Cubase. Happily, the new version functions just as any other AU/VST plug-in.

• The filters have been re-done from scratch. I found the original filters to be pretty uninspiring-sounding. The new versions do indeed seem to sound less clinical and "in the box", but as with the original, I found they sounded best when used in conjunction with the very simple, but surprisingly effective distortion section of the plug-in. On their own they are quite clean and polite sounding, but used with even subtle amounts of distortion, they really come to life. The filters also self-oscillate, which allows you to essentially play melodies with your filter cutoff when used in conjunction with the step sequencer. Helpfully, you actually set the filter cutoff frequency as a note value, which makes these types of melodies still easier to achieve.

• The stereo delay times have been extended to up to 32 seconds or 8 bars, allowing you to build up layers of looping sound and get into Frippertronics territory if you so desire.

• The limiter has been tweaked to do its thing in a more transparent fashion, as well as adding faster attack and a sustain control for shaping the sound to taste. The limiter is an important part of an effect like this since more extreme resonance/flanger/phaser settings can produce some unpredictable and abrupt level changes.

• The sequencer display has been split in two, cleaning up the sequencer portion of the interface noticeably. You now access each 16 step section via a Bar 1/2 button.

• 100 brand new presets are included that do a much better job of showing off the plug-in's capabilities than the previous version. Guitar players will enjoy a number of the presets designed to emulate effects used by famous bands and guitar players.

It's clear that Linn and company really took the time to listen to their users and reviewers and fix the weaknesses that held the original version back. They've made improvements to pretty much everything I had a complaint about and the new interface alone makes it a much more pleasant instrument to spend some time with. The new presets do a good job of showing off the plug-in's capabilities and demonstrate the importance of messing with each effect in the chain to get the best results. Indeed, this is a plug-in that can get quite deep if you want to, but never at the expense of being user-friendly. The sound quality is excellent and it sounds good on just about any type of sound you might want to throw at it - drums, guitars, synths, you name it.

The only real problem I've encountered is that occasionally, the plug-in would mute the channel it was applied to when first activated (by which I mean, the channel simply stopped making sound, not that the DAW's actual MUTE button was activated). This problem seemed to be remedied simply by taking the effect off and re-applying it. (Note I am on a Mac using Logic Pro 9.1.1). This is a minor annoyance, and not one I could even faithfully reproduce every single time, but it did come up occasionally.

So if you've been interested in this plug-in, but had held off due to the significant weaknesses of the original, rest assured, they've been remedied. The Roger Linn/WayOutWare guys clearly listened to feedback from their users and the new version is a definite improvement in just about every way. There are similar products on the market (although features such as the ability to sequence flanging aren't common), so ultimately it comes down to which plug-in you like the overall sound of. I highly recommend downloading the fully functional 2-week demo (kudos again for that!) and putting it through its paces. You may find that there's an awful lot to like here. [9/10]

1 comment:

Roger Linn Design said...

Thank you for the glowing review!