Wednesday, September 11, 2013
11. Spectrasonics Omnisphere ($499)
In my opinion, this is one of the best-sounding synths I've ever used. Yes, it comes at a hefty price, but I've never regretted my purchase once since I got it. Omnisphere is essentially a ROMpler on steroids(although there is also a Virtual Analog section, too). While you'll find standard sampled source material like beautiful guitars, choirs, and sampled synths, what makes Omnisphere stand out are some of the more unusual sample sources, such as the infamous piano on fire. Omnisphere offers a ton of programming depth and has one of the most pleasant to use interfaces I've used. Perfectly blurs the lines between acoustic and electronic instruments in a way few other synths have. It should be noted that Stylus RMX and Trilian are no slouches either.
12. Synapse Audio DUNE ($139) [Read the Waveformless Review]
Nowadays, a synth with a Unison function is pretty standard. But Synapse Audio decided to expand on what Unison does and bring it into the 21st Century. While most Unison modes simply detune and pan multiple voices for fatter sounds, DUNE allows you to adjust pretty much ALL the parameters on a per voice basis. This means, each voice in your Unison part can have different filter settings, different envelopes, or even be entirely different sounds if you so choose. DUNE offers a great balance of simplicity and depth and has a very nice, modern sound. (Buy my patches for DUNE)
13. TAL Bassline 101 ($40 introductory price, $60 regular price)
If you're looking for a Roland SH-101 emulator that is faithful to the original architecture, you really owe it to yourself to check out TAL's Bassline 101. The original, free version (called simply "Bassline") really only shared the architecture with the synth it emulated, as it didn't really sound very 101ish at all. But for the commercial version, the synth got a ground-up reboot and is now virtually indistinguishable from the real deal. Even better, even though it's only been out a short time, TAL has already started adding new features such as Filter FM like you would find on the SH-101 Novamod modifcation. If you're looking for extras like polyphony, layering, effects, and the like, you might want to check out D16 Group's LuSH-101 instead, but if you just want the sound and simplicity that make the SH-101 great, you should definitely give this one a listen!
14. Tone2 Saurus ($119) [Read the Waveformless Review]
I happen to be a fan of pretty much all the synths Tone2 has released from Gladiator 2 on up, and Saurus is no exception. Although this is one of the new generations of "almost analog" sounding software synths, Tone2 took a different direction that many companies and instead of trying to emulate a specific vintage synth, created their own. 2 oscillators (each with subs), beautiful sounding multimode filters with saturation and filter FM, an Arp/Gater, simple effects and easy programability combine for a really great vintage-sounding synth. The presets don't always demonstrate this well (many coming across as too modern sounding), but even some cursory messing around reveals this is a synth capable of very convincing vintage tones if programmed accordingly.
u-he DIVA ($179)
Germany's u-he are no slouches when it comes to synth design, so when I heard they were working on a synth that allowed you to combine oscillators, filters, and envelopes modeled on famous synths from Moog, Roland, and Korg, I definitely took notice. And they didn't disappoint at all. This was one of the first vintage synth emulations I heard that convinced me we are not far away from having plug-ins that are indistinguishable from the real thing. DIVA sounds incredibly warm and alive, and the ability to mix and match modules from different famous synths is every bit as fun as it sounds. Even as we speak, u-he are working on new modules for the next version, so this is a synth that will grow significantly with each major revision. It's worth noting that the CPU usage can be pretty brutal on this one, but fortunately, multiple quality modes are available, allowing you to sketch out ideas at a lower resolution and CPU load than when you finally render the sounds to disk. An absolute essential. (Buy my patches for DIVA)