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Best free virtual synths – part II

I’m happy to introduce you a second part of “Best free virtual synths” article – a subjective list of 10 freeware synths I find unique, useful and fun to play with. Just like in the previous part – No samplers, romplers, effects – just another three, pure synths (subtractive, fm, additive etc.) introduced.

Elektrostudio Or2v
It’s time for the first audio plugin which tries to recreate some famous, old analog synthesizer. In 1975, Oberheim company created their Oberheim Two Voice synthesizer and achieved polyphonic sound not yet seen in ARP and Moog gear. The major drawback and actually something that makes this synth unique now is that polyphony was achieved by having multiple modules. What does it mean ? Each voice has it’s own filter, own envelopes, own portamento – it needs to be independently programmed. Definitely not the easiest synth to play real-time. Imagine doing filter sweeps for example – it’s almost like you’ll need a third hand 🙂

Who played this synth ? Mostly some unknown artists – the guy named Vangelis and the other one. What was his name ? Hmm Vince Clarke :))

Thanks to Elektrostudio Or2V plugin you have a chance now to challenge this two voice analogue beast. There are, just like in original hardware synth, two independent Synthesizer Expander Modules hard-wired together and voila – your 2 voice synth is ready. Each voice has it’s own 2 oscillators, 2 envelopes, portamento. Both share the same sequencer + Robert added some features such as delay and possibility to pan each voice. There are 64 presets available, not many, but enough to have fun.

Now, when I’m not related with Elektrostudio plugins anymore (Robert took development again and luckily he’s updating his synths), I can finally write some small review 🙂 One thing I really like about Elektrostudio plugin(s) is that they’re extremely playable. I mean, you don’t have hundreds of options but actually every knob “means” something. You turn the knob, and there’s an instant effect. All you need to do is just – open the plugin and … have fun 🙂

If you expect to find a synth packed with XXI century features then maybe it’s a better idea to pick for example FXpansion SynthSquad but if you just want to play, want to “feel” the history and at the same time have a lot of fun – download Elektrostudio plugins because this actually applies to whole pack of 10 plugins which recreate famous analogue synths.

I’m not saying that this synth is the best. The sound is not 100 % same as hardware – to be honest, quite often it can be totally different. It’s also not a monstersynth which can be used in your every tune, because it has just 2 voices. But in this case it’s about feeling 🙂

What would I like to see improved ?
Well, it was updated on 14 October so I’ll just say that everything seems ok and works ok with my Ableton 🙂

TAL Elek7ro
TAL Elek7ro naturally seems to be a nice bass synth and it’s features confirm that. Basic waveforms (Sine, Triangle, Saw, Square), 2 Oscillators, additional sub-oscillator (and noise osc), FM modulation, Hard-sync – everything you need to create nice Elek7ro bass 🙂

Overall, I must admit that I’m not 100 % convinced with TAL Elek7ro. Mainly that’s because, I know that Patrick is great developer and he can develope much better plugins (+ I really didn’t like the filters). Maybe my expectations were too high ? 😉 After all, in the freeware world it’s still a very good plugin. It’s worth noting that this plugin is available for MAC.

There are no effects available – no chorus, delay, reverb, EQ. I would love to see at least delay. Equalizer would be great too – well, at least there’s an additional HighPass filter which helps to shape the sound a little bit. The GUI looks and feels great – very good plugin for starters to learn about subtractive synthesis

What would I like to see improved ?
Well, at the beginning TAL Elek7ro sound quality was pretty bad. Mainly because of filters – I didn’t like them at all. 12db & 18db filters sounded just poor and muddy. Luckily, version 1.20 introduced two additional filters – especially filter based on previous plugin U-No-62 called “U-No-62 24db” filter is rather big sound quality improvement. While the sound is noticably brighter, there’s one downside: none of the factory presets (around 120 presets) use this improved filter. But I’m sure it’ll change soon…

Fuzzpilz Oatmeal
I remember the time when Fuzzpilz Oatmeal‘s author released this synth and wrote a note about it on KVR Audio forum. It was pretty much like: “here’s my mediocre synth”. While the GUI was indeed mediocre, the features were great – especially ability to draw your own waveforms and use them in Oscillator was rather unusual.

During time, Oatmeal, thanks to skin designers, received a new, skinned “face” which not only looks much better than original but also improves usability. Fuzzpilz Oatmeal has probably the second biggest patch library available – just after Synth1 plugin. Well, I didn’t count because there are so many soundbanks ;). It’s good that actually all skins, all soundbanks are packed into one zip file.

Generally there are two oscillators with ability to use custom drawed waveforms. There are all basic effects available such as delay, reverb, chorus, distortion unit as well as nicely done 5 band EQ.

The biggest weapon of this synth is 32 voice polyphony and up to 16 voices chorus and unison units which actually make this synth nicely suited for all kind of pads for example. It uses not much CPU so you can for example layer it…

What would I like to see improved ?
It’s pretty complete 2 Oscillators synth. It has nice preset library, it has plenty of effects available, nice modulation possibilities. Synth1 seems to be the most popular freeware synth but I recognize Fuzzpilz Oatmeal as quite similar and overall really strong challenger with it’s own character.

Best free virtual synths – part III