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Synth Britannia - 1:30h video

Depeche Mode, OMD, Pet Shop Boys - Synth Pop generation documentary Watch

15 interesting synths

Virtual synths that somehow went under the radar Read article

NI Kontakt instruments

Free and affordable NI Kontakt libraries Read more

Sylenth EDM Soundset

165 modern presets, created by me, for Lennar Digital Sylenth synth. Visit

400 Modern presets for V-Station

Tons of presets that will bring a new life to the Novation V-Station synth Visit

Cakewalk Z3ta+ 2 presets

155 Synth / lead and bass presets inspired by many modern electronica genres. Visit

Free Organ synths / samples

Best, free organ synths / multisamples Read more

Soft Synths released in 2011

Interesting soft synths released in 2011 Read more

Free String Machine vsts

Freeware String Machine plugins Read more

George Yohng's W1 Limiter

Another brick-wall Limiter entry - I guess it's the last one and ... the best :) Seriously, I wasn't expecting this. An official website says "It's a clone of Waves L1" legendary limiter - yeah, right ... ;)

But since I've already had few limiter plugins then why not download another one and test it ? George Yohng's W1 Limiter is not a newest plugin - it was released in 2005 but actually who cares ? The most important question is: does it sound good ? Well, I don't know if it's Waves L1 clone or not but the point is - it limits and miximizes the sound better than Kjaerhus Classic Limiter and Jeroen Breebart Barricade. Yes, I'm subjective here - the whole blog is subjective :) Just download it and test it. I believe these three limiters are the best freeware limiters. If you think different - comments are waiting ;) There is also nice comparison between this freebie and original Waves L1 which costs 300 $.

ps. There's Mac version available too. Don't expect an amazing "analogue" gui because ... there's no GUI :)

Download: George Yohng's W1 Limiter
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Kjaerhus Classic Limiter

We don't have many Limiter plugins available here on Vst Cafe :) Actually there's only one - Jeroen Breebart Barricade. I value it very high (just like almost every free plugin made by Jeroen) but are there any other limiters worth mentioning ?

Sure. I know it's quite obvious but... Kjaerhus Classic Limiter is well known freeware brick wall limiter unit designed to boost the overall level of your final mixes. There's only one knob available - Threshold. All you need to do is to put it on the Master bus, set the threshold level down and your mixes will get louder.

What does 'brick wall' limiter mean ?
Brick wall limiting has a very high ratio and a very fast attack time. Ideally, this ensures that an audio signal never exceeds the amplitude of the threshold. Ratios of 20:1 all the way up to ∞:1 are considered to be 'brick wall'. The sonic results of more than momentary and infrequent hard/brick-wall limiting are harsh and unpleasant, thus it is more common as a safety device in live sound and broadcast applications.
Is it better than Barricade ? Both are very close. It sounds different and somehow I like Barricade a little bit more. Quite often I don't need a threshold (maximizer) because my Master Bus volume is already above 0 db - Barricade just handles all the limiting stuff pleasantly.

Download: Kjaerhus Audio Classic Limiter [Link Dead]
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Guitar Amp - Flying Haggis

Honestly, I'm not into virtual guitar amps but this deal looks sweet. To celebrate 2010 (it was announced on 9th January) Db Audioware has dropped the price of their virtual amp Flying Haggis plugin from 99 $ to 10 $. It was created to mark db audioware's 10th anniversary in plugin development. Guitarist magazine gave it a Guitarist Choice award, which means something :)

Flying Haggis does not simulate real amps. Instead, the alogoritm is hand-coded and tuned to sound like "ideal amp". The author personally plays mostly blues & rock, this is what the amp excels at - clean & overdriven valve sounds, and vintage 70s/80s rock.

Flying Haggis runs on Mac & Windows, supports VST and AU hosts, and also runs as a standalone app. There's demo version available.

I'm not sure how long the promo will last - maybe it's the last day ?

ps. Flying Haggis works nicely for wicked tech basses too :)

More info: Db Audioware Flying Haggis
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Sylenth - 128 Free Presets

128 free presets for Lennar Digital Sylenth synth, created by Togeo Studios and filled with arps, leads, basses, keys, synths, sequences and atmospheric texture soundscapes.

I don't have Sylenth and there's no mp3 demo preview available so it's up to you to download the soundbank and test it :)
There's also commercial version available which contains 512 presets. Judging by the demos, it's not a trance soundset.

Download: Togeo Studios - 128 Free Sylenth Presets
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ADT - Artificial Double Tracking Vst

The ADT technique was developed at Abbey Road Studios by engineers recording the Beatles in the 1960s. To free John Lennon from having to sing everything twice for real double tracking they came up with an artificial replacement: they sent the original signal to another tape machine and re-recorded it. Due to the physical distance between record and playback heads the new signal was delayed. The length of the delay depends on the tape speed (the slower the tape is running the longer it takes for the signal to travel from the record to the playback head). However, due to the machine's (small amounts of) Wow and Flutter the delay time was not fixed but varied slightly, giving an additional chorus-like effect.
The ADT Plug-In takes a mono input signal and creates a stereo output. The original input signal will be output on one channel, the new ADT signal on the other. Blending the two is also possible.
My opinion ? I use only few freeware plugin effects - mostly I just use Ableton internal plugins. But thanks to ADT plugin I don't need to clone and pan / delay channels for stereo effect. It's very easy to use and works great as preview (and of course as final effect too). It's definitely one of my favourite freeware plugins - I use it almost in every project - works both for vocals and instruments. ADT just improves my workflow nicely.

ps. There's also AU version for Mac users.

Download: ADT - Artificial Double Tracking
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Master Bus tips

It's been a while since my last blog update but it's definitely not an easy task to find some useful tricks, articles, videos etc. :) This time it'll be about two tips published on Wire to the ear blog.
Short story ?
"Keep a Limiter on your Master" and
"Keep your channel faders low and the Master at 0db!".


The example DAW is Ableton Live but it really doesn't matter.

Almost weekly I am asked for mixing advice. Usually after a few probing questions I discover that 90% of the people unhappy with their sound are making the same mistake. They are completely overdriving their internal summing bus! Take all your song’s individual channel faders and bring them at least -12db and keep the Master fader at 0dB at all times.

I must admit that quite often I overload my master bus pretty heavily and the final effect is pretty muddy. Lowering channel faders can help to make your tune breath. I actually like one tip I heard somewhere (probably some forum about electronic dance music): "Every tune sounds 'good' when played very loud. But the real challenge is to make a tune that will sound great at low volumes". Well, it was something like that ;)

Articles:
Keep your channel faders low ...
Keep a limiter on your Master ...
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Top 20 Greatest Synths

Love (hardware) synthesizers ? Then you'll love this :) Eight episodes, almost 100 minutes about finest synthesizers... Sonic State did really an amazing job here.

















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E-Phonic Drumatic 3

I don't like mondays and today's monday is even worse ;) My Computer Audio Workstation's Power Supply is pretty much dead + I have some serious problems authorizing updated version of Ableton Live. This makes my Audio Workstation pretty much unusable at the moment.
Luckily I have a laptop computer which I use at work. It has poor audio interface (waay too big word for a simple soundcard hehe) but with these Asio4All drivers (truly great stuff) it's not that bad. At least, I can load some Vst Minihost and test few plugins :p

E-phonic Drumatic 3 is a virtual Drum Synth module which uses 100 % synthetic sounds. Probably I won't make you stop using samples - after all, I use sample libraries too but I had quite a lot of fun using Drumatic 3. It's a flexible plugin with very clean GUI and good sounding drums. Probably the best free drum synth (which doesn't use samples) available. Remember that some famous producers like to use unusual stuff (ie. old Buzz's Drum Machine) - maybe someone uses Drumatic too... :)

More info: E-Phonic Drumatic 3
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Sonic Assault Rndwave! - Wave Shape Generator

There are at least few wavetable virtual synths available with an option to load custom (single cycle) waveforms - Cakewalk Z3ta+, free Jeremy Evers Atlantis, FAW Circle, Audjoo Helix etc. Some products have nice waveforms factory library included but what about expanding it ? You can choose the commercial way and check, ie. Galbanum products or free way, which means using, ie. Sonic Assault RndWave!.
It's a free, vst random waveshape generator. It's very easy to use and actually very handy. Just click the button and new randomly generated waveform will show :) Then just record it and you have your wav file ready. There's a preview (sound) option, there's auto generation option (it generates new waveform every few seconds), there are some configuration options available (mono/stereo, 16-bit, 24-bit etc.). Neat tool :)

Download: Sonic Assault Rndwave!
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Ableton + Serato = The Bridge

I usually don't write about announced, not released products. There are other, better websites providing such informations, but partnership between Ableton and Serato always made me wonder what will be the result. Now it's official - it's The Bridge. Via Create Digital Music:



First off, this isn't what many of us originally speculated: it's not a DJ deck inside Live. Instead, the collaboration seeks to bridge (ahem) the gap between the way DJs perform and the way Live users perform. The result focuses on the way a performance set is assembled in the two paradigms, an attempt to guide the flow of music between the two programs. Here's how it works.

Bring Serato “mixtapes” into Ableton Live: Save a DJ mix – called a “mix tape” – in a Serato product, and export it to Live, and what you get is all of your edits in a form that can be further manipulated in Live. Waveforms and automation data from your DJ session, however they’re manipulated and transcribed by the Serato software, appear in Live.
Put the Ableton Live Session View “inside” Serato: Here’s where things get in interesting. Rather than put Serato inside Live, we’re getting Live inside Serato – after a fashion. Ableton Live runs in the background. Integrated into the Serato interface (as seen at the screenshot at top) are all your Session View clips from your Live Set. Serato’s control – via audio input from vinyl or CDJs, or an ITCH control surface – manipulates the entire transport of the Live set.

The Bridge is free for anyone who owns both a registered version of Serato Scratch Live (or ITCH hardware) and Ableton Live 8 or Suite 8. No release date has been set yet.

More info: Ableton / Serato - The Bridge
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Roland D-50

Another portion of pure hardware inspiration from great japanese website Musictrack.jp. This time it's Roland D-50 - polyphonic 61-key synthesizer. It was released in 1987 to compete with Yamaha DX7 and was much easier to use.

The D-50 was the first affordable synthesizer to combine sample playback (8-bit PCM samples) with digital synthesis, a process that Roland called Linear Arithmetic synthesis. The engineers at Roland determined the most difficult component of a realistic instrument to simulate is the attack, so the D-50 included almost 100 sampled attacks in ROM. The synthesizer played back an attack, while the rest of the sound came from the LAS section which sounds very analog, with subtractive-style synthesis and low-pass-resonant filters. Built-in chorus and (for the first time) digital reverb are also included so naturally D-50 was great for new and non-acoustic, percussive, ethereal and beautiful pads & sounds. Some even state that "It is the warmest digital synth that you will ever find." :)

This popular synth has been widely used in all forms of music. It was used extensively in Michael Jackson's Bad album, mostly using factory presets because the album was produced so soon after the D-50's release. The synthetic lead trumpet sound from Paula Abdul's hit record "Straight Up" features the D-50 preset. And of course Jean Michel Jarre and tons of other artists...


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Future Music - In the Studio with Chris Lake

January issue (FM210) of Future Music magazine contains great video tutorial from "In the Studio with..." series. This time it's Chris Lake, young but very talented and well known producer. What about a content quality ? Honestly, it's one of the best "In the studio with..." videos (I like the video with Matti Schwartz too) available in FM. Chris Lake really knows what he's doing, he seems pretty comfortable with a camera and doesn't try to hide anything. I mean, if there's something he doesn't want to show (ie. piano "patch") he just says it and we can move on to the next thing :)

There are actually two parts of this video. First part is about Chris's "If you knew" amazing track with groovy bassline and gorgeous Nastala vocal. Logic DAW is used here. And the second part is about creating simple yet effective track using Ableton Live. I remember, I was going to just preview the video but I ended up watching it whole :)




The videos are in low quality (and it's only "Part II") and to be honest - I guess it's intended :) It's just like in the movie - for HQ quality subscribe the mag. If you're into EDM genre - it's a must :)





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Remixing without stems (parts of song)

One of my favourite blogs - DJ TechTools is getting better almost every day :)
"Swimming to the top of today’s hyper-crowded pool of talented Djs can be a menacing task. Everyone’s grandma is now djing with auto beat matching software and music blogs are serving up endless supplies of hot tracks that everyone has within a few weeks. In this increasingly level playing field, one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the crowd is to produce custom edits and remixes of popular tracks. You are probably wondering how that might be possible without acapellas or stems (parts of a song). In this article we are going to look at one way to extract stems from a finished song you already have and use those stems to create a custom remix."

The article / tutorials covers: making your own stems, learning about frequency ranges, EQing, EQing, EQing... and using scalpel ;) The final result is a quick remix of famous Snap's - "Rhythm is a Dancer" tune with a touch of Sander van Doorn's - "Back by any demand".

The Ableton project is also available so you have a chance to analyze everything :)

More info: Dj TechTools - Remixing without stems
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Synth basics

Almost forgot about this :) Do you want to learn some synth basics ? Just check Synth Student blog - there are 13, "absolute beginner"-friendly, lessons available, which cover the basics such as subtractive synthesis concept, oscillators, filters, envelope etc.

"There are hundreds of such tutorials"... True / False ? :)

False. The idea is actually very nice :) An author did some research and, in these tutorials, he uses simple & GUI-clean synth named Clearsynth.
I don’t consider myself an expert in synth programming by any means. I guess the title of the blog should make that amply clear. I’m just a student. I’m still learning. It’s just that I have been through portions the learning curve myself, and I’ve used a lot of information available on the internet to get where I am. And I want to give back. And hopefully, whatever I publish here will be of help to folks new to synth programming.

More info: Synth Student
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Yamaha CS-80 Synth

The Yamaha CS-80 is a polyphonic analog synthesizer released in 1977. It is known as being one of the heaviest analog synthesizers weighing around 100 kg. It seems ironic now, but the CS80 was actually introduced as a more portable version of an even bigger synth, Yamaha's GX1 :)

The CS80 itself was expensive (five grand), but it found wider acceptance among other professional players, most notably Vangelis, Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk, Eddie Jobson etc. The annals of history show that Sequential Prophet V, Moog Polymoog and Oberheim synths prevented the CS80 from becoming the most popular polysynth of the 70'.



The CS80 had some pretty amazing features, for it's time, such as 8-voice polyphony, patch memory storage (based on bank of micropotentiometers) and polyphonic aftertouch. Range of features controllable via aftertouch is highly impressive - modulation speed and depth, volume and brightness, are all at the mercy of your fingers. Overall, it was a great synth for players.

One of the most notable issues is the tuning. "If an unprotected CS80 is transported in an 'upright' position, with its rear panel pointing to the floor, you may start your journey with a machine that's in tune but you definitely won't end it with one!" :)

It can generate great analog strings, brass, drones and pads with that instantly recognizable classic polysynth sound. Even harmonica and saxophone sound are possible - this can be heard on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, in which virtually all the sounds are created from the CS-80. It was discontinued in 1980.

Software plugins inspired by CS-80:
1. Arturia CS-80V2 - 229 EUR
"A perfectly emulated ultra-rare synth that -quite simply- sounds different. There's a place for its smooth strings in every track." - [Future Music, 2007]
2. Memorymoon ME80 - 40 $
The instrument was developed by Gunnar Ekornĺs, Max Fazio and Georges Poropat over a period of 2 years. Max Fazio has done much research in available data and expired patents. He has programmed the ring-modulator and the tremolo effect. I have discussed every detail of the synth with Max, and he has been the driving force in this project. In many parts of the synth I have just followed his instructions. Georges Poropat is a CS80 owner. [Gunnar Ekornĺs]

(ME80 demo)

ps. If you know some other vst instruments inspired by CS-80, let me know :)
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Maik Menz Trancedrive VSTi

I've discovered this gem quite accidentally. Short story ? Very nice plugin for all (classic) trance lovers, supersaws, epic trance pads. If you like Genesis CM or Superwave P8 (which honestly, I'm not a fan ;) ) virtual instruments, you'll like TranceDrive for sure.

First impression ? No, not another SynthMaker plugin. Sorry for all kind of SynthMaker plugin developers but a lot of people feel the same - it's hard to name even one "good" synth while there are at least few nice SynthEdit made plugins.

TranceDrive is actually the first SynthMaker made synth that impressed me. It's packed with a lot of features (dual FM knobs, all kind of effects - reverb, delay, phaser, chorus, eq, flanger, distortion, stereo enhancer) but the secret weapon is a "supersaw" wave, which can sound very warm. It's quite easy to create epic, "Rank 1 - Airwave"-type pads. Three oscillators, each supersaw and unison mode can do some real, epic mess ;)

Interface is very clean but how about CPU ? Sure, epic pads with looong release, most effects turned on, eat a lot of CPU but I think that everyone will be able to find a nice balance between complexity and CPU usage. There are only few presets available (looks quite beta - it's hard actually to find info about this synth :) ), some have too much release and reverb, but they do really show what TranceDrive is capable of. Personally, this plugin is a very nice surprise for me.

Please send the author some feedback! Judging by his website, he seems a creative guy :) Just check out his homepage: www.yedey.com

Download: Maik Menz Trancedrive (Standalone + VSTi version)
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Phase Distortion Synth - Kassiopeia! 2.0

Phase distortion synthesis is quite forgotten synthesis method, introduced in 1984 by Casio, in its CZ range of synths. It's similar to FM (frequency modulation) synthesis in the sense that both methods "dynamically change the harmonic content of a carrier waveform by application of another waveform (modulator) in the time domain".
While Casio introduced the term 'phase distortion', it's actually Yamaha who produced the first Phase distortion synthesizers in their DX series (which were promoted as FM synths).

Kassiopeia! 2.0 is free (and probably the best) Casio CZ Inspired Dual Line Phase Distortion virtual Synthesizer. Quite often I hear: "FM Synth ? Nah, that's not for me". How about PD Synth ? :) Kassiopeia is entertaining, easy to use and you don't need to be a master of Phase Distortion synthesis to create some interesting sounds. It offers 32 presets - not much, but very clean gui (I love it) almost invites to create new presets :) It's worth mentioning that Kassiopeia is very CPU friendly and included PDF manual has a commercial product quality :)

Speaking about commercial products. If you're looking for commercial Casio CZ like synth then released in 2003, ReFX PlastiCZ, reviewed at Phatso Brown seems pretty nice vst toy :)

Download: Sonic Assault Kassiopeia! 2.0
More info: Phase Distortion Synthesis described and FM / PD comparison
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