Blamsoft eXpanse 2 Review

When first version of Expanse came out it was already one of the most advanced synthesizers available in Reason. Expanse synth is developed by Blamsoft – company that brought lots of Rack Extensions including two best-selling RE synths – Viking and Zero. Based on their great experience and understanding of Reason environment and workflows – Expanse 1 was more advanced then any other wavetable synth – combining wavetable, additive and subtractive synthesis in one powerful unit.

With Propellerhead’s introduction of Reason 9.2 and new Rack Extension SDK – Blamsoft updated Expanse to the version 2 and made it free update for existing users (though I’m sure most of them would be happy to pay a fee to get the ability to import their own waveforms).

Sample import was one of the most expected features for REs SDK. And apparently Propellerhead team was quietly working with Blamsoft to make Expanse 2 ready on the Reason 9.2 launch day.

Wavetables:

Expanse comes with nice selection of waveforms made by renowned sound designer eXode.
Even without importing your own waveforms you already have large collection to play with. Each osciallator has 4 modifiers – each can be setup as FM, Phase Distortion, Ring Modulation, Wrap, Decimate, Invert etc. BTW, Serum has only one modifier per OSC – and here we got 4 which makes sound shaping capabilities literally unlimited.
With the newest version (requires Reason 9.2) you can load up wavetables. Blamsoft says that all Serum wavetables are compatible with eXpanse. But also you can take wavetables from everywhere: free wavetables banks that you can find on the forums (if you search you can easilty find collection of Virus TI wavetables and other synths), wavetables packs from other synths – it is not just Serum but also Waves Codex, iOS-synth Animoog etc.
And of course you can just import any wav-file as a wavetable (just make sure it is pretty short), play with position modulation and modifiers – and you instantly get unique sound.

If you compare Expanse to Serum – Serum has better control on the waveforms (with its waveform editor) but it has 2 wavetable oscillators (+one noise OSC that can play files and sub-osc) and only one modifier control (warp, sync etc) while eXpanse has 4 wavetable oscillators and 4 modifiers per each osc.

Filters and Amps:
eXpanse has 2 filters that can run in serial or parallel mode and 2 independent AMPs!!! – that something that can make really interesting patches – from cool stereo effects to nice evolving sounds.

Modulation:

eXpanse is probably the most advanced synth in terms of the modulation: 5 envelopes with adjustable slopes, 3 LFOs, Random and Noise as Modulation sources, really nice Step Sequencer with two CCs that can modulate any parameter.

Modulation matrix with 6 modulation slots with 3 destinations per modulation, drag’n’drop modulation destination assignments, lots of CV ins etc.

Effects:
Effects section has pretty much everything you would expect from top-synth this days: Compressor, EQ, Distortion, Phaser, Delay, Reverb. We don’t stop here much because Reason is cool modular environment with great amount of various FX devices – you can easily add other REs for effects and combine it into single Combinator patch.

Overall:
If you’re already using Reason to make music – eXpanse is a must have Rack Extension. Just the ability to import your own samples as wavetables is worth buying it. It is well thought-out interface that looks very natural in the Reason rack (particularly with the dark-color scheme).

Rob Papen Predator 2 Review

First version of Predator was simple to understand but still advanced and deep synth from synthesis guru Rob Papen. Classical architecture of 3 oscillators and 2 filters and tons of great presets that are covering most of EDM genres made first Predator a goto synth for many producers of different level from beginners to gurus.

Predator 2 looks like same classic Predator but supercharged with lots of cool new sound possibilities which can take sound to the next level.

Let’s take a closer look into what’s new in Predator 2:

Predator 2 User Interface

Original UI of Predator was nice and clear and in general 2nd version took most of the ideas of original Predator UI with slight redesign. Though many people on forums were complaining about dark GUI – I found it easy to use and pretty easy to move from Predator 1 to 2.

For those who prefer playing with presets slightly tweaking its parameters there is Easy Page view – that shows only important parameters:

Predator 2 Oscillators:

Morph mode
Each of the three Oscillators can now have two waveforms and morph between them using various algorithms – which is probably the best new feature that opens huge amount of new sound design directions.
Also you can now use User waveforms – draw wave or partials phase to get your unique sound. As a starting point for user waveform you can load prebuilt waveform and modify it.

Second and third oscillators can be modulated with FM/Ring/PM and some other algorythms. So you can really combine lots of synthesis methods in one single patch: wavetable morphing, classic subtractive, FM.

Filters:

Comparing to Predator 1 there seems to be same filter models but what’s new is pre-filter per-voice distortion with three modes: edge, smooth and dirty, and drive knob.

Also AMP stage has its own distortion with wide range of algorithms.

Play mode

Strum: guitar-like effect of sequencing

Nice sounding Unison (in the play mode) with many different options including two types of Unisons with up to 8 voices and Octave spread mode.

EQ: Predator 2 comes with new graphical EQ.

Presets:
All Rob Papen synths are famous by its presets. Particularly Predator library had the best soundest on the market. Predator 2 adds some new presets and old Predator 1 library as well. But even without presets – the synth is pretty strait forward to program – with all the main controls well positioned on the main window.

Also as already mentioned somewhere – in future updates Predator 2 would bring NKS support so Maschine and Komplete Kontrol users could take full advantage of their controllers to natively integrate with Predator 2 and it’s presets library.

It is great to see legendary synth updated to version 2. And we can’t wait to see when next release of Predator 2 with NKS support and more presets that take advantage of powerful new features: morphing between waveforms, waveform modulations, user waveforms, new EQ and others.

Predator 2 is available at for $149/€149. Upgrade from Predator 1 is just $49/€49. Predator 2 is included in the eXplorer 4 bundle with all other RobPapen plugins.

Get Predator 2

UPDATE: Rob Papen just announced that coming update will introduce new light interface:

Download Predator 2

Kilohearts Toolbox – Ultimate Reason Rack Extension Effect Bundle

Kilohearts developers of one of my favorites and best sounding Rack Extension synths kHs ONE has released FX bundle that consists of 23!!! Rack Extension.

Reason is unique platform in its modularity and ability to modulate almost anything. But for the last 5-6 years Propellerhead was not updating built-in effects so most of the Reason stock effects look really outdated in 2016. kiloHearts brings nice alternative to stock effects and much more…

And new kiloHearts bundle is definitely brings Reason to the next-level in terms of effect plugins – starting from classic delay, reverb, distortion, filters to the creative trance gate, tape stop and other effects.

All those effects were taken from kiloHearts Multipass VST/AU plugin. But having all these effects in Reason environment gives way more flexibility. First – you can modulate effect parameters from CV outs of other devices (Pulsar LFO, Martix Pattern Sequencer, Synchronous and many-many others). Second – some effects have modulation outputs: Trance Gate – has gate and envelopes CV, Formant Filter’s X/Y CV outs – connect those to modulate your synths or other effects. Next – with free Mid/Side and Multiband splitters from other developers you can start building your own crazy effect chains – multiband distortion, delay, compression or even more creative multiband resonator and trance gate.

FREE Rack Extensions

Start with Kilohearts effects is really easy. Apart from 30-day free trial you can get 5 free rack extensions:

– Gain – nice tool for gain control in complex patches with great visual signal level monitoring
– Classic effects: Chorus, Delay
– And couple of effects that may be good alternative to MClass Reason devices: Limiter and Stereo Width where you can CV control all the parameters!!!

Unique Effects

Some of the effects are truly unique for Reason and can change your sound dramatically.
My favorite from the whole bundle is Resonator – it adds harmonic resonance and sounds really good. Connect Pitch CV – and resonance frequency follows notes you’re playing.

Another gem in the collection is Trance Gate that is gating your signal based on the pattern that you setup on a nice circled sequencer. The user interface is really well thought-out and really easy and intuitive to use. It sounds great on anything and shines on any static sounds – it could bring to life even simplest one-note pad.

Comb and Formant filters – those two are another amazing additions to the Reason rack. Similar to Resonator – Comb Filter has Pitch CV in so it can follow notes you’re playing – it is also nice to connect it to sequencer and play some random sequence.
Formant Filter is really easy to use with X/Y pads controlling how you transform you sound into vowels (as I mention before – you can use X/Y as a CV source).

Tape Stop – is another unique device which obviously does slowing/stopping and starting playing tape effect. And of course you can trigger it from any CV-gate source.

Toolbox Bundle

Each of the new devices mentioned is really worth its price of $19 per device. But they are really shine in combination with others. With all these effects you can take any simple synth (even SubTractor) and transform it into the ultimate up-to-date sound. All the parameters are CV controllable – it makes the bundle great experimental toolbox. But course you can just make subtle processing of your audio adding coloration and movement.

And it is great to see all those devices combined in a bundle for just $149. Less than $10 per device!

Get Kilohearts Toolbox from Propellerheads Shop

Watch official video: