BEST MPE VST synths, samplers, effects [2021]

mpe vst

Hey guys! Today we are bringing you an ever-updating list of MPE VST products available right now on the market. While the MPE specification has been with us for quite some time, only recently have we seen very good implementations. Ableton for example has implemented MPE in its DAW called Live in version 11, which was released in 2021. Hardware synths, while not the subject of this article, have even less offerings that support MIDI Polyphonic Expression. While some relatively older hardware products have included MPE support via firmware updates (the modern synths from Dave Smith – Prophet 6 and the collaboration with Tom Oberheim – OB-6), there are more and more new instruments coming out with support out-of-the box.

In this article we will only focus on the virtual side of things, with the VST product marketplace being much more dynamic in terms of MPE support than the hardware counterparts. If you want to know more about MPE in general and also if you want to do some research into MPE devices, this article should do the trick.

So, here we go with our picks on the BEST MPE VST products :

A. MPE VST Synths

Arturia Pigments

Pigments is an excellent VST, equally valuable for novice sound designers and for veterans. The visual representation of the parameters, along with their modulations is astounding, and the possibilities and virtually endless. We have a very nice review of it here, along with a nice article on the latest version (at the time of writing), Pigments 3 here.

You can basically use MPE to alter any parameter that is available, so you can add a lot more expression to your sound offering.

You can buy Arturia Pigments here.

ROLI Equator2

ROLI are the makers of the first ever MPE controller – ROLI Seaboard. While mostly used by keyboard players that want to sound like a guitarist, the Seaboard is actually quite nice to play. So why not pair it with the proper, powerfull sound engine that it deserves? If you want a more in-depth guide and review, check out the excellent article on musicradar here.

The Equator2 is actually great as a stand alone tool as well, as long as you pair it with your favourite MPE controller. It gets stellar reviews and boasts four types of synthesis: Wavetable, Sample-based, Granular and Noise. It also has a lot of emulations of classic subractive synths and the control possibilities are virtually unlimited.

You can buy ROLI Equator2 here.

FXpansion (ROLI) Cypher2

This one, while officially another ROLI product, was developed by FXpansion. We see that all the stores are selling it as FXpansion Cypher2, so this is the name that we are also using. Still, the ROLI badge grants this MPE VST product more weight. Again, getting excellent scores and reviews, this one is an extremely good value proposition.

While not built from the ground up as 100% MPE, it has a lot of MPE compatible presets. The workflow is similar to modular synths, and to be honest it is extremely fun to play with. You can also use MPE to modulate rhythmic controls like the arpeggiator and the sequencer.

You can buy FXpansion Cypher2 here.

U-he HIVE2

U-he is no small name in the VST synth market. We are very happy that they implemented MPE Support on all their main virtual instrument products. This is no under statement, they make some of the best sounding plugins on the market.

While previously, their plugins were notoriously resource hungry, now not only did the machines we use became much more stronger, but the VSTs themselves have been optimised. Still, do manage the poly count as going above 12 voices can kill your CPU.

You can buy U-he HIVE2 here.

U-he Diva

Another U-he superstar, this time in a more Virtual Analog flavour, is Diva. They also updated it so that it has MPE support. Diva is a staple in all studios, mostly because of its superb sound quality. If you like the analog sound that hardware synths produce, you will love Diva. Also, there are a lot of under the hood things that make it stand out of the crowd.

Three oscillator goodness! Again, while in the past Diva was known to hog even the most expensive CPUs, today this issue is mostly resolved due to optimisations to the product. Also, note that there are a lot of nice presets available right now for Diva, that could use a bit of expressive play made possible by MPE.

You can buy U-he Diva here.

U-he Repro-1

Again coming to the land of software emulations of the analog synth sound, Repro is U-he’s line of Sequencial/Dave Smith Instruments Prophet line of instruments. Again, updated to support full, per-note expressive play with MPE. This one is either hit or miss, if you want the Prophet sound then yes this is for you, but if you already have a hardware Prophet synth (especially if you have the Prophet 6 which has received the MPE treatment via firmware update) or another emulation then there is no point in getting this.

Specifically, the Repro 1 is actually emulating the monophonic line of Prophets, mimicking the Pro-1 and to some extent the DSI Mopho.

U-he Repro-5

This is basically almost the same thing, but with a polyphonic dimmension to it. Sure, the sound is a bit different because it imitates a different line of gear, the polyphonic Prophet 5, Prophet 6, the Rev-2 and to some extent the DSI Tetra. Still great with MPE, but there is no point in getting this if you already have access to the sound it emulates.

You can buy U-he Repro (which contains Repro-1 and Repro-5) here.

U-he Bazille

You may have noticed that indeed U-he updated all their flagships to support MPE, with enhancements coming everyday. Bazille, for those that don’t know, is their modular-like synth approach. Here, MPE shines due to the sheer parameter tweaks and combinations possible. Just assign, and use.

MPE and real. hardware modular synths don’t really work well because polyphony in modular is extremely difficult to achieve in the way it works with regular synths. Still, if you want very deep sound design, you should give Bazille + MPE a chance.

You can buy U-he Bazille here.

B. MPE VST Samplers

Audio Modelling SWAM

Going into the composer and traditional sound design, SWAM is a collection of sample-based (well, actually physical-modelled sound but let’s just call it sample-based for the sake of simplicity) plugins replicating real acoustic instruments. MPE is a huge added touch, because like actual musical instruments, you get to imprint your own play style and technique to actually sound unique. If this is your cup of tea, you can check out the extremely detailed review below:

Audio Modelling SWAM includes strings, brass, and other acoutstic instruments and comes in an extremely diversified product line-up.

You can buy Audio Modelling SWAM here.

ROLI Studio

For those that want the MPE collection (and not only the MPE sounds) from ROLI but don’t need the full customisation that can be achieved by Cypher2 and Equator2 (discussed above in this article), ROLI were kind enough to give you a sample-based variant. Equally useful if you are looking for MPE on a budget.

With a huge collection of 500+ sounds (out of which more than half support MPE), this one is your one-stop shop if you are just getting into the world of Midi Polyphonic Expression sound design.

You can buy ROLI Studio right here.

Audio Damange Quanta

This MPE VST is a granular synth, so it is more sampler than synthesiser. Yes, you can do a lot of things with it, probably more than you can do with a regular subtractive, but still the source sound is based on samples so it fits in section B of our article on expressive plugins.

As with most granular synths, they encourage a rather “wild” approach, never “mild”. Experimentation is key with Quanta as well, and the fact that it supports MPE gives it extra edge over other plugins.

You can buy Audio Damage Quanta here.

While in no way a full list, this article shines the spotlight on which MPE compatible plugin is actually great to use. There are other offers of course that did not make our list, and also there is the possibility to setup other VST products to work with MPE signals, but we will discuss this in another article.

Free alternative products to the BEST VST instruments and effects

Hello ladies and gentlemen, for today iDesignSound.com will bring you our own favourite free alternative vst plugins to the most popular digital music production tools on the market.

Sure, VSTs are great, and VSTs are usually much more cheaper than actual hardware music production tools. Still, when it comes to digital products, there will always be a free option. This is because digital is literally, well, digital meaning without physical form. This means that once some effort has been put into development, copying and distributing the product can be free of charge. This has in turn provided never before seen accessibility and democratisation of the music landscape. Now, all you need to make music is basically talent, a (fairly cheap) computer and your DAW of choice (which can also be free, of course). Let’s dive straight in and see what’s on “offer” in 2021:

Serum free alternative plugin synth: Vital

We start with the biggest one, in our oppinion. So big that it is extremely hard not to use. Ok so we all know and love Serum, it is one of the best sounding and most powerful sound design tool there is. We stand by our words here, and we actually wrote a lot of articles here at idesignsound.com involving serum, such as a detailed comparison between Serum and Omnisphere and also there is an evergreen, always updated article on the top best VST synth which Serum won (on the Value/Budget choice).

Thus, finding an alternative is a bit hard, but it is possible. Without further ado, we present the closest match in the free vst market for a Serum replacement: Vital. It comes pretty close in terms of power and sound quality, albeit it does have some bugs.

You can get Vital from their website right here, unfortunately there is no mac version, only windows. Don’t confuse it with Glitch 2, which is a (very good) paid effects unit.

Effectrix free alternative vst: Glitch

Step into the world of sequenced effect units. Basically, they apply effects only to certain parts of your sound, and you control which part you want to modify with a simple and known interface. The resemblance is not there, but trust us, it is basically the same thing. The effects are on par in sound quality, and there is even a randomiser on board for those that like to experiment.

Glitch is available free of charge here.

RC-20 Retro Color free alternative vst: Izotope Vinyl

This is one of our favourites. It is soo simple to use and the results are extremely good. What we like about Izotope Vinyl that is comparable to RC 20 VST is the instant gratification element. You just slide a little fader and the sound takes so much color and character, a smile is guaranteed to appear on your face.

Sure, the graphical user interface is extremely spartan compared to the RC2o plugin but who cares, as long as the results are comparable. And they most certainly are. You even have the wobble from RC-20, represented on Izotope Vinyl as the “warp” control, with the added bonus of actually controlling the warp shape.

On the RC-20 there is the “Digital” and “Distort” control which is basically a bit reduction and a form of distortion that can be replicated in any daw with built in effects, it’s really nothing special. If you really must have a 3rd party VST alternative, any distortion and bit reduction plugin works. Also, the “Space” control on the RC-20 is just a normal reverb, there are a lot of free reverb options out there. If you don’t know any free reverb, bit reduction and distortion plugin, let us point you in the right direction with this free vst mega list.

Izotope vinyl is available on Izotope’s website.

Guitar Rig alternative: Amplitube

Well, kind of. Yes, Amplitube is a paid/licensed piece of software that has a free of charge version. Guitar rig also has a free version, a demo mode. Still, we consider that Amplitube is a good contender if you want to find a Guitar Rig replacement that is also free of charge. We decidecated a whole article on comparing Amplitube to Guitar Rig here.

Antares Auto Tune free replacement: Graillon 2

Ah Auto-tune, the effect we really love to hate here at iDesignSound. That is because we consider ourselves serious music makers who don’t really like pop and the pop sound that you can find in basically all mainstream music including a lot of hip hop.

Still, if you must use it, there is really no point in getting a paid plugin unless you really really need all the very pro features, But if you just want to tune vocals without ruining the sound qualities then the alternative vst called Graillon 2 will work just fine, and you can find the free version here.

That was it, we hope we managed to make your music production journey a bit more budget friendly. Still, if you want to use the paid plugins like a bigboy, sign up to our newsletter, we always provide our subscribers the best deals on the market!

Arturia Pigments 3 – new features

We truly love Arturia Pigments 3. We actually love all Arturia software here at idesignsound.com. Today we bring you an update on the new features of this full fledged “polychrome” VST synth. And for a full fledged review, our friends at musicradar.com have a very nice review.

Introduction

Arturia Pigments is a very nice and very modern VST instrument. It initially started out as a wavetable synth with a lot of features. What is striking about the Arturia Pigments is the visualisation of the modulation sources. Thus, it is very very intuitive and also very easy to learn.

Other than this, it has some very nice effects onboard, a great sequencer and the option to load your own wavetables. For a detailed review, you can also check our article here at idesignsound.com.

Version three, which is free for existing users, brings incremental updates like more sound engines, more wavetables, more effects and so on, but there are two features that are brand new and strike out, we will analyse them below:

Arturia Pigments 3 – Additive mode

Dubbed the “Harmonic Engine”, Arturia Pigments 3 introduces one of the earliest forms of sound synthesis, additive synthesis. The very early experimental synths had this, where each oscillator would create the fundamental and each of its partials to create a complex sound. So if you would imagine a spectrum analyser, the highest spike (usually the lowest in frequency) is the fundamental frequency of the sound, and then the next ones (usually to the right, higher frequency) are the partials. Together, they form the timbre or the style of the sound. Regular synths, or “subtractive” create this frequency pattern with a single, complex oscillator, then use a filter to reduce the partials. But this has some issues, namely you can mostly reduce partials to the left or right, it is very hard to fully remove partials in the centre of the frequency spectrum (you can with an EQ, but not fully and you more than often reduce other partials than the ones you want to).

But if you really want to design timbre, it is much better to not include what you don’t want than to filter it out. The problem with additive synthesis in hardware form is that you need a lot, and we mean A LOT of oscillators to add up. This is why subtractive is preferred from a practical standpoint, even if filtering the oscillator it is not really adequate for full control of the oscillator timbre. Of course, we are talking about hardware synths, so for VSTs it was a real shame that no real, serious additive synths were made.

In Arturia Pigments 3’s additive engine you can add up to 512 partials and you can also modulate them. This should bring a brand new sound palette for your productions.

Arturia Pigments 3 – Utility Engine

This is more of a fine tuning addition to your ability to design complex sounds with the VST. This new feature is not that “in your face as additive” synthesis but it is, in my humble opinion, at least equal in importance. Usually, it is the subtle things that make us like something.

The Arturia Pigments 3 Utility Engine contains two individual distinct noise sources and a virtual analog sub oscillator. This will make your sounds fat in no time. While you would be able to have this in the past, it would also meant you would sacrifice valuable space in the for of one of the two slots the VST has. Now, the Utility Engine is separate, so you get to keep the two original sound sources.

Other new additions come in form of new effects and filters (legendary analog emulations from Roland), plus pitch delay and multi-band compression.

You can buy Arturia Pigments from pluginboutique.com, with a special introductory price of 99 eur (original price 199 eur).

Arturia Chorus Dimension D (Roland Chorus Clone) Review and Deal

Wow, we live in such interesting times. VSTs are getting better and better, and now they can almost, and we really mean almost emulate the hardware sound. No wonder Arturia delayed emulating the Roland Chorus Dimension-D (aka Roland SSD-320). I am guessing they wanted to do it just right, because wow! – this thing is a killer tool to have in your arsenal. They done it, we think they did a good job, and you can get a nice discount right now here.

And if you are looking for a VST Synth to get along with this massive VST effect, we have compiled and reviewed the best VST synths in the market right now here.

The original Roland Dimension D – what is it?

Ok so this one is pretty simple, it is a chorus effect. Chorus makes a single, simple sound sound much more complex. If it is mono, it expands it in stereo. If it is stereo already, it widens the stereo image and makes it much more complex.

Think of chorus as in a church context, or when multiple human voices sing to the same tune. Basically, they all sing the same musical note, but each voice has its own timbre, which actually makes the same note sound much more complex than if just a single voice would sing it.

Sure, sometimes you want just a single voice, but sometimes you want to add depth, which is precisely why you need a chorus – to add depth.

Chorus gets your sound source, multiplies it creating clones, detunes the clones and shifts them in the stereo field. It can sound drastic, it can sound fulfilling. It can also sound heavy and imprecise, so always be sure to set just how much chorus you want by ear.

How I use the Roland Dimension D

So basically I am not a fan of stereo chorus. I don’t think that a chorus is meant to just widen the stereo field, if you want that, you can find simpler tools to do it, because chorus can have an impact on the overall sound as well as the stereo image, in some cases for stereo material, making it muddy.

Here is my processing rack, with the Dimension D on top position

That does not mean you are not allowed to do it, just make sure that your stereo sound retains it’s original precision and presence after you treat it with chorus.

I think that the Dimension D chorus (both Roland and Arturia) works best for mono signals, and is excellent for bass sounds.

Sometimes you have to work in mono. Your favourite synths do not work in stereo, and if they do, it’s mostly because they have onboard stereo effects like delay and reverb. Sometimes you are recording your guitar and there is no point in doing it in stereo. Most bass sounds are recommended to be used in mono, and you mostly have a mono source.

The Dimension D expands this in stereo, but in a very subtle way. There are four settings on the VST (and multiple settings on the hardware because you can have more than one button pressed), each representing the degree of chorus being applied and also the level of stereo expansion. But believe me when I say this, the stereo expansion is subtle, even on the red (four) setting.

So what I usually do is take my bass sound which is always coming from a mono synth, and run it in parallel from the mixer to the Roland Dimension D adjusting how much I send (main channel is going in the box via the Empirical Labs FATSO compressor and tape emulator – excellent piece of gear, review coming soon). The chorus gives my bass much more presence because of the stereo field and a degree of extra complexity. It makes it stand in the mix, and I would be lost without this treatment to be honest.

  • Using the Dimension D on the bass is the first and best use case in my oppinion and is a good reason for you to buy the Arturia Dimension D chorus right now.
  • Using the Dimension D on synths in general on the lowest setting, just to get a bit of saturation as an alternative to compression.
  • Other use cases are of course for polyphonic sounds like pads and piano which has been recorded in mono, just make sure you do it with moderation as the chorus will load your sound with a “swirly” effect and can make you feel a bit dizzy.
  • Last use case for me would be on stereo material, mostly because I feel that the Roland hardware lacks a dry/wet knob and can be too much, even on the lowest setting. Arturia has included a dry/wet knob so you can use it on stereo sounds just make sure you use your ears and don’t overdo it.

Arturia VST versus Roland hardware

So of course, having your tools in software has some advantages and disadvantages. What you get with the VST has been summed in the list below:

  1. Dry/wet knob for parallel use
  2. Presets
  3. Color (saturation) ajustment
  4. Chorus Oscillator Shape (Chorus has an internal LFO that modulates the pitch of the clones)
  5. Stereo widening ajustment
  6. Price (Roland gear can be expensive, we paid 1200 EUR for the hardware unit)
  7. Reliability (VSTs do not break down and do not require maintenance)
  8. Total Recall, each DAW project has it’s own Arturia Chorus Dimension D settings
  9. More than one instance of the chorus effect in the project

Of course what you don’t get with the Arturia Dimension D VST clone is the stellar sound that the Roland hardware is known for.

Yes guys it’s time to discuss sound. Do I like Arturia’s chorus sound? Yes, I do. Is it similar to Roland’s? Not really. They did a good job emulating the sound and the feel of the effect, and the use cases are there, but the sound is just a bit different. Enough for me to notice, and enough for me to keep the hardware with the obvious limitations. But this is just me, you can decide it’s not worth buying the hardware just for the sound alone. It is vintage so you have to maintain and service it. You can spill beer on it. You can have an electrical issue and loose it. Not to mention that you don’t have any control over it, you just select the algorythm.

The best part of the Roland hardware, after sound of course, is the fact that you can have a combination of algorithms by pressing more than one button.

Still, it is 2021 and you have options. Obviously if you want to start collecting hardware, source gear like synths are more important than processing, so we only recommend getting a vintage Roland Dimension D chorus at the end of your gear collection effort, if the space and budget allows. If not, you can get the VST for the obvious ease of use and maintenance boost. Just keep in mind that while the Arturia Chorus sounds great, the hardware sounds much better.

And if you are fast enough, you can get the Arturia VST at a special introductory price here.

5 BEST Mid-winter 2021 VST Plugin DEALS

Wellcome to our periodic round-up of the BEST DEALS available on music production VST Plugins. Here, we help you spend your hard-earn money on new toys and virtual gear. So without further ado, here is our list of five of the BEST DEALS on VST Plugins and their end date:

  1. Izotope Complete Your Suite Sale – up to 80% off. Yes you heard that right, up to 80% off select Izotope VST Plugins in order for you to have more of the same quality and usability. There are also offers for upgrades here. Deal ends February 16th 2021 and can be found here.
  2. Iceberg Audio – The Sub VST Synth – 33% off introductory price. This one is also on the usability side, and it’s a straightforward sub bass synth. For 33 Eur you get one envelope, glide and drive, so not that much BUT the sound quality is out if this world. It is an instant favourite our ours and the deal can be found here. It is only live until Februray 10.
  3. Native Instruments Komplete 13 – huge discount on bundles. If you’ve been waiting for a great deal to get into Komplete, now is the time. They have heavily discounted their bundles, including Ultimate and Collector’s Edition. They did this also for the starter packs, and you can get them for as low as 199 Eur for the Select bundle. The deal can be found here, and there is no end date specified, so go ahead and try your luck.
  4. W.A. Production has a 68% off sale on preset packs for the most popular synths out there like Serum, Spire, Sylenth and much more. If Techno and House are your things, then this is for you. All major VST Synths are supported on this preset pack, and the deal ends on the 28th of February. Shop here!
  5. 55% Off Eden2 by UJAM and Bassroom by Mastering the Mix. Again, if dance music, especially Techno and House are your things, These two tools are indispensable. I am particularly fond of Bassroom, it is very useful on the master channel to round out and smooth your bassline. UJAM is a very nice drum machine too. This deal ends on 14th of Februray.

So there you have it, enough to get you through the end of Winter. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletters for more deals:

Roland Jupiter 8 emulation – TAL-J-8 review and special introductory price

The TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 emulation is good. I mean, really good and also enjoyable. Who doesn’t know the Jupiter 8? This is a rhetorical question, if you are on this website and you regularly follow the content here, you are no stranger to synths. Now, this one is actually THE synth. Top of the line.

Roland has made a couple of good synths and a couple of bad synths. They have also made some excellent pieces of music production hardware. The Jupiter 8 is one of them, and for me it is the ultimate polyphonic subtractive experience. It sounds T-H-I-C-K. It sounds classy. It NEVER sounds outdated.

A lot of replicas have tried to recreate it’s unique, full and organic sounds. We have of course the Arturia replica, which is our opinion captures it pretty well. Then we have of course the Roland Cloud offering the sound. Then we have a lot, and I mean a lot of presets in other VSTs that are trying to give you a piece. If you want more information about emulating the Roland Jupiter 8 in VST form then we recommend this brilliant article here.

Or better yet, for the ones that can affort it, we actually recommend buying the hardware itself. If you can find a serviced, fully working model that is. I mean, just look at it:

For today though, we will come back to earth from Jupiter and discuss the newest addition to the synth’s ever expanding arsenal of VST Plugin emulations. I am talking about the TAL-J-8 product.

Tal has been in the space for quite some time now, emulating (successfully in our oppinion) Roland gear.

They have done the Juno pretty well. They have recreated the SH-101. They actually offer the Juno chorus as a separate VST. We love Tal, and we think that their output truly helps out music producers.

But let’s dive straight in to their newest offering, the TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 soft synth. And for our lineup of BEST general-purpose VST Synths, head on down to our article here.

This VST captures the brassy, powerful but also mellow sound of the Roland Jupiter 8 very well.

Yes you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, the most accessible example for me right now is Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Just listen to those gorgeous pads and the harmony that this 8 voice VCO powered monster can create.

The synth is truly cosmic, one of a kind. It can be powerful, it can be smooth, it can be in the background and it surely can be in your face. It can sound classy and it can also be new age. As you can see, I love the Jupiter 8. I could not fit it into my studio in the keyboard, standard version, so I did the next best thing and bout the 2U Rack version, the MPG-80 (Rev.4 of course). It is cheaper and it is much more compact, but it lacks the front panel (sold separately). No problem, i’ll just use the VST editor.

The TAL-J-8 VST also has MPE support, we can’t recall right now any other Roland Jupiter 8 emulation that has this.

This one is very interesting, and at this time this is the only Jupiter 8 emulation that can suport MPE. If MPE will not be huge in 2021, it will be extremely sought after in 2022. It is very interesting what you can actually do with just a keyboard, if it has the right sensors. For now you can use MPE to individually adjust the filter and volume on a per-note basis, with pitch pretty soon to follow I guess.

You can see the MPE controls in the screenshot below, showing the synth control interface.

We used it for two weeks, doing all kinds of sounds on it. it shines on classic analog synth stuff like bass and chords/harmony. The filter is very nice, and if you increase the resonance a little bit, you will get that trumpet like sound for which the Roland Jupiter 8 is famous. It is hard to integrate in contemporary electronic music, but still is nice, especially if you are into sound design for movies and games.

While the unison function is nice, we do not recommend you use it on a VST Synth as it will pale in comparison to real unison on a real hardware synth.

Oh and one more thing, the 8 number in the TAL-J-8 is only to reflect the Jupiter 8. It’s not a voice count though, because the TAL-J-8’s polyphony count goes all the way up to 12.

Also noted is the upper/lower system implemented in most high end synths of that era, like the Yamaha CS80, Roland Jx10 and the Prophet 10. You basically get to layer two separate synths, and can play them simultaneously or split the keyboard.

Delay is also a very nice addition to the virtual synth

The delay sounds very nice, reminding me on classic analog BBD style circuits. There is also a Chorus on board, with option I and II in very classy Roland fashion. It sounds tremendous, but even without chorus, this VST has a very surprisingly wide stereo image. Pop the Chorus on and it takes it to the next level.

TAL-J-8 presets and preset browser

As requested here on iDesignSound, we will provide you with our thoughts on the preset browser, as there are more and more musicians traveling and doing live sets (well, not right now due to COVID-19) so browsing through presets on your VST synths is very important. It is not very good for browsing in a live environment. You use your mouse to browse a drop-down style menu, with folders and sub folders. But the presets are really nice.

You get the original factory presets on the hardware, some original TAL sounds plus 6 other folders, with more than 500+ presets onboard immediately after you buy it.

You can get the TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 VST at a good price.

Yes it is time limited but still it’s a very good deal. TAL is a very nice VST company and I really enjoy their products.

Get the TAL-J-8 here with a 20% intro discount (until 28.02.2021).

If you prefer to pay a monthly fee and have access to a lot more VST Plugins, then we have a very nice comparison and review of the best rent-to-own VST services here.

Enhance your Drums for FREE – Diablo lite VST

If you always compared your own drum works to the professional sound and felt a little off, Diablo lite is for you. This VST is pretty nice, as our test shown, and really works especially on electronic drums.

So what is Diablo lite?

Diablo lite is a FREE VST offering by Cymatics. You know them mostly for their (paid) sample packs but they actually have a lot of free products too. And not just sample packs but plugins and also presets for popular plugins.

And if FREE VSTs are your thing, we actually are maintaining a very extensive list of more than 400 freebies here, where we actually added Diablo lite.

Now, about Diablo lite, this VST is part compressor and part transient shaper. The compressor is actually a clipper, so the compression ratio is very high, close to the well-known “brick wall” style of compression. Because of this dual nature of this sound treatment device, it is excellent for drums.

How do you use it?

So basically every producer uses some form or compression on the drums, either on the whole drum bus or individually. This is because most source material, be it sample-based, synth or live recorded is kind of in the middle in terms of dynamics. It can cut through your whole song but in it’s dry form doesn’t. It has the neutral drum sound, is not in your face but is also not absent. What you want to do is actually fit the drums in your sound.

Let’s take the 808 for example, it is ubiquitous and used in a lot, i mean A LOT of music genres. Some genres use it in a more aggressive flavour, some prefer it more mellow. So you basically do this with either a compressor, a transient shaper or both. Transient shapers basically dictate the initial snap and also the remaining tail of the sound.

This is the Punch control knob and dictates the presence. For dynamics, you have the Clip setting, which actually enganges the limiter and makes the sound more compact as you crank it. If you used too much Punch and the drum just jumps out of the mix and commands too much of the user’s attention, try to not use Clip and just turn it down in the mix instead.

But if the Punch knob does not actually do the trick for you because it makes the drum loose it’s initial character, then Clip can save you and achieve the strength that you are looking for in that particular sound.

Actually the website has a lot of samples for this product, and you can actually hear it in action. But why not download it yourself from this download link?

Mixing vocals tutorial & cheat sheet – FREE PDF

Hey friends, good to talk to you again! For those of you that are not subscribed to the iDesignSound.com newsletter, you may have missed this very interesting document in regards to mixing or should I say, fitting, vocals into tracks.

It would be so not like you to miss out on this very important information so we would suggest that you sign-up for the iDesignSound.com newsletter. We will not spam you, but provide very important and relevant information in the field. Our subscribers got this information ahead of time but we figured it is too good to miss so we are providing it to you as well, at the bottom of the article.

Please find the newsletter register form below:

Now, Slate Digital, the company know for very very good emulation of hardware outboard unit, have released this very good pdf booklet about mixing vocals.

Vocals are extremely tricky to get right given the dynamic nature of the human voice, the broad range of frequencies it covers and the somewhat hard to obtain sweet spot of modern music mixing.

And if you plan to record your own voice and process it with this guide, we have written a very extensive comparrison and review for the best microphone arm on the market right now.

Slate Academy, the tutorial side of Slate Digital’s business, has got this covered with six parts, following the signal path and the natural way of sound treatment:

  1. Corrective Eq
  2. Compression
  3. Tone shaping
  4. De-essing
  5. Air
  6. Stereo processing (Reverb/Delay)

We found this list very handy, from the perspective of information contained as well as structuring, so without further ado, here is the download link for the PDF:

Very interesting free VST – Lyra 8 recreation

For those that know and for those that don’t, Lyra-8 is a very interesting synth with a very interesting sound engine and layout.

I know, because I own it (the orange sunset colorway of course) and I can say that it is nothing short of incredible.

Lyra 8 is all about cross modulation and finding atmospheric chords

Yes, that’s right, there is no keyboard you don’t really get to play standard notes (western division into notes and semitones). There is also no MIDI so the VST version is interesting because you can get to play standard chords very easily. I got it mostly for that.

On the hardware unit you close the circuit and play the note with the two buttons on the bottom, by putting your finger or any conductive material on both for each oscillator. You only have knob tuning to select the note/pitch that each oscillator plays.

There is a also external processing on the hardware.

So having both the hardware unit and the VST makes sense if you plan to use the hardware for the BBD style delay and distortion on external sounds only.

Be sure to check also our list of 400+ free VSTs (regularly updated, we just added the Lyra 8 VST here as well).

Here is a video demonstrating the hardware, it is advised you check it first to see what to expect from the VST:

To be honest, it does not really matter what you plan to do because the VST is free. I fully recommend you test it out as I am sure you will find a place for it in your sound design pallettte.

The free VST can be downloaded here.

Soundtoys MEGA SALE – live now

Hey guys, just your friendly reviewer logging in this wonderful time, somewhere between Christmas and New Year with a huge deal. I was pretty sure you were interested so here it is: Soundtoys has huge discounts in place up until mid January.

https://www.soundtoys.com/product/

So here they are, and also don’t forget to first demo them before purchase, the offer is said to be live until 15th of January. Our personal favourites are

  1. MicroShift – a classic, although one that is hard to describe. Technically it is somewhat like a chorus device, but a bit more subtle. Definitely have to try it and you will want to use it to widen stereo fields and to blend in pronounced instruments.
  2. EchoBoy – again this is kind of timeless. It is all the tape delay heaven that you can possibly dream of in this little plugin.
  3. Crystallizer – for the experimental types. Delay again, but instead of BBD/tape style found in EchoBoy, this one is all about grain and recycling. You can also change the pitch of the feedback to get really weird.