Bleass Omega: A User Friendly FM Synth with a Twist

The Bleass Omega is a perfect introduction to user-friendly FM synthesis. How come the Bleass Omega is so good at introducing guitarists to synthesis in general? Here, Bleass break down FM Synthesis, which is reputed to be trickier to get the hang of than analogue. The Bleass Omega markets itself as a user-friendly FM synth. FM synthesis became known as difficult to master due to its technicality. FM synths were also known for sometimes requiring the musician to already have a working knowledge of sonic terminology. This meant it was challenging to get exactly what you wanted, especially with early FM synths like the Yamaha DX7. Whilst these synths were legendary, they were nevertheless tricky to pick up. The Bleass Omega does away with all this. Instead, it provides a slick, clean interface which is already friendly towards newcomers to FM synthesis. 

What Makes the Bleass Omega Perfect for User-Friendly FM Synthesis

Fm synthesis stands for frequency modulation. FM synthesisers use a tone to modulate the frequency of a soundwave and change its pitch. This means Fm synthesis relies much more on an in-depth knowledge of the way sound is built up. Sometimes, this can include what exactly is going on within the oscillator. What the Bleass Omega does is break down the process visually for you. Therefore, it demonstrates what is happening within the oscillators and to the soundwave onscreen. It is smooth, easy to use, and attractive looking. The interface also compartmentalises the process via colour coding. As a result, it is easy to see what is happening at exactly each stage of the signal chain. 

User-Friendly FM Synthesis for iPad and iPhone

What Bleass have also done is adapted the Bleass Omega for iPad and iPhone. Fancied a high-power, authentic, yet user-friendly FM synthesis right on your handheld device? This is not a simple app with a basic replica of the main plugin. Instead, this is the real deal and includes everything needed. Bleass manages to do this by placing its focus on streamlining FM synthesis. As a result, the versions for iPad and iPhone are equally good as the desktop version for composing while travelling. 

Features of the Bleass Omega: User-Friendly FM Synthesis at Your Fingertips

  • Contains a chorus processor, tremolo effect, tempo-synchronisable delay processor, flexible reverb processor, motion sequencer, configurable length and randomness,
  • Available LFO waveforms – sine, triangle, saw up, saw down, square and sample-and-hold.
  • LFO visualation
  • Assignable ADSR envelope
  • 9 different shaping algorithms on the waveshaper
  • Choose from 11 FM algorithms, with colour-coded graphical representations to help with your choice. Each algorithm corresponds to a different routing of the four FM operators. Here, the flow starts at the top of the diagram and working downwards. Where operators are linked, the upper operator(s) modulate the frequency of the lower operator(s).
  • Transpose and fine-tune the synth using the Octave and Tune controls

This is just a small part of what’s available with the Bleass Omega. For a full breakdown, head to their website by clicking here.

Bleass Omega and MPE Technology (MIDI Polyphonic Extraction)

Like the Bleass Alpha, its user-friendly analogue subtractive synthesis counterpart, the Bleass Omega has MIDI polyphonic extraction or MPE. More on this is outlined in the article on the Bleass Alpha. This recent development allows synths to create bends, slides, and other sounds similar to those on the guitar. This is what made our review of the Bleass alpha so geared towards it as a beginner synth for guitarists. However, if you want to explore FM synthesis, the Bleass Omega suits anyone looking to easily create unusual sounds. In fact, the combination of FM synthesis and MPE is a powerful one. Bleass has taken advantage of this, as there aren’t that many FM synths with MPE on the market. Furthermore, the Omega is one of the most user-friendly of the lot. In addition, the kinds of timbres and textures which FM synthesis creates work well with the features of MPE.

The Bleass Omega can also be purchased as a bundle and individually. This comes with multiple presets. These are part of user-friendly FM synthesis as a whole, but they also work well as starting points. The designers have really taken care to showcase how FM and MPE work together. Therefore, you don’t mind spending the extra money, these bundles provide almost everything for you. 

Bleass Omega System Requirements and Price

The Bleass Omega requires Windows 8 and later on PC, AAX, and 64-bit VST3. On Mac it requires iOS 10.9 or later, AAX, VST3, or AU. It is compatible with all DAWs which can run VST3, AU, or AAX.

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Omega over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

Bleass Omega Interface: How Come the Bleass Omega is So Easy to Understand?

Is the Bleass Omega really as user-friendly as the website makes out? Synthesis is a huge and varied topic. Therefore, manufacturers – unless they are marketing towards the pros – make their products easy for bedroom sound designers to use. What makes or breaks a synth is whether you can use it to produce a real variety of sounds. This comes down to whether it is flexible as opposed to just providing shortcuts via a variety of presets. This is what really separates the Bleass Omega from other so-called user-friendly FM synths on the market.

With its interface, even those unfamiliar with FM synthesis can understand what is happening the soundwave. This allows musicians to mentally build a connection between the things they see on screen and the sounds they produce. And this is especially important for user-friendly FM synthesis. It can create many sounds and timbres which you cannot make with subtractive, analogue or semi-analogue synthesis. As a result, FM synth users often find they are really searching for a specific tone. By breaking down the soundwave visually, Bleass has made it easy to remember the steps to creating sound. This way, musicians can get what they want without shooting in the dark.

Final Thoughts

The Bleass omega does for FM synthesis what the Bleass alpha does for analogue. They are both excellent synth plugins for streamlining the synthesis process. Their focus seems to be on making it easy to visualise exactly how the sound is changing. They don’t boast anything flashy, but the designers have thought them through and they are great at simplifying a complex process. This ability to cut through complexity by the designers also means they include MPE technology without complicating things. Instead, they integrate it seamlessly as another possibility available. At the same time, they have kept the interface easy to navigate. Therefore, you can retrace your steps if you hit upon a really fantastic sound which is too good to waste. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Omega over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

If you liked this article we think you should check the whole Software Synthesis category, just click here.

Easy Granular Synthesis: Portal’s New Granular Synth

Previously on idesignsound.com, we covered granular synthesis with the Lemondrop mini synth. You can read that review here. This synth has introduced many musicians to the concept and made it intuitive, easy to use, and attractive. There aren’t actually that many granular synths on the market, but another of these is the portal granular synth. This synth is very different from the Lemondrop. Instead, it is a digital VST which works on DAWs such as logic. However, the makers have designed it similarly intuitively to the folks at 1010 music. This is because they know that fewer people know of granular synthesis than some of its counterparts. As a result, they realised it was important to translate this type of synthesis. This led to a smooth, clean, and easy-to-use synth so that it is accessible to every kind of musician. 

What Does Granular Synthesis Involve?

Ultimately, granular synthesis is a kind of synthesis which involves samples. Granular synthesis chops up samples of real-life sounds and mixes and matches them at very small sizes, known as granules. Each granule makes up part of the soundwave. By manipulating these granules you can sculpt and shape them to create a sound of the desired timbre, tone, and texture. It is so precise, this can be anything you may want.

Granular synthesis is very different from the classic forms of synthesis which arose in the 80-s and 70s. Instead, it is perfect for creating space age, alien, or otherwise more underground and unusual sounds. This is really a type of synthesis for audiophiles who enjoy constantly seeking the best kinds of new sounds. It also suits artists who are looking for something really special 

Granular synthesis allows the artist an unprecedented amount of control over the shape of the sound. It offers an entirely new way of looking at soundwaves. Instead of the wave as a whole, fluid thing, granular synthesis breaks it down to its absolute building blocks. This means you can get to grips with exactly how to create sound. Ultimately, it can show you fractal patterns and meta arrangements of new sounds. These help you really get to see what makes a sound harsh or soft, light or dark, etc. 

What Does the Interface of the Portal Granular Synth Look Like?

The interface focuses mainly on a circle which allows you to actually map out the different grains of sound. This way you can see how they interact with each other to create the sounds you are making. There’s a drop-down menu on the left-hand side, which offers you many presets that appeal to adventurous artists. This includes really weird, glitchy, and otherwise unpo[pular or unusual sounds. These can add just that little extra something to your new track.

With a simple drag of the mouse, you can affect the amount of granulation. It also lets you turn knobs and dials for the more conventional effects such as tape delay. In this way it is like you would find on any other synth. Not only can you use it as an instrument in itself, but it can also combine it creatively with vocals. This further allows you to alter sounds in a really unusual way. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

How Does Portal create Such Easy Granular Synthesis?

Luckily, the designers at Portal know that most of their customers will be new to granular synthesis. Therefore, they have made it easy for you. It has over 250 presets, all of which are seriously good in themselves. The portal granular synth is interesting based on those alone. However, it really excels at tempo-based granulation. The designers of this synth made it with the knowledge that timbre and tone do not exist in isolation. Portal wants all your tracks to really hook together and get into the groove. A value readout panel also helps you get to grips with controls. Luckily, due to the way it breaks everything down, this is a perfect synth for learning transferrable skills. You can then use these on other granular synths.

A time manipulation control really shows you how your sound waves interact with tempo. Furthermore, an XY-based control lets you plot sound systematically against these axes so you can actually visualise it. Seven built-in FX, a master compressor, and scale-based pitch modulation also add to it. All in all, this makes a super slick machine which can take you on a whirlwind tour of granular synthesis. With this, there is no doubt it will then become your trusty companion. 

Requirements to Use the Portal Granular Synth:

AAX, AU, VST and VST3 versions included

Mac OS X 10.9 or higher
Windows 7 or higher
32 and 64-bit compatible (PC)
4GB of RAM required, 8GB recommended
At least 300 MB of free drive space

And at 131 GBP (156.59 USD) it’s actually a really affordable synth. This is mostly due to the fact it is relatively unrelated and that the market hasn’t given it much publicity yet. In terms of innovation, granular synths tend to be high end. Therefore, along with the Lemondrop from 1010 music this is one of the best and most affordable out there. In fact, it provides not just an introduction ot granular synthesis but also lets you explore it further.

Final Thoughts on the Portal Granular Synth

This synth doesn’t boast any historical credentials. It isn’t modelled off a classic piece of gear. The design team also doens’t include any particularly notable minds. However, it doesn’t need it, and for what it is, it works really well within itself. It does what it needs to do, yet excells at it. Furthermore, it takes on a little known part of synthesis and makes it accessible. This is no easy feat.

Sometimes analogue or analogue modelled synths are subject to high standards. They tend to have a lot of history to live up to. However, musicians often overlook what can be doen with just a DAW in mind. This is a powerful example of a really good digital example of a synth that can hold so much possibility. The designers also haven’t felt the need to include huge amounts of complicated features. They are instead safe in the knowledge that the style of their product really is enough to turn heads. In the end, actually doesn’t need anything more. The portal granular synth is available from the portal website for download. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

Bleass Alpha: One of the Best Synths for Guitarists on the Market

What is the Bleass Alpha and why its praises have been sung so widely this year? This honest review of the Bleass Alpha will guide you through its features. In addition, it will break down what sets it apart from other synths on the market. In keeping with our guide to synthesis for guitarists, the Bleass Alpha is one of the most guitarist-friendly synths available. This is partly due to the way its MPE technology can imitate playing styles found on the guitar. Read on to find out more about the Bleass Alpha. 

MPE: The Secret to the Usability of the Bleass Alpha

One of the most significant features of the Bleass Alpha is its MPE technology. MPE technology has been around since 2018 and stands for MIDI Polyphonic Expression. MPE has been one of the most important advances in synthesis since the 1970s and 1980s.  It especially stands out as a development because it allows for more nuance and accuracy in producing sound. This allows synths to mimic the varied, microtonal qualities of common practices on guitar such as string bends. These are also found in vocal work, such as slurs and slides..

MPE is one of the main things which make the Bleass Alpha an exceptionally guitarist-friendly synth. Guitarists new to synthesis can often find the natural fluidity of their instrument and playing style translates badly to synthesis. In general, synthesis tends to promote a more linear way of working based on sonic building blocks. On the one hand, a good musician can avoid this by learning the ins and outs of it. Nevertheless, MPE allows for a musician to control very subjective qualities of sound such as timbre. This extends as well to concepts such as the darkness, lightness, or richness of a note. As these are difficult to pin down, MPE opens up a new world of music more quickly than otherwise possible. It’s this which really allows the Bleass Alpha to stand out as one of the best synths for guitarists on the market.

What Additional Features Make the Bleass Alpha one of the Best Synths for Guitarists?

Other features also make this a perfect synth for guitarists. These are based on how it mimics many phenomena which happen when playing the guitar. An individual instrument like a guitar is subject to lots of individuality and randomness. Designers at Bleass have done thei best to mimic this using the Bleass Alpha via its dice presets generator. This works well with helping a guitarist new to synthesis think outside the box. When playing, guitarists can get stuck in patterns of playing which may have been confined by scales and arpeggios. However, Bleass has also taken this into account. For those used to the fluid and interconnected world of scale patterns, the left-to-right signal flow is a lifesaver. This shows every part of the signal chain onscreen.

Although a guitarist will still have to learn technical skills, this is one of the best synths for guitarists as it allows them to adapt easily. However, this is not just helpful for guitarists but anyone else new to synthesis. Breaking down signal flow, helps musicians develop a sense of how the changes they make affect the entire sound. This allows sound designers to see the structure of the sound that is created. In addition, it breaks down how each and every part interconnects. 

Bleass Alpha Specifications

  • 3 oscillators, 2 stereo and 1 mono 
  • Cross & ring modulation between oscillators, Phase control on stereo oscillators for wide stereo, Hard sync, ADSR, single noise source
  • 2 variable state filters with drive settings
  • 4 Filters shapes: Low Pass / High Pass / Band Pass / Notch
  • Filter Envelope
  • 2 LFOs per voice with multiple waveforms & multiple modulation targets
  • Envelope ADSR with assignable modulation targetsOverdrive
  • Bitcrusher, Tremolo, Delay with filter and ping-pong effect
  • Reverb with length, filter and color control
  • Advanced presets management: import / export multiple presets, assign category, rename, edit. Presets are compatible with the iOS version.
  • Presets Generator (dice)

Pricing and Availability of the Bleass Alpha

The Bleass Alpha is available from the Bleass website. For such a great all-rounder synth, it doesn’t break the bank. At 69 USD, it is a great low to mid-range virtual polyphonic analogue synthesizer. On top of this, it combines great workflow and an interactive interface with real thought about what musicians need. However, if necessary you can buy it as part of the Bleass Alpha bundle which goes for 99 USD. This bundle contains all the presets, whereas the synth by itself only has the first of them unlockable. However, you can also purchase the others in addition. What’s so great is actual musicians have designed all of these presets, too. In keeping with the guitar-friendly theme of the Bleass Alpha, they haven’t restricted this just to sound designers and producers. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Alpha + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

What Makes the Bleass Alpha Stand Out as One of the Best Synths for Guitarists?

Bleass Alpha made some headlines when it was subject to a price drop earlier this year. While its price may now be back to normal, it still hosts a variety of other exciting new features. In fact, the team at Bleass have really been working on things this year. Beyond the typical bug fixes, there is a fantastic new presets pack from Sound Test Room’s Doug Woods. What the makers do really well is to think about its presets from the point of view of artists. This maximises variety and usability. These new presets are no different. With both the Alpha and its sister synth the Omega, Bleass keeps innovating. Therefore it’s really worthwhile to buy in general – these synths are ones which are often subject to fantastic updates. 

Playing guitar often gives a much more hands-on playing style and interconnected understanding of the signal chain. Guitarists enter an entirely new world when they approach synthesis. However, with the Bleass Alpha, you can transferr many of your existing playing habits. This synth has an intuitive workflow and easy ways of breaking down sound. Ultimately this allows control over those things which make or break good guitar playing such as timbre.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, the designers have kept this synth basically but extremely well thought through. It has all the features needed for awesome-sounding analogue synthesis, without so many special additions. This stops it from becoming confusing and ensures it just does what it does best. However, when you look at it more closely, this means the Bleass Alpha excels as one of the best synths for guitarists. Nevertheless, it is enough of a good all-rounder synth that even experienced synth aficionados can also benefit from it. Although it is not as flashy as some other products on the market, the Bleass Alpha has everything you need. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Alpha + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

Native Instruments Massive X: The NeXt Generation of Synth Plugins

Hello Friends, and welcome to our honest review of the Native Instruments MASSIVE X VST synth. In the digital audio space, it can be easy to overlook just how much great software is available to us with only a few clicks. Gone are the days of relying on expensive hardware and studio-time alone to make great music. For most of us, a laptop and a MIDI controller is all we need to open an entire world of musical possibilities. I often find myself in front of a laptop, with a MIDI controller next to me and a VST synthesizer loaded into my DAW. So, what options are available to us as home producers, and what’s new in the world of digital synth plugins?

What is Native Instruments MASSIVE X?

Native Instruments, a well-recognized name in the world of audio production, brings us MASSIVE X, a follow-up to their highly successful and appropriately titled software MASSIVE. Available for download and as a demo from their website, it doesn’t take long to see why so many people love this next generation synth.

Early impressions of the software are very positive. The well laid out user interface isn’t just functional, it’s familiar. MASSIVE X is a plugin that prioritises the modular aspect of synths, and it does so very effectively. For a definitive list of the BEST VST Plugin synths we have a huge article right here.

What makes Native Instruments MASSIVE X stand out?

The power of synths largely comes down to two core elements: oscillation and modulation, and how much control users have over these parameters. With dual wavetable oscillation at its core, MASSIVE X is a ton of fun for seasoned producers and beginners alike. MASSIVE X gives users all the conventional wavetables we expect, but also provides a wealth of new options for creative inspiration.

Here is an example of the complex modulation possibilities with this VST synth

For users already familiar with MASSIVE, Native Instruments has included remastered versions of their wavetables as well. MASSIVE X allows users to manipulate the wavetable position, level and pitch easily. The interface is well thought out and retains separation between sound generation and various effects, including routing and modulation.

For other reviews you should check our dedicated REVIEWS section by clicking right here.

What are the key features of Native Instruments MASSIVE X?

MASSIVE X allows users to connect inputs and outputs without restraint, just like it should be. Routing in MASSIVE X allows users to bypass, feedback and reroute modules with total control, and without sacrifice. The level of controllability in MASSIVE X is arguably it’s best feature, and the software comes packed with tons of presets to get you started.

The oscillators in MASSIVE X provide endless options for producers with over 170 wavetables and 10 different oscillator modes to read them. Each wavetable mode is completely adjustable, and two-phase modulation provides even more opportunities for mixing and layering. Effects can be applied in series, parallel or at random anywhere along the signal chain. For users who want full functionality of plugins with a MIDI controller, MASSIVE X is fully compatible and provides 16 assignable controls for your DAW.

A great overview of Massive X, straight from Native Instruments

Pricing

While not cheap, Native Instruments MASSIVE X is more than worth it, in our opinion. Worth arround 200 USD, you may get a deal from time to time by checking the NI official website: click here to check the current price.

There is also a special price if you already own the first MASSIVE VST Plugin Synth, and you can see this crossgrade price on the official website by clicking here.

Last but not least, Pluginboutique.com is offering a lot of presets for MASSIVE X – see them all by clicking here.

Final thoughts

Native Instruments has packed MASSIVE X with an incredible number of user controllable options in a familiar, modular interface. Producers who are already familiar with other synths will appreciate not just the clean aesthetics of the user interface, but also the familiar functionality of the software as well. MASSIVE X is not simply a digital imitation of a modular synth, it is a modular synth, and it’s right there in your DAW.

Best Black Friday VST Deals 2021

It’s finally Black Friday 2021! With that in mind, we’ve started compiling the very best plugin deals that we could find. Here’s what you can expect this shopping season:

  • Free plugins from popular VST makers such as waves
  • 90%+ off VST plugins from popular stores such as plugin boutique and plugin fox
  • 90%+ off your favorite iOS music apps
  • Free and heavily discounted coursera, masterclass, and producertech courses.
  • 50% + off hardware.
  • Deals that stay live well after black friday.
  • And much, much more…

Before we dig into the best Black Friday VST Plugin, synth, and all music making related deals, here’s some information regarding this shopping season: 

When is Black Friday in 2021?

Following the tradition, Black Friday is on the first Friday after thanksgiving, but this is becoming less and less of a rule, and because of vendor competing with one another the whole month of November 2021 can be considered “Black Friday” month.

When is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is on the following monday, but we have seen it mentioned less and less, all the focus is on Black Friday.

When do the Black Friday 2021 deals begin?

Well most of the seasonal deals are already live, keep on reading for more information!

When do the deals end?

This one is tricky, because there is no consensus. Some end in 1-2 days, some last until X-mas. You will have to check our individual articles that we wrote in regards to each deal to find end date.

Current deals list for 2021

Here are the current best music production and related deals that we have selected for our readers. This is by no means a complete and ultimate list, so take it as it is.

Note: Throughout November and and December, we’ll be updating this list at least 2 to 3 times a week. If you click on the name of the deal, you will access our individual article that details the sale

Thanks for checking out our list of deals, any question or promotion you’d like to add can be done through the comment section below.

If you liked our seasonal list of deals on Music production tools, be sure to also keep track of our Deals category, where we usually keep you updated with the best offers for VST Plugin products on the market.

Black friday music production 2021 deals: izotope vst plugins up to 95% off

Oh boy, it’s that time of the year. Starting with Black Friday and ending with Christmas 2021, we are here at idesignsound.com to bring you the best deals on plugins and VST products. This time we showcase Izotope, a company that needs no introduction in the music production tool marketplace.

This year they bring a great selection of their individual products that are listed on Pluginboutique.com. They also feature discounts on upgrades and crossgrades.

We always invite our readers to focus on the Deals category on our website, since we always update it with the best finds in the market.

Click here to access the IZOTOPE Black Friday and Holiday Season 2021 deal on Pluginboutique, among with other great sales.

What they propose is a nifty collection of products. This is great because compared to most of the other companies that offer bundled deals, Izotope offers to sell you only what you don’t already have, which is always desired.

Here is our personal highlights list on the Izotope Black Friday and Holiday Season 2021 offer:

  • Upgrades: Izotope offers very special offers if you already have one of their products, check them out first as the prices are extremely good: Izotope Nectar 3 Plus, Izotope Neutron 3 Standard, Izotope Tonal Balance, Izotope Music Production Suite 4, etc. Check out the upgrade deals here.
  • Izotope Iris 2 – 93% off. Iris 2 is a nice nifty sample-based synth which is currently on the second iteration. You can consider this a very advanced sampler or a synth with sampling capabilities. The build it effects are great and the interface is extremely well built. Get Izotope Iris 2 with a huge discount of 93% here.
  • Izotope Ozone 9 Standard – 68% off. Ozone 9 is Izotope’s all inclusive mastering suite of products. A lot of mastering engineers swear by using it’s products, especially the limiter. Even if you do not do professional grade mastering, or use hardware to do it, you should check it out as it can be very useful. The deal can be accessed on Pluginboutique here.
  • Izotope Neutron 3 Standard – 68% off. As Ozone 9 is the go to bundle for mastering, so is Neutron 3 for mixing. This is again a bundle of products (that unfortunately cannot be bought separately) and it aims to help you balance each of the channels that compose your finished track. We recommend you use both Neutron 3 and Ozone 9 as these two complement each other pretty well. Check out the 68% discount here.

Happy studio time and enjoy this holiday season!

BEST MPE VST synths, samplers, effects [2022]

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).

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:

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