It’s a synth that claims to do pretty much everything, and do it relatively easily. Andy Jones masters the latest update from KV331
Kit Synthmaster 2.7
Price Standard: $129 (1,250 presets); Everything: $379 (2,850 presets)
Contact T: +90-312-265-0558 W: www.synthmaster.com
Tech Requirements 2.0 Ghz, Intel SSE3 instruction set
Not a day goes by where we hear about a new release that claims to do so much more than that new release from last week (that claimed to do everything). We’re in a technology-driven world, so everything is improving and as the computers and processors that lie at the core of it all get quicker, so all of our lives get so much better, right?
The problem is that when so much is thrown at you, either the number of options become too many or the ease of use goes out the window. Synthmaster from KV331 purports to be all synths to all people, but wrestling with it does not (necessarily) send you running for the hills. The Holy Grail of synths then?
It Does What?
Synthmaster is semi-modular, has simple ‘click on and off’ icons, very neat graphics and tables and, importantly, a straightforward routing philosophy at its heart, so that a basic understanding of signal flow will get you a long way.
Installation was straightforward and we opted for the ‘Everything Bundle’, which has all the banks of presets released. Although it costs $379 we’d probably recommend it down to the sheer number of sounds – nearly 3000! KV331 also suggests the Sadowick Productions video course which sounds like a chore but is worth watching – informative, if a little laid back.
So to the all-important routing and you’ll find, initially anyway, that you will hover around the top left of the synth. Synthmaster is dual layer, with each one playing in Poly, Mono or Legato modes. From there simply think of everything in blocks from left to right, so within each layer you get these blocks which comprise modulators, the two oscillators, the filter section, effects, envelopes and LFOs (x4).
Each of these blocks can be switched on and off or connected, sometimes differently (in the case of the filters in series, parallel, or split) and each is explored in detail within other areas on the screen. So oscillators and modulators are bottom left; envelopes, bottom right; filters, top right; arpeggiator and effects top left; and finally a Matrix area to the right.
This modulation section in itself is worth the asking price. The synth has 3000 parameters to edit and this section has 95 Modulation Sources and 650 Targets. But before you get overwhelmed, again it’s not as complicated as it might be, with 12 easy (common) parameters accessible within the browser, along with X-Y touchpads to make changes.
Also at the far right, you can make adjustments to various settings including changing the skin. While this is very cool, do be careful as you might end up in the more restricted Synthmaster Player Mode and, as I did, struggle to get back to the normal mode (I found the PDF manual eventually!).
The Only Synth You’ll Need?
So there is already a lot going on here but there is more, which ultimately gives the plug-in its ‘master’ status. First, the sheer number of synthesis options and oscillator combinations/types is staggering: Basic; Additive (Basic x8); Vector (using four Basics by way of vector x-y parameters); and Wavetable, not to mention AudioIn (which reminds me I must also mention that Synthmaster can be used as an effect).
FM and AM make use of modulator combinations, audio in and waveforms. If you drill down further to the actual waveform ingredients, there are a huge number to be explored.
You start with the normal Sine waves and then go off through just about every wave you can think of and a gazillion that you can’t. There are waveforms based on big named synths, broad FM and AM waves, random waves… In total, a stunning and varied number to keep you occupied.
And then there’s the effects. With Layer and Global FX Routing and a screen full of options and dropdowns, you couldn’t ask for more flexibility.
Of course, what all of these options mean is masses of sonic potential, and there are 20+ instrument types (keys, bass, arpeggios, synths, etc) and then these are broken down by style, attribute, author and bank into sounds.
And with so many (within the Everything Bundle), I am certainly glad those categories exist as they do make selecting sounds a lot easier. It’s hard to describe an overall theme but ‘big and hard’ springs to mind – sounds with lots of energy, movement, and presence. Generally, you get presets that will sit well as the backbone of your mixes.
I also love the way you can quickly up the number of parts to create massive walls of sound – kind of like ‘taking it to 11’ in synth form. Inevitably, there are a few weaker ones – maybe I could have done with less bells, and my quarter-century ‘keep brass out of synths’ campaign seems no closer to success. But there are many hundreds here that show Synthmaster off to the max and a full-bodied beast it certainly is…
1: Layer Section – The top left of the Sythmaster screen is used to select the layers, and here you see the all-important building blocks including the filters, shown here split.
2: Effects – Effects are also selected in this area, either globally or per layer. You can choose a variety of presets and parameters for each.
3: Arpeggiator – We didn’t touch a lot on this in the main text but you can adjust it graphically by dragging pointers or choose from several presets.
4: Synthesis! – The heart and soul of Synthmaster is obviously its engine or, should we say, several engines. Drill down further and there are stacks of waveforms to choose…
5: Filters & Envelopes – Both reside to the right of the main Layers section. You can choose filters to be in series, parallel or split, and here you get into the detail of each.
6: Sounds – And the results of all of these features are the sounds. 1100 of them split by type, instrument, author, bank and musical style for easy accessibility.
We usually pick alternatives based on what we’ve tested, so first up is Rob Papen’s Blue 2. It too uses oodles of synthesis starting points and has masses of presets, so can be an alternative to pretty much any synth out there.
But I’d also pick Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere 2, not because I’ve used it that much, but because I’ve never known reviewer Mark Cousins to be so animated about something, so it’s certainly beyond pretty much everything else in terms of sonic scope.
With so much going on, Synthmaster can be forgiven for occasionally doing the unexpected – preset names not changing or the dreaded spinning wheel when changing skins.
The sheer scope will also be too much for some but I love the options to use it on a more basic level. Sonically, it should be all you need but I could say that about many soft synths – Blue II, Omnisphere and so on do what you want and a lot more, if you get to know them.
And its testament to KV331 that I’m putting Synthmaster on the same level as those. It really does an incredible amount and in a no-nonsense, almost calm way. So sit back, don’t panic and enjoy the ride.
● Dual-layer semi-modular soft synth
● Multiple synthesis inc. VA, Additive, Wavetable, PM, PWM, RM, AM, SFZ Sample Playback
● 1,100 factory presets (+150 user); Everything bundle has 2,850
● VST, AU and AAX
● Analogue, digital, multimode, comb and dual filters
● Huge mod matrix section