XILS-lab literally creates plug-in pleasure principal when recreating revolutionary polysynth

GRENOBLE, FRANCE: audio software company XILS-lab is proud to announce availability of PolyM — an authentic recreation of the pioneering Polymoog polysynth, dreamed up by American designer Dave Luce and produced by Moog Music between 1975-1980, but benefitting from finest French software skills to truly create a plug-in pleasure principal as arguably the best ‘virtual’ divide-down oscillator technology-toting soft synth available anywhere and teaching the old dog some new tricks in the process — as of July 3…

That’s today. Putting PolyM in its present-day context involves initially looking back. But back in the early-Seventies, setting out to create an analogue, functional voltage-controlled synthesizer that was polyphonic against a backdrop of monophonic mainstays proved problematic for many. Moog’s musical solution came quicker than most, making an appearance in 1975 in its extremely expensive ($5,295 USD), nine-preset original form as the Polymoog keyboard (model 203a). It included a front panel packed with an almost continuous row of slider pots (permitting presets to be fully modified into more individualised analogue sounds via various subtractive synthesis parameters, including a 24dB Moog ladder filter section — allowing modulation modulated from its own envelopes and low frequency oscillation — alongside a unique and flexible three-band resonant filter section with lowpass/bandpass/high-pass filter modes) before being joined in 1978 by a marginally more economically-viable ($3,995 USD), 14-preset stripped back version (with editing reduced to volume, tuning, high-pass filtering, and basic LFO — Low Frequency Oscillator — features), which was also (confusingly) called the Polymoog keyboard (model 280a), though the original fully-variable version was then rebadged, admittedly, as the Polymoog Synthesizer.

Saying that, unlimited polyphony united the two innovative instruments in question, albeit unlimited in the sense that all 71 notes of their weighted touch-sensitive keyboards (capable of being split into three sections, each with independent volume control) could sound simultaneously, but based on divide-down oscillator technology — similar to electronic organs and string synthesizers of the time — to generate all notes and pitches using a small number of fixed-frequency oscillators as an alternative to ‘traditional’ VCOs (Voltage-Controlled Oscillators). Obviously, the Polymoog cannot create each voice from individual oscillators and filters, nor store sounds programmed by the user — unlike the first generation of microprocessor-controlled designs that soon followed suit, such as Sequential Circuits’ classic Prophet-5, the world’s first fully-programmable polyphonic synthesizer — as a result. Regardless of those limitations and reliability issues inherent in its complicated, convoluted design downfall, some notable users still shaped some stunning-sounding records using the pioneering Polymoog.

Prime example… as an innovative individual almost alone in seeing the opportunity for a star of synth-based music, a futuristic-looking Gary Numan notably ‘drove’ over an endless Polymoog landscape in the pioneering promo video for his 1979 chart-topping ‘Cars’ single and arguably opened the floodgates for the wave of (mainly British) synth-pop acts that trailed in his wake. Wisely — and appropriately — once observed: Gary Numan’s classic breakthrough, The Pleasure Principal, is almost an album-length advert for the Polymoog. Those beautiful, stark, synth-strings frozen all over the songs is the Polymoog’s Vox Humana preset.

Fast-forward, then, to two years ago, and XILS-lab clearly considered those oft-overlooked Polymoog presets to be well worth revisiting, recreating an ‘unlimited’ polyphony polysynth that was recognisably revolutionary upon its initial release and making it fit for today’s creative computer-based music-makers with a state- of-the-art software makeover. Making that happen was easier said than done, however — hence that two-year development time. That equalled the same time taken to develop the original, overly-engineered historical hardware from which it drew its innovative inspiration, ironically — hardly surprising, given that the Polymoog uses a TOS (Top Octave Synthesizer) system with a TOG (Top Octave Generator) chip to create a bank of 12 square waves representing the top octave of the keyboard, each of which are then passed through a divider chip to create all the lower octaves, and can then be processed to create other wave shapes; making matters more complicated, the Polymoog has two sets of TOS chips, generating two wave shapes (pulse and sawtooth) per key — two oscillators per key, effectively. There are also two envelope generators, two VCAs (Voltage-Controlled Amplifiers), and two fixed filters for each key. Those circuits are combined into a custom chip called the Polycom, mounted on a small card, and there is one Polycom card per key. That all adds up to a whole lot of circuit boards in one cumbersome keyboard…. little wonder, then, that reliability became an issue!

No such issues with the perfected PolyM, but no pain, no gain getting there as XILS-lab CEO Xavier Oudin obviously learned — the hard(ware) way — when taking today’s much more reliable route to software-based synthesized splendour: “Recreating this legendary synthesizer as a virtual analogue synthesizer was a real challenge, but we decided to take up the gauntlet. This was made more difficult due to our real machine’s poor condition.”

Continuing against all odds, Xavier Oudin and XILS-lab literally created a plug-in pleasure principal when recreating the revolutionary Polymoog polysynth as a soft synth plug-in par excellence — even ending up with more bells and whistles when finally finished. “It took more than two years, analysing, measuring, testing, and scratching our heads,” he concurs, before adding: “But we are proud to now offer PolyM, one of the best — if not the best — ‘virtual’ divide-down-based virtual synthesizers out there!”

In there is what counts, though, and PolyM palpably doesn’t disappoint… deftly reproducing yesteryear’s divide-down technology with two TOD (Top Octave Divider) oscillators — one for the sawtooth wave and another for the square, slightly detuned for a phenomenal phasing effect (when running independently in FREE mode), yet these take the concept further forward by adding polyphonic pulse width modulation. Meanwhile, in LOCK mode, those two TOD oscillators are almost locked in phase, producing PM (Phase Modulation) instead of FM (Frequency Modulation) when the square wave oscillator is modulated in pitch. The two TODs can also be modulated — tempo-sync-able — in pitch by an LFO, while the square wave oscillator has it own pulse width modulation by a tempo-sync-able LFO. Alongside a distinctive envelope generator, this represents the musical heart and soul of PolyM, pushing that revolutionary polysynth sound kicking and screaming into the future!

Further features of note include: 71 emulated chips, offering mixer, VCA, envelope, 12dB filter, and pulse width modulation for each of the available notes; stunning-sounding 24dB ladder filter (using XILS-lab’s critically-acclaimed zero-delay algorithm); nine dedicated acoustic filters — STRING, PIANO, ORGAN, HARPS, FUNK, CLAV, VIBES, BRASS, and VOX — carefully recreated from the original (model 203a); RESONATORS filter bank with three parametric (6dB and 12dB) filters matching the original; three vintage — DEL. (delay), PHAS. (phaser), and REV. (reverb) — effects (with adjustable settings from within an Advanced Settings Panel alongside nine modulation slots for furthering sound design possibilities well beyond the scope of the original hardware); and more…

More than 260 presets are available to help users get going and all parameters are MIDI-controllable, combining to position PolyM as an innovative instrument of its time while retaining the one-time pioneering Polymoog’s performance properties. Put it this way: while what Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud would have made of it is obviously open to speculation, surely Gary Numan should approve… as will anyone’s bank balance by paying (comparatively) so little for so much playing pleasure! Perhaps PolyM pushes beyond the pleasure principal?

PolyM is available to purchase as a USB eLicenser or iLok (1 and 2 dongle hardware or software) protected plug-in for an introductory promotional price of €99.00 EUR until August 31, 2017 — rising to an MSRP of €149.00 EUR thereafter — from XILS-lab here: http://www.xils-lab.com/products/polym-p-160.html

PolyM can be directly downloaded as a multi-format (AAX, AU, RTAS, VST), 32- and 64-bit virtual soft synth plug-in for Mac (OS X 10.7 and later) and Windows (XP, 7, 8, 10) from here: https://www.xils-lab.com/products/polym-p-160/download.html

For more in-depth info, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated PolyM webpage here: http://www.xils-lab.com/products/polym-p-160.html

Watch XILS-lab’s lovingly prepared PolyM promo video here: https://www.xils-lab.com/audiosample/PolyM/PolyMTrailer.mp4

Spitfire Audio debuts dry scoring stage ensemble library innovation inspired by legacy of iconic film composer namesake

LONDON, UK: Spitfire Audio, purveyors of the finest virtual instruments from the finest musical samples in the world, is proud to announce availability of BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT — taking inspiration from the electric genius of its iconic composer namesake (noted for his lengthy legacy of fresh film scores such as Citizen Kane, Psycho, Vertigo, and Taxi Driver that continue to inspire today’s composers) when working exclusively with The Bernard Herrmann Estate to curate and assemble a unique set of studio orchestra ensembles informed directly by a legendary orchestration aesthetic recorded at London’s legendary AIR Studios (Studio 1) by Abbey Road Studios Senior Engineer Simon Rhodes (Avatar, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Magnificent Seven) before being ‘translated’ to Native Instruments’ industry-standard KONTAKT PLAYER platform as an orchestral innovation for all — as of June 22…

“No composer contributed more to film than Bernard Herrmann, who, in over fifty scores, enriched the work of such directors as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, and Martin Scorsese.” So stated Bernard Herrmann biographer Steve C. Smith. So when the opportunity arose for Spitfire Audio to collaborate with his estate, excitement throughout the cutting-edge company co-founded by working film composers was understandably palpable.

Putting the resultant BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT into its rightful perspective, Spitfire Audio Director Paul Thomson touts, “This is an incredibly vivid, tense, and exciting collection of recordings. It covers all kinds of things, from more slightly standard orchestral instruments through to unusual combinations of orchestral instruments, some synths, and some more esoteric instruments in there as well. This is definitely not a vintage sound source, so we’re not looking at recreating the sound of movies of the Sixties. What we’re looking at is the inspiration of a giant of cinema. Bernard Herrmann’s career started with Citizen Kane and finished with Taxi Driver, and he did a colourful collection of Hitchcock movies in between. But not just that; he was also a very passionate advocate for new music, championing the careers of many composers who would never have been heard otherwise. We’ve taken his original scores from some of his key movies and we’ve looked at the way that he tended to combine instruments, and we’ve used that as the inspiration for how we’ve recorded this collection of sounds.”

So how, exactly, did the steadfast Spitfire Audio team set about recording what would become BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT? Well, working exclusively with The Bernard Herrmann Estate to curate and assemble a unique set of studio orchestra ensembles informed directly by a legendary orchestration aesthetic, all duly decamped to Studio 1 within London’s legendary AIR Studios — complete with its unique AIR-custom Neve/Focusrite large-format mixing desk with 72 channels incorporating original ‘AIR Monserrat’ mic preamps and GML automation, alongside a 140m2 fully-floated floor live room capable of accommodating up to 45 musicians — in the capable company of Abbey Road Studios Senior Engineer Simon Rhodes — who has a longstanding association with various composers, including the late James Horner whom he worked with for 18 years on over 40 projects including Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time — to capture players performing as Bernard Herrmann himself would have done had he still been working today… boisterous, lively, and upfront.

Unusual instrumental combis, selected groups, chords, effects, and much more are the supremely sampled order of the day with BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT, tasty musical morsels served up in an easily accessible form from within Spitfire Audio’s already-familiar GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) and organised as follows: STUDIO ORCHESTRA; HIGH STRINGS; HIGH STRINGS OCTAVES; HIGH STRINGS HALF SECTION; LOW STRINGS; LOW STRINGS AND HORNS; LOW STRINGS AND TROMBONES; PICCOLO AND FLUTES; CONCERT FLUTES; MIXED FLUTES; FLUTES AND CLARINETS; COR ANGLAIS, CLARINET, AND TRUMPET; OBOES, BASSOONS, AND HORNS; TRUMPET AND XYLOPHONE; HORNS; MID BRASS; TROMBONES; TROMBONES AND TIMPANI; HARP AND CELESTE; HARP AND VIBRAPHONE; ONDES MARTENOT; PERCUSSION; TIMPANI; and SYNTHS. Speaking of the latter, included in the ‘advanced’ folder are over 30 patches inspired by Bernard Herrmann’s use of synthesisers in combination with orchestral material, all of which can be controlled using Spitfire Audio’s Mercury Synth GUI, an ingenious interface initiating instant interaction without forcing users to delve deep under the KONTAKT hood; helpfully, all controls are assignable to (compatible) control surfaces, so users can quickly make Spitfire Audio’s synth sounds their own with minimal fuss.

Much fuss has been made about Bernard Herrmann, however. And deservedly so since he is one of the great modern composers, after all. His work for TV and film is nothing short of iconic, and truly synonymous with mid-20th Century cinema. Collaborating with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane (1941), Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (1976), and in longterm partnership with Alfred Hitchcock on scores such as Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), and beyond, the sheer magnitude of critical works is breathtaking. But not only did his work have a significant impact on popular culture at the time, more recently those works have been used to invigorate contemporary scores, such as Quentin Tarantino’s twist on the Twisted Nerve theme in 2003’s Kill Bill, 35 years after its inception — an eerie whistle which is now instantly identifiable worldwide.

But Bernard Herrmann demonstrated a unique and trailblazing compositional style throughout his celebrated career. His orchestrations were entirely original, daring, and inventive — albeit always appropriate for the context, so subsequently incredibly influential in film scoring. Psycho — famed for its strings-only approach — is an obvious example of a totally new way to score a thriller. The bold selection of specific instrumental ensembles — the infamous Torn Curtain featured 12 flutes, for instance — and choice of interesting combinations — harp and vibraphone in Vertigo; stopped horns and pizzicato strings in North by Northwest (1959) — challenged the status quo. Equally, experimenting with electronic instruments in scores — the Ondes Martenot in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and amplified Moog synths in 1972’s Sisters and Endless Night — brought with them sounds previously unheard in cinemas. However, Herrmann also went as far as to affect change in the performance style of players, requesting that they did not play in the then-traditional, somewhat overblown nature that other Hollywood composers of the time tended towards.

Outside of his innovative scoring for film for which he remains best known, Herrmann had boundless curiosity and a genuine love of new music, championing the names of several composers who became household names as a result of his hard work as a conductor. As Chief Conductor to the CBS Symphony Orchestra, and the many radio broadcasts he made with them, he helped bring a huge variety of often little-heard music to the masses.

In short, Bernard Herrmann was a truly individual voice, an innovative individual who stood firm against what he saw as the dilution of the art form to which he dedicated his life. Little wonder, then, that his powerful presence continues to be felt so strongly so long after his passing, respected by and resonating with today’s film composing community. It is in this spirit that Spitfire Audio brings BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT to bear on today’s ever-expanding compositional climate as an orchestral innovation for all. As Paul Thomson tellingly concludes — for the right reasons, it’s all in there for the taking: “Tons and tons of really great material, recorded in a tight, dry acoustic that is a very, very fine room through a lot of amazing mics by Simon Rhodes. It really is a wonderful-sounding library — hope you’re going to enjoy using this and looking forward to seeing what you come up with.”

BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT can be purchased and digitally downloaded (as 225.0 GB of uncompressed .WAV files, featuring 186,742 samples) for a time-limited introductory promo price of £339.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$399.00 USD/€409.00 EUR (inc. VAT) until Thursday, July 6, 2017 — rising thereafter to an MSRP of £429.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$499.00 USD/€509.00 EUR (inc. VAT) — from here: http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/a-z/bernard-herrmann-composer-toolkit/

Note that BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT needs Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT PLAYER (5.5 and above) — included in the purchase — while Spitfire Audio’s free Download Manager application for Mac or PC allows anyone to buy now and download anytime.

For more in-depth informaton, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT webpage here: http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/a-z/bernard-herrmann-composer-toolkit/

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Paul Thomson’s ‘traditional’ BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT video walkthrough here: https://youtu.be/CfXxlZVTT30

Watch Spitfire Audio ‘composer in residence’ Oliver Patrice Weder’s BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT ‘In Action’ video here: https://youtu.be/c-G_lNSGNzM

Watch Spitfire Audio’s enlightening promo video for BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT here: https://youtu.be/Jr5SOEytres

Plugin Alliance advances several SPL Microplugs with new and improved Plus versions

Plugin Alliance, a new ‘Über-standard’ supporting all major plugin formats and uniting some of the best-known international audio companies under one virtual roof, is proud to announce availability of SPL’s Attacker Plus, De-Verb Plus, and Mo-Verb Plus — new and improved versions of three must-have Microplugs created by founding Plugin Alliance development partner Brainworx in close collaboration with SPL, respected worldwide for its innovative and user-friendly approach to developing and manufacturing analog and digital audio gear for the music, film, multimedia, and broadcasting industries since 1984 — as of March 13…

The Attacker Plus Microplug presents part of the same stunning envelope shaping supplied by SPL’s treasured Transient Designer hardware, hitting a home run with software aficionados by replicating the edge and punch provided by the original unit’s ATTACK knob. Indeed, it uses the same so-called Differential Envelope Technology that revolutionized dynamic processing with its level-independent methodology. More meaningfully, though its ATTACK knob lets users dial in all the transient punch needed, Attacker Plus also sports soft peak limiting (LIMIT) access and a DRY/WET control, affording total flexibility across a wide range of material with worry-free workflow in the digital world. With over a decade of hardware modelling experience, Brainworx bestowed a core algorithm upon Attacker Plus that more closely matches the behavior of the original Transient Designer hardware than ever before. Better still, working with Attacker Plus could not be simpler — all attack events can be amplified regardless of signal level, yet such simplicity does not prevent seemingly endless possibilities for studio and live applications. Attacker Plus amplifies just the attack curves of a sound event by focusing on the initial transient instead of specific frequencies to allow instruments to be mixed at lower levels, which, in turn, opens up space in the mix while preserving the relationship between tracks, for example; emphasize the attack of a kick drum or loop to increase power and presence in the mix; adjust apparent ‘distance’ of a microphone by varying the ATTACK values; increase the attack of guitar sounds for in-your-face tone-shaping — anything and everything is possible (within reason)!

Thanks to that same Differential Envelope Technology, the De-Verb Plus Microplug also serves up part of the same stunning envelope shaping supplied by SPL’s treasured Transient Designer hardware in software. It reproduces the attenuation provided by the original SUSTAIN knob — albeit now helpfully labelled as REVERB REDUCTION on the Microplug itself — to reduce or even eliminate the decay of a sound. Similarly sporting soft peak limiting (LIMIT) access and a DRY/WET control, it also allows total flexibility across a wide range of material with worry-free workflow in the digital world. Working with De-Verb Plus is, likewise, disarmingly simple — reverb events can be reduced, regardless of signal level, translating to endless possibilities for studio and live applications! Any sound event’s decay curve can simply be reduced by turning that REVERB REDUCTION knob. De-Verb Plus also offers an OUTPUT GAIN control that allows compensation for level changes after processing the signal — just like Attacker Plus. Combined with the peak limiter (LIMIT) and DRY/WET controls, this ensures simple and safe adjustment of levels while avoiding internal clipping and shaping the decay characteristics of material. Musically shorten the sustain period of a snare; reduce tom-tom ring without resorting to physically dampening; adjust apparent ‘distance’ of a microphone by varying the REVERB REDUCTION values… De-Verb Plus perfectly encapsulates an alternative to noise gates — compared to fixed release times, the decay period is more musically shortened, so significantly freeing a drum kit from unwanted room information within seconds!

 

Similarly, the Mo-Verb Plus Microplug perfectly zeros in on another aspect of the Transient Designer’s distinctive envelope shaping, this time replicating the boost provided by the hardware’s SUSTAIN knob that extends the decay of sounds as a self-explanatory REVERB ENHANCEMENT control, allowing all reverb events to be amplified — again, regardless of signal level. Translating to endless possibilities for studio and live applications, decay curves of any sound event can be emphasized by simply turning the knob in question! Mo-Verb Plus also offers an OUTPUT GAIN control that allows compensation for level changes after processing the signal, which — when combined with the peak limiter (LIMIT) and DRY/WET controls — secures simple and safe adjustment of levels while avoiding internal clipping when shaping the decay characteristics of material. Many effects — such as drawing out the sustain period of a snare to get the tone and grit upfront in the mix or letting every note of a guitar riff ‘sing’ to its heart’s content — would take considerable programming skill when using a typical compressor, but Mo-Verb Plus handles everything easily with only one knob… just like its new and improved Attacker Plus and De-Verb Plus siblings!

 

Attacker Plus ($99.00 USD), De-Verb Plus ($79.00 USD), and Mo-Verb Plus ($79.00 USD) are available for purchase — as a AAX DSP-, AAX Native-, AU-, VST2-, and VST3-supporting Microplugs for Mac OS X (10.8 through 10.12), Windows (7 through 10), and Pro Tools 10.3.10 (or higher) — from Plugin Alliance and select VSSD (Virtual Stock Software Distribution) retailers. (Note that individual Microplug promotional pricing of $29.00 USD is available to owners of legacy Attacker, De-Verb, and Mo-Verb.)

For more in-depth info, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the Microplugs’ respective dedicated webpages here:

https://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/products/spl_attacker_plus.html

https://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/products/spl_de-verb_plus.html

https://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/products/spl_mo-verb_plus.html

The new and improved Attacker Plus, De-Verb Plus, and Mo-Verb Plus Microplugs can be seen and heard in this trailer video: https://youtu.be/NqV3qqACE1Q

 

Arturia Releases V collection 5 with HUGE improvements all around

Arturia V-Collection 5

Arturia has announced the release of its V collection update.  This update is a major rewrite of both the GUI and engines of these seminal synths. Featuring all new Minimoog Filter modeling amongst the many improvements this years update is a truly inspiring collection.

Along with updates to the currently available collection of synths for v-collection4 , New synths join the fray! :  Synclavier V, the B-3 V, the Stage-73 V, the Farfisa V, and Piano V, a complete suite of acoustic pianos.newpacks

The new GUI’s represent a hi-res depiction of each synth and function as the real instruments would. Continue reading

Supercharger GT is the compressor to beat in my book!

I have to say after spending a few months getting to really know this Plug in Compressor from Native Instruments, This one takes the cake. I can get it to drive hard and gritty with a heavy pump to give me that old Boom Bap feel that I have grown to love from old school hip hop. I can get a clinical punch on my kicks like many EDM tracks I love. I can make it soulful and warm like the compressors of old while still retaining the ability to attack and release precisely like the newer digital units. This Compressor really stands out and in a blind listening test can fool the best.
give it a listen.