The maximum time any element in the curve can last is 30 seconds, which is great for the development of evolving patches, especially in layers. I did rather miss an option for an 'infinite' release, though, which is something I often use when creating purely abstract sounds.
The resonant filter is a simple affair, yet rather effective. Low-pass, band-pass and high-pass types are selectable, and slopes of 6dB, 12dB and 24dB are available. Cutoff frequency and resonance controls are also provided, and that's it! It's a fairly robust filter, capable of cone-flapping or tweeter-friendly resonance. A lot of the depth of Sonik Synth 2 is as much down to its filter as it is to the quality of the raw samples and the fidelity of the playback engine. IK Multimedia have been quite forward in pushing Sampletank as a playback medium. The company have also made available freebie versions of their plug-in, with a fixed set of sounds, with more available for download on their web site.
The same tactics are being followed for the new synth plug-in: More will downloadable in future, making this a great 'try before you buy' option. Most functionality remains the same, though saving is disabled; that said, any panel tweaks the user makes can be saved within the host song, and all parameters can be controlled via MIDI. What are you waiting for? As I mentioned earlier, SS2 has a choice of three synth engines, accessed via the Synth button. The most basic mode is called 'resampling'; don't get excited, since this merely means that multisamples are played back in ordinary fashion — samples are played faster or slower as they're transposed up or down by the keyboard, with 'chipmunking' artefacts occurring as the transposition moves out of an acceptable range.
Three parameters are available in this section: There's no way for you to import loops into the plug-in, but there is a range of looped material included with the software; I'm not entirely sure this is DVD space and sample-editing time well spent, but many users may welcome this extra material. The percussion loops are a varied selection, and a certain number of textural loops are useful in abstract sound design. The process is aiming for a similar effect to Roland's Variphrase routines, allowing changes in pitch and tempo to be made without disturbing the original sample's harmonic series.
The process has to be applied manually — which can take a little while if a chosen multisample has many samples in it — though once done, it doesn't need to be applied again. Sonically interesting more than convincing, the effect is organic though not often completely natural.
Stretched audio sounds obviously processed, and this may or may not be a problem for you.
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But the process does allow material to be played or pitch-bent well outside the range where chipmunking artifacts would normally become obvious. Two parameters — Harmonics and Tempo — allow you to be a bit creative with the effect, by manipulating the harmonic spectrum of a multisample, and adding a 'granular' edge to the result. Incoming velocity can be routed to amplitude, filter cutoff and resonance, pitch, LFO1 depth and envelope 2 sustain; the user has control over the velocity response curve, too. Some Instruments also feature Macro controls, which make up to four parameters are accessible in one window for quick tweaking — they tend to duplicate parameters already available elsewhere, handily collected in one window.
Sadly, it's not possible for users to make Macro assignments themselves, which would have been a useful option for quick on-screen tweaks. It's to Sonic Reality's credit that a lot of raw material within Sonik Synth is largely un-effected, to allow the creative user access to pure sound in order to work up from basics. But sooner or later, effects will come into the picture — and with no fewer than five effects available in a full-on Instrument-level insert configuration, why not?
One of those effects will always be a 'channel strip' offering three-band EQ and compressor, but the remaining four can be chosen from a strong list of modelled reverbs, delays, distortions and so on. Some extra value is added through a number of effects algorithms that are derived from IK Multimedia's excellent Amplitube and T-Racks signal-processing plug-ins.
Effects become an integral part of Sonik Synth 2 voices: The signal path is alas fixed, with audio moving from the top of the selector list down. You're free to choose whichever effects you like for the four empty slots, though, so anything apart from parallel processing will be achievable.
IK Multimedia Sonik Synth 2
Effects are the same as in Sampletank 2: Reverb treatments are simply presented but effective, with a good range of room sizes and decay times; I liked the Ambience algorithm, for small spaces, and spring reverb for retro boinginess. Modulations go the extra mile, including AM and FM treatments that move more towards sound design than strict signal processing. I was sad to note that the LFOs were not tempo-sync'able, but several effects are: It doesn't get much easier than this, yet the dialogue box is very informative and clear about what's been assigned where in a part preset, and what its value ranges are.
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The first four routings correspond to a preset's Macro parameters, if active. Choose a controller number, minimum and maximum parameter values and that's it. Assignment made. In addition, part volume and pan, and the four Macro knobs, have fixed assignments though the user can override these.
You're never far away from a Combi: Once you've created or collected a bunch of sounds, either on their own MIDI channels or layered on one channel, the result can be saved for recall later. Neatly, any parameter offsets made to an Instrument in a Combi are saved with the Combi: Be aware that layering can be mixed with more standard multitimbral usage — create a super pad out of four Combi parts, and you still have 12 channels for other parts to play.
It might be nice to see some way of nesting layers onto one channel, though, so no multitimbral compromises are made when creating layers. That said, a second instance of SS2 could be plonked into your host application for more voices, if your computer can handle it! A close-up of the plug-in's keyboard, with the Zone button enabled. Individual samples or keygroups are differentiated by the alternating blue and white shading. One on-screen item seems to promise more from the Combi: This isn't the case, since key splitting of layered voices doesn't yet exist in the Sampletank universe though it is planned for an imminent update.
IK Multimedia Sonik Synth 2 | Vintage Synth Explorer
Enabling the Zone button just shows the key ranges of individual samples in the multisample used by the currently selected voice. This may not seem all that useful, initially, but highlighting a single sample or keygroup in this way allows synth parameter tweaks to be applied to just that sample. This would be great, perhaps, for customising the individual drum samples in some of SS2 's drum kit voices though voices can't be routed out of the Instrument individually. More creatively, different keygroups in a multisample could be given drastically different LFO or filter settings, or respond to velocity in different ways.
It's at Combi level that individual Instruments are routed to one of the 'individual out' pairs. There are currently eight pairs, although this will soon be expanded to An option in SS2 's preferences determines how many of these outs the host software sees: The exception here is Pro Tools, though a fix is apparently on the way. The user has control over level, pan and polyphony from this window; the plug-in has a maximum polyphony of notes, though this figure is, of course, CPU-dependent. And there should really be no current sequencer that can't host the plug-in: Whether your computer can handle it will be a different matter.
My ageing Mac could run the software, but the host software could do little else. Playing the plug-in multitimbrally was simply a matter of creating MIDI tracks and assigning the right Sonik Synth parts. There was a problem with Pro Tools LE, though: This problem is currently being addressed.
Both packages are based around a huge collection of sampled classic synths which cannot be expanded by the user. Comprehensive voice-editing facilities are provided in both instances, mimicking the familiar subtractive analogue synthesis signal path.
Large libraries of patches are supplied, with the option for the user to create and save even more. There are differences, of course. The playback engine is the most obvious difference, and the thinking behind sample acquisition differs between the developers of the two products, with Ultra Focus offering more detailed multisamples. SS2 scores heavily by being part multitimbral; Ultra Focus is not, though it is capable of dual-layer patches. Layering in SS2 uses up two channels of multitimbrality, but SS2 lets you carry on layering until all 16 parts are used up, and that equals some pretty serious sound design options!
Unlike Ultra Focus, SS2 also includes a fair number of workhorse sounds.
In general, I'm glad these have been provided — many of them are excellent, especially the drum kits — but it seems a bit of a shame that so much of the sample library has been taken up with them. After all, SS2 can be crossgraded to Sampletank 2 which can load all SS2 sounds if you want a generic synth workstation. Ultra Focus may well be excessive in the length and number of its individual samples, but it will never be mistaken for anything but a synth plug-in!
Nevertheless, Sonik Synth 2 still manages to supply solid, good-sounding examples of a dizzying number of classic synths, some of which most of us have little chance of encountering in the flesh. How can you sum up the sound of such a massive library? Isolating one or two Instruments, or even Combis, for comments for or against wouldn't be representative. If I was to apply the broad brush to the sample collection, I'd have to say it's well-recorded and varied — sampling is what Sonic Reality do, after all!
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One surprise I did get after doing some initial evaluation on headphones was the kick and depth of SS2 's audio when routed to a decent monitoring system. Nothing too overpowering, but where a sound was meant to have bottom end — synth basses, drum kits and so on — the plug-in makes no compromises at all. This is especially good news for the varied collection of electronic and acoustic drum kit patches on board. I went almost immediately to the Instruments contained in the two Elements folders, because I wanted to hear raw samples from the fabulous collection of synths contained in SS2.
I was not disappointed, though inevitably it was when layering Instruments using two or more Combi parts that things really got going for me. It was at this level that I found that there weren't as many keygroups per multisample as one might like, but you're rarely aware of this audibly: I also thought some samples rather obviously short, though this was seldom conspicuous in the context of a patch or song playback.
IK Multimedia's Sonik Synth 2 is one sexy beast of a plug-in! Out of the box Sonik Synth 2 is ready to get you going with over eight GigaBytes of sampled sounds, multi-effects, and easy access to simple and effective synthesizer-style controls courtesy of its simple and intuitive interface. Each Patch can layer up to sixteen different sounds! You are limited to the library of sounds it ships with and can not load your own samples however.
Nevertheless it ships with over 5, sounds and hundreds of Preset Patches which are plenty enough to get you started right away, and it is dead-simple to create your own Combi Patches. Just click on a Part and click on an Instrument to assign it to that Part.