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-No Pulse Width Mod -Filters Can't Be Routed In Series
Off The Record:
"An absolute delight..."
"As great as the effects sound, many patches are over-cooked resulting in a pillowy texture."
"Just when I thought the last thing I needed was yet another soft synth in my arsenal, along comes Sylenth1...I'll be making room...its my new weapon of choice."
July 20, 2007
../ TestDrive: LennarDigital Sylenth1
A Simple, Yet Very Tweakable Powerhouse For Dance Music
Is it us, or does seem like a new software synth comes to market every week? From
freeware to top-tier manufacturer's darlings, the outpouring is daunting. Most of the cookie-cutter offerings sound exactly alike, or worse, and it's
easy to become disenfranchised with this market segment.
However, every once in a while, you get to step into the glass slipper.
LennarDigital's Sylenth1 is just that sort of Cinderella, a simple subtractive virtual analog synth with delicious warm sound that delivers immediate
results once you decide to get your hands dirty. Sylenth1 is capable of a broad range of sounds, but its obvious from the moment you begin to entertain
the over 700 patches, that this synth was designed from the ground up for electronic music with obvious nods to the Access Virus, Roland TB-303, and a
wave in the Minimoog's general direction.
LennarDigital was started by Lennar Addink, an "electro-technical engineer" who specialized
in Digital Signal Processing at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Lennar worked on several advanced audio and DSP related projects, including the
design of an equalization system for car compartments and several academic research projects while enthusiastically creating computer music on the side. After
15 years, Lennar decided to try and merge his profession with his passion, and began working on creating music software.
After working 60-70 hours a week for 18 months, Addink unleashed Sylenth1, which sports
four robust oscillators, each having eight waveform choices, an ADSR section, tasty filters and the program's Jedi Power, killer effects. In fact,
Sylenth1's effects are some of the best in a virtual synth we've run across.
Simple, yet sweet, the Sylenth1's filter section gets the job done, but could use more action
The individual filters feature a band-pass, low-pass and high-pass mode in either 12 dB or
24 dB, with a Drive option for each filter. The global filter section adds cutoff, resonance, and keytrack, as well as a Drive Warmth that adds tube nuance
to the overall Drive control's sonic flavor. The four oscillators are grouped into two different banks, which some may find annoying, even though you can use
them all at once, Users can then customize how many voices each oscillator will contain from zero (off) to eight. Sylenth1 also features Detune and Stereo
knobs in addition to a full-blown Unison knob to fatten those patches up quite nicely thank you.
Lennar Addink definitely had specific goals in mind when he was
developing the Sylenth1's sound. "Two of the main aspects of any subtractive virtual analog synth," states Lennar, "which determines its sonic character are
its oscillators and filters. I've always liked the screeching sound of resonating analog filters like those from the TB-303 or the Minimoog for example, but
I've never been able to find a VST synth with filters that could produce sounds like that really well. A lot of them simply end up in a pure sine wave when
brought into self-oscillation, while others don't even get to that point. As for the oscillators in other VST synths, I found that some of them sounded dull
at low frequencies while others produced audible digital aliasing at high frequencies. So my starting point was to overcome these problems by designing my own
filters and oscillators from the ground up."
One significant attribute that contributes to Sylenth1's success is the thought that went into
dialing in those electronic sounds that Lennar cites above. Sylenth1 is lean and mean; there are no surplufluous knobs or features, just exactly the right
ingredients you need to quickly realize the sound you're after. Then, just when you think you have the perfect sound, Sylenth1 provides some extra touches to
take your patch to the next level.
"I wanted to create a synth that can be used as a basic building block for popular electronic
music styles," Lennar explains. "So I added several unison oscillators and filters together with a modulation section and a set of useful sound effects to make
the synth versatile and suitable for a wide range of sounds. I gave each oscillator several voices that can be detuned and spread in stereo, which is very useful
for creating organic moving sounds, strings and supersaws."
To be fair, Sylenth1 is not perfect. Some musicians may find the synth just a little too soft
sounding for their tastes. The sonic signature has a polish and sheen that will give it away, to discriminating listeners, as a software emulation, but that can easily
be addressed in the effects section. There is also no pulse width modulation, a minor detraction. Addink does offer a workaround by addressing how to fake it with two
oscillators and phase modulation in the manual, but it will be missed by experienced users. Although the filters sound terrific, they could have been fleshed out quite
a bit more. Speaking of the filters, for some reason they cannot be routed in series, which shuts the door on serious tweaking potential.
Sylenth1 Meet the Roland V-Synth!
The graphical user interface is a pleasure to use. All the functionality is right there at your fingertips
without taking up your entire desktop. The LCD-like center screen, which reminds me of the Roland V-Synth, is also a good paradigm for getting down to business. Usually,
the look and feel of the interface is the last thing on a programmer's mind when developing their own software, but Addink obviously gave this some solid thought as well.
Last, but certainly not least, are the excellent built-in effects. Again, simplicity reigns. No excess
controls and features to bog down the creative process, just find the right effect and drop it in. The effects include delay, reverb, chorus and phaser, with a kick ass
distortion that adds some chunk to your funk. Utility items such as a concise compressor and EQ round out the offerings. The effects on the whole add expansive depth and
rich spatialization to the patches without instantly washing them out.
The LennarDigital Sylenth1 costs €139 and is available now for the PC as a VST instrument. Addink is
currently at work rewriting his original code for a Mac version. Once accomplished, he's going to get to work on the next version of Sylenth1, which will include a preset
browser and FM synthesis.
The Future: Not a whole lot on the To Do list here...but it would be nice to see some additional
attributes, modes and controls on the filter section. A comprehensive modulation matrix would also be a great addition with full routing flexibility. The aforementioned pulse
width modulation should also be included in the next revision. However, we may have to wait just a bit for the update. As soon as Lennar puts the final touches on a Mac version,
he's going to get busy on releasing some dedicated VST effects. You're going to want to start saving some money for those...
LennarDigital comes strong with the Sylenth1 virtual analog synth. The incredible sound engine married to outstanding effects and supreme knob-twiddling options makes Mr.
Addink's Sylenth1 a great buy.