This article was first written for Keyboards / Home Studio magazine. It is published here with their kind permission, thanks ,o) )
The opening of our sequencers' architecture to third developers and the Internet democratisation had an un-hoped consequence for the users : the massive arrival of free softwares on the market ! Having a closer look to them, you notice that some don't absolutely have to blush about their qualities in comparison with their big brothers as much powerful, but buyable ! So, repeat with me : if you want some cheap, hurrah for the freewares !
When searching on the Web, you can find a lot of free virtual instruments. You could believe that the choice would be difficult for such an article. But once you excluded those which do some hazy « Pouet Pouet » only with a single monophonic oscillator, or those which expect to be so much eccentric that they can't be used in any known musical context at this time, there are finally only some softwares really usable left. They could be conceived by a commercial editor who proposes it as a promotional item or by an independant developer who works only for the pleasure of offering, I've kept as criterions :
Here is my selection, fully subjective, I know !
Ganymed is a much interesting FM synth with 32 voices of polyphony.
Why ? For a good reason : it sounds well ! Notice however that it isn't developed
nor maintained anymore, the author having even closed his site.
It is composed of 3 oscillators, the first and the second one being able to modulate the third one, each one having at its disposal its own ADSR type envelop sensible to the velocity, to its LFO and to its modulation level. You have then two filters which can asserts independantely the oscillators 2 and 3. The whole is dispatched on a pleasant interface with a very pratical tab system. Ganymed would be just an other analogic synth without what does its particularity : its little 16-step internal sequencer ! It makes it possible to modulate the main output to obtain then some repetitive and obssessing patterns till hypnosis. Electronic Music amateurs, Ganymed is to be tested in priority. Take care however to the CPU use which is very high.
|Name : Ganymed|
Type : FM synth
Editor : Stefan Jeworowski
Website : doesn't exist anymore
Download : http://www.espace-cubase.org/page.php?page=freevsti
Compatibility : VST PC and MAC
This one has a specification : everybody loves it, or almost everybody ! It is supposed
to be an emulation of the famous Nord Lead 2 but the purists (the Nord lead owners !)
affirm that it shouldn't be overdone, let's be serious, come on, all this
all that !
Eventually : we don't care about this ! The most important is that Synth 1 is a virtual instrument made of quality offering some really credible analogic sounds.
On the technical side, you have 2 waveforms with FM, ring modulation, modulation envelop, 4 types of filters, etc. Synchronisable with the tempo, you have at your disposal 2 LFOs, an arppegiator and a delay. As if it wasn't enough, let's add a stereo chorus/flanger, the legato, the portamento, the 16 notes of polyphony and the 128 presets. In short, here's a virtual synth which has all what you need since you like analogic sounds. Last unnegligible thing : Daichi pretend having optimised their code so that Synth 1 doesn't put your computer down on its knees. It is true, the CPU use is negligible...
|Name : Synth 1|
Type : analogic synth
Editor : Daichi
Website : http://www.geocities.co.jp/SiliconValley-SanJose/5005/synmanu/readmeeng.html
Compatibility : PC VST and Dxi
I talked in my introduction about the freewares I've met and about their heavily uncommon
aspect which didn't make them really usable. Crystal could have belonged
to this category. But ! If it is able to give some analogic sounds made of good quality
but with no more originality,
Crystal is distinguished itself by its hability to furnish also and especially some really
original sounds even crazy, and beautiful. It is a subtile proportion between
originality and musicality.
On a technical side, Crystal makes some substractive synthesis with FM via 3 waveforms. Then, it gets a little bit more complicated ! You can find at least 80 parameters, often interactive, distributed on 5 different interfaces. Impossible to have an overlook here about this. To quote the specifications only, I will talk about the Modulation page which allows anything to modulate almost everything (6 sources, 6 destinations). Or else some waveforms of which some are samples, knowing that you can on more use your own samples ! Without talking about the possibility to apply some effects (delay, filter, chorus) per frequency band via the Split system. In short, we've got here a real amazing software and let's remind this, free ! If you decide to program it rather than using the very furnished soundbank, you will have to read to the manual because if Crystal is powerful, it is not simple to use ! The CPU use is correct...
|Name : Crystal|
Type : analogic synth
Editeur : Green Oak
Website : http://www.greenoak.com/crystal
Compatibility : PC/MAC VST and Audio Unit
LingPLug offer here to us a lite but free version of their RM 2.
It is just about a virtual groove box allowing either to import
some already made kits (import of LM-4 and LM-9 kits but limited to two
samples per pad), or to create your own drumkits. The princip is
childish : 18 pads where you can load two samples which will be played depending
of the velocity, ajustable parameter. For each pad you have at your disposal a
pitch adjustment and 8 outputs (one stereo and 6 mono ones). For the bravests
who wish to create their own kits, RM-F will accept WAV and
AIFF files up to 24 bits / 96 KHz. Nothing to add, it is very simple and on more,
you know what ? It works !
RM-F will be useful for whom needs a little and modest groove box and will allow the Cubase users to work beyond the limits of LM-7 and LM-9 released with their sequencer.
|Name : RM-F|
Type : Groove box
Editor : LingPlug
Website : http://www.linplug.com/
Compatibility : PC VST
Some useful links...
Here are some Internet adresses where finding some free plugins. Don't
try to click on your magazine, this won't function ;o)
61 free VST Instruments for MAC and PC : http://www.espace-cubase.org/page.php?page=freevsti
The essential site as soon as you look for virtual instruments. Every format and plateform : http://www.kvr-vst.com/
Site which recenses almost everything about what exists on the subject : http://www.vstcentral.com/
And to end, some instruments for MAC : http://www.macmusic.org/softs/softcat.php/lang/FR/id/7031/
Here we are ! See ya soon, here or somewhere else... ,o)