A few years ago, French company, Arturia, set about emulating the classic Moog modular synthesizer in software. Their resultant ‘Moog Modular V’ sounded so authentic that it earned the endorsement of no less a luminary than the late great Dr. Bob Moog himself.
Since then, they have released several more highly acclaimed soft emulations of classic synths including Yamaha’s CS-80, Moog’s Minimoog, ARP’s 2600 and Sequential Circuits’ Prophet 5 & Prophet VS…my review copies of which seem to have got lost somewhere over the English Channel…but never mind, as their latest release ‘Analog Factory’, which arrived recently at Technofile HQ, offers 2000 of the best presets from all of these, in one mega package.
Unfortunately, the package also contains a dongle, which is a real pain in the USB port…especially if you don’t have a USB port to spare…because all of your USB ports are full up with dongles from other music applications… though on the upside, it does mean that it’s easier to transfer the software between different machines as there is no need for online activation… de-activation…. re-activation… re-deactivation… de-re-deactivation… a-de-re-de-a-d-oo-doo-dah-activation, etc…
Installation is straightforward, though because of the vast number of presets included, it takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, so while you’re waiting, you might want to make a cup of tea…or shoot up…
The factory can run in either stand alone mode or as a plug-in. On load up, it presents you with a 2 ½ octave soft keyboard that can be played with a MIDI controller, a mouse, or even a wasp…if, like me, you happen to have one MIDI’d up and two transpose buttons enable you to cover the full sonic range.
Located above the keyboard is the preset manager window, which allows you to quickly and easily search for and select presets. Its left half contains three matrices ‘Instrument’, ‘Type’ and ‘Characteristics’, each of which is filled with the following meta tags:
Instrument – Minimoog V, Moog Modular V, ARP 2600 V, CS 80 V, Prophet 5 V, Prophet VS.
Type – bass, brass, efx, fm, guitar, lead, organ, pad, percussive, piano, sequence, strings.
Characteristics – acid, aggressive, ambient, bizarre, bright, complex, dark, digital, ensemble, funky, hard long, noise, quiet, short, simple, soft, soundtrack.
Suppose you want to find an acid bass. Simply click the ‘acid’ and ‘bass’ tags et voila, all of the presets that fulfil both criteria are immediately displayed in the right half of the window, sortable by, amongst other things, preset name, type and CPU usage. If you want to restrict your search to just acid basses created with an ARP 2600 V or Minimoog V, simply add the relevant instrument.
Although searches combining terms from different matrices are ‘and’ searches (i.e. if you search for ‘Minimoog V’, ‘acid’ and ‘bass’, your results will be only patches containing all three characteristics), searches using multiple terms from within the same matrix are ‘or’ searches (i.e. if you search for ‘dark’, ‘digital’ and ‘ensemble’ you will get everything that’s tagged ‘dark’, plus everything that’s tagged ‘digital’ plus everything that’s tagged ‘ensemble’, as opposed to just ‘dark digital ensembles’). Being able to toggle between ‘and’ & ‘or’ searches within the ‘type’ and ‘characteristics’ matrices would make this system even more flexible. Nevertheless it is simple, fast and intuitive allowing you to find the sound you need in seconds…in sharp contrast to the patch management systems of almost everything else I’ve reviewed…and complained about, in this publication.
In between the preset manager window and the soft keyboard are a handful of virtual knobs and sliders that allow you to edit/tweak the presets in real time (and then save the results as user presets). There are controls for filter cutoff & resonance, LFO rate & amount, chorus and delay amount (when used as a plug-in, the delay is automatically tempo synced to the host sequencer) and ADSR sliders. There are also four ‘Key Parameters’ knobs, to control whichever parameters have been assigned to them as part of each preset. Obviously this means that their functions change from patch to patch and the only way to find out how these knobs affect any given preset, is to hover your mouse over each one and wait a moment for the info to pop up. Arturia suggest that parameters are assigned to each of these knobs with maximum tweakability of the preset in mind, which is a little ironic as not having this information immediately visible works against spontaneous tweaking, especially when performing live. Adding little display windows that tell you exactly what is assigned to each knob would be extremely useful…as would labelling the pitch and modulation wheels…
Of course there’s only so much you can do with these controls, but that’s cool, because the factory is intended as a library resource, not a sound design tool…and every sound is a winner. From warm in yer face phat analogue bass to digital pads from the days of your dad, Analog factory is totally convincing. As for the ARP 2600V presets…Drum ‘n’ Bass on a stick! It’s a shame there’s not a ‘pro’ (or MC Rebbe) version that combines all 2000 sounds with all of the functionality and editability of the virtual synths that created them, but for most musicians…and all of the bedroom producers who think that tweaking a resonance knobs constitutes programming, this will be perfect.
So whether you’re an electronic musician/producer/DJ or you just need access to some vintage sounds once in a while, Analog Factory is an absolute must have…and if you’re producing Drum ‘n’ Bass, that goes double time! But don’t take my word for it…Laurent Garnier and Paul Hartnoll from Orbital are official endorsees…and Klaus Schulze is one of the sound designers…what more do you need to know?…Just that it’s spelt ANALOGUE…not analog…though far be it for me to tell the French how to spell their own language…
More info (UK): Arbiter
More Info (International): Arturia
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