Rapture is the third in Cakewalk’s trilogy of soft synths (as opposed to their soft synth, trilogy) and builds on its forerunners Zeta and Dimension Pro, by combining the superior sounds of the former, with the superior programmability of the latter. Intended primarily for electronic musicians, it ships with over 500 presets aimed squarely at the dance floor…the ambient…and everything in between.
Unfortunately the copy I was sent was missing its manual. Fortunately though it has a well designed, easy to use interface that’s very similar to the big Z and DP, so I felt immediately at home.
Like Dimension Pro, patches are built around ‘elements’, each of which contains an oscillator, a DSP section, a heavy duty modulation section, EQ and FX. Unlike Dimension Pro, there are six elements (instead of four), making for significantly more powerful sounds.
Although the oscillators are primarily intended to be used with the 230 wavetable on offer, you have the option of loading any audio file in .SFZ, .WAV, .AIF, .AIFF, or .OGG format as your waveform/wavetable. Unfortunately though, none of the familiar soft sampler formats are supported (bring it on!) and annoyingly, it is not possible to edit audio files once they have been loaded.
When it comes to phattening up your wavetables/waveforms, Rapture’s oscillators leave no stone unturned. Not only do they offer detune, transposition and ring modulation, but they also offer ‘multi’, which, for da new school is like the super saw on Access’ Virus…and for da old school is like a unison button…with bells on, as you have a choice of how many voices you want to assign to it (3,5, 7, or 9). The only thing you can’t do is to combine muti and ring modulator settings within the same oscillator.
After the oscillator comes a DSP stage which features knobs for Bit Reduction, ‘Decimation’, drive and two resonant filters. Each knob can be switched on or off independently and their order within the signal chain can be changed.
Then comes the piece de resistance, the modulation window, which contains seven buttons for the pitch, amplitude and pan envelopes and two sets of resonant filters. As you switch between these, their settings are displayed in three windows below. Up top is the primarily graphical Envelope Generator window into which you can draw complex envelopes with a mouse. To its right is the primarily numerical LFO window, which offers 26 waveforms and the ability to import your own creations. Beneath both is the innovative step generator window, which allows you to specify any number of steps between 2 & 128 then edit each step individually, to (fairly) precisely control any of these modulation destinations. I say fairly precisely because there is no numerical readout, instead it is all done graphically with optional snapping to the grid, but only at levels of 10, 12 or 24. Nevertheless, I really like this feature which allows you to program everything from incredibly rich evolving textures, to complex arpeggios and sequences.
From here, the signal travels through three EQs and an insert effects unit that includes more filters and another LFO. Then, at the bottom of the screen, are volume and pan controls for each of the six elements, master volume and pan controls and a limiter. There are also on/off buttons for each element., making for easy mixing.
Finally, there is a separate global window which includes three more EQs, two more effects units, left and right step generators, and a master effects unit. The button for this window is located at the top of the screen, next to the buttons for each of the six elements, which means you can switch between them seamlessly, making for easy editing and user friendly sound design.
And talking of sound, Rapture kicks big time. It’s phatt, extremely analogue sounding and has a killer bass end. Many people are comparing it to Access’ Virus…and not with reason…though to me it sounds a little more refined and a little less in yer face.
If I have a one complaint, it’s with the presets, in as much as they are grouped by type of sound i.e. basses, pads, leads, etc., instead of by sub genre, which would seem to make far more sense for a synth aimed fairly and squarely at electronic musicians. Of course, a library system akin to Arturia’s Analog Factory would be an ideal solution, but failing that, I would like to see all of the trance sounds in one place, all of the ambient sounds in another, etc. (sub grouped by type of sound…or vice versa). It would also be useful if Rapture ran in stand alone mode, instead of just as a plug in…and while we’re at it, how about throwing in Zeta’s exceptional arpeggiator, of which I’m a big fan.
I would also ask for more (genre based) presets, but I think that Cakewalk are way ahead of me there, as registered users can download a free expansion pack containing 350 new programs and over a hundred new samples and wavetables from Cakewalk’s web site, where they’ll also find a free universal binary update for Mactel owners…yup…Rapture is multi platform!
With or without the extra presets, Rapture sounds wicked, is ideal for electronic musicians (especially anyone making trance or ambient music) and is one of the very few soft synths that’s actually a pleasure to program. At just $259/£169 it’s also a bargain.
More info: www.cakewalk.com
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