It seems like there’s a million soft synths on the market. Most are pretty good, a few are excellent. Albino? It’s one in a million!
From the moment I plugged it in and let rip, it blew me away, though perhaps that’s unsurprising considering that most of its patches have been programmed by legendary Dutch sound designer Rob Papen, whose programming skills have graced, amongst other hardware, Emu’s equally legendary ‘Proteus 2000’ and ‘Orbit’ modules.
But Albino isn’t just about Papen’s sounds, he also co-conceived and co-designed this instrument with Peter Linsener of LinPlug, which might help to explain how something that, on the face of it, seems to be little more than a fairly straightforward subtractive synthesiser, is capable of producing such monster sounds.
Architecturally, it’s a four oscillator affair, with each oscillator able to function as an ‘analogue’, digital, or noise source. In analogue mode, waveforms are created in real time (as they would be by a real analogue oscillator). Surprisingly, only two waveforms – pulse and sawtooth, are offered, though varying ratios of both can be mixed together and then reshaped using the ‘symmetry’ dial. Naturally these oscillators can be precisely adjusted in octaves (-2 to +7), semitones (-11 to +11) and cents (-100 to +100) and crucially, each analogue oscillator module includes a sub oscillator, which produces tones one octave lower than the main oscillator, for added ‘welly’. Various output destinations are available including either/both of Albino’s two filters, and oscillators 1 and 3 can be used as FM operators for oscillators two and four.
The Digital oscillators meanwhile, use harmonic sine waves to construct no less than 101 different types of waveform, two of which can then be combined in varying proportions and sent to a similar variety of output destinations.
Finally, the noise source offers a choice of white pink and brown noise (and once again, similar output destinations).
All of these oscillators include a ‘spread’ knob, which, as you ‘TURN IT UP!’, applies increasing amounts of polyphonic ‘Unison’, for those killer, super sawesque sounds. Oscillator one can also be configured to function as an audio input that is fed by your host sequencer, which effectively allows Albino to be used as effect (though, on testing, I found that this did not work with Ableton Live 6 as the host).
The output from each oscillator is sent to one/both of Albino’s filters, of which there are a choice of four, ‘silk’, ‘cream’, ‘scream’ and ‘comb’…which are pretty self-explanatory. It is claimed that a lot of time has been spent making these filters “especially musical”. Time well spent I’d have to say, as they are some of the best virtual filters I’ve heard.
Next in the signal path, is the amp, from where the output of each of the filters is sent to one or two of four effects units, each of which offers a choice between delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, filter, reverb, stereo delay, gator, wah wah, compressor and lowfi.
Rounding things off nicely are eight envelopes; a modulation matrix that allows you to create 16 user-defined modulation routings from 47 destinations and 26 sources; and a seriously versatile 32 step programmable arpeggiator that lets you play with timings lengths and groove as well as with pitches
Oh…and just one more thing…multiply all of that by four, as albino has four layers!
So how does it sound? I think I’m in love! The leads are absolutely massive, the arpeggios are trance on a stick and the bass is deeper than Barry White performing on the deck of the Titanic…after it sank… In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Albino is the only thing I’ve heard that can truly challenge the Virus TI!
Having said that, I do have one complaint – the user interface. Only two oscillators, one envelope, one effects unit and a choice of one LFO or the modulation matrix or the arpeggiator are visible at any one time. To view the rest, you have to press buttons at the side of each module to switch between oscillators envelopes effects units etc. If you just want Albino for its excellent sounds, or will only be doing a limited amount of tweaking, this is not going to be much of a problem, as what you do see is well laid out, uncluttered and easy on the eyes, but if you’re planning on doing serious amounts of programming, this can become both tedious and confusing
Nevertheless, it sounds too good to give it any less than full marks, so if you’re producing any kind of dance music, make Albino your number one purchase. It’s that good…seriously!
More info: www.timespace.com
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