If you''re looking for a versatile synth that you won''t soon outgrow, you can''t do better than Automat from German developer Stefan Kirsch. It''s free, comes loaded with a plentiful supply of presets, and offers a lot of under-the-hood programming possibilities (see Web Clip 1). In addition to the release version—Automat 1.01—you can download the earlier Automat 0.4.2, which is similarly laid out but has fewer features and different presets. I''ll describe Automat 1.01 here, but both are worth having.
Automat 1 does not have documentation, but it roughly follows a subtractive-synth model and has two clearly labeled, if crowded, control panels that will keep you busy for hours. You use the Main panel to set up your sounds. The Mod panel offers 14 breakpoint envelope generators with a variety of looping, sync, and routing options. You can have as many breakpoints as you like and set the loop boundaries to any segment of the envelope. The first 10 envelopes can target any of the synth and filter parameters, whereas the last four target the effects.
The signal path starts with three multiwaveform oscillators with up to five stackable voices each. In addition to a variety of waveforms, options include a build-in wavetable, sample playback, and external input. Each oscillator is followed by a filter and wave-shaping module. The filters feed global filter and amp sections, each with an AHDSR envelope. Three output effects cover chorus/phase, delay, and reverb. When you''re not in the mood to tweak, click the Rand and Evo buttons to randomize or evolve the current settings.