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October 1, 2005

CronoX3 is the latest brainchild of instrument designer Peter Linsener, and it's a significant advance over previous versions of CronoX. CronoX3 is available in VST plug-in format for Windows and in AU and VST formats for Mac OS X. It can be purchased directly from the LinPlug Web site as a 400 MB download ($139) or on CD with a printed manual from your music retailer ($199). The download version comes with 750 presets compared with 2,000 on the CD.

CronoX3''s Main page provides x-y controls for mixing its four audio generators and controlling each filter''s cutoff and resonance. Performance and basic effects controls are provided as well.

Like its predecessors, CronoX3 has four types of sound generators: Oscillator, Time Sampler, Schrader, and Loop Sampler. Unlike its predecessors, a preset can use as many as four generators, and their outputs can be spread across two parallel multimode filters. The signal path ends in six effects slots — the first two are in parallel and feed the remaining four, which are in series.

Round and Round

CronoX3's Oscillator generator morphs between sawtooth and pulse waveforms with continuous control of symmetry. Morphing can be automated in real time with MIDI messages and built-in modulators. Extremely fat sounds can be achieved with any of the generators by using the Spread control, which detunes five oscillators assigned to each voice. Although it uses five oscillators per voice, activating Spread does not reduce polyphony, but deactivating it does save CPU cycles.

Time Sampler and Schrader play single samples. Time Sampler offers independent control over time and pitch, and the time setting can track the keyboard positively or negatively. Schrader treats the sample as a wavetable. When a note is played, Schrader proceeds through the wavetable at a rate determined by its Speed control. Start and End controls, which can be automated, allow you to restrict the wavetable to part of the sample.

Loop Sampler is a looping multisample player that supports both key and Velocity zones. Although it's somewhat tedious to set up, Loop Sampler has all the features of conventional sample players and extensive modulation possibilities.

Add a Little Subtraction

The output of each active generator (you can deactivate generators to save CPU cycles) can be spread between CronoX3's two filters. In Standard mode, the filters can be switched between lowpass, bandpass, and highpass filtering. In Free mode, a rotary control allows you to morph between lowpass, bandpass, highpass, and notch filtering, and morphing can be automated. As you might imagine, the effect can be subtle or extreme.

CronoX3's effects cover the bases with three brands of delay (standard, stereo, and ping-pong); phase, flange, and chorus; multimode and parametric EQ; reverb and stereo enhancement; gating; and bit crushing. Although they don't push the envelope, and their parameters aren't modulation-matrix targets, the effects are high quality. With all else that's going on in CronoX3, that's good enough.

Hold That Thought

As is probably clear by now, CronoX3 shines in the modulation and automation departments. For MIDI remote control and plug-in host automation, a slick system called Easy Controller Setup (ECS) makes it a snap to assign MIDI messages to any of CronoX3's controls (including effects parameters). Furthermore, messages can target more than one control.

CronoX3's seven ADSFR envelope generators, four multiwaveform LFOs, and variety of MIDI messages can be routed with variable amount to any of 56 targets using a 10-row modulation matrix. A flexible 32-step arpeggiator is also available as a modulation source.

Out of Control

As complex as CronoX3 sounds (and is), its control panel is so well thought-out that CronoX3 is fairly easy to program. A Main page gives you access to critical generator, filter, and effects settings along with buttons to take you to more detailed settings pages. Some of the other pages have a lot of controls crammed in, but everything is clearly labeled and logically laid out.

CronoX3 is definitely a tweaker's synth, but its huge library of presets will keep you busy if you hate synth programming. The sounds, from a variety of top-notch sound designers, are as well thought-out as the synth. Presets range from ambient sounds and pads and cutting leads to acoustic and percussion instruments and myriad sound effects (see Web Clip 1).

A visit to the LinPlug Web site is well worth the trip. You can hear MP3 examples and download a demo version of CronoX3. You'll also find demos and examples of the company's other plug-ins, including the free synth, Alpha, and the previous (and less expensive) version of CronoX.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 3.5
LinPlug Virtual Instruments, GmbH

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