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Review: Reveal Sound Spire

May 25, 2016

With testimonials from massive EDM artists such as Hardwell, Armin van Buuren, and Dada Life, Reveal Sound’s Spire has quickly become one of dance music’s go-to softsynths. Looking over its synthesis architecture, it’s easy to see why.

With four incredibly flexible oscillators feeding a pair of multimode filters with tons of options, its audio signal path is capable of a huge assortment of textures. On the modulation side, there are four envelopes, four LFOs, and two step-sequencers that can be assigned to virtually any parameter. Finishing out the package is an assortment of effects, EQ, and compression, so that even the factory presets sound like finished products inside the synth.

OSCILLATORS

Each of Spire’s four oscillators operates in one of five modes—Classic, Noise, FM, AM/sync, and Saw/PWM. Each mode then offers a huge array of wavetables that can be blended into its core sound. From there, you can fine-tune the wavetable position, phase and several other options that are unique to each mode. While these wavetables don’t offer quite the same detail as other softsynths (notably Xfer Records Serum and Waldorf Nave), they are still extremely useful for creating exotic harmonic spectra with a digital sharpness that really cuts through a mix.

From there, the four oscillators feed an innovative unison section that does a lot more than just add that super-saw effect. Here, you can select up to nine voices of unison, then select from nine more types of detuning modes ranging from massive multi-octaves to a musical array of six different chord types, including both major and minor seventh options for fans of house genres. Tinkering with this feature alone, it’s immediately obvious why Spire is currently dominating the sound of trance and big room EDM.

FILTERS

Spire’s dual filters can be configured in series, in parallel, or linked, which is flexible enough in itself, but the assortment of filtering options takes the whole package into really deep territory. At the top level, there are five filter categories with quirky names like Acido and Scorpio. In practice, these are basically filter models that correspond with various classic synths (e.g., Acido is based on the TB-303) and each has its own flavor. Within the categories, there is an array of filter types like lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and peak, some with different roll-off slopes, as well. Even if you’re not a filter geek, it’s clear that the various algorithms all have distinct applications, depending on the type of sound you’re after. Personally, I really liked the Perfecto and Scorpio models. With these, even simply switching filter types within a given preset can alter a patch dramatically.

Once the filter category and type are selected, the rest of the parameters are extremely straightforward. Each filter has its own cutoff and resonance parameters, with additional knobs for balancing between the two filters and adding keytracking. I must say, I would have liked access to an overdrive parameter within the filters, but some of the categories have that character baked into them, so it’s not absent, just disguised.

MODULATION AND EFFECTS

Reveal Sound Spire features four 6-stage envelopes. Each envelope includes multiple curve options.
As with the filter and oscillators, Spire’s modulation amenities are extensive. There are four ADSR envelopes that include some interesting slope and time options for the sustain segment. What’s more, each envelope includes multiple curve options, individually selectable for every segment. The only wrinkle in this approach lies in the fact that every envelope includes a static diagram above it that’s strictly used for selecting the curve types, so when you adjust the values for attack, decay, and so on, the diagram doesn’t change to reflect those adjustments. Not a huge deal, but a tad confusing at first.

Spire’s LFOs are insanely flexible, including all of the same waveshapes as the audio oscillators, including the wavetables! In practice, these are absolutely amazing for adding chaotic motion to the various oscillator and filter parameters, especially when synced to tempo. These waveforms can be further tweaked with phase and symmetry offsets, so you can dial in exotic rhythms without resorting to the dual step-sequencers.

And speaking of those step-sequencers, they’re incredibly powerful in a way that is reminiscent of Native Instruments Massive, with adjustable curves for every step segment. All of these modulation options, along with MIDI control and an integrated arpeggiator can be easily assigned and scaled using Spire’s matrix window, which is arranged in a suitably familiar manner.

At the end of Spire’s signal path is a collection of effects that includes all of the standards, such as saturation, phaser, chorus, delay, and reverb. Digging a little deeper, it becomes clear that these effects are quite versatile, too, with formant effects available in the phaser and flanger options in the chorus. There is also a simple compressor and EQ at the end of this chain for adding final polish to the end result.

TO THE TOP

Sonically, Spire is a powerhouse that excels at bright, fat, decidedly digital textures that really cut through a mix. After spending a couple of weeks with it, it’s obvious that its rock star testimonials are well-deserved.

That said, this power comes at the expense of a certain amount of intuitiveness, especially if you’re not a full-on synth nerd. In a way, there are almost too many options to consider when developing your own patches because of the way the interface is laid out. Fortunately, the six factory preset banks cover so much territory that you can find a great starting point for almost any type of texture. All in all, Spire is a powerful package that belongs in every big-room dance producer’s arsenal.

STRENGTHS

Extremely powerful synthesis tools with sophisticated modulation options. Huge EDM preset library.

LIMITATIONS

User interface is a tad cumbersome, especially for newcomers.

$189
reveal-sound.com

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