|Each of Electra2’s four layers gives you access to all of its parameters at the same time. The only time you’ll need to view another page is when you want to list all its patches.
Your choices may be overwhelming when you enter
the world of software instruments. In addition to
synths that emulate analog, FM, and sample-playback
hardware, software leads the way in modeling,
granular, and other algorithmic techniques. One of
the most accessible plug-ins combining multiple
synthesis technologies is Electra2, an update of
Tone2’s ElectraX. It supports VST in Windows and
AU and VST in Mac OSX, though not AAX or RTAS.
Electra2’s architecture provides four layers,
each with three oscillators, two filters, four ADSR
generators, four LFOs, a modulation matrix, and a
sophisticated, programmable 16-step arpeggiator.
Because layers can receive on separate MIDI
channels, Electra2 can play four independent parts.
Three identical oscillators, which can sync to
and modulate each other, generate waveforms using
various methods. I was impressed that you can
combine three sound engines (one for each oscillator)
in a single layer. Five synthesis modes include
wavetable, sample playback, and Ultrasaw, which
layers detuned sawtooth or pulse waves. Custom
Wave resynthesizes user samples into wavetables, and
Tone2’s exclusive Noise/Fractal mode relies on real-time
algorithms that take advantage of chaos theory.
Wavetable mode lets you choose from simple and
complex wavetables that were produced using virtual
analog, FM, phase distortion, and additive synthesis.
Electra2 can import user samples (in WAV format
only). The Edit menu enables sample trimming,
waveshaping, automatic tuning and looping, and
much more, but the current version doesn’t let you
undo your edits; nor can you map multisamples.
Twin filters supply numerous lowpass, bandpass,
and highpass modes and EQ types, as well as comb,
vocal, aliaser, fractal, and other
options. Two filter types model
plucked strings and blown pipes.
You can apply effects such as
reverb and delay to the output of
all layers and process individual
layers using any of those effects.
Electra2’s GUI displays every
control for the selected layer,
divided into functional sections.
Change most parameter values
by turning a knob or clicking on the parameter’s
name, which toggles on and off or displays a popup
menu for making selections. Animated displays help
you visualize dynamic processes.
The easiest way to create a patch from scratch
is by clicking on the Init button, which reveals a list
of 18 templates that include SubtractivePad, Phase
Distortion, Waveshaping, and the two physical
modeling types. A Quick Import Vocoder selection
in the File menu lets you instantly create a vocoder
patch by setting up the appropriate parameters and
importing an audio file to use as the modulator.
Clicking on the Browse button replaces the layer
controls with the patch browser window, which has
an onscreen keyboard for quickly auditioning sounds.
The browser displays 24 patch types, such as Bass,
Pad, ArpMultilayer, and SemiReal. More than 1,200
patches are included, and you can buy hundreds more
online. The browser’s Info box displays information
about each patch, like what real-time modulators are
available and what type of synthesis is employed.
Electra2 has features you won’t find elsewhere
and gives you a broad range of creative possibilities.
For sound designers who want extraordinary
flexibility and surprising depth, Electra2 is near the
top of my list.
architecture. Four-part multitimbral.
library. Quick patch
templates. Bang for
No standalone version.
No multisampling. No
Undo command in
current version. Not Pro