Analog Factory''s control panel shows the Preset Manager on top, with the keyboard and synth controls on the bottom. You can hide either view.
Beginning with its Moog Modular V in 2003, Arturia has released a steady stream of virtual instruments emulating classic hardware synths. Analog Factory 1.2 ($249) combines the synthesis engines from all these virtual instruments with a collection of 2,000 of their best presets and a full-featured preset librarian. An additional $50 will get you the Reloaded version with 1,000 more presets. (Note that Analog Factory does not play sounds sampled from Arturia's other synths; it reproduces them.)
Analog Factory gives you much of the best of Arturia's line of synths at a fraction of the cost. It's a compact, ergonomic package that runs as a standalone on the Mac and Windows platforms; as a VSTi, AU, and RTAS plug-in on the Mac; and as a VSTi and RTAS plug-in on the PC.
It's Not Memorex
To date, Arturia has reproduced six vintage synths: the Moog Modular, the Yamaha CS-80, the Moog Minimoog, the ARP 2600, the Sequential Prophet-5, and the Sequential Prophet-VS. The two Sequential synths are combined in Arturia Prophet-V, which enables you to create hybrid patches using modules from both synths. Analog Factory has a generous selection of presets from each synth in the Arturia line, although surprisingly, there are no hybrid Prophet-5/Prophet-VS presets.
It's hotly debated whether any software instrument exactly reproduces the sound of the hardware synth it is designed to emulate. EM put a number of virtual instruments to the test and got mixed results. Three Arturia models were covered: the ARP 2600V, CS-80V, and Minimoog V (see “The Lost World Rediscovered” in the June 2005 issue of EM, available online at www.emusician.com).
With Analog Factory, a more important question is whether it accurately reproduces the sounds of the other virtual instruments in the Arturia line. I was able to make that comparison for all of them except the Minimoog V, and Analog Factory nailed it every time (see Web Clip 1). There are some discrepancies in effects-amount settings, but you can easily fix them.
One from Column A
Analog Factory's Preset Manager makes it easy to find and audition sounds. There are three browser filters: Instrument, Type, and Characteristics. The word filter is something of a misnomer, because selections in each category are additive. Adding to selections makes sense for Instrument, because Instrument categories don't overlap — no preset belongs to two instruments. For Type, adding or filtering could work: if you select Pad and Organ, you probably would want all organ pads. But if you select Bass and Guitar, you likely would want to see all guitar presets and all bass presets. For Characteristics, you probably would want the selection to be refined as you choose more categories — Acid, Bright, and Short as opposed to Acid or Bright or Short. But whether it's filtered or additive is a small issue, and finding your way in the Preset Manager is easy.
You can further restrict the Preset Manager to show only your favorite presets (so designated by a checkbox to the right of the preset listing) or only presets that you've created. In both cases, the other categories are still operative, so you can find, for example, all the EFX presets that you have created and marked as favorites. For even greater convenience, you can assign presets to eight snapshot buttons that line the top left of the keyboard, and those assignments persist between sessions.
Tweak of the Week
Arturia gives you access to 15 parameters for each preset. Eleven of those are fixed, whereas four, called Key Parameters, change from preset to preset. Arturia could have taken the easy way out and assigned the Key Parameters on a synth-by-synth basis, but instead it has picked the four most relevant parameters for each preset. That gives you lots of programming flexibility.
The fixed parameters are also well chosen. They include filter cutoff and resonance (both of which you always want on an analog-synth model), LFO rate and amount, effects amount for the chorus and delay, and the ADSR amplitude envelope parameters. Not always having access to filter-envelope parameters is something of a handicap, but not all of the synth configurations allow it.
Analog Factory gives you a lot of cluck for your buck. It's especially roadworthy because it is CPU efficient and easy to use. If you like vintage sounds, you should give this synth a listen.
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