Kubik ($90) from ConcreteFX is a wave-sequencing VST-instrument plug-in for Windows reminiscent of the classic Waldorf MicroWave and PPG hardware synths. Loaded with features that make it a synth programmer's dream, Kubik can keep you busy for hours creating unheard-of sounds. If that doesn't sound like fun, you can, by learning a few slick tricks, start with its 14 banks of presets (448 in all) and tweak your way to wavetable Nirvana. Even if you approach Kubik simply as a preset synth, you're in for a treat.
FIG. 1: Kubik''s main window contains controls for its two oscillators and filters (top), a graphic breakpoint envelope editor (middle), and a waveform selector and editor (bottom). Each section has alternate views for editing other Kubik components.
Kubik's sound engine consists of a pair of wavetable oscillators followed by a pair of multimode filters. You can treat it like a standard analog-modeled synth by simply loading a single waveform into each oscillator. The oscillator outputs can be combined in a number if interesting ways, including simple mixing, ring modulation, FM, wave shaping, sample and hold, hard sync, and PWM. In all but the first mode, one of the oscillators acts as modulator. Unison controls allow each oscillator to be doubled with adjustable detuning to fatten the sound. The filters can be in series or parallel, and in addition to the usual suspects — 12 and 24 dB-per-octave lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and band-reject — filters include formant, comb, and ring modulation modes. Alternatively, they can act as tuned noise generators.
All Over the Map
In addition to wave-mixing LFOs and looping, 32-step breakpoint envelopes, Kubik offers four modulation routers, which can target any Kubik control and whose sources include built-in waveforms, a sample-and-hold circuit, and various MIDI controllers. MIDI Control Change messages can also be routed to any onscreen control using Kubik's MIDI-learn function, but the advantage of the modulation routers is that they allow you to adjust the minimum and maximum values and set the slew rate.
Separate LFOs and envelope generators are provided to control each oscillator's wave position within the wave table, oscillator volume and pitch, and filter cutoff frequency. The LFOs allow you to mix sine, pulse, and sawtooth waveforms, each with its own speed and phase. You can set the envelopes to loop between any two breakpoints, segment shapes can be adjusted from concave to convex, and a collection of preset configurations together with a randomize function gives you a leg up on generating interesting shapes.
Kubik really gets interesting when you start working with wavetables, which are collections of 64 or fewer waveforms. Ninety-two wavetables are provided to get you started, but there are also numerous tools that greatly speed up the process of creating your own. In addition to selecting from a large collection of preset waveforms, you can draw in waveforms or create them in an additive window that gives you amplitude and phase control of 64 partials. You can fill just a few of the wavetable slots with individual waveforms, then have Kubik morph or interpolate between them. (Morphing uses the waveform graphics, whereas interpolation uses the additive forms; the results are quite different.) Finally, and most interestingly, you can resynthesize a wavetable from an audio file in two ways: by slicing up the audio file or by extracting single-cycle waveforms from it.
In addition to using an LFO or envelope to move through the wavetable, Kubik includes a 64-step wavetable sequencer, which gets things really jumping (see Web Clip 1). Each sequence step specifies a wavetable slot, relative tuning in semitones, step length, volume, pan, filter cutoff, smoothing, and pitch slide. You have a separate sequence for each oscillator, and they can run free or restart with each new note. The sequences always loop, but you can freely set the loop start and end positions. As in the waveform editor, a number of tools are provided for generating interesting sequences, and wave sequences can be separately saved to disk.
Kubik offers a number of performance options, including a full-featured arpeggiator, a latch mode for allowing sequences to run without holding a key down, a variety of portamento controls, and separate pitch-bend ranges for each oscillator. It is well suited for sequencing as well as live performance, and latch mode combined with the wavetable sequencer makes it a great set-and-let-play machine. You can download a time-limited demo and audio examples from the ConcreteFX Web site, and I highly recommend giving Kubik a listen.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 3.5