Virtual-instrument designer Andreas Ersson offers a collection of innovative VSTi plug-ins for Windows. Prices range from inexpensive for drum synths Drumular 1.1 ($39) and Vendetta 1.0 ($29) to free for synths Iblit and PolyIblit, electric piano LazySnake, and drum synth ErsDrums. Drumular and Vendetta are joint efforts of Ersson and Roy Queenan and can be purchased from Redshift Audio (www.redshiftaudio.com). You can download the others from Ersson's personal Web site (www.bostreammail.net/ers/vstplugins.html).
LazySnake and ErsDrums are very nice for the price. LazySnake's synthesis engine has separate controls that detune the harmonics and change the level and contour of its synthesized tine sound. The Amp section's Overdrive and Hardness controls mimic the pickup adjustments on a real electric piano. Separate Wah and Tremolo sections with dedicated LFOs provide mod-wheel-controlled modulation. You don't get the realism of sample-based or physical-modeled electric-piano virtual instruments, but you do get lots of playable keyboard sounds.
ErsDrums has ten pads, each with a fixed sound source: single pads for clap, clave, hi-hat, and crash, and two pads for kick, snare, and blip. Each pad has controls custom-tailored for its sound that can be triggered by any MIDI note number on any channel. The hi-hat pad has trigger notes for open and closed hi-hat sounds. Most pads also have a KeyMode button, which makes the pad play like a standard keyboard instrument. You can use that on a separate MIDI channel, for example, to create an interesting bass from one of the kick drum pads.
Drum synths Drumular and Vendetta each have 24 pads and allow drum programming that can be more detailed than ErsDrums'. Drumular furnishes 17 sound-generating algorithms, ranging from additive synthesis and drum-specific subtractive synthesis to sample and multisample playback. Any pad can use any algorithm, and in a nice touch, any pad can trigger or choke any combination of other pads. You can assign pads to a MIDI note number range and, host permitting, to separate audio outputs.
Each Vendetta pad has three sound layers — Attack, Body, and Synth — and each sound layer offers 3-zone Velocity switching (see Web Clip 1). You can use Vendetta's factory content or load your own samples into any zone. Each layer has its own synthesis engine consisting of a multimode filter with LFOs and ADSR generators. The pads have fixed MIDI note number assignments, but like Drumular, Vendetta supports multiple outputs.
Iblit and PolyIblit are mono and poly synths based on an identical synthesis engine, which uses low-aliasing band-limited impulse-train (BLIT) waveform generators. Both are 3-oscillator synths featuring pulse-width modulation and multimode filters. PolyIblit has two filters fed by separate oscillator mixers and four freely assignable LFOs and envelopes. These synths can produce all the analog-style clichés in the book, and they're CPU efficient.