impOCSar 2 (AU, VST, Mac-only RTAS) updates the popular impOSCar soft synth, which was derived from the 1983 OSCar synthesizer built by Oxford Synthesizer Company. New features includes extended oscillator flexibility, new patch browser, a great arpeggiator section, and built-in effects that vastly extend the sonic palette. You can also choose three different GUI sizes to accommodate anything from laptops to big screens.
Sounds Interesting impOSCar has always been one of my “go to” synths for its lush pads, hard-edge leads, and high usability. impOSCar 2’s oscillator section has been revamped; of the 13 selectable waveforms, the pulse width and variable pulse width waveforms (with a fixedrate LFO for those waveforms) can now be applied independently to each oscillator. You can hand-draw user waves in the User Wave Matrix, using 24 harmonics, then save/recall them to supplement the factory waveforms. The program also includes a selectable white/pink-noise generator and ring modulator. Furthermore, impOSCar 2 now responds to polyphonic aftertouch.
New Unison Modes impOSCar 2’s 16 voices (same voice count as the original) come in handy when using the improved unison modes, which produce sounds as thick as honey. These modes range from two to eight stacked voices; additional controls for detune amount and panning spread let you fine-tune these massive stacks.
Mo’ Modulation Adding a second LFO to the mix provides a lot of flexibility in treating sounds and controlling impOSCar’s typically rich sounds. Very deep sync-control assignment options, with 11 sync choices, complement the usual waveform select, rate, and delay (labeled Intro) controls. You can then adjust the depth and mix the two LFOs together for some interesting effects, thanks to the independent delay and rates.
Arpeggiator The updated Arpeggiator provides simple yet powerful control of octave-shift, up/down direction, pitch, and play orders—it was easy for me to create lots of very musical arpeggiation. Other functions include the handy keyboard hold and chord memory (which the manual suggests was borrowed from the Oberheim OB8); this provides chord playback from a single note that’s also influenced by the arpeggiator’s pitch and play settings.
Patch Browser The new Patch Browser is a welcome addition that allows for all presets to be accessible without having to load a different bank. Sixteen selectable, customizable user preset banks let you configure quick recall to presets, as well as organize presets for particular projects or live performances.
In addition, any impOSCar 2 bank is assignable to a program change number. I’d like to be able to assign my program change bank select to these numbers as well, although I see where that could add a layer of confusion. Extra credit: The presets include sounds from Billy Currie (Ultravox), Darren Price and Rick Smith (Underworld), and Paul Wiffen.
Audio Input/FX Mode impOSCar 2 can also serve as an FX plug-in so you can route a DAW’s audio track through the rich analogsounding filters, ring modulator, envelope, and effects. The great analog sound of this instrument opens lots of possibilities, especially when applying realtime control to these parameters.
Worth the Upgrade? impOSCar 2 is a big upgrade to the original impOSCar. While the parameters run deep, they’re all accessible from the front panel—aside from the browser, there are no submenus or alternate windows. It’s a great synth for those who want fat analog sounds, but beyond that, its versatility and accessibility make it fun to use and tweak.
STRENGTHS: Flexible architecture includes additive and subtractive synthesis and accessible controls. 1,000+ preset library; easy accessibility make it easy to use and modify. Great arpeggiator.
LIMITATIONS: Can’t delete presets from Browser. Using the external input to process audio can be a little clumsy, albeit rewarding. No 64-bit version yet, or Windows RTAS.
Reek Havok is a four-time Platinum record recipient, a drummer, a sound designer for various instrument manufacturers, and an interactive exhibit designer.