Modelonia ($79) is the latest synth from physical-modeling expert Luigi Felici of NUSofting. It combines two physical models plucked string and blown
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The Modelonia control panel has modulator controls at the top, exciter controls in the middle, and resonator controls at the bottom.

Modelonia ($79) is the latest synth from physical-modeling expert Luigi Felici of NUSofting. It combines two physical models — plucked string and blown bore — and you can mix or cross-modulate them. Although capable of realistic acoustic-instrument emulations, this synth is intended for, and excels at, producing original timbres.

Modelonia is a VSTi plug-in for Windows. A Mac OS X version is planned for the future. You can download a save-disabled demo that occasionally emits a soft noise burst from the Modelonia Web site ( Purchase via PayPal gets you a link for downloading the full version.

Get Physical

Modelonia uses pure physical modeling to achieve its sound; there are no effects or sweepable synth-style filters in its signal path. If you're new to physical modeling, it can take a while to break old habits like reaching for the filter-envelope, distortion, or chorus controls, but Modelonia is actually quite easy to program. It comes with 128 presets, a Sound Wizard menu for bringing up 10 starting-point patches, and a quick-reference help-screen overlay for the graphical user interface. Even if you have no idea what you're doing, you can quickly generate some original presets.

Acoustic instruments make sounds when a resonating body such as a string or hollow pipe is stimulated by striking, bowing, blowing, and so on. Modelonia models three forms of stimulus — picking, noise, and vibrating lips — and two types of resonator — string and horn. The three stimulators reside in Modelonia's Exciter block in the middle of the control panel. You can apply the pick to the string resonator, the lips to the horn resonator, and noise to either.

The two resonators are located in the Resonator block below the Exciter block, and each has controls specific to its type. For example, there are controls for the stiffness of the string and the brightness of the horn. In keeping with real wind instruments, the horn resonator produces a sustained sound by means of feedback to the lips exciter. Unlike with real instruments, you can produce all sorts of hybrid sounds by feeding the output of the horn resonator into the string resonator and vice versa. You can even produce unstable, but often interesting, sounds by simultaneously feeding the resonators back to each other.

Next in Line

The resonators feed a basic output section consisting of EQ, reverb, tuning, and gain. The effects are intended to enhance the physical model rather than function as sophisticated multi-effects. Modelonia does not emphasize modulation, but it does have two LFOs and an ADSR envelope generator, and you can route each of those to six targets using a modulation matrix. You can also automate most Modelonia parameters using its MIDI Learn feature.

One characteristic of physically modeled sounds is that they can go out of tune at specific frequencies related to the characteristics of the resonator. The array of 72 sliders at the bottom of the Modelonia panel allows you to tune each of the 36 notes between A3 (MIDI Note Number 69) and G#6 for each resonator. The process can be tedious and is not always necessary, but an examination of the factory presets in the TUN category reveals the value of this feature.

Out of the Box

Modelonia comes with 128 factory presets ranging from natural-sounding to painful. It is especially good at ensemble sounds, which are labeled ENS in the factory bank. All of the sounds are eminently tweakable, and the manual suggests starting with the filters in the resonator sections, the EQ controls, and the handy Pluck-to-Sustain slider, which adjusts the mix of the two resonators and feeds a touch of strings into the horns.

Ten Sound Wizard templates give you a head start in creating common types of plucked, blown, and percussive sounds. The templates are contained in an XML file. You can edit that file to add your own templates if you know what you're doing, but the provided templates give you plenty to work with.

If you're tired of standard-fare synths but not quite ready to build your own physical model in a DIY application such as Reaktor or Tassman, Modelonia offers a simpler path. The factory sounds are great, they're easy to tweak, and it won't take long before you're building your own trombone-ukulele hybrid (see Web Clip 1).

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