QUICK PICKS: CYBERWAVE EMS Waveplant (Mac/Win)

Sampler owners are on a never-ending quest for sensuous, otherworldly, magical sounds. Cyberwave EMS caught my attention with its Waveplant CD-ROM ($45),
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Sampler owners are on a never-ending quest for sensuous, otherworldly, magical sounds. Cyberwave EMS caught my attention with its Waveplant CD-ROM ($45), "a collection of synthesizer sounds," the manufacturer claims, "that have never been heard before."

The Waveplant is a hybrid hardware-software synthesizer. The software runs on a PC and connects to the hardware via ISA ports. It controls the hardware components: three standard LFOs, nine oscillators (saw, square, variable pulse, triangle, noise, and four simple additive waveforms), and nine ADSR envelope generators. The filters are separate hardware modules. They consist of three 24 dB/ octave, variable-state voltage-controlled filters (VCFs) and three 12 dB/octave VCFs.

The hardware handles sound generation; the software provides program storage, parameter adjustment, key scanning, and modulation matrices. The modulators are composed of 36 independent LFOs arranged in groups of four matrices. They are used to create phase shifts, pan effects, chorusing, and so on.

Critical IssuesWaveplant has some conceptual shortcomings. The disc offers no multisamples-a great disappointment. It has categories for Organs, Leads, and Polysynths, but without at least two samples per octave, you won't get enough of a range to create those types of patches. The booklet states that Waveplant contains 120 MB of samples; when you consider that 650 MB can fit on a disc, there seems to be no excuse for omitting multisamples.

The booklet includes a list of categorized sample types; unfortunately, it's not in the same order as the audio on the disc. Furthermore, the sounds themselves aren't individually listed or indexed. (According to Cyberwave EMS, the documentation has been revised since I reviewed the CD-ROM.)

Waveplant's sounds are in three file formats: audio, WAV, and SoundFont. Cyberwave EMS recommends using the CD-ROM with a SoundFont-compatible system. As a Macintosh user, I'm unfamiliar with SoundFonts, so I didn't review them, but I did test out Waveplant's WAV files. They work fine for one-shot samples, and you can view them on your computer, eliminating any doubt about what you're hearing.

Wave SoundsWaveplant is a collection of individual sound effects rather than a set of traditional synth sounds. The first few times I listened to the disc, I got the distinct impression I was listening to a modular synth-standard waveforms with varying degrees of resonance, sample and hold textures, filter sweeps, and the like.

I found some appealing sounds. The numerous modulators give movement to many of the sounds, with rich, emerging overtones and subtle granular effects. Some files are quite large, progressing through changing segments that you can snip and use as shorter bits. The clangorous and ring-modulated samples are good, too.

The sounds in the Otherworldly category, however, aren't quite alien enough for my tastes. Tonally, these samples have a limited, analog quality. I would like to see Cyberwave EMS more fully explore the Waveplant synth's capacity for creating ambient textures.

Waveplant's bass samples aren't my cup of tea either. Although my lack of familiarity with SoundFont and the absence of useful indexing prohibited a complete analysis, I nonetheless found the distorted bass samples too long: distortion occurs at the beginning of the sound, followed by a severe drop in volume and a smooth decay. But if you find a suitable loop, some of the bass samples might work well as synthlike drones.

The Final WaveAfter reviewing Waveplant, I found myself asking, what if? What if the sounds were offered as multisamples? What if the categories were focused, offering distinct, biting leads; broad, ambient pads; a more diverse palette of effects; and tight, concentrated bass samples? What if the documentation and indexing provided a better road map of the available samples?

I hope that Cyberwave EMS will take these questions into consideration when it creates the next Waveplant-synthesizer sample CD-ROM, because Waveplant has potential. If you're looking for single-shot modular effects, you may find this disc to be well worth its low price.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 2