If you own an earlier version of Albino, there's no decision to make; browse over to the Rob Papen or LinPlug Web site and order the upgrade ($49) to Albino 3. You get four layers, which amounts to four Albinos in one, a slew of new and enhanced effects, an expanded modulation matrix, a sophisticated arpeggiator, and external audio input. If you haven't tried Albino, grab the demo; it's fully functional but belches noise every minute or so.
Albino 3 ($199) is a collaboration between Dutch sound designer Rob Papen of Emu Orbit-3 and Access Virus fame and German software developer Peter Linsener. It runs in any AU- or VSTi-compatible host under Mac OS X or Windows. You can purchase the downloadable version of Albino 3 from the LinPlug Web site. You can purchase the physical package (CD and printed manual) from dealers worldwide or from the Rob Papen Web site.
Albino gets everything on a single control panel by toggling the oscillator, filter, modulator, and effects sections between different elements.
Each of Albino's four layers has four oscillators, and each oscillator can function as an analog or digital waveform generator, a noise source, or an external input. The digital oscillators mix spectral waveforms and sound decidedly different from the analog oscillators, which generate their waveforms in real time and then mix in a suboscillator an octave below the fundamental. A Spread control activates as many as five panned and detuned voices per oscillator. You can send each oscillator to either or both of Albino's filters, and you get a variety of frequency- and amplitude-modulation routings among the oscillators and filters.
You can arrange Albino's two filters in series or parallel, and each filter is preceded by an overdrive-saturation effect. The three multimode-filter variants — Silk, Cream, and Scream — differ in both the modes they offer and their characteristic sound. Scream is new to Albino 3, and as you might guess, it is nasty. Also new in Albino 3, you can configure either filter as a comb filter.
The signal path ends in four identical stereo multi-effects units that you can arrange in series or parallel. All the usual suspects are accounted for: chorus, phaser, flanger, filter, reverb, gate, compressor, and distortion.
The Swirl Factor
Modulation has always been a LinPlug strength, and Albino 3 doesn't disappoint. A 16-row modulation matrix routes 4 LFOs, 8 envelope generators, a 32-step arpeggiator, and various MIDI messages to practically any Albino parameter. Furthermore, Albino's robust MIDI Learn implementation lets you assign any MIDI continuous controller to any parameter, and you can save MIDI setups to disk.
The multiwaveform LFOs have their own delay, attack, and decay controls and optionally sync to tempo. The envelopes are switchable between ADSFR and a 5-stage format with independent level and time settings for each stage. All but the Mod envelope have a fixed routing in addition to any routings set up in the modulation matrix. That means you can use the matrix for arcane routings and still have filter and amplitude envelopes.
Albino's arpeggiator is really a cross between a step sequencer and an arpeggiator. Like any arpeggiator, it loops through the currently held chord with a variety of direction options. What's more, each step has its own Velocity, and steps can be silent or tied to the note from the previous step (see Web Clip 1). You can copy and paste arpeggiator patterns between presets as well as save them to disk.
Albino's chord memorizer remembers the intervallic form of a chord. When it is active, single notes trigger chords with that form. The chord memorizer is particularly handy when used with the arpeggiator.
The 2,100 Club
When you match a software developer with a talented sound designer, you get a library of truly usable sounds, and by the third generation that library can get huge. Albino comes with more than 2,100 presets organized by category, and because the sound browser pulls presets directly from disk, you're not stuck with endless bank shuffling. The presets make full use of the arpeggiator as well as Albino's ability to produce really fat multilayered sounds and its multifarious modulation options. If you exhaust the factory library, you can click on the Gen button to randomize Albino's settings. For still more sounds, you can purchase additional libraries of 300 to 500 presets by Bigtone and Ian Boddy on the LinPlug Web site.
Albino 3 is an impressive upgrade to an out-of-the-ordinary synth. If you stuff all four layers with multioscillator presets, turn Spread on, and use lots of effects, you'll probably bring your CPU to its knees, as would any 80-oscillator synth. But with all the variation on offer, you can get great sounds with low CPU usage. Drive it; you'll like it.