Sample Logic Synergy provides a slew of imaginative timbres with plenty of tools for customizing them.
I'm always attentive when sampling's focus turns from literal interpretations of acoustic and electronic instruments to more-imaginative sound design. Over the last few years, I've heard lots of great examples of brilliant sample manipulation, ranging from Spectrasonics Omnisphere to Cakewalk Rapture, Heavyocity Evolve, and Native Instruments Absynth. Sample Logic has developed several software instruments exploring the more abstract side of sampling, and its most recent entry into the surreal sweepstakes is Synergy ($299 [MSRP]), an instrument with nearly 20 GB of sample content and programs.
The ubiquitous Native Instruments Kontakt Player 2 (KP2) hosts standalone versions of Synergy for Mac and Windows and plug-ins in AU, RTAS, and VST for Mac and DXi, VST, and RTAS for Windows. KP2 can do virtually any trick that Kontakt (its fully programmable sibling) can do, but it limits user access to deeper programming features. Nonetheless, the manufacturer can provide user-programmable goodies such as built-in arpeggiators, step sequencers, and MIDI controller mappings. Synergy has many of these extras, along with copious customization options. I tested Synergy as a standalone and in several VST and AU hosts on a 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon 8-core Mac with 6 GB of RAM under OS X 10.5.5.
SOUND AND FURY
Overall, the quality level of the patches is quite good. Sounds in the Ambience folder run the gamut from tonal, sweeping drones with harmonics darting in and out to predominantly noise-infused effects and practically everything in between. Nuclear Residue is a good example of that middle ground: vaguely tonal, with a cloudy, bell-like inharmonicity (Web Clip 1).
Do not dismiss patches because of their titles or categories. Rumbles in the Bronx could be the ideal disturbing backdrop for your next Lovecraft-inspired film scene (Web Clip 2), and Until Tomorrow could easily be repurposed from a bass line to an arpeggiated square-wave lead. Speaking of repurposing, it's worth mentioning that Synergy gives you access to resonant highpass and lowpass filters, a phase shifter, delay, chorus, and reverb. You also get Pulser, a gating effect that lets you create synchronized rhythmic pulsing, and an arpeggiator with a generous number of controls that you access with a single mouse-click. The latter two effects even worked well with pads owing to amplitude controls for attack and release.
You won't find any GM-compatible patches or sampled TR808 sounds in the Drum Kit folder. Although some sounds use traditional kit pieces, many (though percussive and eminently useful) are warped beyond recognition. The Large Ensemble section holds an assortment of bowed, struck, and otherwise-excited percussion with a cinematic flair. The instrument also delivers a fine assortment of ethnic percussion.
The Impacts folder holds a collection of one-shot percussive sounds including some with more bowlike envelopes. Many are heavily processed and electronic in nature, others are metallic and atonal, whereas still others have plenty of fundamental and could serve well as interesting pads.
A few patches — particularly in the Large Ensembles subfolder of the Drums section — are hard to distinguish. Many had a similar ambience. Airy, a folder of Ambience patches, was too functionally redundant for my taste. I also wish some of the patches had a more extensive keyboard range; a quick boost of two octaves with the Pitch Bend wheel verified my opinion that many samples could gracefully withstand the stretch.
Not all is percussion and atmospheric effects. You can find terrific-sounding offerings among the tonal instruments. A Melody patch entitled Black Note Sapporo uses Velocity-induced vibrato combined with delay to produce an arpeggiated, kotolike instrument (see Web Clip 3).
THE GREATER GOOD
Synergy's Multis are also excellent. I was pleasantly surprised by a bundle of instruments rife with rhythmic and timbral motion. Many of the single patches that I found somewhat nondescript came brilliantly to life in combination with other sounds. The Multis work in a variety of settings, from atonal, cinematic pads to bubbling, arpeggiated Tangerine Dream song starters (see Web Clip 4). And Sample Logic leaves you plenty of room at the patch and Multi levels for sonic and polyrhythmic mayhem.
Synergy's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. The generous collection of patches and Multis provides plenty of inspiring and useful compositional tools for those looking for more-fanciful sound sources. It's heartening to hear sampled instruments delving into less charted sonic territory, and Synergy rates highly among its competition. Give it a listen.
Value (1 through 5): 4