Virtual Instruments

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Why: Achieve totally unique sounds from sample-based technology.
Description: Iris’ visual audio representation lets you extract sonic components, then layer them together to create never-before-heard combinations. You can get started immediately with 500 presets, or dive into the 4GB library; there are also plenty of effects (reverb, distortion, chorus, delay, and filters). In addition to making conventional sounds, Iris has exceptional potential for sound designers, audio-for-video, and video games.

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Why: You have a really powerful computer, and don’t fear instruments that devour CPU cycles.
Description: DIVA stands for Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analogue—the oscillators, filters, and envelopes model components from vintage monophonic and polyphonic synths. You can mix and match modules to build unique hybrid instruments, or simply draw from the more than 1,200 presets. There are a lot of virtual analog synthesizers, but DIVA applies methods from industrial circuit simulators to achieve excellent realtime emulation.

Native Instruments

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Why: Because you want cutting-edge additive synthesis sounds

Description: Razor comes with Komplete 8 Ultimate, but can be purchased separately as a download and uses the free Reaktor Player as a host. Its easy-to-use additive synthesis engine consists of up to 320 partials, which create all sounds and effects (filters, stereo imaging, even reverbs and delays). The sound is extremely present and “high-res”; the 350-plus presets are excellent, and especially well-suited to dance music.

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Applied Acoustics


Why: Sounds based on modeled acoustic resonators are expressive and highly playable.
Description: The modeling-based technology combines various acoustic resonators to create percussion and other instruments. It incorporates the coupling effects that arise from interacting objects exchanging acoustic energy—for example, the way a metal bar interacts with the air column from a vibraphone’s tube. While the sound is “acoustic,” it’s also highly controllable. The included sound library ranges from playable instruments to kits for rhythm tracks.

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Oberheim SEM V

Why: Just try to find the original hardware.
Description: In typical Arturia fashion, the SEM V starts with a faithful reproduction of the sound of Tom Oberheim’s classic synth hardware, then adds features like eight-voice multi-timbral operation, white noise, sub oscillator, additional LFO, effects (overdrive, delay, chorus), arpeggiator, and portamento. It also includes matrix modulation, a voice programmer, and a “keyboard follow” module that facilitates drawing modulation curves on the fly.