Wusikstation 1.0.9 (Win)
Wusikstation''s single-window control panel contains layer selectors (top), a layer settings section (middle), and a modulator and modulation-routing section (bottom).
Wusikstation ($99.95) is a multilayer VST synth plug-in for Windows. Four of its six layers have a one-oscillator subtractive synthesis engine, and the remaining two feature a 12-track wave-sequencing engine. Individual layers can be played simultaneously or played separately using MIDI Note and Velocity zones. Multitimbral operation (separating zones by MIDI channel) and separate zone outputs are in the works.
The subtractive synth engine's deceptively simple appearance belies its range of features. For one thing, the selection of oscillator waves is huge and includes single-cycle waves, sampled and multisampled instruments, sound effects, and a variety of loops. You can import WAV files. You can also use a free utility to create your own multisamples. There are 384 factory-sampled waves to choose from, and the collection is expandable with additional downloadable free and inexpensive SoundSets.
The oscillators feed two filter banks: a 4-stage resonant multimode filter followed by a four-stage EQ section. The multimode filters can be arranged in series or in parallel and offer lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and notch modes with either 2-or 4-pole slope. The EQs include low- and high-shelving and two EQ bands, all with adjustable frequency and gain. Each layer has sends for two global effects, and in an unusual touch, separate glide (portamento), voice count, and pitch-bend range settings. You can, for example, layer a mono, gliding, lead synth having an octave pitch-bend range with a polyphonic pad having no glide or pitch bend.
On the two wave-sequencing layers, the oscillators are replaced by 128-step, 12-track sequencers. Each sequencer track can be set to control a variety of parameters, which, most importantly, include the oscillator's waveform. In other words, each step in the sequence can play a different waveform, subject to a 32-waveform limit for each wave-sequencing layer. Other parameters provided are volume, pan, relative step duration, crossfade (between steps), and effects send amounts. Tracks can also be assigned as modulation-sources, allowing the wave-sequencing layers to function as nonsounding control sequencers.
The wave-sequencing layers' sequencers are always synchronized to host tempo, but they can be locked, forcing each voice to play the same sequence step, or they can be unlocked, so that each note starts a new sequence. You can produce very complex percussion sequences using unlocked polyphonic wave-sequencing layers. The step size can range from eight bars to 128th-notes, and devoting a track to relative step size allows variable step duration.
In addition to an individual ADSR amplitude envelope for each layer, there are eight user-routed ADSR envelopes and eight multiwaveform LFOs. Routing is set up using a 32-row modulation-matrix, which also allows you to route MIDI messages, all layer parameters (including audio out), and the modulation rows of the wave sequencers. Destinations include most Wusikstation parameters, and multiple sources can be sent to the same destination, in which case the values will be multi-plied. That allows you, for example, to use a Mod Wheel to control LFO amount. Each modulation-routing also has minimum, maximum, and amount settings.
If you haven't realized by now that Wusikstation is a complex beast, you haven't been paying attention. In spite of Wusikstation's complexity, it is surprisingly simple to program, thanks to a well-written manual and 512 factory presets of all flavors to get you started. Additional free banks are downloadable from the Wusik.com Web site, and three large commercial banks — Dopetwistas, Prepared Rhodes, and The Second Wave — deserve special mention (see Web Clip 1).
Dopetwistas ($19.95) is a hip-hop-influenced bank of 96 percussion-oriented presets. The first 50 are multisampled percussion sets and come with matching MIDI groove files. The remaining 46 are complex layered presets.
Prepared Rhodes ($29.95) applies the prepared-piano techniques developed by John Cage to a Rhodes electric piano. There are two primary multisampled SoundSets, one covering 72 keys and the other covering 52. Each note has a different mechanical preparation and was recorded for its full duration at several Velocities. These make exceptional semituned percussion instruments. For more conventional playing, 19 presets are provided that map a single sound across the keyboard.
The Second Wave ($49.95) is the latest and largest (420 MB) SoundSet. It starts with a huge collection of multi-sampled acoustic and electric instruments together with one-shot effects samples. Two banks totaling 152 presets mold the sounds into evolving pads, pulsing rhythms, and eerie effects sequences. With or without the additional sound libraries, Wusikstation is a lot of synth at a relatively modest price. It's also surprisingly CPU efficient. Download the time-limited demo and you'll be hooked.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4