In a recent article I mentioned some of the delight I had when trying new synths in my distant past, part of that was finding presets that made me smile often just because of sheer gratification, the other part was the sheer enormity of the sound.
Two moments in time were the first time I played a Korg M1 and hit the notes in Universe, what followed was what seemed like an entire film score unfolding, remember this was 1988 and was Korg’s response to the Roland D50. The second memory is the first time I played the MemoryMoog, a 6 voice, 3 oscillator monster, imagine 6 Minimoog’s in one (although getting the early version to stay in tune was a challenge.)
I start this review with those two stories to give my first impressions on firing up the Rob Papen Blue II, being presented with a 6 oscillator monster and finding one of the first presets in the demo sounds being a modern day rendition of the Korg M1 Universe, perhaps not one to appear in many tracks but still impressive and fun.
Rob Papen Blue II Synth Background
Blue was first released in 2005 and was based on both subtractive and FM synthesis, later on Phase distortion and Wave Shaping was added to compliment the other synth technologies. In effect this offers 4 synths in one and offers a huge amount of variety, partly because each type of synthesis brings entirely different types of sound, with subtractive synthesis giving warm, rich textures and the other technologies offering brighter and more harmonically complex sounds. Putting all of these synth technologies together offers an almost limitless palette to create sounds with.
Blue II consists 6 oscillators, a new set of waveforms, 2 ‘analogue style’ filters with 27 filter types, a huge variety of routing and modulation options, an arpeggiator, sequencer and 4 effects slots with 35 effects to choose from. Wait, there’s more… Blue II now includes the XY pad feature found on Blade that gives designers a chance to create sounds that evolve over time.
Rob Papen has designed a seriously powerful synth, so packed full of stuff he must have had to sit on top to of Blue II to zip it closed. However he has coupled this powerhouse with a pretty straightforward interface, one that even has an ‘Easy’ option for those who may be daunted with the huge array of options. It’s one thing packing in features but making them accessible to the average human is a challenge and one that, on the whole, Blue II manages to achieve.
The Rob Papen Blue II Review In Use
The Blue II ships with a huge amount of presets and many of them are instantly gratifying – with everything from complex soundscapes, huge pads, arpeggiators, screaming leads and big filthy basses. There’s a lot of very good sounds, although as is always the danger when shipping with this many sounds, one can’t help thinking there’s a lot of repetition going on, or very similar sounds.
However don’t let that thought take anything away that the sound of the Blue II is awesome (used in the real sense of the word) giving both monster sounds with imaginative complexity. We get to review a lot of stuff so we’re often having to speed through them and not be able to spend any real ‘just for the heck of it’ time on stuff – however the Blue II seduced me for several hours yesterday morning and on my second tryst at 1:00am had my wife asking me when I was coming to bed. The preset browser is an excellent addition, allowing the find sounds quickly from the massive selection on offer, this is essential when producing as finding the right sound should not have to take hours.
The sound of the Blue II is just the start of the adventure, it offers a huge of amount of sound design flexibility and performance enhancements and I was soon dabbling under the hood with the filters and the modulators.
One thing that did puzzle me was that with the amount of complexity under the hood that more of this wasn’t made use of with the presets, for example I found a really nice huge pad preset but when I pressed the keys to hear what the after touch was going to do, it did nothing. Then for one mad moment I wondered if there was any after touch implementation and there is, so then I allocated polyphonic aftertouch to the filters and hey presto the already huge pad had a some added performance characteristics. This is one area where the team at Spectrasonics excel giving users some very nice Easter eggs within the presets.
I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the power of the Rob Papen Blue II, it also offers an algorithm matrix for use with FM and multi-LFO sound design, complex wave shaping and pulse mod options, complex multi-envelopes, the XY window is an adventure of its own, plus a great deal more - if you like tweaking then you’ll be hard pressed to be bored with this baby.
Rob Papen Blue II Review Conclusion
As I’ve already said, we get a lot of stuff to review, it may seem like a dream job, but in fact it can lead one to grow weary with the constant flow of product releases, many of them derivatives and wanna-be products, a few original and well worth spending time with. Thankfully Blue II sits in the latter category.
The combination of sounds and sound design flexibility make the Blue II a genuine super synth, often feeling like a piece of hardware and not a plug-in.
Blue II is enormous without being overly complicated; it has excellent sounds and is a lot of fun. It is for this reason that Blue II gets our Editors Choice Award it is well worth checking out.
Rob Papen is one of those people who seems to plough his own furrow, if that expression doesn’t translate for none Brits let me be clearer, he doesn’t swim with the crowd, instead choosing to make original virtual instruments and effects. I’m glad he does and you should be too, we need more companies like Rob Papen.
Check our Blue II, you won’t be disappointed!
Rob Papen Blue II Specification
• PC: 32 & 64 bits VST, AAX for Windows Vista / Windows 7/ Windows 8
• Mac: 32 & 64 bits AU, VST and AAX, for OSX 10.6 or higher
• Serial/license system with activation while registering the product 2nd serial for 2nd computer/laptop are available after you have registering the product’s original serial/license.
List price: € 149— (included VAT) | USD 179—
Upgrade from BLUE to BLUE II: €44 | USD 49