Eli Krantzberg reviews Syntronik by IK Multimedia, a new generation of soft synths which combine modeled filters and effects with samples of vintage synth hardware.
What is Syntronik?
IK Multimedia has gotten back into the synth business!
Of course, they’ve always been offering us SampleTank, which is an excellent Rompler style instrument with some very nice editing functions. But it’s been a while since the days of their older 32-bit instruments like Sonik Synth 2, SampleTron, and SampleMoog. With Syntronik, we now have a new generation of actual software synthesizers. Or more accurately, we have a new generation of soft synths based on older generations of classic synth hardware.
IK Multimedia are continuing their journey into software modeling that they started with MODO Bass (see here: IK Multimedia MODO Bass Review). Syntronik combines modeled filters and effects with sampled instruments. Of particular note here is their new DRIFT technology, which adds the realism of subtle oscillator variations.
In other words, real-world analog imperfections are lovingly recreated and added to these multi-sampled oscillators. The architecture includes four parts for split or stacked layers. Each part also includes a very powerful but user-friendly arpeggiator and effects rack.
Syntronik features five main windows:
- the Instrument Browser
- the Synth Panel
- the Layer Panel
- the Effects Panel
- the Arpeggio Panel
The Synth Panel
The Synth Panel is where we start to dig under the hood and get into the nuts and bolts of the instruments. Here is where we edit the instrument's traditional synthesizer parameters like its oscillator, filter, envelope, and modulation settings. The display updates depending on which hardware synth is modeled. The controls are all very intuitive.
The filter section offers interesting and unusual filter types. LFO based modulation is easily routed to pitch and filter controls. Dedicated amp and filter envelopes round out the sound shaping functions nicely.
The Layer Panel
The instrument comes to life when you start layering multiple parts. The ranges of the four parts are viewed in a single window and easily adjusted by simply dragging each part's high/low range sliders at the top of each virtual keyboard.
Or if you prefer, there are dedicated lo/hi noted fields for numeric entry at the upper left of each row. At the upper right are fields for lo/hi velocity ranges. Splits and layers are a snap to visualize and to edit.
The Effects Panel provides a five-slot effects rack, unique for each of the four parts. So you can run up to twenty effects simultaneously. Simply click on any of the four parts (A - D) at the top of the interface and that specific effects rack is displayed. There is a huge selection of fabulous sounding effects, many of which have been harvested from IK Multimedia’s stellar sounding T-Racks and Amplitube effects processors.
Effects categories include guitar amp simulations, distortion effects, dynamics & EQ, modulation, reverbs and delays, and filters. They do all sound great. And the controls are intuitive and fun to tweak.
The Arpeggiator panel contains a programmable advanced arpeggiator for each part. Patterns can be edited and saved with their associated instrument, or as independent patterns for future use with other sounds. The number of steps in each pattern is easily set by dragging the horizontal slider at the bottom of the graph. The range, velocity, and note durations for the pattern are set at the bottom.
A nice additional touch I particularly like is that you can also graphically edit the volume and length of each step separately. Each step can also be independently transposed. Combined with the envelope settings in the Synth Panel, it’s easy to generate everything from short percolating percussive patterns to expansive sweeping waves of sound.
An additional small window is available to set up and save the volume, pan, mute, and solo status for each part. As a whole, this is a fabulous collection of 17 instruments containing a total of 38 powerful and iconic sounding vintage synthesizers and string machines.
Weighing in at over 56 GB, this is a hefty collection of inspiring sounds ready to go. Syntronik runs as a standalone application as well as an instrument plug-in on most Mac and Windows DAWs. The sounds can optionally be loaded into SampleTank 3 as well. And the resizable interface is a nice touch given that Syntronik will likely be used on everything from a 12” laptop screen to 40+” HDMI monitors.
I think it is a great addition to the collection of synthesizers that ship with Logic Pro X, particularly if you are into vintage emulations of the hardware synths of yesteryear. This gives just the right amount of control for users who want to sculpt and personalize the sounds. The layering opens up a world of unique sound creation as well.
But, in my opinion, Syntronik is not for hardcore synth aficionados. There is no advanced secondary modulation for example, or the ability to offset the LFO phase. But these are modern functions not generally associated with the emulations presented here. So, if you love vintage sounds, and want to tweak them without spending an entire day constructing a single patch; Syntronik is highly recommended as a great collection of very playable and inspiring virtual instruments.
Try Syntronik for Free
IK Multimedia offers a slimmed down free version as well. So, checking it out to see if you like it is a no-brainer. There is also an iPad version with expandable in-app purchases to augment the sounds.
Vintage Synths à la Carte
IK Multimedia also offers the option of building your Syntronik collection à la carte. In other words, you can pick and choose which of the 17 instruments you pay for, to build the synth studio of your dreams one virtual instrument at a time.
Finally, here are a collection of videos from IK Multimedia, showcasing Syntronik’s various features: