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Review of
Absynth 2

Multi-synthesis Software with Granular Sampling

by Tweak

If you are the type of composer that deals in industrial type sounds, the strange, the dark and uncanny, or perhaps one looking for new forms of rhythmic variation for the creation of some imposing loop chemistry, or heck, just someone wanting top notch analog and FM emulations then Absynth is a synth to look at and listen to.  And it goes way beyond mere emulations. Some of the things you can do in Absynth you can't do on any hardware synth.


First Impressions

  • Unique Synth Engine with unusual features.  Granular sampling and envelopes with breakpoints--very cool!
  • Easy Patch Management Scheme with Lots of Presets included.
  • Fast and Intuitive to program.
  • Minor bugs due to the programs newness
  • Does not use the wheel on a wheel mouse
  • Does not remember directories for samples, banks, presets
More info from Native's site
Native Instruments Absynth (Macintosh and Windows)
Other Software by Native Instruments

I got my Absynth 2 in the mail last week and have just finished patch no. 25.  So I am not too deep yet, but enough to tell you my impressions.  The program installed fine the 1st time and the challenge/response copy protection seemed solid.  The first bank of presets loaded and played them all through once then made my first edit.  Crash Bang!  I was less than 10 minutes into the program before it crashed, so I'd load again, crash again, reboot.  Then i figured, OK, I'll leave the sampling part alone and all was better.  Fortunately there was an update released to version 2.01 today.  I've been up for a good hour with no crashing.  Whew.  This is all to say when you get Absynth 2 home, install from CD and immediately go update it.  That they release their disk versions so full of bugs is cause for concern.  Makes the honeymoon kinda short if you don't.

Update 5/30/04 Absynth is now at version 2.0.5 and i am happy to report it works as smooth as the best of soft synths. I can now use it with Logic on my G5 without any worry about it crashing. If you already have Absynth go get the update; it's free for those with 2.0.


Here's the features as posited on the NI website: I'll talk about each one and hopefully explain it for those new to this newer form of synthesis.

Multiple synthesis techniques and granular sampling

Yes indeed.  Its Analog-like, FM, granular and standard sample playback.  You are probably wondering what "granular" sampling is. Granular refers to a process where the sample is sliced into fine "grains". The size of the grain, the speed at which it plays, and how densely they are packed together creates different sounds.  Each grain plays a tiny fraction of the sound, and can be controlled together as a group or independently of the others.  For example, the grains can all be squashed together for a percussive sound, or spread apart, for an eerie facsimile of the original sound.  Very cool here is that the grains can be randomized by frequency, time or amplitude.  That means you never know what's going to come out.   

Range of sounds

OK, I'll give them that. There is a wide range of sounds. Big 'N Low--I mean that- bass presets, utterly whacked hits and khordz, clear FM like bells, dirty, cloudy pads and the best, I think are the incredible rhythmic patches that will make your arpeggiator seem like kindergarten.

800 presets included

A good variety for those doing electronica, drum N bass, trance, hip hop, analog stuff. Heh, don't expect to find any acoustic pianos or brass here--there is nothing conventional about these sounds--except for the basses, and they are outstanding. But No FM EPs, or analog brass--of course you can make those for times when you don't want to be warped out. If you are an FM programmer, you'll find all the FM "standards" are possible. Ditto for analog tweaksters. It's as simple as ever here. Many of the presets will not be very useful. They show of the flexibility of the machine. But then again, one should not get Absynth for the presets. Go for the Pro53 or FM7 of you want conventional synth sounds.

Waveform editor for creating custom waveforms

It's there and is a treat. It's extremely easy to draw your waveform right as you are playing it. There's a huge selection of waveforms too. You can edit waveforms by drawing them, modifying the spectrum. And can perform mathematical functions on them with total ease. This sure beats drawing a wave in sound forge and sending it to my hardware sampler. These waveforms can be as Fat or as thin as you like with everything in between

Tempo-synced breakpoint envelopes

This is perhaps, next to the granular sampling, the "gotta have" feature in Absynth.  And it is what gives the sounds in Absynth their rhythmic dexterity.  If you are a loop maker, this is awesome.  You can set the envelopes to rise and fall as fast as you want at any BPM and for as long as you want in any shape that you want.  Those of you like me who struggled to make other synths and samplers cough up BPM style patches will be delighted at how easy it is here.

example of Absynth's envelopes

Conventional sampling with linked pitch and time

True.  But.  There's no mapping facility in Absynth.  That means, while you can create some killer synthetic drums, you'll not be playing them in the same instance.  You can lay down 3 samples, but they all share the keyboard.  But if you need mapping, you should be looking at Kontakt. 


Granular sampling for atmospheric, freezing, and time-stretching effects

Yes as I wrote above.  You will be doing things with your samples you never thought possible.  It can mangle any sample till it's screaming from the debris.  The trick here is to find the gems hiding in the wretchedness that granular sampling can create.  Those doing industrial have to have this feature

Waveform, envelope, and oscillator library for easy patch creation

A strong point to be sure.  There are presets for oscillators, envelopes, waveforms and you can do cross-modulation, where waveforms control modulation.  The envelopes are perhaps the most amazing I have ever worked with.  Hey dudes, I am not going to tell you that unless it's true.  Retriggered envelopes set to BPM are a snap, it has never been this easy, and you can edit all the envelopes on the screen if you want with one command. 

Full MIDI control

There is generous real time controlling that can be done, from your choice of any of the MIDI controllers you have at your disposal. 

Improved filters, antialiasing oscillators, and more efficient CPU utilization

These filters truly do cut.  Be careful tweaking that resonance.  If you quickly go from 0-100 the sound may jump out in a painful way.  No headphones, OK?  

Improved Plug-In implementation

I did not have the previous version, but heard it was a CPU-eater.  I did do a song with 2 Absynth instruments among others and Logic did not blink.

Upgrading from Absynth 1?

See how Absynth interfaces with PC and Macs here.

Concluding for Now

So who needs Absynth?  Experimenters, loop-heads, sample cutters, beat-makers, deep bass-freakoids, trancendentalists, DNBers, industrialists, people that like Acid (the program) people with dark intentions, hip hop pimps,  atmospherisists,  philosophers and wild-eyed acoustic scientists.  Who does not need it, imo? Classical emulators, Pop-masters, pristine-sound Nu-Agers,  Rockers of all ages, Clean-sheeters, Folksey folks,  Midifile crackers, Acid dudes without keyboards, Fruity-Heads and peeps that don't read manuals. There, that should give you an idea if it is for you. :)


Tweak's Articles on Software

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What is a Software Sampler?
What is a Soft Synth?
What are Software Processors?
Spectrasonics Omnisphere
Spectrasonic's Trillian
Superior Drummer
My Favorite Vintage Soft Synhts
Stylus RMX
Battery by Native Instruments
Albino 3
Guru Review
StormDrum Review
Korg Legacy MS20
Garritan Personal Orchestra
Altered States
FM7 and FM8
NI's Komplete Bundle
MOTU's Ethno
Are Hardware Samplers Obsolete?
Antares Filter
Logic's EXS24 Sampler
Kore 2 Review
Kontakt 3
Waves Gold and Platinum
Software Plugins Price List



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