Review: Absynth 2.0

What is perhaps the most wonderful software synthesizer available (July 31st, 2003)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Native Instruments

Price: $300

The Good

  • Great sound, intriguing synthesis architecture, accessible user interface, reasonable cost

The Bad

  • None

Since we covered the innovative first version of Absynth over two years ago (December 2002, see Absynth) many things have changed. Native Instruments the well-known audio software giants decided to take over the application and bring it to a new level. It was a smart move on their part, because they ended up with what is perhaps the most wonderful single-software synthesizer available.

One of the aspects of Absynth that kept it under the radar is that for a couple of years sound designers treated it as a secret weapon that was best left unmentioned. Using it was a real advantage inClick to enlarge the competitive sonic marketplace so it wasn't touted as much as it should have been. Now, with Native Instruments behind it, Absynth is poised to cause serious shifts in the marketplace. I am sure at this point, you've seen the Native Instrument website mention that Matrix Reloaded had this product all over the soundtrack?

To summarize, Absynth is a semi-modular software synthesizer that tries its best to be powerful and accessible. Version 1.0.2 certainly succeeded at that: even though the new version has added more features, the ease of use remains as well as its engaging sonic character. The new version is a complete Click to enlargerewrite ? now Mac OS X ready and G4 optimized with many added features that make it perhaps the most useful tool for electronic music production for those who want to get underway fast. The most notable new feature is that the envelopes can be synched to MIDI rather than having to be BPM calculated ? often asked for and now available!

Unlike other more established products, the entire application architecture ? from its liquid looks to the silly patch names ? is permeated with a lighthearted fun approach yet still producing great results. The product sounds fantastic: good analog modeling, FM, a killer 64 node ADSR feature, new granular synthesis, sampling, waveform drawing and that handy recorder is still there. The sounds it creates range from totally nasty synthetic to rich animated acoustics. Click to enlargeIt has to be heard to be appreciated!

This time around 800 patches have been included in the basic package and there are many winners within. The most distinctive ones use the 64-node envelope to create rhythmic sound patterns that can be described as single note funk. There are also lush, evolving textures as well as electro-ethnic gems that have many uses from film scoring to game ambiance. Click to enlarge

I tested under OS X on an 867-dual MDD G4 and it loaded flawlessly, found the Midiman Audiophile 24/96 card immediately and was up an running in five minutes. It seems to run very efficiently and I stopped after plugging in eight instances of it into Cubase SX since there was just so much sound coming out. I still had considerable CPU left at that point.

Newcomers to software synthesis need to check Absynth out right away, since it is a great entry-level product with infinite potential to satisfy the expert sound designer lurking in all of us. Now that 2.0 is here there is one less reason for booting up in System 9 and that alone is a welcome benefit. Thank you, Native Instruments!

by Peter Mengaziol


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