This is one of those colossal, towering sound monsters that make you feel intimidated at first. But when you get in to it... Infinite sonic possibilities!! I really like the semi-modular structure of this synth, you can make it as simple or complicated as you want. Even a one oscillator patch can yield truly 'out of this world' results with all the waveshaping, modulation and filtering options! With all this power it's amazing how intuitively it works, but there's bound to be some quirks too: The envelopes, for example, can be really tricky to program no matter how graphic they are. And I would really prefer a simple 'keyboard follow'- knob option instead of the messy key-by-key editing across the 8 octave 'board. Some might find this very useful, but to me it's just unnecessary complication. Anyway, just for the unlimited range of never- heard- before sounds you can conjure with Absynth, it deserves the max points.
It took me some time to realize everything that Absynth is capable of, and I'm going to blame that on lazy sound designers. It's too easy, in Absynth, to animate a couple of oscillator and filter parameters with envelopes then throw a bucket of effects over the top and have something that's impressive on first listen. Unfortunately everyone has already done that a zillion times.
Consequently, when learning Absynth, it's very important to work your way through the seemingly endless folders and categories of sounds that are now included in the factory library, finding the ones that work for you and stand out. Absynth is well known for its typical ethereal sounds but also does beefy mono leads, gut-punch basses, versatile percussion and mallets, rhythm and melodic sequences, and very usable FM and electric piano timbres as well as organs.
When you find a sound you like, categorize it as a favorite and learn what makes it tick. Turn off effects and waveshapers and find out what's happening with the oscillators, filters and envelopes. Are there combs? What are they doing, how are they modulated? Are they being used to model or enhance the resonance of an instrument?
The options for sound sculpting are endless, starting right with the oscillators - load a standard oscillator, draw one, create it by fractalizing a primitive shape, lowpass filter it if it's sounding too trebly, morph between osc shapes, ring mod or FM them, select individual partials in the overtone series, load a sample and granulize it - and this is before coming to any of the filters or waveshapers or effects. And just about everything can be modulated and cross modulated by performance macros, LFOs and what are quite possibly still the most advanced envelopes in the realm of plugins. Hint for budding sound designers: you don't need to use every feature in every patch.
One of the most exciting and criminally under-explored features is the tuning tab, where you can create and load tuning files - everything from exotic world scales to alternate tunings from early and modern classical, or create your own from scratch. There are other synths that let you load Scala .scl and .tun files, but not many that let you create your own custom tuning right in the plugin. It's a rare and special feature.
Absynth has the best CPU efficiency to sound quality ratio of any synth I've tried. You can get pristine sounds at very little resource usage. If you don't like freezing tracks but still want high quality sound and bottomless options, Absynth should be in your tool kit.
I've been using Massive for years so it was inevitable that the search for new sounds would eventually lead me to Absynth. After spending a few hours messing around however I can't say that I'm really that impressed. I don't think Absynth does anything that can't already be done faster in other soft synths.
For starters the GUI is pretty darn small and fiddly. Instead of knobs you mostly get digits. Which helps if you're looking for precision, but it means you have to learn the range of each knob before you can get going. The other immediate downer is that the macros are pretty hard to assign and there seems to be fairly arbitrary set of parameters that you can assign.
The "patch" diagram is quite large and versatile. Which means you can use several waveshapers, several filters and several effects all at once. I'm not sure why you would need to do this though. There seems to be more ways to "destroy" the sound rather than sculpt it.
You do get a couple of cool oscillator options like FM, wave morph and fractalize. But I messed around with this for a while and didn't come up with any remarkable sounds.
With Absynth you can (almost) do everything. But generally I think users want specific tools for specific tasks. Not sure how often you need to make huge complex ambient soundscapes that you can perform with a keyboard. It would probably be well suited to making the ambient music for a horror film.
Native Instruments’ Komplete 6 arrived on my doorstep last week and I have been diving into Absynth 5 every spare moment since. For those who consider buying this software I’d like to share a few thoughts on Absynth here.
First and foremost I’d like to say that Absynth is a really great source of fantastic sounds. Like Kore, Absynth 5 has a library-view where you browse your library by attributes like ‘piano’, ‘dark’, ‘electric’. This is a nice way to explore the 1.700+ sounds that come with Absynth. These sounds are mostly experimental in nature but Native Instruments succeeded in making them very playable and easy to use.
Basically Absynth’s routing is modular but simple. There are three oscillators that can be routed through modules like filters, waveshapers and effects, and there are (of course) envelopes and lfo’s to modulate various parameters. What makes Absynth depart from well known analog ground is the flexible nature of those modules.
The oscillators have a wide variety of waveforms to choose from, plus you can draw your own, use samples, or morph existing waveforms into new ones. The oscillators offer a dual mode with FM and ringmodulation capabilities.
The filters have low-pass and high-pass modes, but also comb, notch, band and allpass with different db/octave characteristics to choose from.
The waveshapers can use all waveforms that are available to the oscillators, but can also be set up as, amongst others, frequency shifters and grainbased effects. That is a lot of raw material to begin building your own sounds, before you even started applying modulation.
Modulation in Absynth is possible via lfo’s, macro control’s (means midi) and envelopes. The envelopes are Absynth’s strong point. You can set up a new envelope for every new parameter you want to modulate and create up to 68 breakpoints, apply different trigger and loop-modes and sync it all to tempo. So one key can trigger whole soundscapes, basslines or rythmic sequences.
The LFO’s are flexible as well, with tempo sync, phase, and again, all wave-forms available to the oscillators can be used by the LFO’s as well. LFO’s are not created especially for the parameter you want to modulate, like the envelopes are. Instead there is a fixed number of 3 LFO’s. If you want to modulate something by LFO, you have to route the LFO to the target in the LFO page. This is the other way round, compared to the envelopes, which is a bit confusing. That you have to look up the desired parameter from a long list makes matters worse. That the list does not contain every parameter I’d like to be able to modulate and sometimes appears under another name than in the rest of the application is downright irritating.
If you want to control parameters of a software synthesizer with performance controllers like modwheel, after-touch, or knobs and sliders you normally would assign a controller on your hardware directly to a parameter in the software via it’s button or slider. Due to Absynth’s enormous amount of parameters and lack of knob’s and buttons (most parameter values are edited directly in a value-field), Native Instruments decided on another approach. Instead they created a performance-view in which a fixed set of sliders called ‘macro controls’ can be assigned to one or more of Absynths’ parameters. This way you can create complex control-setups. By assigning the controls on your hardware to the sliders in the performance-view you could have real-time control over many of Absynth’s sound shaping capabillities. I am sorry to say the parameters of the build-in effects in Absynth can only be modulated by Macro Controls. Not by LFO's or envelopes. Bummer!
It is a pity that in the vast soundlibrary most sounds have no, or only a few parameters pre-assigned to the sliders. I also would have liked to be able to assign hardware controls to these sliders globally, so that with every new sound I load I’d be able to fiddle some knobs and explore the possibilities of that sound to evolve during a performance. Now every sound has to be set up manually fo midicontrol, and that my friends, is a LOT of work…
Pro’s: - Vast and very usable, easy to navigate, soundlibrary with a unique character. - Immense programming possibilities will keep any sound-designer up till the wee hour’s of the morning ( or is that a ‘con’ ? ).
Con’s: - Assigning modulation sources and macro-controls has it’s anomalies. - Editing the envelopes is to difficult. - Library could have been prepared better for hardware control - Awfull color-scheme, some tiny fonts here and there, and a bit too much eye-candy for me. - Some of the more exotic features of Absynth are not completely self-explanatory, and the manual does not always describe them in the detail I would have liked.Read more