September 22, 2006

Freebie from FXpansion...

by Chris Randall

Check this out. A free monosynth from our good friends at FXpansion. Marketspeak: "Orca is an experimental monosynth built to showcase some new technology that FXpansion has been developing. Based on detailed and accurate models of analogue synthesizer circuits and components, Orca excels at deep, squelchy basses and thick unison leads."

In real life: I haven't tried it yet, but it looks fly, and they're trying to get some feedback on a new synthesis method (which is almost certainly some old synthesis method.) It's sort of creepy looking, like an alien vagina or something, the Rubber Johnny of user interfaces. Registered FXpansion members only; you just have to create an account, then you can get the synth. Grab it>here.

UPDATE: I've just spent a few minutes with it. It has a distinctly ARP-ish sound; it actually sounds really good for software. Not much you can program (amp filter env, freq and res, and some detune shit) but incredibly usable sounds. Definitely give it a try, unless you're an Intel Live user; Intel Live doesn't load VST2.3 plugs, which this is.



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Sep.22.2006 @ 3:05 PM
1. this thing sounds amazing. IMO. some of the bass tones are really (fat) thick.

2. perhaps it is b/c of the lack of parameters, but i find this very useful, and very easy to accomplish a particular sound --> i've only heard modulars, but i this thing makes sounds closer to those sounds. i can't get reason synths or other plugs to make this crap. i'm officially impressed. and i'm in a I HATE SOFTWARE synths mood the last month or so...

hope live6 deals w/ the vst2.3 plugs. cuz ...


Sep.22.2006 @ 3:45 PM
It definitely sounds good for what it is, but I find it difficult to get excited about this kind of synth really. A subtractive synth, slightly finer tuned from last year's model, is still just a subtractive synth. The minor improvements gained from the finer tuning just don't strike me as that big a deal, considering how useful last year's model has already proved to be. When there's a bazillion such synths already out there, at a certain point we've had our fill of these kinds of synths, no?

I guess whatever technology this is showcasing could be applied to something a bit cooler than a just a new subtractive synth.

One thing that I didn't like about this was the massive sizes of the gfx files (27M of skin files, plugin uses 31M of RAM). I realize RAM and disk space are near infinite these days, and of course beautifully rendered whale vulvas don't come cheap, but wasteful just strikes me as bad form.


Sep.22.2006 @ 3:51 PM
Thanks for the heads up, it sounds really good. (I mean, like, a bit too good to be free).

Not sure if you guys noticed it, but the Freq and Res are constantly changing which adds this really nice analog sounding imperfection... I guess that's the new "technology" they're talking about.



Sep.22.2006 @ 5:12 PM
is it wierd that they coded this as VST 2.3 and not VST 2.4?


Sep.22.2006 @ 5:50 PM
Chris Randall
It'd be weird if you didn't know Angus or follow the VST-Dev list. VST2.4 is the only supported VST for Intel OSX; some of the other hosts allow 2.3, but Live does not, and neither will Cubendo when its Intel version is released. This was announced by Steinberg some time ago, and is why we were a little unhappy about porting to Intel, as some of our products _also_ had to be ported from 2.3 to 2.4 to work with Live.

Angus' feeling about the reason 2.4 is required on Intel Macs is well known in the community, and he has long made a case about how it is stupid (which it is.) Underneath that, though, is another issue; for reasons I can't recall, it is a bit of an issue for FXpansion to port their VST products to 2.4.

In any case, rest assured that there's quite a bit of politics and drama on the VST-Dev list about this very thing. You'd have to write Angus for any more explanation than that. Our products are, on the whole, much simpler than FXpansion's, so it wasn't much trouble for us to port to 2.4.



Sep.22.2006 @ 5:59 PM
See, out of the box I say it's pretty amazing for what it is. Not hugely versitile maybe but thick as mofo. I love when I can sound like Devo without a whole lot of fiddling. Who knows, maybe in a couple months I'll be like, eh. Right now it's a got a lot of Wow. Do wonder what's under the hood though.

About the VST thing, perhaps they just don't have the development kit yet. I do know that fxpansion, or specifically Angus, are more or less advocates for a universal plugin format. link []">link []

The link is to my page, but it's a long post from Angus about problems with formats that worth reading if you're geeky enough to care about these things.)


Sep.22.2006 @ 6:04 PM
(I posted just before Chris. I was not wanting to speak for Angus_fx, but I guess it's no secret. So, the post on my site is a summery of some issues. Though there will probably be pretty frank stuff on their new boards.)

Sep.22.2006 @ 6:26 PM
Hello, I'm one of the support gnomes at FX. Firstly, I'm glad that people are liking it on the whole.

Shamann - the synth market is a tricky one and we're just entering into it... it's hard to please everyone with a first free synth, but rest assured that the technology beneath Orca is capable of many interesting things. Time will reveal all I'm sure.

What we wanted to do with Orca was do something experimental, at least in terms of usability (hence the simplified interface and programmability) and GUI design. Also, I think it's fine to do something in the 'classic subtractive' scheme of things, as long as there's something new on offer. I haven't come across many digital synths which carry the weight of what's powering Orca... I can put it up to my analog synths and it sounds as large and heavy, although the analog stuff does have a different character obviously.

Also, you should check out the unison/detune controls.... the way these are implemented is pretty unique IMHO. Try putting the Detune control up at 12, and then move the Unison control slowly from minimum to maximum. The way the extra unison voices come in is something I've never seen on any synth before.


Sep.22.2006 @ 6:32 PM
Chris Randall
I agree with the unison and detune stuff above. The mod wheel does something odd as well that I can't figure out. You guys did a hell of a job on this. Love the sound. Love the filter. Love the UI. I can't wait to see the real deal.



Sep.22.2006 @ 6:37 PM
Chris - from the readme (yes I know no-one ever reads those):

The mod wheel is hard wired to oscillator sync pitch so you can achieve synced oscillator sounds simply by moving the mod wheel.

Glad you're diggin it!


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