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Native Instruments Absynth

Manufacturer: Native Instruments
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided DigiFreq with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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“As a benchmark for the future of soft-synths, the powerful semi-modular architecture and clean interface of Absynth make it effortless to sculpt everything from organic textures to rhythmic madness to vintage sounds. Absynth´s unique strengths lie in its multiple synthesis techniques combined with the most flexible envelope control ever. Forget everything you know about modulation - with Absynth you can create everything from timbrally morphing percussive loops to physical modelling textures to time-evolving soundscapes. Any parameter adjusted in Absynth is immediately heard without clicks or glitches. For a taste of the intoxicating power of Absynth, try drawing the shape of your LFO with the mouse while twelve 68-point rhythmic envelopes twist your sound as you perform on a keyboard or MIDI sliderbox.” This is the description you’ll find on the back of the box of Native Instruments’ new software synthesizer product called Absynth.

With the proliferation of so many soft synths on the market, do we really need yet another? And does it live up to all the aforementioned hype? The answer to both questions is most definitely yes. Absynth’s basic features aren’t what make it stand out from the crowd. It’s a 64-note polyphonic software synthesizer that provides 6 oscillators, 4 filters, 3 ring modulators, and a waveshaper for each voice. It also provides a delay-based processor for each patch. Absynth’s true strengths lie in the details of these basic features.

The oscillators provided in Absynth give you a wide range of default choices when selecting the waveforms you would like to use. But beyond that, Absynth includes a Waveform Editor, which allows you to edit the waveforms to your liking. You can literally draw your own oscillator waveforms making it possible to produce some very unique sounds. Waveform editing can be done in the time domain or in the frequency domain using the Spectrum mode. You can also use these tools to edit the LFO and Waveshaper waveforms. For even further flexibility, Absynth’s oscillators can be set up so that you can experiment with multiple forms of sound synthesis: subtractive, FM (frequency modulation), AM (amplitude modulation), ring modulation, and waveshaping.

Absynth also provides an extremely flexible routing structure. The LFOs can modulate pitch, amplitude, filter, FM depth, panning, and even delay. As a matter of fact, with the 6 delay lines being modulated by the LFOs, Absynth can actually be used to do physical modeling of acoustic instruments. Absynth’s parameters can also be modulated through MIDI by means of continuous controllers, aftertouch, velocity, and even notes. When using notes, parameters are controlled via note scale maps with each parameter capable of having a different value for every note.

The most unique aspect of Absynth, however, is the flexibility of its envelopes. Absynth provides over a dozen envelopes, each with up to 68 breakpoints. Yes, that’s right, 68! You can forget about the limitations of the typical ADSR envelope. And like the LFOs, envelopes can be used to modulate a variety of parameters such as pitch, amplitude, filter and more. In addition, the envelope function generator lets you create rhythmic envelopes. These are envelopes that change in time with a set tempo. This means that you can modulate different parameters to change according to a tempo for some really exciting and rhythmically evolving synth textures.

If you’re worried about being overwhelmed by so much synth programming flexibility, there’s no need to be. Absynth’s interface is actually quite easy to understand and work with, plus you’ll find a very extensive library of presets included with the program. What’s also nice is that you can use Absynth in a variety of environments including VSTi, DXi, DirectConnect, and MAS. And when you run Absynth as a VSTi or DXi, you can have up to 8 instances going at once, which means you can build a multitimbral Absynth ensemble with each timbre having up to 64 voices. Imagine the soundscapes you can create, eh?

When stating its basic features, Absynth may sound like your typical software synth, but delve into the details of these features and you find that it is far from your typical soft synth fare. Flexibility is the key to Absynth’s power and with that flexibility you can create sounds that are beyond imagination. A tool like Absynth belongs in the arsenal of every electronic music composer.
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