If you came here expecting an interview with Cycling ‘74 then please follow this link. I noticed that some websites pointed to my main blog page instead of the article itself. This article is about…
The Kairatune Synthesizer (VST)
I discovered this critter on the Synthtopia website in one of their articles but unfortunately it seems their website is more down than up as of late. Meaning that you can view the website contents but you can’t comment.
I’ve tested this critter myself this evening and really felt like commenting, but I also don’t look forward to having to wait even more hours before I can do so. SO I decided to fall back to my blog; need to drop more into this one anyway.
I really like this critter and I just can’t keep quiet about it.
What is it ?
It’s the first release of a free synthesizer VST which is developed by Matti Jokipii. What I really like so much about it is its somewhat specific interface and workflow. Or, as Matti himself puts it: “Kairatune is not your all-in-one synthesizer. It’s designed and engineered to be as powerful and versatile as possible in it’s target role as your source for tight bass, unique lead and shiny SFX sounds.”.
Another interesting twist (IMO) is that the interface is more focused on musicians than engineers. I consider myself to be more of a sound designer (/studier) than a musician, so is this something I’d want to use ? The interface looks interesting, I like the dark yet still easily readable interface, but its not about the looks but about the sound after all.
Well, I decided to give it a test run anyway and here are my experiences…
Distribution & context
For those of you who are too impatient: you can grab this critter from the Futucraft website here. Its free (fully, no registration required) and distributed as a zipfile which contains the instrument itself and a readme file. So simply extract the dll file to your main VST folder and you’re done.
Now that’s the way I like it; no dumb registrations, no unnecessary installers, no difficult mumbo jumbo. Just extract and go.
Now, for context: the environment I’m using is Ableton Live (‘Suite’) 8 version 8.2.5. When playing with this critter all I used were my trusty APC40 and my Casio keyboard (just think of this as a midi keyboard).
Looking good, but heavy on the resources. When you pull this thing in you’ll notice that the CPU load jumps up to approx. 20 – 25% which is quite heavy. I don’t keep that much VST’s around myself, but the only times I’ve experienced loads like these was when messing with some heavier Reaktor ensembles (using the Reaktor player) and some specific Max for Live stuff.
So truth be told my first impression was slightly negative. I mean; I don’t need “yet another resource hog” after all.
This (first!) impression got fed even more when going over the interface itself, for example the main oscillator section…
It looks pretty cool, being a die hard Live & APC40 user I immediately felt comfortable with the “ring led” display but when looking at the oscillator itself it looks kinda limited; only going from sawtooth to square wave?
And sure; its cool to be able and set a spread, detune and all that but is that all ? When you go over the rest of the synth (see screenshot below to add to this) you’ll see many things which you recognize with other synths.
LPF / HPF filters (and envelopes), pitch section, delay section and even an equalizer section. All very good fun I’m sure but nothing too special, right?
Thinking as Musician v.s. that of an engineer
When you go over the Kairatune webpage you’ll notice that Matti himself considers the interface more aimed at musicians than engineers. If you’re like me you’ve worked with your share of synths, and as such grew accustomed to specific details; you tune the oscillator(s) to get a specific sound, you then apply some (envelope) filters on it, maybe even an LFO for specific effects and then you’re well on your way to process the sound further.
With this critter you should push yourself beyond that line of thinking. Its hard to explain, and I hope I’m making some sense here, but honest.. Instead of going “oscillator -> filter –> envelope –> effect” try to approach this as “start sound -> sound depth -> pitch -> pitch effect -> smoothing” (for example!).
This is really fully aimed at creating relatively easy sound effects and scores and being as versatile as possible about it too. I’ve started playing with this critter after I picked it up for a test run and 50minutes later I decided on writing up my experiences on Synthtopia. THIS IS FUN!
Ok, a quick example.. Reset the patch to a default (option in the upper right corner; scores very high with me!). Now you have a dull sound. So its time to spice it up! For example; shift the phase somewhat, turn the detune up and then play somewhat with Vibra & Trill. Maybe even bend the sound a little. Spice it up with the amplifier and as the engineer I am (sorry!) the LPF/HPF need to be included as well 😎
Its relatively easy to use (but you may need to change your approach a bit), hardly the resource hog as you may think it to be at first (when playing with easier patches I noticed the CPU load drop by an half (so varying at 8 – 10%)) and the sound is just awesome. Very clear, not too rough and it can be as easy or complex as you want it.
But still gives you a good interface experience though…
Control-click and the setting you’re using resets back to default, shift-drag and the setting you’re changing can be fine tuned, basically stuff which you might come to expect when starting with this.
For a fresh start, simply click “reset”
The end verdict!
I like this critter, this is definitely staying in my VST collection for now. Yes, it maybe a little heavy on the resources but it also produces sound which are just as heavy as well (IMO of course).
Even if you are a “mere” sound engineer then I think this may still be much fun to use. Might even give you several new ideas to work on and in the end I think hearing is believing.
So rounding up…
This is really worth trying out yourself I think.