Synth1 Review: Entranced
Synth1, by Ichiro Toda, has been named one of the best free VSTs for a while. It’s a feature-packed synthesizer for the low price of $0 – but as I’ve experienced before, paying nothing doesn’t always mean it’s worth a download – so lets take a closer look into the world of Synth1. (And as a short side-note, I’m terribly sick today and pretty out of it, so please excuse any nonsensical or grammar-less writing.)
The design of a virtual instrument is usually the first thing potential downloaders look at for assurance of quality. Being said, one probably wouldn’t assume Synth1 to be very good at all based on the design alone. The UI is horribly clunky, and poorly laid out. Buttons aren’t laid out intuitively, and other controls are placed in unexpected areas. This can lead to some very frustrating sound-design, and the learning curve for something this simple shouldn’t be this steep. The picture below shows some of my main complaints; the sickly-yellow color just screams boring. The controls aren’t properly laid out or given a decent amount of spacing for a readable interface. Sound-design on Synth1 will require more guessing than actual sound-designing.
The noises that Synth1 can produce are of great quality. Unfortunately, the range of usable sounds is very small; Synth1 is much more oriented towards Trance and Techno production, with strengths in supersaw and lead sounds, while bass synths are very cumbersome to make. Because Synth1 relies on Additive synthesis with a small selection of waveforms, the sounds produced will always be on the simpler side.
Fortunately, Synth1 features some excellent filtering options that help turn boring waveforms into a more polished output. It has a small but robust assortment of three filter types: a lowpass, highpass, and bandpass. All three are controllable by ADSR, velocity, and LFO. I particularly enjoy the velocity parameters, as it creates a humanized sound. Synth1 also contains three effect types: distortion, delay, and chorus. The distortion setting has various options and different distortion types, but it generally doesn’t sound too fantastic, so I’d probably use a third party plugin if I wanted some grit. The delay and chorus controls fit into the theme of trance and techno.
As mentioned above, Synth1 has a variety of fun effects. In addition, it possesses a very simple arpeggiator. Unlike VSTs like Native Instrument’s FM8, Synth1 doesn’t have any sort of sequencer for its arpeggiator – and I think this is the best course of action, as I find a note sequencer to be overkill, and like to just play chords instead. Synth1 also allows for various voice settings, like polyphony, mono, legato, unisono, and unisono spread – great for (you guessed it) trance supersaws. For those wondering if their 2005 XP computer can handle the load of a usually high-CPU-usage free VST, Synth1 seems fairly well optimized, only taking up 2-8% of my CPU in FL Studio.
If you’re looking to save that patch you worked so hard on, good luck on doing so. Synth1’s method of saving a patch is much more complicated than the desired “just save the file somewhere” approach. It asks for a bank number, program, name and color. To be honest, I actually haven’t figured any of it out yet. You’ll just have to hope your project files never corrupt.
Synth1 is free, and worth the download. While it’s completely limited, the sounds it can produce rival the likes of paid software. If you’re in need of a supersaw, I definitely recommend this. The UI can be relatively intimidating, but an experienced producer will mostly be able to figure it out in a matter of minutes. However, if you’re rocking something like FM8, don’t bother – you can do everything Synth1 can do, and more.