The line between hardware and software is still, let’s face it, confusing and inconvenient.

On one hand, you’ve got your hardware control surface keyboards that work well with software, but without booting your software they don’t make any sound. Worse, you often have to manually assign knobs and faders to your software synth.

On the other, you’ve got your hardware synth. Plugging that in requires an audio and MIDI connection, each of which may require separate configuration and cabling. Doing anything with the hardware synth requires lots of shuffling between your synth’s front panel and your computer.

Little wonder, then, that people found the announcement of Access’ Virus “TI” line exciting when we first heard about it a year ago. And now it’s shipping:

Access Virus TI Synth [Access Music]

The “TI” stands for Total Integration, and it’s intended to solve these problems. First off, it’s a true, standalone hardware synth, and a sweet one at that. The Virus is already a well-loved virtual analog synth with cool rhythmic features like “knob quantization,” which sort of lets it behave like it’s got a step sequencer, and the addition of a new arpeggiator.

It’s when you plug the Virus into your USB port that the fun begins. A VST/AU software plug-in lets the Virus TI behave like a soft synth. Not only does that automatically route audio and MIDI, but you can easily handle switching, editing, storing, and recalling sounds from your computer screen. (And I mean really editing; see the screenshot.) Like Novation’s X-Station synths, the Virus TI synths double as an audio/MIDI interface for other gear. (It’s no slouch, either: 24-bit 192KHz balanced analog, S/PDIF I/O and MIDI I/O.) And lastly, it has a control surface mode; many templates included. (Sadly, no Reason ReMote support yet.)

So let’s get this straight:

  • It’s a virtual analog hardware synth.

  • It behaves in your software like a soft synth.

  • It’s an audio/MIDI interface for your other gear, etc.

  • It’s a control surface.

  • And most importantly, it’s shipping — October 3, says Access. Pricing starting at EUR 1800. A small price to pay for this integration, but they throw in stained-wood side panels, too, just in case you were on the fence. More on these when we get to actually try them out.

    • Symbiotic

      I know that the TI is the creme de la creme of Virtual Analogs. And I know that the VA market is still bigger than most other types of synths and samplers.

      But it is really hard for me to get excited about ANY VA's these days. It all seems to be 'more of the same' (but with obviously increasing levels of sophistication).

      I'd really love to see more ingenuity along the lines of some of the boutique manufacturers (DSI PolyEvolver, for example). New synthesis types, new interfaces, etc.

      I know not all manufacturers could survive in that market, but give me something NEW to play with – something different.

      I'm sure this is an awesome synth, and I'd love to have one. But in all honesty, it is the synths that push the envelope (not simply better define it) that interest me. Roland V-Synth, Hartmann Neuron, etc…

      As the old saying goes: subvert the dominant paradigm!

    • admin

      I think quite simply the problem is economics. Look at the Korg OASYS — building multi-functional digital synths is expensive. The good news is, it won't stay that way; circuitry prices continue to come down.

      I agree about synthesis types. I think people are MORE than ready for new sounds, and while the virtual analog market is big, there's a limit to how many instruments you need doing the same things.

      But I do hope the TI is an indication of software integration to come. There's no reason other synths couldn't have this rich level of integration.

    • Symbiotic

      The only reason other synths couldn't have this level of integration would be cost – both of components and development. But I agree that for 'flagship' systems, this is bridging the gap between host-based vs. dsp-based vs. hardware systems.

      But for me, inspiration comes from interface and capabilities. The other night I sat down on the couch with my Machinedrum and was immediately reminded of why it is such a great instrument – immediate, intuitive, inspiring. Quite simply, it is well designed, and designed to be a tool of creation. I've never found the Virus interface to be 'intuitive' the way that Machinedrum is, or the way a DSI PEK is…

      Other than the software-interface, there isn't much new with the TI.

    • reflex

      On one hand, I'd love a Virus TI in my studio. On the other, I'm currently dating the much more affordable PowerCore|Virus. The only thing it's missing is a nice, knobby interface. And real wood. Besides, my wife would banish me to the garden shed if another synth snuck into the house. Sadly, I suspect many people these days think like I do. I wish Access continued good luck!

    • Guest

      Does the TI use it's hardware DSP chips when it's in VST mode – and if so, can you run more than one instance of the plugin at a time…?

    • Symbiotic

      Yes – it uses the hardware DSP in VST/AU mode. Only one instance is possible at a time, though it does have a full-multi mode.

    • Guest

      I was surprised by the midi/audio integration, I's like what on earth is that ! I'm gonna buy that, no matter what! Not because Access added all these new features, I'd definitly take advantage of what's new, don't get me wrong…but i rather get this one instead of a virus b or c. Now who wouldn't ? I know I could get a much better deal for a 2nd hand virus c…but I know that I'd regret the fact that I missed this opportunity. It looks good and sounds even better ! In all, I think the guys behind this beast are very much like us musicians, making our lives easier using the equipment, using midi/audio integration, what a blast ! I know now that I won't be bugged about thinking to plug in'out midi cables… midi interface, bad syncing…Virus TI and me…makes one for faster creations and better results I say !
      Virtual mixing…infinit possibilities…Who cares who can afford what and what not…if you want it, GO GET IT !
      and be happy đŸ™‚