Arturia has long been known for its realistic emulations of classic analog synthesizers. So is Analog Factory, which repackages its existing emulations in a stripped-down virtual instrument a good deal for digital musicians, or just old wine in a new bottle?
The package contains 2000 presets, taken from ArturiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s ARP 2600V, CS80V, MiniMoog V Moog Modular V, and Prophet V emulations, all of which use Arturia’s acclaimed TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology to accurately reproduce the sound (if not the interface) of the original hardware. The bundle gives you a simplified bundle of the favorite sounds of all the larger, more editable libraries, in an approach along the same lines as Native Instruments’ Xpress Keyboards. Analog Factory rationalizes the sometimes complex interfaces found in the full packages with a simple display that puts everything upfront on a single screen. There’s a 2-1/2 octave virtual keyboard with pitch and mod wheels, master volume control, eight snapshot buttons for saving favorite patches, and a series of controls for controlling the basic parameters found in all analog synths (more on these later).
Central to the Analog Factory experience is its preset browser, which is reminiscent of the one first seen in AppleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s GarageBand and Sony’s ACID and now found in a variety of virtual instruments including NIÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s KORE. The sounds in Analog Factory have all been tagged with specific attributes ahead of time so that you can zero in on the exact sound you want. The tags include instrument, type (bass, brass, sfx, fm, guitar, lead, organ, pad, percussive, piano, sequence, or strings), and characteristics (acid, aggressive, ambient, bizarre, bright, digital, ensemble, funky, hard, long, noise, quiet, short, simple, soft, or soundtrack). As you click on the tags, the list narrows, presenting only those sounds that meet your criteria.
Analog Factory, like KORE, focuses on the sounds themselves as opposed to the instruments that created those sounds, an approach that is sure to streamline music creation. Most listeners aren’t going to say, “Wow, what a killer MiniMoog bass!”; they’re just going to get off on a catchy bassline. Analog Factory doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™t use the KOREsound format employed by Native Instruments. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s bad news for NI; as one of the major developers of virtual instrument plug-ins, ArturiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s acceptance of the format would have been a strong show of support for the fledgling format. Instead, the categorization was done by ArturiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s resident Sound Designer Jean-Michael Blanchet. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with his tags; Analog Factory, unlike KORE, doesn’t allow you to define your own attributes. Arturia says that using the KORE format would have required that the user have all of the individual emulations installed, which would have worked against its intention to provide a low-cost all-in-one program. Development cycles may have also played a role, as KORE wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™t announced until NAMM in January.
Control and Expression
Just because Analog Factory is largely designed for someone who just wants to get up and running quickly with some great sounds doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™t mean you canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™t add expressiveness to your performance. Arturia has provided a set of knobs and sliders, which can be mapped to those in your controller along with pitch and mod wheels. Again, like KORE, Analog Factory brings the most common parameters to the fore. By default, the knobs are assigned to level, cutoff filter, resonance, LFO rate, and LFO amount. There are also two knobs assigned to the built-in FX (chorus and delay) and a single set of envelope sliders in a standard ADSR configuration. I’ve always preferred sliders for this because they provide a visual representation of the envelope, unlike the knobs used on say, the MiniMoog. By breaking from a strict representation of the original synths, Arturia has greatly increased the usefulness of these sounds, particularly in the context of live performance.
So, while you canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™t get under the hood and create sounds from scratch, you can at least modify the existing sounds somewhat to suit your needs. Your tweaked presets can be saved in the user library for later recall and assigned to the snapshot buttons for quick changes when performing.
Analog Factory is a fantastic bargain for the computer musician who doesn’t require all the bells and whistles of the full emulations and may even inspire a new way of working for the gear obsessed among us (raise your hands). DJs and live performers will find Analog Factory’s low overhead, streamlined operation, and performance-oriented features to be a fine companion for their laptop. Analog compulsives will be better served by the individual emulations with their sometimes-idiosyncratic interfaces. For everyone else, Analog Factory cuts the crap and delivers what truly made these instruments great, the killer sounds.
Analog Factory Product Page [Arturia]
Compatibility: Analog Factory runs on Mac OS X and Windows XP as either a standalone instrument or as a VST, AU, or RTAS plug-in. Intel Mac owners take note: the software is already available as a Universal Binary, in advance of the more full-featured instruments in Arturia’s line-up.