A refresh for an old friend. Click through for full-sized image.

MetaSynth has long been something special, a rare tool beloved by sound designers and fans of unusual software for music. The creation of software designer Eric Wenger, creator of the 3D modeling tool Bryce, expressed his unique vision of how computer design could work for sound with interfaces to make synthesis, filtering, and effects more graphical. At the same time, you’d be forgiven for forgetting MetaSynth, as the independently-developed, Mac-only application has been out of the headlines a long time. Imagine my surprise to see Edward Spiegel’s announcement today of a new version.

Superficially, MetaSynth 5 looks the previous version, and I’m sure some people will balk at its US$599 price. But there’s plenty here that sounds truly promising, so I’m eager to give it a test drive in the coming days and weeks. And for MetaSynth loyalists, finally getting proper Intel processor support is a welcome, if long-overdue, development.

In MetaSynth 5:

  • Universal Binary, multi-processor enabled — good news, as fancier effects do get CPU-intensive.
  • New synthesis Phase distortion, Pulse Width Modulation among eleven new synthesis modes for the instrument framework. Parameters can now be controlled with envelopes and velocity, as well.
  • Improved Image Synth: 14 new drawing tools and real-time swapping of instruments, tunings, and samples as you play back, plus batch rendering, which should make previewing and rendering much less of a chore.
  • Convolution in the Effects Room: Hmmm… that sounds racy, at least for those of us with a sound design fetish.
  • Spectrum manipulation: The Spectrum Synth now lets you select pitch range and adds – whatever this means, I’m stoked – “Time and Pitch Blur.”
  • Big files: Render arbitrarily long files, and handle bigger files in the Sample Room.
  • Mixing, file support: Mix 24 stereo tracks in the Montage Room, which works with their VTrack video montage editor. There’s also now “native support of .wav, .caf, .aiff and SoundDesigner audio files at resolutions up to 32-bit floating point and 96 kHz.”

As ever, MetaSynth isn’t going to be for everyone, and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s aging. But as one of the cabinet of secret sauce of computer sound tools, you can bet some folks will be taking notice of this new release. [click the MetaSynth 5 tab for the most relevant new information]

  • Oh hell yes.

    Can I get Xx now?

  • The news of the update is a good surprise! I expect to see someday the influence of MetaSynth in more widespread DAWs (there is already a spectrum view in more and more DAWs: the graphical transformation will come…) And for diy graphical spectral sound processing, you can still use Max & Jitter (but building a good user interface may be a lot of work.)

  • Murray

    Yep. I'm balking.

  • Andrew Stone

    I work in commercial art, sound/music and video. All have different pricing structures and all have a spectrum of what is acceptable and what is not… There is NO way giving the current pricing structure in audio/sound/music apps that people are going to pay that kind of money for this kind of app. The scale is SO OFF it is laughable. Think of what you pay for Reaktor as a standalone outside of Komplete. Think of the price of Logic, the price of Reason, Live, yadda, yadda. This is essentially a software synth (sorry if I am trivializing). When you can buy a DAW with a bucketload of really good softsynths, effects, virtual modeling environments, etc for way less than this (save ProTools) you have a serious marketing problem on your hands.

  • Andrew, ordinarily I'd tend to agree, but just *lowering* price likewise doesn't increase demand. I think this thing had a small market to begin with, and it's possible some of that market is likely to pay more. It's boutique software, basically – a soft version of something like the Kyma. Only way, way less expensive than boutique hardware. More users means more support costs. It may well be that the occasional title does merit pricing that is in fact out of line with other stuff.

    I think it's actually kind of fascinating that music tools now may be $5 or $500 or $5000 or free. The nature of pricing is that if you the seller are happy with the way it lines up with your own expectations of who you want as customers, your equation is correct. 😉

  • I don't know. I've become a lot more sensitive about software pricing. Over the years I spent a ton of money on video software. Thousands. At this point it's easy for me to see that a lot of that money was wasted.

    Software has to justify its cost, and that pretty much means software more than a couple hundred dollars must be professional tools that can directly generate revenue for a real business.

    At least if you blow money on a guitar you can sell it, pawn it or pick it up and play the blues.

  • Chad

    @Andrew Stone

    While there is truth to what you're saying about the modern notion of pricepoint, Metasynth is not aiming to be adopted into mass-market ubiquity. It's a specialized tool for a particular, devoted/obsessive subset of sound-design world.

    You'll see it in, say, Matmos' or Guillermo Scott Herren's or DJ Spooky's studios (I'm speculating here) and you'll find it in the Hollywood film/foley world, but you won't find it running alongside Reason in some kid's dorm room next to a half-eaten, day-old slice of pizza.

    I know it's hard to conceive of software that doesn't aim to be EVERYWHERE, but this is such a thing. Y'know?

    – c

  • Jake

    I'm assuming the values in the graphical editing tools (assume because I've never used it). If you compare this to the price for say logic, Photoshop and photosounder, it actually does end up being competitive. Having said that, I assume that there's real benefits in having it as an all in one solution as well.

  • Hi.

    I've owned MetaSynth a LONG time (version 2). It is a really unique instrument and requires more than a passing nod to use. When it first came out, I don't think there was anything like it. That gap has closed somewhat with some of the tools out there (think of some of VirSyn's products, Alchemy, etc), but it hasn't gone completely away. MetaSynth is still a pretty amazing tool.

    That said, $599 is a bit high. I do agree that the rules for software pricing has changed. Actually they are just following market principles: Anytime you have a flood of product on the market (in this case the broad category 'virtual synths'), you get a lowering of price. One can argue about the merits of individual synths, and those merits affect individual price points, but overall the trend will be downward as any individual VI is competing against potential combos of 2 or 3 or 4 cheaper alternatives. (This will tend to keep prices in check or over time lower them.)

    Eric has generous upgrade terms (I can upgrade from version 2), and the price point for that is more reasonable. I think he stands to do OK from converting a decent percentage of his installed base…

  • UTM

    I've been using MetaSynth ever since it first came out (Xx too) so I was glad to support Eric and Edward by purchasing an upgrade to the latest version. As noted, compared to the price of Pro Tools components and even some TDM plug-ins out there, MS is negligible. Despite it's name, Metasynth is far more than a "software synth." It has its own DAW built in. Frankly, I've never used it as a software synth per se, but it's very handy for processing and sound design applications. For some developers (much like artists) the point isn't delivering the cheapest product to clean up the low end consumer market. It's setting a reasonable price to compensate the time and effort it takes to make really great tools. If you can't tell the difference then don't bother to speak for those of us who can. I'm really excited by some of the new capabilities especially the new synthesis techniques.

  • Chad



  • Holy Crap, It's Back! I still crank up the 4400 occasionally just to run whatever the last version I got of this puppy was. That is a pretty balkable price.

  • Adrian Anders

    ReWire, PC-Version, VST effect support, lower pricing, etc… I would go on, but what would be the point? MetaSynth will continue to be MetaSynth until the day the developer dies or goes out of business. It's great software that's only hamstrung by the developer's arrogance (much like Propellerhead, only worse).

  • Pawel

    Here's something for those saying that 599$ is too much. You can consider Galbanum's offer – for the same amount you get 4 products instead of one (MS + 3 from Galbanum). I don't know those products, but they may be worth checking. I found that link on gearslutz.

  • Pingback: Bookmarks for August 13th through August 14th | gluethemoose()

  • Yeh. They make Aether also. Very nice algo reverb….

  • Tom

    I've been playing with the Metasynth 4 demo for a while now and I've just spent some time with version 5. For those of you who are "balking at the price" – I suggest you try it! It is a truly brilliant concept, beautifully executed. As Peter says, its not for everyone, but for many people (like me!) it is the ultimate sound tool. When you consider the sheer range of creative possibilities, $599 is definitely worth it. Metasynth has got me writing tunes again – and that's worth a hell of a lot.

  • Well if it wasn't for the new Kyma system I have to pay for this month I would have already upgraded to 5! Been a Metasynth user since 1999 and have never thought it was over priced. It will take you most of a lifetime to learn/explore all it's possibilities, now that alone is 'priceless' in software.

    I think the biggest problem in perception is when it is referred to as a 'softsynth'. It is a virtual sound lab that incorporates many aspects of unique and personalized options/concepts for sound design, many still with no equal (and I own Virsyn Poseidon, Alchemy, Photosounder, and several others which in themselves offer unique approaches but nothing on the scale of Metasynth imho).

    Edward and Eric will have my upgrade money soon, perfect timing for my big switch to Intel/Leopard 🙂

  • George Napier said 'Yeh. They make Aether also. Very nice algo reverb…."

    I bought Aether even though I couldn't run it in the group buy a few months ago…just loaded it on my new Intel/Leopard machine and have to say this is an AMAZING reverb. I love Altiverb and the great 3rd party IR;'s for classic and overall 'real spaces/devices; but have craved a truly gorgeous and imaginary space maker. I spent all last night in the 'Mystical Bank' with a feeling my search of years is over 🙂

  • Flea

    MHO Metasynth is a super fine program for making all kinds of sound and putting them together into compositions… Version 5 is terrific – so deep, so weird… I've used it for years, mostly avoiding v.4 as is seemed flakey with Intel Macs, but I'm real excited with v 5. And I've never experienced the developer as "arrogant" as one poster put it – very responsive and helpful couple of folks. It is an eccentric arty program for arty sound people.

  • Vjeran

    For me Metasynth stands for metasynthesis; not synth…