Producer Sam Greene was so in love with Aalto, the semi-modular, Mac and Windows soft synth whose developer we profiled last month, that he made his own place to share patches for it. Patches are free to download and use in your music, and you can upload your own; the only restriction is that the site asks that no one re-sell the patches themselves. Find the results:

You can thank the synth for making it easy. While discussion of sharing features often turns to sophisticated cloud and social features, here’s one solution: just make exchanging files dead-simple. As the site puts it:

Sharing patches for the Aalto synth is easy. It’s just an XML file – a simple text file that the synth uses to make settings and configure all the patch cords. You can copy your presets right from Aalto by using the menu command: “Copy to Clipboard”. All you need beside that is an audio sample of your patch.

Viva XML. (That’s the same thought I had recently when I solved some batch processing of sessions in Ardour, a DAW which uses a simple, understandable XML format.)

In fact, Sam notes he was interested in sharing other instruments, too, but file format complexities made that difficult. That leads to a question: have you got a favorite synth that uses simple, text-based file formats?

  • amoebaSIX

    most of the patch files in urs heckmann's (u-he) products are simple text. there is a binary blurb in the file that you shouldn't touch (i forget what it is used for) but every parameter is present and available for text editing. comes in quite handy for many things!

  • Peter Kirn

    Nice. It occurs to me, any text file should also work nicely with things like Git. Actually, that'd be true even of Urs' thing — you'd just ignore changes to the binary blob (hopefully it *doesn't* change)

  • yep, thanks a lot for this website Sam, again it's a nice and clear place for certainly one of my favorite piece of synth since a long time. really fall in love with it too . I've just one preset upload , cause I'm really busy right now , but will certainly add more soon ( btw, I'm the user named tikitpok ).
    Back to the topic, I'm agree that text file are really useful to understand a patch and debug problems too.
    Example here of a Usine patch ( extract of graphic part)
    use layout=1
    background color=8421504
    round size=4
    caption color=10797680
    caption font color=0
    show caption=1
    auto resize=1
    border color=16777215
    show border=1

  • Peter Kirn

    I should add, too, "text" is really the magic ingredient here more than "XML." (Actually, JSON is an interesting option. But plain-text file storage? That's magic.) 

  • All buzz machines give patches in a condensed ASCII way or a readable XML way:&nbsp ;

    Patches from blok are also xml and can be pasted into it from the clipboard. ( )

  • My iPhone apps Droneo and Tondo's patches are ASCII and can be exported, imported posted, traded and algorithmically generated. This tradition started with my Internet Synthesizer from 1996 or so – its control patches are ASCII. 

  • There's a patch-share thread over @ Muffwiggler for this great synth too:

  • Peter Kirn

    Keep them coming, folks; this is great. Will have to do another round-up post after this…

  • oootini

    AFAIK, renoise will allow you to copy/paste native device chains like this.

  • rhowaldt

    @oootini: (hey, you here too? 🙂

    the Renoise structure is built on XML essentially, with the songs (except samples of course), dsp chains, dsp patches, automation envelopes etc etc viewable and editable as XML. it is a great way to share stuff without having to resort to a file-sharing service of any kind. you can just do it through the forums.

  • ValhallaRoom has the same copy and paste preset system as Aalto.


  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, now that we're broadening the category a bit, we should add Max/MSP, Pd, SuperCollider, Csound, and so on. (SC of course even saw people tweeting ideas to each other!)

  • Sean traded secrets with Randy. So ValhallaRoom uses the same (or very similar) patch-sharing code. What Randy got out of the deal, I haven't a clue, but I'm damn excited to find out!

    source: the gearslutz thread for valhallaroom. (IIRC)

  • Randy and I traded some Juce code, and I also sent him my installer script code for PC. I am not sure what he integrated into Aalto.

    On my end, I am a HUGE fan of the XML preset format he created for Aalto. One of my users suggested creating a preset system similar to Aalto, and since Randy and I live in the same town and both use Juce, I figured that it would make more sense to do a code swap, instead of reinventing the wheel.

  • r

    Does aalto cover any ground that zebra / ace doesn't already cover? The sound quality is definitely good, but I wasn't completely blown away by the sound the way I was when I first tinkered with u-he's synths. Anyone want to enlighten me?

  • @r – I just picked up Aalto, so I'm still getting familiar with it. I use ACE a lot, and there are plenty of differences in sound quality and approach to sound design that are pretty obvious from the start. Not too familiar with Zebra, so I can't comment on that.

    The coolest thing about Aalto are the modulation possibilities, which, as far as I can tell, far outweigh those of ACE (for instance, you can use the individual voices as modulators – which is hard to wrap my head around, but it does awesome things). And it has some really unique features – the main 'complex' oscillator itself has interesting timbral qualities, and the 'Vactrol emulations' on the osc and gate are pretty neat. Also the delay module and waveshaper are useful for weirdness. You can get strange things going with the sequencer, too. Overall it's a pretty different experience than patching with ACE, and I'm really digging it. Best suited for evolving/generative/drone type of stuff, it seems like so far. A little unpredictable. Can sound really evil in the bass range as well.

    100% worth the price, and I would highly recommend it.

  • Joe McMahon

    Just checked and the Horizon synth for iOS also uses XML for patch storage.