Percussa micro super signal processor
Cue Stravinsky on synths. This may be one of the nicest free-as-in-beer synths for Windows yet.

Cue Stravinsky on synths. This may be one of the nicest free-as-in-beer synths for Windows yet.

With so many choices, some beautiful software synths simply fall through the cracks – or fail to keep up with tastes and attentions. TONE2, maker of a number of nice soft synths, has therefore decided to put its FireBird synth out to pasture, releasing an update and marking down the price from $79 to free (as in beer – no source).

Of course, part of the reason people’s eyes glaze over with soft synths is the sheer number of two-oscillator, Virtual Analog, subtractive synths out there. But there are a few details that set FireBird 2 apart and ought to make you consider giving it a go – especially with a price of free.

The banner feature is “Harmonic Content Morphing” synthesis. It’s something like wavetable synthesis with a twist, but all without increasing the number of oscillators – even a single oscillator can be modified. And here’s where you get lots of choices:

  • 437 presets
  • 84 oscillator types that, via HCM, the developers describe as adding up to “18,000 morphable waveforms”, thanks to 23 spectral “modifiers” that modify the sound.
  • 38 filter types
  • True stereo, 4x unison, 8 oscillators per voice
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • 13 effects.
  • 38 filter types, from Moog to Comb to “Vocal.”
  • Skinnable UI (with various included skins).

Some of those choices get a bit ridiculous, but happily the UI is simple enough that you can dial in choices quickly, or try the presets for some fresh options.

The sound of FireBird is really rather nice: warm, but thick and shimmer-y in that wavetable way. And you get lots of phase distortion and supersaw sorts of sounds out of it. In fact, the whole thing feels a bit like an alternative to something like NI’s ubiquitous Massive – with a very different sound and UI approach.

Well worth picking up for Windows, as it now supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 with both 32-bit and 64-bit VST support. Correction: I misread their site and thought they’d done a 64-bit update. It will “work with” 64-bit Windows, but you’ll need a bridge. No huge problem – with the bridge, it should be fine, and the price is right.

FireBird 2