Finally, the power to choose: some of the best bundled synths are getting unbundled so you can use them with whatever host you want (cough, Ableton Live). Days after Cakewalk launched their own Dimension Pro synth (a Pro version of a synth that’s included in Project5), the folks at Image Line (better known as the creators of FL Studio, aka Fruity Loops) are launching an unbundled instrument. The one difference: Cakewalk released Dimension Pro after Project5, whereas Image Line is releasing Sytrus 2 as a Windows DXi/VST before it’s released as part of FL Studio 6.

Onto the synth: US$179 buys you a unique additive synth, with 6-operator FM, RM, plucked, and subtractive synthesis. It’s completely sample-free: synthesis freaks alone need apply. Before you skip this one over, there are plenty of reasons this instrument should be on your radar screen . . .

Usually I dread the “yet another soft synth” phenomenon, but Image Line has packed some real power into this one: tons of filters, multipoint envelopes with “arpeggiator” envelopes, the ability to generate envelopes from audio files, and a harmonics editor. It’s got the XY modulation controller from FL Studio, too, which can be assigned to gamepads and joysticks (as well as X/Y controllers on keyboards like the Novation line).

Let me say that again, in case your eyes are glazing over: you can build multipoint envelopes from audio files. (Can’t think of another synth that does that, off hand.) You’ve got tons of operators and operator types. You can build wild, grooving arpeggiator envelopes and then control tons of modulation with a simple X/Y controller. Sounds great to me.

I’ve always admired FL Studio from afar, but didn’t need another host. But let me plug Sytrus into Project5 or Ableton Live? Now you’re talking. If only Image Line would go cross-platform so I could run it on my Macs, too . . . (highly unlikely)