For all the hardware and software out there, some tools just shine as dreams for sound design – and this particular update is well worth the wait. Pigments now adds cross-modulation, distortion, new filters and wavetables, and M1 native performance, but the sum is greater than those parts.

Arturia’s Pigments is something special. There are a lot of excellent leading-edge synths. But what tends to set the best of them apart is not just an endless set of modules and routing – the sort of on-paper, spec horsepower for synths. It’s down to having a range of tools that can lead you in musical and sonic directions. In-the-box sound making is essentially having a sound studio in some sort of virtual form, so it’s all about what that sonic kitchen is stocked up with.

Now, we sort of know Arturia for their recreations of historic instruments – I really love their new Ensoniq SQ80. But the other twist from Arturia lately has been some cross-pollination. It’s not just swapping bits and bobs of generic synthesis parts, which was commonplace early in the soft synth era, but actually remaining true both to some authentic models and some new, particular creations.

Pigments 3.5 is free, so you can save a fair bit of time by just running Arturia Software Center and hitting update. But here’s the overview of why followers of this soft synth are suddenly excited to block out some music making time with the update:

Cross modulation between engine 1 + 2 (with either as modulation source, so flexible routing – something you don’t always get with the historic models).

New Distortion Module with 16 different models, including that really tasty Germanium model that’s also on their Space Echo delay.

Expanded comb filter now with LP6, BP6, and HP6 damped modes – and that gets relevant as you loop feedback.

Native Apple M1 compatibility. Yeah, we’re still eagerly awaiting the full Arturia range on this, but the instruments are there and now Pigments. They’ve also been steadily improving Rosetta 2 reliability while we wait for everything else, and I’ve been running there without much issue.

New wavetables. This is the part of Pigments that’s a little hard to describe – it really does have that feeling of a stocked-up kitchen of spices, and now you get a ton of creative, futuristic wavetables ready to go. It has the advantage of presets in that these give you a starting place creatively as you work on musical ideas – but unlike presets, you can mix this into some sound that’s really your own.

Better sample browsing. Ah, okay, now it’s way easier to load up samples in the Sample Engine, with one-click preview and subfolders.

There are a bunch of new presets, too – some I think from friends of mine, even – and they’ve also tweaked the GUI. It’s all worth a deeper look later, so if you can tear me away from the synth long enough, I can actually do that.

Full details:

And tutorial, most important:

There’s also a sale on – which makes this very competitive against some of its paid rivals. It’s back down to $99. That’s through January 6, so get it just in time for Russian Christmas.

Now I’d just love to see MTS-ESP support. (See the also excellent – and free and open source – Surge synth, my other go-to for the moment.)