Review: Syntronik from IK Multimedia

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Syntronik sees IK Multimedia roaring back into the spotlight, this around time with a venerable treasure trove of amazing multi-sampled vintage synthesizers. The combination of their new DRIFT oscillator algorithm, seven classic filters, unique multi-part sound construction and an impressive array of effects make Syntronik a true force to be reckoned with!

Jump to the Demos of  Syntronik from IK Multimedia

Jump to the Videos of  Syntronik from IK Multimedia

 

Review: Syntronik from IK Multimedia

Syntronik sells for $299.00 or cross grade for $199.00 from any previously purchased product valued at $99.99 or more at IK Multimedia

 

Thoughts

IK Multimedia was an early pioneer in sample-based virtual synthesizers with products like SampleMoog, SampleTron and SonikSynth. While they were all extremely popular, it has been sometime since we have seen updates or anything new in the form of synthesis-based instruments from IK. All of that has changed in a big way with the release of Syntronik.

Syntronik brings together 17 instruments based on 38 individual machines that represent the glory days of analog synthesis packed with everything that you would expect to see from the Roland, Moog, Oberheim and Yamaha lines as well as some real gems like the Prophet 10, Elka Rhapsody and my own personal unicorn the Alesis Andromeda.

Let’s cover a little bit of detail about what makes Syntronik unique in its approach. I know what you’re thinking because I had the same thoughts when I first heard about the release of Syntronik: Isn’t this just going to be another collection of sampled synthesizers?  What makes this one so special?

The answer from a sound perspective lies in the implementation of IK Multimedia’s new DRIFT algorithm. By using this new algorithm, IK Multimedia was able to take multi-sampled oscillators and simulate the same behavior that happens in physical hardware.

When you first turn on a piece of analog gear it takes time for the circuitry to warm up. That is where Syntronik’s DRIFT algorithm kicks in simulating the physical hardware.

When you first turn on a piece of analog gear, like a Minimoog, it takes time for the circuitry to warm up and over the course of playing the oscillators will naturally change slightly in their overall color, phase and pitch. DRIFT simulates this in such a way that you have the same playing experience with each of these classic units. In addition to the new algorithm, there are seven filter types that are available for each synth: Moog Ladder Transistor, Oberheim SEM State Variable, Roland IR3109, Curtis CEM3390, Phaser, Formant and Classic. The combination of these two ingredients makes for a truly unique playing experience but in the case of the filters, also allows you mix-and-match filter types and oscillators on each of the different synthesizers. This means that you can use the Moog Ladder with Oberheim oscillators or the Roland IR3109 with Yamaha oscillators and so on. The limits of the sound experimentation are virtually endless and we haven’t even gotten to diving into the interface on the product yet.

If you are a SampleTank user, Syntronik provides full integration of all the sounds and functionality to layer with your other instruments.
Honestly, as a collector of synthesizers who owns a ton of vintage hardware and a copy of virtually every keyboard and synthesizer that was ever sampled or turned into a VST, I am truly excited about what I found after spending some time inside of Syntronik!

Let’s jump right into the product itself…

I like the nice clean look of the interface. Everything is laid out in relatively self-explanatory sections that do not require a lot of research to get yourself up and running right away. Across the top of the interface you have four layers that are available to create your sound. Sections A, B, C and D each come with their own unique set of controls in addition to being a selection slot for one of your synthesizer presets. On the top left-hand side of the interface are controls for layer volume, effects, arpeggiator, settings and a link to the sound store. If you haven’t purchased the full version of Syntronik, you can go here to add more synthesizers to your rig much like in SampleTank.

The main section of the interface screen is essentially divided into four quadrants with a scrolling list of the 17 different synths available on the left, a list of filters that can be used to quickly find the type of sound that you’re after, the presets themselves and then finally a photo of the synthesizer that the preset comes from along with a description of the sound. You can also click the star and add it to your favorites for easy retrieval later.

There are over 2000 presets that are included with Syntronik.

When you think about the fact that some of the machines that they are derived  from had 64 to 128 total presets each, the number is pretty impressive.


Since there are 17 unique synthesizers in the interface that represent a grand total of 38 physical machines, it’s impossible to go into the detail of each one of them in the space of a review. Fortunately, IK Multimedia has developed a standard set of controls across all the synthesizers so that you are not dealing with 17 individual sets of unique knobs to twiddle. For this example, I picked my personal unicorn, the Galaxy which is based on the Alesis Andromeda. I let one of these slide through my hands back in the day and never found another one in decent condition so for me this is the icing on the cake so to speak having it included as part of the package.

Each synth instrument has a custom graphical interface that represents the look and feel of the original hardware.

Each synth has a graphic design that represents the look and feel of the hardware that it represents but if look at a couple of them you will notice that all the controls are divided into essentially six different sections: Oscillators, Filter, Filter Envelope, Amplitude Envelope, LFO and Controllers. Much like the way that IK Multimedia allows you to mix-and-match components in MODO Bass to “Frankenstein” a new and interesting bass guitar, you can do the same thing here by mixing and matching filters and oscillators. This gives you some really interesting tonal capabilities before you even get into the application of effects. One of the points that I should reiterate here is that while you still have the capability to detune the oscillators, the real magic that happens behind the scenes is the application of the DRIFT algorithm to color it. This is one set of synthesizers that you do not need to warm up before you start playing them.

Every preset brings in different effects from the 38 different on-board inclusions. By selecting the effects section, you can go in and either turn off certain effects or swap them out for different ones. The fact that they are all lunchbox style effects makes for a nice standardized look and allows you to easily arrange the positioning within the overall effects chain to change up your signal. If you are a user of either the IK Multimedia T-RackS or Amplitube software, the effects will be familiar as they are derived from both of those products.

The four-part layering capability is one of the shining highlights here. In addition to the ability to layer 4 different presets together and blend them into one unique cohesive sound, you can also drag the slider on each layer and limit key range for that particular preset. For instance, you could limit bass sounds to the lower octaves and lead sounds to the upper octaves while allowing pad sounds to play across the entire width of the keyboard. One of the cool features here is that you can also limit the minimum and maximum velocity for each layer. It’s important to note that each of these four layers has its own set of effects and its own arpeggiator as well as the ability to control the overall layer and master volume.

I really found the layering section to yield some stunning results without having to stack a group of VSTs in my DAW.

I really found the layering section to yield some stunning results without having to stack a group of VSTs in my DAW. Even the use of only two or three layers depending on the sounds you insert can be quite amazing, especially given the mix-and-match capability of filter and oscillator combinations across the various synthesizers. This I pretty much found to be a sonic playground.

The arpeggiator section gives you ample control over developing a unique sequence of up to 32 steps. Remember that you have four of these if you use all four layers and choose to develop something moving and complex. Across the top of the interface are standard mode, rate and octave controls. Right above each individual step is a drop down that allows you to select the number of semitones above or below the note between ± 12. You can draw the velocity of each individual step by dragging the mouse up or you can draw the entire pattern by dragging your mouse from left to right and develop whatever curve you want. You can also limit the range on the keyboard the same way that you can in the layer control so that arpeggiated notes are only played at certain octaves on the keyboard. In addition, you can dial in velocity, length, swing, choose your synchronization target and of course it can be BPM synced.

I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat since Syntronik was first announced. I watched every video and all of the back-and-forth dialogue in the Internet forums arguing about how this was just going to be another sampled synthesizer. I obviously see my fair share of sampled instruments and as a collector and avid synthesist I have my own opinions about many of them as well. This is an entirely different beast and it exceeded my expectations to a great degree. Syntronik definitely lives up to the hype!

It isn’t so much the vast collection of instruments that this represents, it is the specific choices and the faithful recreation that make the difference. I am familiar with the collections from where some of these instruments came from and they are pristine.The application of the DRIFT algorithm and the choice of the filters like the Moog, Oberheim, Roland and Curtis combined with multi-layer functionality in the application of classic effects yield something that is much greater than just a collection of vintage instruments.

The ability to play some of these classics and achieve the same type of sound that you would get from the actual hardware synthesizer and have the changes in the coloration of the sound is certainly one of the major achievements here that I consider another huge breakthrough for IK Multimedia. I am awarding Syntronik the Sample Library Review Innovation award for their advances in sound design.

As with all my reviews, I will say that before making your purchase, please check out the official demos to make sure that this is the right tool for you.

 

Facts

Syntronik weighs in at a whopping 60 GB! IK Multimedia provides and extremely comprehensive technical fact sheet on their website. Instead of restating all the content of the site here, I will provide you with the link: IK Multimedia

Here are some of the key technical highlights:
Multi-sampled oscillators for ultimate authenticity
4 classic types of circuit-modeled filters to shape sounds
DRIFT™ technology for realism of subtle oscillator variations
Mix and match oscillators with filters for new original sounds
True 4-part synth to create rich sounds with layers and splits
4 dynamic arpeggiators for complex rhythmic textures
38 high-quality effects derived from AmpliTube and T-RackS
Browser search by category or keyword to find sounds in seconds
Optimized resizable interface
Load Syntronik sounds into SampleTank 3 for more expandability
Works as a 64-bit plug-in or standalone instrument for Mac/PC
Amps: Flexi Amp, Modern Tube Lead, SVT Classic, Jazz Amp 120
Distortion: Distortion, Crusher, Overdrive, Overscream, Lo-Fi, Phonograph
Dynamics / EQ: Black 76, White 2A, Model 670, Parametric EQ, Vintage EQ-1A, Channel Strip
Modulation: AM Modulation, Ensemble Chorus, Chorus C1, Electric Flanger, FM Modulation, Opto Tremolo, Phaser, Rotary Speaker, Small Phazer, Uni-V, AutoPan, Slicer
Reverb / Delay: Hall Reverb, Plate Reverb, Digital Delay, Spring Reverb, Tape Echo, Stereo Imager
Filter: LFO Filter, Env Filter, Multi Filter, Wah 47
17 Instrument Collections representing 38 classic synthesizers and string machines
Over 50 GB of samples
Over 2,000 instruments presets

Syntronik sells for $299.00 or cross grade for $199.00 from any previously purchased product valued at $99.99 or more at IK Multimedia

 

Demos of Syntronik from IK Multimedia

 

Videos of Syntronik from IK Multimedia