Review: Retromod by Tracktion (Lead, Fat, and 106)

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RetroMod by Tracktion is a great attempt at paying homage to 3 titans of the hardware synth arena. This triumvirate, comprised of Roland, Nord, and Moog, has been at the forefront of electronic music production for decades and their sounds are extremely well known in the music world.

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Review: Retromod by Tracktion (Lead, Fat, and 106)

RetroMod by Tracktion is a great attempt at paying homage to 3 titans of the hardware synth arena. This triumvirate, comprised of Roland, Nord, and Moog, has been at the forefront of electronic music production for decades and their sounds are extremely well known in the music world. This makes recreating them a courageous choice for any software company because their work will be met with the utmost highest scrutiny. This company, Tracktion, hails from Seattle, Washington, and was started in 2012 by Julian Storer, James Woodburn, and Dave Christenson.

Retromod by Tracktion including Lead, Fat, and 106 sells for $49.00 – $79.00 from Tracktion

Thoughts

When I was first offered the chance to review the RetroMod instruments, I was a little apprehensive about writing one review covering three separate products. This quickly faded after opening the instruments and seeing the similarities in the layout of each instrument. They all contain similar GUI’s, preset menus, and editable parameters, etc…so if you learn one of them, you will be able to work with all of them. In an effort to avoid any redundancy, I will cover these similarities before addressing the unique characteristics of each individual instrument.

Presets

 

All three of the instruments feature a presets menu that makes it easy to find the sound you’re looking for. I found the layout to be really simple and straightforward, you select a category or subcategory and a list of its contents are displayed. This area does contain a minor irritation though; you do have to deselect a category before selecting a new one or you will get the contents of both categories, they do not switch automatically. I know this may seem like a small thing, but it makes a difference when you’re in the flow and forget to deselect. It kind of creates a momentary feeling of confusion and pulls you out of your flow. The only other minor issue I had was with the RetroLead. The Fat and the 106 both have their presets categorized by the synths that provided the source material, which makes it handy if you were an owner of the original hardware and want the sounds from that unit. This feature is surprisingly missing from the Lead and though it has no effect on the instrument, it leaves the impression of a flaw when used after the other ones in this series.

Macro Controls

The macro controls page is cleanly laid out and contains a global section, a DCO section, a VCF & VCA section, an XY pad, and a master section. The global section features a unison button that detunes unison voices, a glide/portamento knob that controls how much a note glides into another, and an analog knob that causes pitch variation on each note played. The oscillators section contains multiple pitch knobs, a ring mod knob, and a level knob. This section also includes a knob for adjusting the pitch and level of the frequency modulation. Next to the oscillator band is the filter and amp section. In this section, you will find knobs to adjust the envelope; as well as, the cutoff and resonance of the different filters. The last section is the master section and includes knobs for adjusting the output, the wet/dry mixture of the FX, a master tuner, and a knob for adjusting the amount of voices an instrument uses.

 

Effects

The effects page is pretty standard and offers the usual assortment of included effects. It features a 4-band equalizer that is always displayed next to the mini-keyboard on this page and can be adjusted via the graphic or the accompanying knobs. Most of the sounds do have EQ settings already applied, some of them featuring extreme boosting, which the user should take into consideration. Aside from the EQ, the other effects are selectable via a drop-down menu and inserted into four slots that feature their own parameters based on the effect selected. These effects include multiple distortions, chorus, phaser, compressor, 17 filters, a delay, and 3 reverbs.

Instruments

 

Retro Lead

This instrument was one that I was definitely looking forward to reviewing because I had actually had the opportunity to play with the source synths and I knew what the sounds were supposed to sound like. This library was sampled from the Clavia Nord Lead 1, Lead 2, Lead 3, Lead A1, Modular G1, and Nord Drum. My first quick run through the presets made a good first impression and since I reviewed this one first, I was spared the initial disappointment of not having them separated by source instruments. The first thing that stood out to me was the obvious desire to make a high-quality instrument that attempts to capture the spirit of the original and possibly take it to new places. As I delved deeper and actually spent time with the presets, I found that the majority of the sounds are definitely usable and applicable to a variety of genres. I also found that there was not a lot of middle ground in my feelings towards the presets, I either loved them or hated them. On the ones I did not like, I tried adjusting the sound but it did not seem to make enough difference to change my opinion of them. I really loved the keys and pads presets and felt that they did a great job maintaining the Leads reputation in those departments. Most of my favorites came from these categories and these two alone would be worth the purchase price to me. The bass presets contained an abundance of sounds, though some of them were rather redundant and almost indistinguishable from their like-sounding presets. The drum kits were pleasing and mapped in a familiar way so it did not take me long to pound out some beats. The selection of kits is limited and it feels like a wasted opportunity considering that none of the other Retromod instruments contains drum kits. It was also a little disappointing that all of the kits have an electronic drum sound, but only because I think the inclusion of an acoustic sounding kit would have given it more mileage. Overall, the good things about the Lead definitely outweigh the bad and this instrument will offer some nice sounds to add to your arsenal.

 

Retro Fat

The Fat instrument is based on these Moog products: The Little Phatty, the Sub Phatty, Sub 37, Voyager, and Minitaur. All of the presets are divided up according to their source instruments and are navigated the same way as the Lead. The deselect/select issue is still present in this one as well. The main focus of this instruments is the bottom end and the number of bass sounds included definitely testifies to this. On my initial run through of the presets, I was actually highly disappointed in the lack of resonance from an instrument called Fat. There wasn’t even one that slightly buzzed the snare drums in my studio. This problem was alleviated during my more thorough examination and seemed to only need unison mode activated with some minor tweaking before snares were rattling and walls were shaking. The need to do this for every sound left me slightly irritated and hopefully will be fixed in a future update. Other than that, all of the sounds in this library are of good quality and are usable in a variety of genres. The only problem here is that there is not more in the way of non-bass instruments. I loved the way a number of these categories sounded and was slightly disappointed that some of them only contained two or three sounds at most. This, coupled with the need to tweak every bass sound, leaves you with the feeling that Retro Fat was rushed to completion in order to meet a deadline or something; which, is a shame because this one has so much potential just bubbling beneath the surface. I will definitely be keeping my eye on this one to see if any more is added to it and its full potential unlocked.

Retro 106

The Retro 106 is based off the Roland Juno line and is comprised of The Alpha Juno, the Juno 60, and the Juno 106. This instrument is my absolute favorite of the entire Retromod series due to the overall balance of it; as well as, the great sounding samples. Even after my initial quick run, I didn’t really have to adjust anything to make them sound good on a track. The basses were resonant, the pads were full, the synths were rich, etc…My only real critique is that I think they should’ve included more presets, but who doesn’t always want more from a library. Tracktion did a good job of balancing the amount of harmonic and melodic instruments that come in this library and a user will have no problem finding something in here to meet their needs. Retro 106 also feels like it has more of a target genre than the other Retromod instruments and will be right at home in any hip-hop producer’s toolbox. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough here that it can work in a variety of genres, it would just be a one-stop shop for hip-hop producers and they could easily write a whole album using just Retro 106 and something to write a drum beat with.

Conclusion

The Retromod series was a pleasure to review and Tracktion’s effort should be commended. Each of these instruments can definitely stand on their own, but they also play really well with the others in this series and should be purchased as a bundle if possible. The Retromod instruments can be found at https://www.tracktion.com/products/retromod. The Fat and Lead can be purchased for $79.00 USD and the 106 can be purchased for $49. A 30-day free trial can also be downloaded from the product page.

Facts

Retro Lead
Download size is 9.8 GB
It has 413 presets, comprised of 30,000 samples
It is available for Mac, PC, and Linux in AU, AAX, and VST formats.
It can be purchased for $79.00

Retro Fat
Download size is 6.9 GB
It has 422 presets, comprised of 23,000 samples
It is available for Mac, PC, and Linux in AU, AAX, and VST formats
It can be purchased for $79.00

Retro 106
Download size is 4.5 GB
It has 291 presets, comprised of 15,000 samples
It is available for Mac, PC, and Linux in AU, AAX, and VST
It can be purchased for $49.00

Retromod by Tracktion including Lead, Fat, and 106 sells for $49.00 – $79.00 from Tracktion

 

Demos of Retromod by Tracktion including Lead, Fat, and 106 by Tracktion

 

Videos of Retromod by Tracktion including Lead, Fat, and 106 by Tracktion