Review: Vespertone by Teletone Audio

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Teletone Audio turn retro on its head with the inspiring Vespertone. They’ve taken three classic keyboards plus a vibraphone and given us the ability to morph them into modern sonic delights with the minimum of tweaking. This is definitely not a typical vintage keys and mallet collection, so if you thought you had enough Rhodes samples you might need to think again!

Jump to the Videos of Vespertone by Teletone Audio

Jump to the Demos of Vespertone by Teletone Audio

 

Review: Vespertone by Teletone Audio

Teletone Audio have been quietly releasing some really sublime libraries for only a short time, but have already garnered a number of loyal fans. They recently came on my radar and instantly appealed with their particular aesthetic – very much on the cool and boutique side of things and with a huge talent for repurposing crusty retro sources as sophisticated modern production tools. So far, there have been character pianos and synths. Now, their recent release Vespertone takes elements of both, in that we have character classics coupled with synth inspired granular mangling.

Vespertone normally sells for $79 from Teletone Audio

Thoughts

The core of Vespertone lies in a detailed sampling of four timeless instruments; a specially rigged up Wurlitzer 200, a 1930s vibraphone, a vintage Jenco Celeste and a 1970’s Rhodes. This is all wrapped up in a simple one page interface that is very nicely laid out with classy graphic design.

 

Celeste Main Page

All the instruments are given a thorough sampling with multiple mics, round robins and velocity layers. The raw sounds of each are very lively, playable and flexible enough to craft tones that go from super dry to open and airy using the mic faders. A vintage approach was taken here with Telefunken ELAM251s to a Neve 1073 contrasted by a darker sounding Coles 4038 ribbon pair for the close options (Close and Ribbon on the interface). Stereo Neumann M49Bs via a Neve 1084 take care of the room sounds. The Wurli takes a slightly different approach as it uses a Wurlitzer Student Model speaker cab that was separated from the keyboard, with the 251s on the keys only for plenty of mechanical sounds and the Coles on the isolated cab. Additionally, instead of a room mic it takes a feed from a handmade EMT style tube plate reverb.

Wurlitzer Tweaked

 

All four instruments sound superb on their own and would justify the price, but where this library really shines is in the three large character dials. The one knob nature of them belies the multitude of changes going on under the hood.

Character Dials

 

Body is tied to the mod wheel by default and employs granular synthesis (and possibly other aural voodoo) to morph the sounds. This can have a subtle or radical impact; the Rhodes, for example, goes from the full-bodied original sound to thin and watery, then eventually to a choked and fizzy timbre. As a bonus, moving the knob also wonderfully warps the background colours in proper 60s psychedelic style! Soul uses a blend of chorus, phaser, flanger and tape saturation to add colour and movement. Spirit employs reverbs, LFOS and octave layering which can really take the sound to the outer limits. Aside from the sheer amount of mangling possible, what is especially impressive about these knobs is how well the effects are curated and programmed. This makes it hard to actually get a bad sound out of it – any combination seems to sound great and it’s then left to personal taste to dial in exactly what you desire.

A small box next to the character dials named Nostalgia magically does just that, infusing a lo-fi warmth to the sound. There’s still more to further artistically degrade the raw samples in the shape of an age section which employs filters, tape saturation and de-tuned tape warble to get as dirty and wonky as you like.

 

Further controls

Alongside that, a free running or synced tremolo can give some movement, which is on by default for the vibraphone to mimic the typical usage of it. The final ‘tweakable’ centre around a sensitivity knob to limit velocity range, a stereo to mono control and two other wonderful options. Mechanics controls the volume of a range of pedal noises, hammer taps and mallet noise which is superb for creating an intimate texture over the top of the tonal sounds. Finally, for a library designed to go crusty, it’s maybe no surprise we find a Noise knob that introduces a delectable range of room noise, tape hiss and vinyl crackle as an atmospheric layer.

An arp is included, but it’s very basic with little user modification possible beyond the 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 note divisions. I can’t totally decide whether this is a positive or negative to be honest, but it’s undoubtedly handy to have on hand at least! If that is only a half grumble then my only real criticism is the lack of any ADSR control. I feel that even with just attack and release controls it would open up the instrument to some really creative pads and atmospheres when combined with the mic and lo-fi options. Somewhat annoyingly (though understandably for an engine with single knobs craftily changing many parameters under the hood) access to the inner workings is locked, so the user cannot dive in and change the envelope even if they wanted to.

In terms of presets, it’s very well catered for. Alongside the four starting block instrument nkis is a folder named Designed Patches. Within this are eleven inspiring presets per instrument, showcasing a wide range of sounds. In addition, the Transfigured folder collates a number of more experimental adventures that push the engine to the extreme, with a variety of unusual arps and far out sound design.

Designed Patches

 

In use, I found Vespertone a total inspiration machine. The ease in being able to quickly come up with a whole new version of the basic instruments that still maintains the DNA of the starting point is rarely done this well. You end up with something that sounds abstract, yet still familiar and for me this leads to directly influencing how and what I play. How well it works at a later stage of the composition process when you need sounds to fit in as background elements I will only find out in time, but it’s perhaps best seen as something to start a song or composition off and thereafter become a distinctive feature instrument.

Of course, all the programming magic in the engine is worth nothing if the original samples are not beautiful and artfully recorded instruments are paramount. You need great material for the deep manipulation to work best, so the playability you get from quality deep sampling is retained for any new creation that is dialled in. Vespertone displays this in spades. The Wuritzer is suitably clunky, the Rhodes crisp, the vibraphone full-bodied and the celeste chiming. Whether you will use them pure however, may test your willpower with all those parameters to mess about with!

For anyone on the lookout for the authentically retro paired with modern digital manipulation, Vespertone is a standout product at a great price with little to fault it. I can’t even get picky on the download method as uses the reliable Pulse and is in Kontakt Player format to boot! Whether it is for you will ultimately come down to personal taste, but if you like your keys and vibes weird, gritty and lo-fi it should be top of your shortlist.

Facts

Vespertone is 2.77GB in size and downloads via the Pulse Downloader. There are four main instruments sampled at three mic positions plus a multitude of designed patches. It works with the free Kontakt Player and is NKS compatible.

Vespertone normally sells for $79 from Teletone Audio

 

Demos of Vespertone by Teletone Audio

Videos of Vespertone by Teletone Audio

 

Contributor Sam Burt reviews Vespertone by Teletone Audio
“Teletone Audio turn retro on its head with the inspiring Vespertone. They’ve taken three classic keyboards plus a vibraphone and given us the ability to morph them into modern sonic delights with the minimum of tweaking. This is definitely not a typical vintage keys and mallet collection, so if you thought you had enough Rhodes samples you might need to think again!”