A little while ago, Future Audio Workshop (FAW) presented Circle2 to the world. Circle2 is modern software synth with a snappy sound that will especially appeal to the new generation of dance producers. However, there are way more possibilities, so the connaisseurs of more vintage like sounds are also well catered for.
The modern approach is the road FAW took on the GUI. A very dark themed visual is the result, but that makes the colors of different oscillators etc. pop. The setup is as follows: The top row is the place where you can create new patches and save them. Next to that is the patch name and up and down arrows that you can click on to go quickly through the patches.
When you click on the patch name, it opens up a menu where you can select search options like class: which is subdived into bass, drums, piano, organ, lead, pad & mixed. Type: which is subdivided into: High, Low, Hard, Soft, Moving, Static & Wet. Style: Subdivided into: 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, fx sounds & my sounds. Underneath, a list will appear with presets that are the result of the preset selection criteria that you have chosen.
Next, on the top row, is the midichannel selection, MIDI learn (click on it to see the selection of all the parameters that are available for MIDI learn and that can be used with external control) and, at the far right of the top row, is the master volume control.
The oscillator section:
As many as 4 osillators can be used as well as a noise and feedback module. Each oscillator has 3 settings you can choose from. These are Analog (with Sine, Saw, Square & Triangle waveforms, also hard-sync) Hard-sync is cool for sounds with a metallic edge to it.
In the analog oscillator, it’s also possible to do Pulsewidth Modulation (PWM) via the width knob. The triangle waveform can also be modulated in the same way and can go from Down Saw to Up Saw. Course tuning goes from -24 to +24 semitones, and the fine tuning is +/-1 semitone. The sub button puts the oscillator into Low Frequency mode and can be used as an extra LFO.
The next section is the Wavetable Oscillator with a real smorgashboard of selectable waveforms. This is the section where the really edgy modern sounding patches are born. I can really recommend taking a patch and switch up the selection of the waveforms and experiment, you can definately come up with new exciting sounds.
The VPS oscillator works by glueing together a pair of sine waves with specified frequencies via its two parameters – which control the frequencies of the sine waves and the location at which they are glued – the VPS oscillator provides direct control of the waveform’s intricate harmonics. This results in some very cool harmonics and can be just the thing you need to give your patch some much needed personal identity. It reminds me of a subtle FM Modulation and (via control with the LFO’s), you can create wah wah kinda vox sounds. The tone of this oscillator is quite soft and friendly in itself, but you can always beef it up with. for instance. the feedback section later.
Modulation is very easy in Circle2. Just by dragging and dropping little circles from target to destination, you can easily set up complex routings. Very user friendly and easy to comprehend. Thumbs up for this.
Circle2 has 2 filter choices on board, which are filter & Dual filter. The filter design is derived from a Pro-One with a few extra touches. Some nice self oscillation can be created with the resonance kicked up high. A pretty analog sounding filter is what you get and definitely one of the highpoints of Circle2. Furthermore, there’s a section where you can select a mouth filter. The mouth filter consists of 3 resonant band pass filters in a row. Each filter resonates at a certain frequency, dependent on what mouth shapes you have selected from the drop menus. This filter is more performance oriented, with a playable slider, over providing you with a way of making Circle2 speak. Great for those vowel dubstep sounds etc. You can also select a fuzz distortion, overdrive, parametric eq, shelving eq, phaser filter, Crusher (bitrate & crush) and ring modulator in that section.
Lastly there’s the envelope and LFO sections. The envelopes are nice and snappy, just like you expect from modern softsynths. The usual ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain & Release) are there but also a little snap slider. This snap slider lets you make exponential-like envelopes to a straight line and is a feature that is used in analog synthesizers. A feature you can tinker with, especially when you want to make analog like basses. A selection can be made between Envelopes, LFO’s & Sequencer, all equipped with sync and re-trigger. There’s also a good selection of waveforms and the possiblity to morph between 2 selected waveforms. The sequencer section has a rate control and smoothing parameter. Plenty of options to work with.
Moving on to the effects section, this is the home of effects like phaser, reverb, echo, double echo, ping pong echo, chorus, panner, bucket delay and lastly tube distortion. The effects can add an extra dimension to the sound and are ok. Nothing shockingly good but suffice for the job.
For people that really want to go under the bonnet, there’s a settings section where you can adjust voicing, unison, legato, cpu eco mode, sync to the host, and randomization functions that are handy if you want to make your patches sound more analog and have slight variations.
Final thoughts: FAW have delivered a cool modern sounding soft synth with ample modulation possibilties for creative sound design. Small niggles – the font in the GUI could have been a little bit brighter – because of the dark GUI, it can be a bit hard to read. Also, it would have been nice if the selection of presets and (or) effects etc., could be scrolled through via a mousewheel, but that is just a little suggestion. The ease of use and especially the dragging and dropping of the modulation slots is very good.