French corporation Arturia recently introduced a new softsynth called Pigments. Its a 32 voice 2 oscillator with 2 filter sections, 2 insert FX section, 1 send FX section, 23 slot modulations and an extensive array of arpeggiator and sequence options.
There are two available synth engines wavetable and virtual analogue oscillators. Both sections have a tuning section that allows for quantizing to a certain set of notes so when you use modulation (e.g. LFO) it quantizes the notes. The wavetable oscillator has a selection of about 50 wavetables and an option to import your own by either dragging it in or select using the menu. In addition, you have frequency modulation, phase modulation and wave folding options to spice up the wavetable sounds and even explore FM territory for EP type of sounds. The factory wavetables sound very clean to me and I tried to import some samples from analogue synths and it really helped getting a more expressive sound. If you import a saw wave you even can recreate a super saw wave since the wavetable section also has a unison section for up to 8 voices in either detuned or chord mode. Also nice for Techno type chords and the like. The virtual analogue oscillators are basically a copy of the Minimoog 3 oscillator section combined with the noise generator. Added is routing to the 2 filter sections and a (FM) modulation option for oscillator 3 or the noise source. So even if you wouldn’t use the wavetables you still have a pretty extensive oscillator section.
Pigments has 2 filter sections and each filter section has a selection of 8 types of filters which are based on their emulations of vintage synth filters. Even though they are analogue modelled filters they sound pretty clean to me as well. I’m missing an additional 18dB filter which can be useful for e.g. bass sounds to create a 303 type of sound.
Pigments has 3 effects chains. 2 insert effects that you can use for each filter section and a generic send effect section for the overall sound. Every chain has the same selection effects for any of the 3 effect slots. The effects themselves are the must haves like reverb, chorus, phaser, flanger, delay but also distortion, wave folder, bit crusher, filter, compressor, EQ and stereo pan. But the amount of effects slots seems to be a bit on the low side. Myself I think I’ll switch off the effect section entirely and use other effect plugins which sound that much more better according to my own taste when it comes to colouring.
The sequence section has a 16-step sequencer and arpeggiator that support polyrhythm and very extensive randomization. The latter is one of the little gems that you may overlook at a first glance but actually is quite innovative. Hopefully Arturia will add an option to record those 16 steps using the midi input so you flesh out patterns very quickly and lay down a bass sequence for live performances. If you use the randomize function in combination with a minor pentatonic scale you very easily can lay down a 303-type bassline. Randomization also should work very well for laying down rhythmic patterns for either sounds as well as percussion type of sounds.
The modulation section is where this softsynth gets its name from. The grid of 23 modulation slots are organized per coloured groups: Keyboard, envelopes, LFO, functions, random, combinations and macros. Keyboard, envelopes, LFO speak for themselves. Functions are an elaborate envelope that also can loop and can be used as single shot envelope, LFO or modulation lane similar to a step sequencer. Pigments has 3 per voice. Random modulation has 3 modulation sources: Turing, sample and hold, binary. The combinate section has 2 slots for mathematic processing that can take 2 sources and do a mathematic operation between them which is similar in the modular realm with many mathematic operations. The macro slots are a shortcut to the CC learnable knobs you can assign to for more expressiveness. You won’t need a special Arturia controller for that. You can assign midi CC to many knobs and save the settings in a preset.
Every modulation slot can be routed to pretty much any parameter of oscillators, effects section, other modulation slots and sequence parameters. It’s easy to spot what every modulation slot does since it has a display for that. The destinations are a little bit trickier since you can select the modulation slot itself to figure out where is routed to or per knob can see that it’s modulated. Note that handling this information usually is done in a matrix view but I guess in this case that would be too complicated since you have too many options so they solved it in a more elegant way.
Pigments comes with 646 default presets and 10 of them are templates to start out with. It always is up to the player if you like these presets or not but I noticed that that there are little that use the advanced modulation options. Another thing I noticed that a lot of presets didn’t have extensive modulation options for expressiveness as well. I do have to admit that my standard for presets is rather high but even then, I could say that about half of the presets are mediocre which is too bad. Pigments can do so much more than these presets indicate.
Pigments is not only very colourful but also a bit of a chameleon. Not just a virtual analogue plugin that also uses wavetables. But it also can FM, phase distortion and vector synthesis. Combine it with the extensive modulation and sequence section and you can spend hours on end designing sounds and getting inspired.
- Easy to use and clear GUI
- Very extensive modulation and sequence options
- CPU friendly
- Clean sound
- Presets vary in quality
- FX lack colouring
Fairly easy to use softsynth that uses the best of Arturia has to offer when it comes to softsynths. Compared to Serum or Wiggle it sounds cleaner and is fine for a lot of bread and butter sounds. It’s just as deep as it’s competitors as it houses some of the aspects you’d find in modular synthesis. Very usable for laying down sequence basslines if you combine it with additional FX plugins that can make it sound dirtier.