3 new bright stars
With this update Arturia introduces 3 new classics CZ, Mellotron and Synthi. They also updated their existing instruments as well. In this review the focus will be on the newcomers.
This is a reproduction of the Casio CZ series which features phase distortion synthesis. A close relative to FM synthesis that has the same digital sounding vibes but allows for a huge range of sonic possibilities. This emulation has the advantage to use the entire screen for the GUI and you are not limited to a two row LCD screen for information. The architecture is two sound generators that use a two-oscillator combo that you can phase distort with in combination with three envelopes. You have 8 waveforms for each oscillator and an extra custom one you can draw yourself.
Additionally, there is a ring modulation options and an extra noise generator. There are two additional modulation envelopes and LFOs you can combine in various ways in a 16-slot modulation matrix. This allows for a good set of tone shaping options and caters much more to entry level users compared to the DX7 which in that regard is much more complicated. Compared to the DX7 the CZ sounds not as bright and sharp. It has a bit more of a mellow vibe to it. The CZ is also heavily leaning on the onboard FX units like delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, multimode filter and more. The original hardware only had a chorus. By adding a multimode filter, you have an excellent combination of additive and subtractive synthesis you can combine with the bread and butter effects with a total of up to 4 effects. Additionally, you have the usual arpeggiator, midi learning, patch browsing, unison and support for 4 macro functions.
What really stands out here is that you have a good view of all options and that makes programming it an absolute delight. The sounds are extremely mix friendly similar to the Roland sound and very usable as background/filler sounds.
This version of the Mellotron is way more that an emulation. Arturia took the Mellotron to the 21st century by enabling multitimbral options of three tape sets. You have the choice of 40ish tape sets from different Mellotron models or you even can load your own samples which both you can edit in length and enable loop options. If you had crossfade looping it even would be perfect since looping can be challenging at times.
You can spread the tape sets on the keyboard or layer them. With the additional envelope and tape settings you can tweak the sound of the tape sets to sound more vintage or not. The effects section has four stomp boxes like effects with the choice of 10 effects. Funny enough one of those is a RE-201 style tape delay. You also can choose between a guitar amp style effect or a rotary emulation. For the reverbs you can choose between several reverb types. With the usual midi learn options you can control everything in a live environment.
There is a whole bunch of Mellotron fanatics out there and with that many options to tweak this Mellotron version they should cherish this emulation. You can tweak and combine the classic Mellotron sounds every way possible and create the ultimate Mellotron experience.
This last one of this series is my personal favourite. The emulation of the EMS Synthi had to be one of the more challenging tasks for Arturia. Since this version has the maximum of polyphony of 4 voice you can safely assume, they are using the CPU for oversampling and other tricks to try and get as close as possible to the original sound. Because the three oscillators and filters are pristine sounding as well as very musical. They nailed the oscillators and come very close to the filter. But if you want that absolute creaminess filter you can look in to the Analogue Solutions Synthi Euro rack version filter.
The Synthi itself is a modular synth with several modules in a small enclosure. For the patching of the several modules you have to use a patch matrix. What Arturia did is not only enable for relative patch points of 25%,50%,75% and 100% but also allow for grouping the patch points and allow them be controlled via the mod matrix and thus midi controls. Using the relative or modulated patch points are extremely useful for controller signals and allow for maximum expressiveness. Next to the three oscillators you have a noise generator, output filters, output channels, filter oscillator, ring modulation, sample and hold LFO, two envelopes, a spring reverb and a joystick. But there is more. Arturia added 5 functions which are either envelope, LFOs or sequencers.
You can assign an end point to each function together with a modulation amount. You cannot use a function as a source in the modulation matrices though. The joystick has its own details tab where you can not only tweak the settings but also draw the joystick movements. Those movements can be free running or synced to the tempo of your project. You have modulation matrices for both the parameters as well as the patch matrix groups which you can assign to various controllers. Next to there is a 32-step sequencer and an additional LFO. The effects section has 3 slots with the bread and butter effects. To that extend the effects may seem a little bland but you can use them or add some external ones in your mix.
Without midi and external controllers, the EMS Synthi already is a FX powerhouse. With this emulation you also get midi as well as nice options for controllers. Combined with the pristine sounds and excellent balanced extras you can explore a vast world of vintage sounds.
In general, all instruments come with a rather large collection of excellent crafted presets. But for some of the instruments that have vast programming options it can be overwhelming for users to start with. You can spend ours on end to create your own patches. Or as a user you know you prefer to use patches made by others. To that extend it would be interesting that Arturia would offer a platform for patch creators to sell their patches to the Collection users. If that support would be extended in the instruments themselves it could be very user friendly.
With the V Collection 7 you get 24 instruments. I don’t know about you but for me personally it is simply too much. To be honest I’ll only use a limited number of them that I know best and spend the time learning to use them and appease to my own taste. It’s not like for every song you make you’ll use all the 24 instruments. Its nice to have them though if you’ll want to create something different and can pick and choose from the Collection.
The pricing seems to be a little strange considering if you would to pay €499 for 24 instruments, you’d pay €21 per instrument. But the upgrade for 3 instruments is €199. And yes, they are newly developed instruments but there seems to be a too large price difference here. On the other side Arturia also updated their existing products by adding features that expand the usability of these instruments.
But if you were to keep the 6 version and get the new instruments separately, you’d pay much more since the single instruments would cost €149 (or introduction offer for €99). As an end user you either have to get the entire collection or just one or two single instruments. There is no middle ground there. Maybe Arturia should consider offering a Collection select variant where you can pick 6 instruments for like €249 with an upgrade path to the full version. You even can have an Arturia bundle offer where you can select instruments and effects of your choice. And of course, a Grande Collection with all software products for something like €599.
The new V collections is a very cool update with 3 new exciting emulation of classic synthesizers. As always Arturia delivered very close emulations that are well balanced and have extra additions that make them very useful in a live environment as well in the studio. The upgrade path seems to be pricey though.