Review: AlphaSynth for Ableton Live

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alphasynth_053012

MSRP: $8 (monthly Micropak subscription), Puremagnetik

The latest Micropak to appear in Puremagnetik's virtual instrument subscription service is AlphaSynth, a soft-synth which aims to emulate the alphaSyntauri, an 8-bit synthesizer from the early '80s that worked in tandem with the Apple II personal computer.

The AlphaSynth is made to seamlessly work with Ableton Live (as well as Kontakt and Logic), and takes mere minutes to be fully up and running. 21 presets are provided as starting points for navigating the software's sounds, with the tones ranging from soft pads to plucky staccato keys, tuned bells, and percussion. The sonic palette available is understandably cheesy; this is, after all, an instrument modelled after one of the earliest software synthesizers. (To give you an idea, the original alphaSyntauri pre-dates the creation of Ableton Live by about 20 years.) Each preset has a touch of 8-bit to it, but maybe not quite in the way you would expect. There is only just a little crunch to any of these sounds (not that you couldn't add that in). Instead, the presets are more akin to the Doogie Howsertheme than any video game. Still, that's not to say that these sounds aren't useful. In fact, they might even be easier to utilize in a production because they aren't so obviously 8-bit.

Like most instrument racks, the controls on AlphaSynth are broken up into different stages: The eight Macro Controls include the standard envelope control, filter control, tremolo, vibrato, etc., along with some custom tweaks, such as "overtone distortion" and "space," depending on the preset. The controls can then be expanded into their individual components—stock Ableton plug-ins and sampler patches—for more detailed utilization. Overall, due to this amount of customization, you can actually build rich, lush sounds while still holding onto a touch of 8-bit quirkiness.

It's hard to say if the AlphaSynth sounds anything like the alphaSyntauri, as this now-ancient electronic instrument is rarely heard on recordings and even rarer to find still working in its original form. Sonic accuracy aside though, this Micropak from Puremagnetik does offer some really interesting sounds, and, considering its ease of use, should be a welcome addition to the arsenal of any producer looking for slightly curious, retro-minded sounds that are ripe for customization.

Check out a few audio samples from AlphaSynth below.