The Ultimate Virtual Analog Synth?

Lately I’ve been searching for the ultimate virtual analog synth. Does it currently exist?… So far, I haven’t found it! Some synths come close, but note of them tick all the boxes for me. I’ll list the synths and their shortcomings towards the end of this article.

Ultimate features:

  • Analog quality audio
    • Needs to have that high end fizz and sparkle like real analog
    • U-he Diva, The Legend, and Blamsoft VK-2 all fit this requirement for me
  • Modular or Semi-Modular components
    • Something like Diva works well for this, being able to swap out filter modules that have different characteristics
  • Many types of filters, with overdrive and Filter FM
    • Filters are especially important for me, and I love having different synth filters to choose from, such as Diva has, or the Matrix-12 Filters
    • Filter FM needs to be audio rate
    • Filter overdrive really embodies part of the analog sound for me
    • Would be great to have multiple filters in series
  • Polyphonic Unison Stacking
    • Need to have polyphony and unison at the same time, such as the stacking feature in Diva
    • Analog pitch drifting with control over amount
  • Advanced modulation routing
    • The most important part for me is being able to control the envelope decay with velocity
  • Analog Oscillator FM
    • Again U-he Diva, Synapse The Legend, and Blamsoft VK-2 all are really good at this, especially VK-2

Synth candidates and shortcomings

  • U-he Diva
    • Gets very close, but doesn’t have advanced modulation routing to be able to control envelope decay time with velocity
    • Also wish it had more control over filter drive
    • It would be nice to have a second filter for all filter types
  • Blamsoft VK-2
    • Good:
      • Lots of high end sparkle and authenticity
      • Great drive options
    • Bad:
      • Like Diva, it can’t route velocity to envelope decay time
  • U-he Repro-5
    • Can’t do polyphonic unison (voice stacking like Diva)
    • Doesn’t have very many filter types
  • Synapse The Legend
    • Wish it had more filter types
    • Can’t modulate decay time with velocity
  • Arturia Pigments
    • Lacks some of that high end sparkle and fizz that Diva or VK-2 have
      • If it only had a “Great” and “Divine” quality modes?
    • Love its interface and mod routing options, but filter FM is only available on certain filters.
  • FXPansion Cypher 2
    • Lacking some analog sparkle
    • Heard of some bugs that haven’t been fixed
  • FXPansion Strobe
    • No audio rate Filter FM
    • Single filter
  • Reason Europa
    • Lacking filter FM
    • Sometimes the unison sounds a little artificial
  • UVI Falcon
    • Doesn’t have audio rate Filter FM
    • The analog oscillators are not so authentic (PWM doesn’t have a DC offset, etc.)
    • The oscillator FM is digital, not analog style
  • Omnisphere
    • Lacking filter FM
    • Lacking filter drive control
    • Lacking analog oscillator FM
    • PWM isn’t accurately modeled with DC offset, and wavetable PWM has low resolution stair stepping
  • Xfer Serum
    • No filter FM
    • No analog osclliator FM
    • Note stealing behavior resets envelope and doesn’t sound analog
    • Single filter per voice
  • U-he Hive
    • Good:
      • Dual filters
    • Bad:
      • Lacking some analog sparkle
      • Lacking filter FM
  • U-he ACE
    • Good:
      • Dual Filters
    • Bad:
      • Lacks different filter models (though it has multiple slopes)
      • Filters to be lacking a little high end detail. I love the drive control, though I wish it had Diva’s filter types.
  • Korg ARP Odyssey
    • Lacking advanced modulation routing
    • Not very many filter types
  • Korg MonoPoly
    • Lacking analog sparkle
    • Lacking swappable filter types
  • KV331 SynthMaster
    • Lacking filter FM
    • Lacking a little analog sparkle
    • Has a polyphony stealing bug where the active notes are stolen before inactive ones
  • NI Reaktor Rounds
    • Limited to only 4 notes of polyphony
    • Doesn’t have many filter options
    • Only a single filter
  • NI Super 8
    • Again, doesn’t have many filter options
    • Only a single filter
  • NI Reaktor User Library
    • Maybe there are some good synths here? But I haven’t found many that really compete…
  • Kilohearts PhasePlant
    • Sounds too sterile and digital…
  • MSoundFactory
    • Haven’t tried it yet… any comments on this one?

They all seem to have deficits! For me Diva and VK-2 both get the closest, but are lacking advanced modulate the filter decay time.

Any other synths you think thing of that I’m missing? I’d love to know if you think you’ve found one that will check off all of my requirements for the ultimate analog synth. Please post in the comments below, and we’ll try to update the article.

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    • Excellent thought! Thanks for the comment. I was looking at Dune 3 recently, but I had installed it previously and the demo period had expired before I really got a chance to try it out. Based on that, I’m left listening to other people’s demos and comments about it.

      I heard one person say that the distortion on it was not oversampled enough and had aliasing, which is an important point to me. To me, high quality distortion is a very important part of the analog sound, especially when it comes to the individual circuits over driving at various stages.

      I think I’ll have to figure out a way to get it installed on a computer I have access to and see if I can try it out, and add it to the list above. Thanks for the recommendation!

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