Extend your keyboard’s capabilities with oscillator and effects plug-ins from Sinevibes.
You’re likely aware of Korg’s prologue, minilogue XD, and NTS-1. You may even own one. Although the prologue and minilogue XD are true analog synthesizers, all three synths have a digital oscillator as well as digital modulation, delay, and reverb effects. To extend their digital capabilities, Korg created a software development kit (SDK) allowing developers to design new plug-ins for them. Korg also hosts an SDK site with a long list of both free and paid plug-ins, and there are quite a few. As with many freeware plug-ins, the quality can vary from really great to ho-hum.
Sinevibes is a software developer that makes an assortment of excellent effects and synth plug-ins for the Mac. They’ve jumped on the Korg bandwagon big time, offering fourteen plug-ins that comprise three oscillators, eight modulation effects, two delays, and one reverb. My interest was piqued, and I wanted to find out what their plug-ins add to these cool synths. The answer, as you’ll see, is quite a lot. With fourteen plug-ins, I’ll try to keep my comments concise but hopefully helpful.
Loading the Plug-Ins
I did all my testing on a minilogue XD (thanks to Korg for the loan). You download the plug-ins to your Mac or PC and then transfer them to your synth using Korg’s free downloadable Librarian. Different versions of the plug-ins are specific to each type of synth.
To install, simply drag the Sinevibes plug-ins into the appropriate Oscillator or Effect Type list in the Librarian in the order you want them to appear, hit Send, and everything will be uploaded in one shot. It worked the first time I tried it. The plug-ins then appear in the associated sections right after Korg internals, in the order you defined. Use the Multi-Engine TYPE knob to scroll through the list of oscillators. For effects, first select the type (Mod, Delay, Reverb) and then repeatedly click the On/Off/Select switch up to Select to access the effects list. The process is a little cumbersome, but it works.
Multi Engine Oscillators
All the Sinevibes oscillators use unique sound-generation techniques, and each has a different set of menu parameters. The SHAPE knob always varies the fundamental tone. Pressing the appropriate sequencer button cycles through the plug-in’s menu of parameters, and the main PROGRAM/VALUE knob changes their values. The synth’s main LFO can also modulate the digital oscillator. Sinevibes spent a lot of time ensuring that tweaking parameters is totally smooth and glitch-free—a real treat.
Bent: Starting with sine carrier and modulator oscillators, Bent adds a “bender” function that changes the modulator’s curvature, phase, and symmetry. It has five basic waveform shapes with an AR envelope and LFO to modulate the bending. Bent sounds a bit like a cross between FM, phase modulation, and waveshaping. It can generate lots of new harmonics, which can be quite brash but can also produce very subtle filter-like changes. I was able to create some really interesting and lovely tonalities with a hybrid DX7- and Casio CZ-like character.
Tube: Tube’s resonator modeling synthesis starts with four styles of noise routed through two resonant comb filter types with feedback and a lowpass filter in its loop. The noise excites the filter, which acts like a pitched resonant tube. A simple envelope with Attack and Depth parameters modulates the noise-excitement depth, and an LFO modulates pitch. Delicate multi-plucked grains, distorted flute, and bowed wire tones were a few I stumbled upon. In combination with the analog section, Tube generated some very unusual and organic-sounding timbres.
Turbo: A waveshaping plug-in using two detunable sine-wave oscillators, Turbo stuck me as the most variable of the three oscillators. An AR envelope modulates five waveshape types, and the oscillators have a choice of eight tuning ratios. The matrix of waveshaping, detuning, and ratios provides for tremendous timbral change, resulting in pulsating timbres and PPG Wave-like digital sonics with great harmonic complexity and movement.
While Turbo was my favorite, all three oscillators provide tons of sonic potential. The sound quality is uniformly excellent and the tonalities are distinctive. These plug-ins greatly expand the synth’s timbral capabilities.
Sinevibes Effects Plug-Ins
Korg’s effects design is simple, with both internal and plug-in effects limited to only two parameters. Only delay and reverb let you control the wet/dry mix. Not having a wet/dry mix on the modulation effects is limiting, as some can be overpowering. Korg provides quite a few internal effects, so let’s review the effects that Sinevibes plug-ins can add to your synth.
Delay and Reverb Effects
Time: This is a stereo delay with nice high end, six seconds of delay, and feedback allowing for infinite looper effects along with all sorts of standard slaps and echoes. You can wiggle the delay time without any glitching, and I was able to get some very long and dense loops. Time’s long delay time is a welcome addition to Korg’s shorter internal delays.
Rerun: Rerun is a glitch-like sampler delay that randomly grabs variable slices of stereo audio that repeat until a new random sized slice is taken, with a random number of repeats. TIME defines the average sample slice and DEPTH the average number of repeats, with both being randomized. Tweaking the knobs yields all sorts of dynamic chopped, sliced, and diced sounds that are loads of fun, interesting, and way cool.
Albedo: Called a cloud reverb, Albedo is like a reverb version of Rerun. It creates a splatter-like but diffused reverb by playing back 16 randomized grains of audio from a buffer into a stereo widening process. TIME selects from four different grain sizes, and DEPTH sets the amount of feedback. At the extreme DEPTH setting, it freezes the buffer audio into a dense infinite reverb. With minimal feedback and shorter time, gated reverb effects are also possible. It’s a lovely effect, different from any of the internal reverbs, and you have plenty of spaces to explore with this plug-in.
Corrosion: Corrosion is a foldback distortion effect with five different algorithm types. DEPTH selects the type, and the TIME sets distortion amount. The difference between types is subtle, but all can go from just a tad to paint-peeling rad, especially with resonant filter sweeps.
DCM8: This Sinevibes plug-in combines sample-rate and bit-depth reduction. TIME controls the sample rate, and DEPTH controls the bit depth. Moderate settings get you Boards of Canada lo-fi textures. At the extremes you can grind any sound into the dust—high quality/low quality, as it were.
Ring: This ring modulator has a tunable oscillator and a built-in envelope follower. TIME determines the oscillator frequency, and DEPTH determines the amount and direction of the envelope follower’s pitch modulation. At low settings, ring mod provides lovely tremolo. At high frequencies, you can expect clangorous tones. The envelope follower produces dynamic timbral change, especially with velocity-sensitive sounds. I often found myself in Yamaha CS-80 territory.
Shift: This frequency shifter transposes a sound’s partials equally, similar to the way a ring modulator can result in non-tonal timbres. TIME controls shift amount and TIME sets the shift direction, positive or negative. There’s no dynamic control or LFO, so the effect is static, but if you like R2D2 sounds, wiggling with Shift is the ticket.
Drift: This is a stereo panner with a smoothed random modulation. TIME sets the mod rate and DEPTH the panning amount. Turning DEPTH past halfway adds amplitude modulation. At slower speeds, Drift really animates the sound around the stereo field and sounds beautiful. Faster rates get a bit wobbly but still stay smooth.
Whirl: This frequency shifter-based phaser sweeps continuously in either an upward or downward direction. The singular direction sweep is more noticeable at faster speeds, but at slower speeds, it sounds similar to a standard phaser. TIME controls direction and speed, and DEPTH adds feedback. I love phasers, and this one sounds smooth, rich, and creamy. It can also create some weirdly pitch-shifted effects at faster rates.
Dipole: This Sinevibes plug-in has two versions of flanging, (+) and (-), using a pair of delay lines that modulate at slightly different speeds. The (-) creates a great “jet fly-by,” deep-cancellation flange, while the (+) provides a more chorus-like effect. TIME sets the mod speed and DEPTH adds feedback. Both sound truly exceptional and better than many pedals or high-end computer plug-ins I’ve tried.
SVF: This is a 24db-per-octave state-variable filter with lowpass, bandpass, and highpass versions. TIME controls the cutoff frequency, and DEPTH adds resonance to the point of serious feedback. The filter sounds great with a steep cutoff slope. There’s no modulation, so changes require manual knob tweaking, which can be fun with a sequence or arpeggiator running.
Pimp Your Synth with Sinevibes Plug-Ins
Obviously, I like the Sinevibes plug-ins a lot. They are all very high quality with great sonics, and they really complement the internal Korg offerings. Knob twisting and resulting sound change is extremely smooth, inviting lots of tweaking and exploration. The available parameters make sense, and though I clearly missed modulation in some effects, that’s an SDK restriction. As I mentioned, the oscillators are a complement to the internals and allow for some truly wonderful and distinctive sounds.
Oscillators cost $29 each or $69 for all three. Effects are $19 each and $129 for all eleven, or you can get everything for $179. While reasonable for computer plug-ins, they’re a little bit steep, especially for the minilogue XD, which sells for $649. The cost ratio is better for the prologue plug-ins, due to the synth’s higher price.
I’d like to see a mix-and-match, build-your-own bundle with an increasing discount as you add more to the pot, a common approach these days. If I had a prologue, I’d likely get everything. If I had a minilogue XD, I’d look a little more carefully for plug-ins that best suit my musical style. With all the variations, sound quality, and tweakability, Sinevibes plug-ins are totally top notch. No matter what plug-ins you choose, you’re sure to be inspired and end up spending lots of time creating some terrific new sounds. Highly recommended!