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New Synth and Software Review of Plug-in Guru Unify

John McJunkin

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Plug-in Guru’s Unify v1.1.10 is both a plug-in host and plug-in that lives up to its name. Synth and Software contributor John McJunkin provides review w/video.

Unify is both a plug-in host and plug-in that lives up to its name – it unifies multiple plug-in formats and types, including MIDI effects plug-ins. It also comes with a few instruments of its own, with hundreds of preset patches from renowned synth programmer John “Skippy” Lehmkuhl of Korg fame. Lehmkuhl partnered with coding expert Shane Dunne on this studio and live performance program.

Unify is very useful on its own, something that’s obvious as soon as you start playing the included patches. These sounds are excellent, and they check the boxes we all know and love: pads, basses, leads, polysynths, monosynths, pianos, and even one-key butt-shakin’ dance grooves.

A couple of hours after getting lost playing some of the stock sounds, I remembered that I have a lot of other instrument and processing plug-ins for Unify to scan so it could host them. This takes a while, depending on how many plug-ins you have, but it scans in the background and you can continue playing while it’s working. Unify supports VST on Windows and Mac, as well as AU on Mac (AAX support is reportedly under development).

Unify is a musical playground. I started by layering Unity’s Plinky Kalimba patch with a synth string sound, slapped an arpeggiator on the kalimba, set up a ping-pong delay on an auxiliary, and added a plate reverb. Then I put an opto-compressor and limiter on the blended output of both synths.

Wow! I could have gone on like this all day (and in fact I did). It’s easy to build ridiculously rich, lush pads. Or punchy basses that knock your teeth out, or that simple grand piano and wobbly-pitch Oberheim pad thing so you can play ’80s Van Halen ballads.

The options are wide open, and I knew right away that I’d be harnessing Unify’s power to create patches for the studio and/or in live performance.

Unify has two main draws: its ability to stack and combine plug-ins in different formats in a single host, and John Lehmkuhl’s patches. Lehmkuhl has developed patches for hardware synths since before dirt was invented.

He includes over 500 of his patches for freeware synths (included with Unify), as well as some patches for numerous popular instruments you can use if you happen to own them. His work also includes third party patches for such major instruments as Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere synth, and some of them have found their way into Unify – including some truly excellent samples.

Unify can do some pretty neat MIDI processing stuff that I believe are exclusive to it. For example, let’s say you have a stack of seven synths blended together into a complex, swirling vortex of a pad, and you’d like to add some arpeggiated bells and other poly synth elements.

So you instantiate a MIDI arpeggiator and apply it only to some of the instruments in your stack. Maybe you would apply multiple arpeggiators, some at double tempo, others at half tempo, others with odd numbers of sequence steps, creating endlessly evolving, shifting soundscapes.

It’s incredibly easy to do this kind of stuff with Unify. Another example: you could create a percussive pluck sound with several layers and apply compression, saturation, and/or maybe a transient designer to just the attack element of the sound, leaving the sustain and decay parts of the sound alone. Or use offsets and panning to create motion in the stereo image.

Unify invites you to get creative with sounds. You can even open Unify instances within itself. This could be useful if you’ve created multi-instrument building block patches and want to combine them.

After spending quite a bit of time with Unify, I can pronounce it essentially crash-free. A couple of times I did get an interesting warning telling me an error had occurred and that the app was likely to crash in a moment, but it never did.

It uses computer power very efficiently, with each new layer using the resources of a new CPU core (to the extent that it is possible).

Unify is powerful, inexpensiveand useful from the moment it’s installed – a no-brainer. I’m constantly asked by people whether some product or other is worth consideration, and sometimes I hem and haw and dodge giving them a straight answer. In this case, I will unabashedly state in no uncertain terms that you should run out and get Unify right away. It will completely disrupt and improve your workflow.

Plug-in Guru Unify $79

For more information, demo version or purchase.

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