Here we are again with another episode of âReview that VA!â I know, I know. Youâre thinking to yourself, âHere we go with a review of another Virtual Analog plug-in. Arenât we drowning enough in a vast sea of VAâs?â But is LennarDigitalâs Sylenth1 âjust another software VA?â Open your mind and read on.
What is Sylenth1?
Sylenth1 is an Access Virus! Ha, gotcha! While Sylenth1 doesnât offer the full feature set the Virus does, some of its sound certainly does give the aforementioned company a run for its money, to say the least. The fact of the matter is Sylenth1 is a fairly basic subtractive synthesizer not overly top-heavy in features. But what Sylenth1 lacks in extreme flexibility, it makes up for in pure digital sonic quality.
Sylenth1 proffers 4 alias free oscillators with 8 waveforms, 2 independent filters with 3 basic filter types and 12dB and 24dB slopes, and some basic modulation capabilities with two freely assignable ADSR envelopes and 2 LFO generators. Tack on a basic arpeggiator, and an effects section that include distortion, phaser, chorus, flanger, EQ, delay, reverb and a compressor that can all be used simultaneously, and you got yourself a modest little power house.
Sylenth1 is available for the PC platform in VSTi format only. There is hope for a Mac version in the future, but the future is not now.
Good copy protection schemes almost make me giddy with delight, and Sylenth1 does not disappoint. Only a license.dat file is needed to be copied into the installation directory for the full synth to be unlock.. No Challenge/Response, no dongles, no fuss. Thank you, Lennard!
With as many plug-ins as Iâve reviewed in the last few years, rarely the first thing that pops into my head on first listen is âMan, this plug-in sounds like a hardware unit.â Thick, chunky, and smooth sounds are what makes Sylenth1 sound stand out above the majority of the âdigital sound revolutionâ synthesizers. This is mostly due to the fact that each of the 4 oscillators has their own individual unison control, with up to 8 unison voices per oscillator, and up to 16 note polyphony for the full patch. Doing the math, thatâs a staggering potential of 512 notes being played simultaneously. Whatâs even more amazing is even when the polyphony count is hovering at 512, the CPU is only around 70% on my AMD 3800+ X2 dual core machine. (To put it in perspective, 7-8 notes of polyphony only take up around 1% CPU power.)
Speaking of CPU usage, I was simply amazed at how efficient Sylenth1 is across the board. On my aforementioned AMD system, thick and beefy 256 note poly patches hovered around the 40% range with full-fisted chords and simple bass sounds in the 5%-10% CPU range. It seems the CPU usage scales with the polyphony count, not that a patch is more âcomplicatedâ than another and whammo, a 70% CPU hit for 2 notes like some more recent synth incarnations. Thatâs some fancy DSP programming. My hat is off to Lennardâs expert skill.
A good chunk of preset design is obviously aimed at the dance/electronic crowd. Hoovers (What theâŠ? from the Roland Alpha Juno), Super saw emulation ala Roland JP8000âs, Roland TB-303 acid sounds and other clichĂ© âtranceâ sounds populate the 700+ presets thatâs offered with Sylenth1. Good or bad in your book (itâs quite good in mine,) there is âsomethingâ within the sound that really stands out above the crowd. If the digital sound of mega Euro dance hits is what tickles your fancy, Sylenth1 delivers. If youâre after more traditional vintage analog type sounds, they are in there too. Make no mistake; Sylenth1 is a very capable sound generation module and not just a âtranceâ synth.
With the aim of the presets in mind, I started to put together a dance tune by flipping through the available banks of sounds. Within a Âœ hour, I had my own powerful dance track going. If I had to name the Achillesâ heal of Sylenth1, it would be the bass end. What I had difficulties with was finding any bass patch that could really punch holes through brick wall mixes that Sylenth1 is very adept in creating. Some minor tweaking of the cutoff filter let some of the higher âbiteâ through, but still didnât quite cut it for me. Riffling through a few bass patches on my Access Virus C or my Roland Fantom XR really exposed the one weakness that this mostly beefy synth has. Keep in mind though that not all bass patches had this problem going up against some of the other gems in this collection. Once you get into the really thick patches, it really does take a powerful bass sound to rip a place for itself in the sonic spectrum. After writing several short demo songs (see players), this weakness became more apparent to me. No matter, as I donât think I own or have worked with one synth thatâs a master of all trades.
The more I played with Sylenth1, the more I could hear how much it has its own character. The non-aliasing oscillators are certainly a stand-out in this crowd. They remain fairly bright in the high end without any real loss of clarity. The filter also has its own character. While trying hard to be âwarm and analogâ-like, it still sounds a bit sterile and clinical to me. Flipping over to G-Mediaâs MiniMonsta (which I still feel is one of the best software analog filter emulations) for a bit confirmed what I was hearing. When Sylenth1 is pushed to the extreme, its filter does get whistle-y like Iâd expect, but just lacks that âliquidyâ goodness that the MiniMonsta filter nailed, or what a real good analog synth can deliver.
What I feel that so many synth makers miss that the âBig Boysâ obviously got years ago is give users good and plentiful amount of effects. While I can load in my own if I donât like the on-board, letâs be honest here. How inspirational is it to load in effect after effect into a rack to get down to business? Personally, Iâd rather have it right there in plain sight with plenty to choose from. The included effects are actually quite good. Not exactly top-heavy in feature, you get just the right amount for each effect. To me, effects can make or break a good synth, and again, Sylenth1 does not disappoint.
Working with the GUI is pretty straight-forward as this synth isnât buried in page after page of options. What really annoyed me though are the little arrows to the right of parameters that do nothing when you click on them. Obviously itâs a limitation of the SynthEdit GUI used on Sylenth1, but I hope to see a future enhancement to eliminate that problem. Also, I was hoping for a drop down menu for oscillator and filter selections too like the modulation envelope destination selections, but no love. Really, minor niggles that I can overlook, but wouldnât mind seeing an enhancement in the future.
If I had to sum up Sylenth1 in a single word, it would be âWow!â While the bass end didnât make my jaw hit the floor, Sylenth1 is still one of the best sounding native VSTi synths Iâve heard in the Virtual Analog space. Anyone whoâs interested in obtaining that âVirus-likeâ chunkiness in their tunes without the Virus price tag should take a close look at Sylenth1. You might find you actually like it! While youâre at it, check out the demo tunes on lennardigital.com site to hear it in action.