Fxpansion Strobe2 Review – More Is Better (Sometimes)

Fxpansion’s Strobe (from the DCAM Synth Squad synth package) has been one of the best circuit-modelled analogue mono synth offerings on the software market for some time now – it’s been one of my go-to synths for years now.
In a nutshell Strobe was a vintage emulation with enhanced with feature requests such as polyphony, a modulation system, parallel waveforms, osc-stacking and eclectic filtering options. Now, Strobe2 has arrived.

News and improvements
Expanding upon the solid groundwork laid by the original Strobe’s signature, a super-oscillator with sync, detuning and stacking, and warm saturating VCA, Strobe2 adds a spectacular effects section, preset-morphing, randomizing, enhanced modulation processing, overhauled arpeggiator.
Additionally, they’ve added a gorgeous new scalable vector interface for retina and 4k displays.

I conducted a series of blind A/B tests comparing the sounds in the default patches between Strobe and Strobe2. I consistently picked Strobe2 as the better sounding synth – just slightly cleaner while still retaining all of the same beauty and punch.

Differences were less apparent when both synths’ oversampling were upped to 8x from 2x. Feast your ears upon this playlist for Strobe2 demo sounds.

The new effects page supports two sets of FX chains, each boasting three FX slots. 25 unique, high-quality FX devices can occupy these slots – many of which are derivative of DCAM Synth Squad’s Fusor layering and performance FX environment. This list includes classics such as Amber Formants, Amber Chorus along with DCAM compressors, but is also comprised of a slew of new devices: EQs, new Amber Chorus models, a harmonic enhancer, transient shaper, HQ reverb, pattern delay, lo-fi modeled ring modulator circuit, FM oscillator modulated by incoming audio, and a vintage digital-to-analogue converter effect module. It should be noted that all effect parameters may be modulated via Strobe2’s industrious TransMod system.

There are 8 quick-preset slots for live performance use, as any currently playing notes are not interrupted. Preset morphing and freezing is now available for transitional morphing between presets, and they’ve added a Randomizer for creating random variations of a sound (some parameters may be Locked and remain unaffected throughout these operations).

Check this video to view the Randomizer in action.

There have also been some under-the-hood changes with respect to CPU optimizations and voice engine improvements – providing faster response, more accurate timing and tighter envelopes. The browser has been redesigned and there is a new 900+ preset factory library included.

Strobe2 has undergone numerous synth engine enhancements as well, namely with respect to Osc section improvements. They’ve included a Phase Reset button for resetting oscillator phase on every note-on received. Constant-beat detuning allows for oscillator ‘beating’ rates to remain constant throughout the keyboard range.

Tone filters have been placed within the main Osc, Sub-Osc and Noise sections – shelf-style EQ filters for pre-V.C.F. filter adjustments (these are always consistent throughout the keyboard range as the center of the shelf’s slope remains permanently two octaves above the osc’s Pitch parameter).

Sub Osc Link causes the Sub Osc to also be affected by the Main Osc’s Sync, Stack and Detune functions, and there is a dedicated Sub Osc Octave range setting for each sub-osc (+/-3 octaves above or below).
The Sub osc waveshaper’s Shape parameter provides more harmonically rich sub tonality control.

The V.C.F. (Filter) section has also grown more formidable with the advent of Strobe2. The Drive control is now gain-compensated: while the timbre changes, the level stays constant (a prudent solution for having needed to clumsily adjust the Amp parameter to compensate in the original Strobe). The new Leak parameter allows an adjustable amount of original signal through – simulating the effect of a bleeding filter circuit. Transitioning between filter modes is now much smoother as well (allowing for continuous modulation).

Fxpansion has added quite a few augmentations to the modulation system as well. A secondary ‘sub LFO’ derived by dividing/multiplying by the main LFO rate, which can be mixed with the main LFO signal via the LFO+Sub TransMod source, which can provide significantly more robust modulation shapes. The ramp now has a Loop mode, providing essentially a polyphonic saw-wave (or other shape if remapped) LFO. Strobe2 boasts 16 TransMod slots, double that of Strobe v1. The Euclid modulation processor, using Euclidean geometry and a spring model, can create chaotic and complex modulation signals for use in the TransMod system, and can be used as an X-Y pad.

Here is the official Fxpansion overview video for the changes to Strobe2

Overall, Strobe2 is a lot of bang for your buck. Building upon what was already a powerhouse synth – the new gorgeous vector interface combined with a massive increase in functionality, features, and sound quality make this hard to pass up.

This synth is one of the most formidable software synth choices for electronic music producers and creative musicians of all types – its flexibility in
sound design and use combined with impressively emulated analog/vintage tonality are virtually unmatched.
The new smooth preset switching and morphing features make this one of the more versatile digital synths for live use I’ve yet to encounter.
Purchase price is currently $179.00 (€165.00, £119.00 inc VAT). Upgrade offer for registered DCAM Synth Squad customers: $79.00, €72.00, £52.00 inc VAT.

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