Note: the just released 1.0.1 version introduces tabbed screen for the master section so it fits 13″ screens (fixing the problem mentioned in the review) and parameter locks on all controls.
Dmitry Sches brought us his Diversion synth back in October 2011 and it caused quite a stir. It has been steadily improved upon since then, but apart from a long since abandoned Computer Music version of the effects section of Diversion, nothing new since then. Until now…
Welcome Tantra Tantra is a 2 stereo channel rhythmic effects processor, available for Windows and Mac OS X. Each channel can consist of up to 7 effects: Tremolo (3 flavours), Filter, Distortion, Delay, LoFi, Flanger and Glitch, which can all be reordered any way you like as long as you only want one of each effect. Double this up with the second, independently edited, channel and you’ve got some real mangle power there. The two channels can run in parallel or series. The master channel consists of a 3 band sweepable EQ, a very usable Reverb, Master Dry/Wet and Volume with a Limiter.
First impressions Beautiful. Soft colours laid out against the muted background with no unwanted shocks to the system, except… I’m doing this review on a 13” MacBook pro, non-retina, and the interface doesn’t fit. I got about ½ the narrow master panel at the bottom missing. I can access the larger knobs, but not the smaller ones. I have contacted Dmitry who is looking into it.
Modulation Where Tantra comes alive is in its use of modulators. Across the top of the GUI runs a Step/Curve editor with up to 32 steps. To the right you can select which of 8 of these modulators to edit. Select step edit mode and you get up to 32 step bars to edit up and down. Editing features are comprehensive and each Modulator can be saved and recalled. In curve mode, you get up to 32 curved envelope type segments, with a ‘Tension’ control to adjust the curves between logarithmic, linear and exponential curves. The speed of each modulator can be set independently relative to DAW tempo. Editing is straightforward enough using the circular handles on the shapes and a combination of right and left clicking to set the number of steps. There is a Slide/Lock control, when Slide is engaged any sideways movement of the envelope handles slides the remainder of the sequence accordingly. When locked everything remains in place except the handle being edited. Oh and there are shuffle and gate time controls too. The Matrix is the link between the Modulators and the Effects. It is a simple 24 channel Source, Amount, Destination type of affair with an overall bypass button, which I surprisingly found useful, so you can instantly hear what a mess you’ve made of things. All good, no-frills stuff. In fact, in my opinion, this is one of the most well-organized GUIs I have used. There are no visual shocks, all the controls are logically chosen and placed. Really tidy work. The individual effects all work as expected and sound excellent. There is a good selection of filters including phasers, ring mod and a vowel filter among others. Distortion comes in tube and overdrive flavours and does some good fuzz box action. The delay is high quality…. In fact, all the effects are nicely designed and work well together and this is the important bit, they all sound of a piece, like they belong together. There is a good selection of presets for dubbing out your drums and tripping out your leads and pads. With careful editing more generative type material is possible when using differing sequence lengths and the results obtained are of a professional standard.
Conclusion I really enjoyed exploring Tantra. It can be a quick fix for tired loops, or something much more expressive/subtle can be achieved with a bit of time spent. It’s a shame about the GUI not fitting my screen. I think this problem was discovered too late to be fixed for the initial release, but Dmitry is aware of it and is on it. I would also like to have seen lockable dry/wet controls in the master section. Overall Tantra is an excellent sounding piece of kit with a wide range of uses.
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