Terra is the latest Max For Live synth from the brilliant developers at K-Devices (check also our Alter Echo & Holder review). To use it you will need Ableton Live and Max For Live installed. Installation is straightforward; you get the synth in standard M4L format with no option to expand the interface, and 133 categorized presets.
Sound Architecture What looks like a fairly standard 3*oscillator synth turns out to be a bit of a monster. A scroll through the presets shows a wide variety of sounds, some bread and butter and some deliberately difficult.
The interface is split into two main regions; sound generation and effects, with a global section to the left and a modulation/unison section which can be called into view at the right-hand side. The global section is where you can perform all basic tasks, select poly or unison modes, initialise patches and set global parameters.
Each oscillator section selects between 5 waveforms: sine, triangle, saw square and pulsar. Oscillators 2 and 3 can be soft or hard synced by oscillator one as well as ring modulated. Other features include pitch mod, phase distortion, phase mod, wavefolding, FM and more. This is a pretty complete, tonebending oscillator section and can be great fun.
The standard oscillator waveforms behave as expected and the pulsar waveform is nice for spikier tones. The controls are easy to use, even if you don’t know what to expect and a wide variety of tones can be generated here. Each oscillator can be further whipped into shape by its own amplitude envelope.
FX and Modulation The effects section is pretty comprehensive too… You get three slots with 14 FX available in each. FX include; distortions, filters, delay and modulations, plus a basic reverb. There are also 4 FX routing algorithms, just in case you wanted more control.
The modulation section has up to for modulators with two targets each. Each modulator can be either; step sequencer, LFO, ADSR and DAHR envelopes. Once set to a target, the target’s dial will show a ring, so it is easy to see what’s going on in a patch. The unison section offers all the usual pitch and amplitude control over the eight voices.
In use In use, Terra is easy to dial in the sound you want, or just tweak dials until you get something interesting going on. It is traditional enough in layout to be familiar, and manages to cram a lot of features into a well laid out but compact package. It is small though, and some recent M4L devices have a boxout available with a larger view and I think this would be an improvement. Full Push controller implementation completes the package.
Overall the sound is digital and modern: it can do Moogy type sounds but is much more at home getting clanky or downright dirty, twisted and grainy.
If you are looking for a versatile, full-featured synth with the ability to generate a wide variety of modern tones, then this could be for you. At $69/49€ it is well priced for what you get and a great addition to Live’s currently available instruments.
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About The Author
Produces Techno and Ambient music, live performances as Reflektor-6n6p and K-Teck https://soundcloud.com/reflektor-6n6p
and tutorial videos as Reflektor-6n6p