Ease Of Use
I reviewed the Arturia V collection a while back, and while I was totally impressed with the sound, the reliability of the products made me hesitant to use in any important projects that I needed my software to be reliable for. With the release of version 5, I’m hoping that Arturia listened to the feedback from their clients, and grew some stability around some truly fantastic sounding instruments.
V collection 5 has expanded from collection 4, adding the vintage Synclavier, Hammond and Farfisa organs, the Rhodes electro piano, and a modeled piano collection (9 different models) making the entire collection an impressive 17 instruments. If you’re upgrading from 4 to 5, you’ll keep the excellent drum machine Spark.
However, if you’re buying 5 outright, you won’t get the Spark drum library, which is a bit of a downer.
For in-depth descriptions of the collection, see my original review. I’ll briefly cover the new instruments here.
The software center is much improved. When you open up any plugins, it checks if it’s the latest version, and if not, a simple click automatically updates any Arturia plugins that need updating. Very smooth.
Now let’s find out more about the new instruments…
Ohmigosh. Synclavier immediately goes to the top of my fave Arturia plugins. I’ve never played an original but have heard a LOT of great things about it. Mr Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel (among others) used it extensively. Released in the late 70’s, it was one of the first digital polysynths. So emulating it here is easier in some senses than analog emulation. It’s an FM synth that also makes use of digital sampling. The GUI is excellent; very simple and clear, and the sound is just awesome. Such an 80’s vibe, thin, gritty, noisy. Just brilliant, and a lovely complement to all the warm analog goodness that’s already in the collection. And it’s lovely and light on the CPU too. If you want to dive into the synth and build your own sounds, a little click on the top of the window opens up another board with all the parameters for FM synthesis, including 12 partials to work with. I found it a lot more intuitive than Native Instruments FM8 synth for example, and the sounds I could create I found more enjoyable. Really quality instrument here.
I’ve been looking for a decent emulation of the Hammond for a long time. There isn’t really one out there. I love the B3 sound on my Nord, but have not found anything close to equivalent in any soft synth. I was very impressed with the sound of it, as an emulation. You can manually move the bars, map them to midi, and move them with controllers. It doesn’t take much effort to have a great organ sound going.
I particularly liked the control over the Leslie; you can change the acceleration of the drum and the horn separately, change the stereo spread, add convolution reverb, change the speed of the slow and fast rotations, open and close the Leslie, to darken and brighten the sound. If you hit the GUI expand button, you get some deeper options, such as noise leakage from the tone wheels and the keys, key click volume, background noise, etc. There’s a great modulation option, where you can modulate the bars with 16 different parameters, from multipoint envelopes, LFO’s and step sequences. Here’s a quick video demonstrating the possibilities here. Excellent stuff.
Another great sounding emulation that’s light on the CPU. The modeled guitar pedals are available at the bottom of the GUI for all of the organ and electromechanical key plugins. They are chorus, phaser, delay, flanger and overdrive. I liked the potential for them in this instance, as I love the Farfisa when it’s driving a bit, and has some phaser on it. Of course, you could do this with your own plugins, but it’s nice to be able to do it all in one place.
I have a Rhodes 73 Mk1 sitting in my studio, and it gets a fair amount of use. I was interested to see how this emulation stands up. Again, I was impressed. I haven’t got many soft version of the Rhodes to compare it to, but the Arturia version stood head and shoulders above them. The sonic flexibility is second to none. You have to spend a bit of time with it, but you can create a tone you love fairly easily. Again, the options in the expanded view are excellent, enabling you to change the tone from a bright midrangey sound to a dark muffled bell tone. You can move the pickup distance, resonance bar, and hammer volume amongst other things, to really shape the sound you want.
This was good, but perhaps the weakest link for me of all the collection. Maybe it’s because I’m a pianist first, and I’m ultra-picky about piano sound, but it just didn’t sound as quality as I’d hoped. I still feel like I can hear the modeled piano sounds (including the modart one) and prefer sampled libraries. Maybe it’s just psychology. No idea. Still, there are plenty of options, including 9 different piano models of various grand and upright pianos, including a glass and metal grand.
Updates for everything, starting with Midi mapping!
This was a big one – I can’t remember if it was this good in collection 4, but in 5, you can map simply to any controller, and the software retains the mapping regardless of what DAW you’re in, or how you load the software up. This is huge – it saves so much time, as you do it once, and then you have mapped hardware tweaking the elements of the synths whatever you’re doing in the studio. Brilliant!
Over all of the different plugins is now a standard menu system that gives you quick access to all the important utilities, such as presets, tagging, import and export of presets, and the all important window re-sizing. Everything just looks so much better, less cluttered and simpler somehow. It was much more of a pleasure to work with the older plugins, without getting frustrated. It was hard to tell, but I felt like the sound had improved on some of the synths, also, which is a great bonus.
The expanded menu
The button click that reveals another panel on each instrument has been vastly improved and made much more tantalizing. As with the video of the B3 shown above, many of the original instruments now have much more contemporary visuals to the modulation and motion controls – everything looks so much more clean and accessible. Instantly more attractive to diving in and playing with the sound.
Immediately on opening some of the synths, I could tell some major issues have been dealt with. One was CPU – which rendered a couple of synths inoperable on my fast Mac Desktop. The Solina opened up and played absolutely fine, no glitching or distortion, even on playing several chords at once. It seems to have easily halved the processing usage, which is fantastic.
Another gripe I had was the size of the instruments. In trying to keep the vintage element alive, most of the instruments represent the original visually as much as is possible in 2 dimensions. The downside to this was the fact that the screen got incredibly cluttered with all the unnecessary elements of the keyboard (such as the fan on the CS80). This has been resolved massively with a cleaner, RE-SIZEABLE GUI. I was so happy when the keyboards showed up on the screen, as these are GUI’s that I can work with, and click the various buttons without having to move the mouse in micro cent increments so as to avoid the button next to it. Great job!
There were other issues – the sustain didn’t work on the Rhodes: it seemed stuck in legato mode whatever I did, and as soon as I played the next note, the original note would come off, regardless of sustain down or up.
This has been resolved in a minor update. I’m hopeful that Arturia will continue on the minor update path, squashing bugs as and when they become obvious. It will lead to much happier customers, for a start, and it seems a shame to not build on what is obviously such a great product, by stabilizing the software, and giving paranoid people like me no reason to wonder whether to use the collection on big projects.
Here’s the biggest boon for me, with the latest software update:
The patch reliability seems to have been resolved! I have used the software consistently for the last few months, and have not had any re-loads losing my settings or presets. This bodes very well. As I stated in my review of collection 4, recall of settings is absolutely essential, and without complete stability there, it renders software pretty much useless. I’m very hopeful that they’ve resolved this totally now.
I think Arturia has taken a massive step forward with this collection. Not only are the additional instruments an enrichment to the selection of vintage synths, but the big step forward in usability and stability have taken the collection to a completely new standard.
I really feel like these great sounding instruments are now housed in a solid stable platform that will earn accolades and new fans in plenty of numbers.
Well done Arturia for the great work. I highly recommend this collection for a mountain of beautiful sound, that will keep drawing you back for more!
At the time of writing, the collection is available for approx. $444, for more info see Arturia’s website.
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