Avenger is a big synth for a limitless mindset and a turnkey hit-maker.
Pros: – The sound. Crystalline, full and rich – 900, beautifully designed presets – Immense Versatility
Cons: – Expensive preset expansions
Vengeance-Sound is conspicuous and memorable for two things. One, its world famous sample libraries and two, the Nexus ROMpler. To say that the announcement of Avenger earlier this summer was a surprise would be a massive understatement. Users of Nexus have long gushed over its pristine sound, quality effects and incredible library.
In fact, dialing through the presets on Nexus is like hearing an audible resume of No.1 pop and dance music records for the last ten years. So what’s the problem? Although widely thought of as a synthesizer, Nexus is nothing of the sort. It is simply a preset Jukebox with ADSR, filtering and a nifty trance gate. An essential tool for Billboard pretenders, certainly – but it simply does not come equipped for serious sound designers or musicians to build a hook sound from scratch or create something unique to be remembered by.
Enter the VPS Avenger. We should have all seen this coming – especially after witnessing the rabid success of Duda’s wavetable monster, Serum. It was the most logical step for VPS and one can’t help thinking that they almost over-delivered. The Avenger runs deep in terms of technical capability and, at first glance could prove quite a turnoff to those unfamiliar with ITB synthesis.
So many of the things that producers desire are present and correct in the packed GUI. The preset browser is a tour de force. It is, in my opinion, how all synth browsers should work. Open the 4.5GB factory bank by double clicking and you are presented with a clear list of categories on the left-hand side, beginning with ARP and ending at VOICE. As you click on each title icon a comprehensive list appears in the adjacent search result column. Simples.
Underneath though, you have what VPS calls a ‘Tag Cloud’. This lexicon of useful words and genres has 39 key phrases or words based on genre, instrumentation and sound ‘color’. Simply click a category, LEADS for instance, and then narrow your search by clicking in the tag browser until you have a selection of potential winners to audition. If however, you have a few favorites that you remember the names of, you can simply type them in at the bottom to recall or, alternatively you can just search by Sound Designer or Artist in the right-hand box.
The real journey with Avenger begins by right clicking on the MEMORY button above OSCILLATOR 1 and selecting Init from the dropdown.
Generating Sounds You will be greeted with a comprehensive list of sound generators including classic Virtual Analog Waveforms, Single Cycle Shapes, Wavetables and Samples.
There are so many impressive yet simple-to-utilize functions that make Avenger easy to deploy in the field. For instance, after pulling up a wavetable you can immediately get to work with X-Side, a control that allows you to bend the WT from left to right – incredibly useful for getting those face-pummelling EDM drop sounds. You may then busy yourself with formant sculpting or employ WSYNC-ADD which will sync your WT with itself – a great start for those interested in giving analog character to their new patch.
Routing and Signal Flow Here’s where it gets interesting. To add another generator, simply click the “+” button adjacent to your current one and it will appear. You may add up to eight separate generators and a drum machine (more of that later) and each has it’s own, independent signal flow through Avenger.
These sound sources are tagged with individual colors that will show up in any of the modules that you have used in their signal path – a quite brilliant way to keep you tinkering and stop you having a meltdown trying to figure out which modules are contributing to which layer of your patch.
When it comes to routing and signal flow, Vengeance Sound has made things very logical. Using the purple “+” button on the ROUTE tab reveals a drop down with all the available options that have yet to be used. Simply scroll, pick and add one to the list. SHAPER, AMP, and FILTER can be reorganized (with each other only) in the routing diagram.
This is an area where a great deal of your sound design will take place. You can choose up to four Amps, filters and/or sound shapers per generator. Adding a SEND effect like reverb, for instance, is as easy as selecting and clicking it to instantiate, and then adjusting the send level to taste. The Arts Acoustic reverb that comes with Avenger is gorgeous, as one would expect.
To adjust the reverb itself look for your color code in the FX section at the bottom left of the GUI to catch the correct instance. I would like to make note of another, quite brilliant feature here – when right clicking on any of the headings under the Route tab Avenger has a ‘Go To’ feature that animates a red outline from your position to the actual destination module. This is borderline genius and very helpful when negotiating this bulging Leviathan for the first time.
Interestingly and, as a welcome addition, each generator gets a full mixer channel where you can adjust level and panning as well as mute and solo. There is a sub mixer to the right where you can balance your generators (OSCs) and Drums with a MASTER output to finish.
If you select the EDITOR tab after picking your generator you’ll find one of my favorite features – the FFT editor where you can directly edit the harmonic content of your sound, either free-hand with your mouse or through the controls. This is very useful when you’re trying to seat your new patch in a dense or synth-heavy mix – it can embolden your sounds or free them of excess frequency content.
Drum Machine Surprisingly Avenger includes a fully functioning drum machine accessible from the dedicated DRUMS tab next to the OSC tab. As shown in the picture you can pull in your own samples or use any of the carefully pre-selected kits included with the plugin (of which there are over 160!). You can thoroughly manipulate your samples in the editor below as well as cram them through Send effects in the Routing window just like your standard generators.
There is a drum sequencer under the DRM SQ tab, the 12 kit pieces themselves are laid out from Bottom (Kick) to Top (Crash) over one octave of a piano roll. Simply click your notes in or use one of the many sequences that come in the factory bank.
A fun way to gain inspiration is to use the Key Split functionality under the zones tab to trigger your drum sequence from the lowest note of your keyboard (C) and then you’ll have the rest of your ivory’s free to jam on. This is really useful when you’re trying to imagine a groove as you’re designing a sweet synth sound with one of the 8 available generators. Simply hold the C key down to start off your drum sequence.
Modulation across the Nation One of the most important options on any new virtual synth is the inclusion of multiple, mind-bending modulation options. The Avenger does not disappoint. The creation is simplicity itself, though. First pick your source: STEP SQ, PITCH or MODENV and then drag from the six dots to the left to your target control parameter.
A tiny orange triangle appears at 11 O’clock and then you drag it with your mouse to set the modulation depth – just the way we like it and as easy as in the original modulation king, NI’s Massive.
The modulation is straightforward, direct and effective. It literally boggles your mind when you start to imagine what you can do at this point in your patch design. But wait – there’s more! It is not enough to have a myriad different sources and destinations for your frenzied modulations. To really be in the game, a manufacturer must include a Modulation Matrix. Avenger’s is very comprehensive. Again it’s easier than you’d expect. Just hit the “+” button to add a source then choose “-select target-” from the first row to assign. You can create unlimited modulations in this synth.
Stunning FX We’ll tie this up with the insane FX module. One other thing I didn’t mention at the beginning of this test was that VPS is reasonably well know in EDM producer circles for it’s lively ‘Essential FX’ bundles. They really are some of the very best available and Avenger comes pre-stocked with almost all of them. The most notable is Mini Stop – a pint sized version of the celebrated Tape Stop plugin that you can use on the Master FX tab. Also included are another six premium effects from Arts Acoustic including Vintage Chorus/Flanger/Phaser, Ensemble ARP, Ensemble 330 and an awesome Rotary Simulator.
You can create up to four separate FX Busses and fill all eight slots in them with any of the available on-board effects (of which there are 32) all accessible from any of your eight generators. These racks process the input signal only and can effect each other, output through one of four busses to the host DAW or the Master out. The Send effects are triggered from each OSCs routing module and are processed with the dry signal as in any DAW or mixer.
Conclusion To do the VPS Avenger justice right now would take in excess of 50 pages. This article has barely touched on the astounding capabilities of this immense VSTi-piece.
Avenger is a big synth for a limitless mindset. If you are happy with Nexus or your Sylenth preset library you probably don’t need this synth – however, once you’ve heard the incredibly fat, immaculate and refined output from Avenger’s arsenal of OSCs you’ll find yourself to be in a restless state of mind until you have it in your plugin folder.
For the sound designers and bleeding edge producers, I’m afraid to say that Avenger is a must. Call it a game changer if you like – I prefer to think of it as the most powerful and elegant solution for creating hit records there is. For this year at least.
Price and Availability Avenger weighs in at $220/199€ and you can find more info here. FYI: Vengeance-Sound is offering a 20% Xmas discount. Just enter XMAS20 at checkout.
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About The Author
Baby Brown is a composer/Producer and guitar player.
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