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Arturia Analog Factory Experience
Analog Factory 2.0

Review by: Jason Buchwald
 
             
  Features  Usability  Documentation & Product Support  Price  Other Comments
Contact Info  Overall Rating—Product Summary
 
             
             
   


   
   


We loved Arturia’s JP-8V when we reviewed it a few months ago, so when Winter NAMM arrived this past January, we couldn’t wait to pay a visit to Arturia’s booth to see what other new goodies they had in store. Our favorite looking new toy certainly had to be the Analog Factory 2.0/Analog Factory Experience, the subject of this review.

Arturia’s first release, Analog Factory 1.0, took the “greatest hits” from across their entire classic soft-synth line and put 2,000 sounds (presets) in one streamlined package.  The next release, Analog Factory 1.0 Reloaded, fixed some bugs and added another 1,000 sounds. Analog Factory 2.0 adds not only another 500 sounds, but also includes sounds from the JP-8V soft-synth. But if that weren’t exiting enough, the real headline is the “experience” part of the name. This release includes a specially designed MIDI controller (made by CME) that seamlessly works with Arturia’s soft-synth engine.

Anyone who wants instant gratification in the form of seven classic synths — you must check this out. While this product may not give you all the editing features each of the individual, complete soft-synth packages might, you will find a ton of great sounds ready to use right out of the box, with basic editing controls right at your fingertips.

Features

3.5 Stars

Analog Factory 2.0 delivers a collection of all seven of Arturia’s analogue synth emulations: ARP 2600, Yamaha CS-80, Minimoog and Moog Modular, Prophet 5, Prophet VS, and, for the first time, the Roland Jupiter 8. The package ships with 3,500 presets to get you started.

One particularly nice feature is the way sounds are organized.  You can search by Synth (i.e., find all ARP 2600 sounds), by Type (brass, pads, leads, arpeggiated sequences), and by Characteristic (hard, soft, long, etc.). Given the wide array of included sounds, this makes finding what you need quick and easy.  A producer short on time, for example, could very easily pull something from the high quality sounds without having to spend time programming something from scratch. 

Editing is very straightforward since part of your computer screen is a virtual recreation of the hardware controller. When you turn the real knob, you see the virtual on-screen knob rotate. And if your slider, for example, is resting in a position different than the preset setting, the actual hardware position will be represented on-screen as a secondary, transparent slider, which becomes solid once you initiate movement. 

Editable parameters are streamlined to ADSR envelope, Filter and LFO sections, chorus and delay effects, and up to four other parameters that vary depending on the preset in use.

What about the hardware?  Well, Arturia clearly wanted to keep the vintage feel, as the thirty-two key velocity-sensitive controller is heavy to the touch, much more so than some other popular small controllers that have extremely cheap-feeling keyboards. The ends of the controller are made of wood, clearly a nod in the direction of some classic synths manufactured that way.

Other hardware specifications include:

• Controllers: one clickable encoder, ten encoders, four sliders, eleven switches, one modulation wheel, one pitch bend wheel
• Connectors: Hold, Sustain, Expression
• Power Supply: USB bus power or DC 9V (AC adaptor, sold separately)
• Aluminum case for the controller.

Analog factory 2.0 now uses a Syncroft dongle for authorization. AF 2.0 works in standalone mode (ASIO/Core Audio), as well as AU, VST, and RTAS formats on both Macintosh and Windows platforms.


Usability

3.5 Stars

We installed Analog Factory Experience 2.0 on a Power Macintosh G4 dual 1.42 GHz with 2GB RAM and tested both the stand-alone version and RTAS plug-in (using Pro Tools LE 7.3 as a host). We used the included thirty-two note keyboard controller.

Installation and registration to the Syncrosoft dongle was quick and painless. We were up and running in a matter of minutes.

As mentioned earlier, there is software and there is hardware, and each part is represented by graphical controls on screen.  The top part of the display is your sound selection palette. The left side has your filtering choices: instrument type, type of sound, and characteristics.  The right side then displays the preset names in a list, based upon your selection choices.  For each sound, a nice little graphic of the original instrument is displayed. There is a checkbox you can select for presets to be placed in a Favorites folder, allowing quick access to commonly used presets. Of course, you can edit and save the presets as well, but your editing is limited to what knobs you have available (more about that shortly).

Below the sound selection palette is an on-screen virtual recreation of the hardware keyboard, complete with all of the knobs, keys and sliders. Move the hardware, see the software move. This made it very easy to see what we were modifying.

There are dedicated knobs for Filter cutoff and resonance, LFO rate and amount, as well as dedicated chorus and mix knobs. Additionally, there is a very Roland-esque ADSR slider section, buttons for “snapshots” (great for organizing sound banks for live use), and octave shift buttons. On any given preset, there are also four key parameters you can change.

It is these four key parameters that, while useful, are not the same from sound to sound. For example, on one preset, these four knobs might control several oscillator widths and levels, and on another preset they might control HPF cutoff and modulation. Unless we first clicked on the virtualized on-screen knobs, we didn’t know what we were changing! An easy fix to this would be to display a virtual label under each knob that changes with each sound. Then we would instantly know what parameters we were modifying.

As for the keyboard itself, it has a very solid and durable feel to it. A nice touch is that all controllers can be assigned to any parameter, allowing the keyboard to work as a universal MIDI controller.

Let us say this: Our G4 is beginning to show its age. Our test system fell slightly short of Arturia’s recommendations, and there were times when increasing the polyphony on a complex arpeggio just wasn’t possible (sound would eventually distort). To its credit, the software was still highly usable, and when we tested on a comparably-old Dell 1.7 GHz Intel/Windows XP laptop, performance was better. We’ve been holding off on a new computer purchase for a while, but apps like Analog Factory inspire us to get that new system sooner rather than later.


Sound

4 Stars

Admittedly, we don’t own the real hardware versions of the virtualized synths in this collection, so doing a direct A/B comparison was not possible. However, there’s a wealth of sounds here, all which do a great job of channeling the essence of their hardware siblings.

Just browsing through the presets can be a daunting (but enjoyable!) task. We were already familiar with the JP-8 sounds, but there were many new ones that caught our attention. Certainly, listening to the presets was like a trip down memory lane. For example, the Minimoog preset “80’s” is exactly that: suddenly you’re listening to Jan Hammer of Miami Vice fame. The preset “Numan1” is reminiscent of Gary Numan’s lead sound from “Cars.” Another whimsical preset was the preset “Arnoud,” which had a gritty tone that reminded us of a classic cyborg movie.

One very cool feature was that one of the filtering choices to generate your list of sounds was a “soundtrack” choice. For players doing film scoring and looking for sounds that create a mood, this is a great resource (the “Arnoud” preset was found under this heading, for example).

Perhaps what we loved most was that every sound had its own unique character.  All too often, synths come with “thousands of sounds” from which many seem to be duplicates or near-duplicates. Not so with this collection.

Documentation and Product Support

3.5 Stars

The printed manual contains some background information about the company as well as the individual synths. It does a good job of explaining all the functions in a clear manner, and a nice touch are the explanations of how to set up Analog Factory Experience within different host environments.

Arturia also does a good job of making updates and new patches available on their website.

Price

3.5 Stars

Analog Factory Experience 2.0 (MSRP $349) can be purchased online for around $300.  While sound designers who crave extensive synth editing control might opt for the full version of each individual soft-synth product, doing so would be quite costly by comparison. Considering this package gives you 3,500 great sounds from seven classic synths, with the key parameters of each sound editable, and you get a very nice MIDI controller that integrates perfectly with the software (but can be used universally), we think this package is an excellent deal.

Contact Information

Arturia
www.arturia.com


Overall Rating - Product Summary

   
   
Category Value Rating
Features 20% 3.5 stars
Usability 25% 3.5 stars
Sound 25% 4 stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 stars
Price 20% 3.5 stars

OVERALL RATING = 3.6, which earns it a WIHO Award!

3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
 
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