Musicians, especially those who make a living from playing live performances, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 health crisis. This has meant that many of them had to get creative with the ways in which they interact with fans or promote their music. Legendary French composer, performer, and record producer, Jean-Michel Jarre, certainly doesn't have this issue, but this didn't prevent him from taking part in his first-ever live virtual reality gig.
It has become a meme among synth enthusiasts that once you go down the modular synthesis route you can kiss all your money goodbye, but there is certainly an element of truth to this. Hardware synthesizers can be a money sink if you end up with gear acquisition syndrome and owning a Eurorack can make this worse. However, there are some alternatives if you are not willing to go down the software route. Semi-modular synthesizers have made a bit of a comeback and give users the immediacy of a self-contained synth as well as some of the versatility of a modular synthesizer.
Moog is a brand that is synonymous with synthesizers and this is largely thanks to the number of artists and groups who embraced its sounds. Robert Moog unveiled his first synth in 1964 after several years of designing and selling theremins. However, it wasn't until Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos in 1968 that the synthesizer really grabbed mainstream attention. The unique sounds that the Moog synthesizer was capable of making quickly made it a favorite among rock and pop acts of the late sixties, which further boosted its popularity.
In the first part of our article on granular synth VSTs and Plugins for computer (LINK) we checked paid and free options, like Ribs, PolyGAS, Polygon, Biotek 2, Crusher-X 8, Quanta, and Kaiva. All of these either focused exclusively on granular synthesis or incorporated this form of synthesis along with their other features. In this second part, we examine a few more options for PC and Mac owners who want to dabble with granular synthesis.
At first glance, the QUN Pocket Synthesizer by Nunomo (new-no-moh) doesn't' look like much, but closer inspection reveals quite a powerful little device. Thanks to the very simple design of QUN it is not only extremely compact, but Nunomo was also able to make it very affordable. What they were able to accomplish is to create a synth using a common development board as its base and then build on top of that with a UI board and top-quality software. The result is something that might look like a toy, but can actually hold its own against other synths.
It seems that the quest to control synthesizers in more and more elaborate ways is neverending and recently we've seen two more contenders. The first is deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA as most of us know it. This method comes courtesy of Giorgio Sancristofor, a synthesist and sound artist who created sound design apps such as Berna and Gleetchlab. Giorgio shared a video online that shows how he has been dabbling with DNA controlled synthesis lately.