Ultimate has been around for a little while and it’s one of those hidden gems that you find from time to time that offers great sounds and great usability and like other Superwave products offers excellent value for money. It is also still supported and developed, being recently updated to version 1.4.
I really like the interface for Ultimate, it has a really good 80s / vintage feel with sliders for the filter and envelopes, well graded and easy to read dials plus a number of buttons to make selections such as oscillator waveform, arpeggiator mode etc. The layout is easy to navigate and well laid out. There are a number of different panels which are switched between using the 5 panel select buttons towards the bottom of the screen or the sequence edit button. Note that an Ultimate Extreme HD version is also available, designed for minimum resolution of 1920 x 1200 and has the same functionality but all switchable panels are accessible from a single user interface.
On the face of it, Ultimate seems like many other virtual analogue synthesizers having 2 oscillators, a common oscillator section, a filter, 3 envelopes, 2 LFOs, a sequencer, arpeggiator, and a good range of effects including chorus, phaser, delay and limiter. However, what sets it apart is that each oscillator actually has up to 16 waveforms each of which can be detuned, fine-tuned, phase adjusted and panned to suit. One of these waveforms is the ultimate oscillator for osc 1 which has a great sound and I really like how you can set the rate and depth of analogue drift. There’s also morph and modulation options for each waveform too.
And this is what I really like about Ultimate, it means you can get some pretty big, huge even, strings, leads, pads and basses. You might think that this means it’s suited to trance and it is, but it’s certainly not limited to this style of music, it’s equally at home producing 80s and vintage sounds too. There are a number of presets arranged into these categories, most of which have really good sounds.
I also really like the sound of the filter, the cutoff and resonance are operated by sliders and produce some really good changes in sound especially when used with the sequencer as outlined below.
There are 4 instances of the 32 step sequencer, 3x modulation and 1 gate. These have a number of controls and destinations meaning you can get a range of effects from a simple gate effect to complex melodies with modulation. For instance you can set up filter sweeps using the gate and cutoff or have a great sounding bassline with or without an arpeggiator, you get different but equally very effective results. It’s an excellent feature that really helps get the most out of the sound.
The arpeggiator is a classic and phrase arpeggiator with up / down and 4x alt patterns, 18 beat ratios over 1 – 4 octaves with a number of controls. This gives some really good results too with a bit of experimentation especially when combined with the sequencer.
Overall it is an excellent synth for pad, basses and string type sounds which it does extremely well. I’ve created the demo track embedded above using 6 instances of Ultimate to give an idea of the type of sounds it can produce. Very little external processing has been used, just one instance of Tal Dub 3 delay and one instance of ambience reverb. The background sound is a field recording from Charing Cross tube station which has been processed in Polygon by Glitchmachines and from which the track takes inspiration for it’s name.
Ultimate is available from Superwave