Review of Phase Plant – a limitless hybrid synthesiser  by Kilohearts

Review of Phase Plant – a limitless hybrid synthesiser by Kilohearts

Introduction

New-generation audio plugins creator Kilohearts is proud to announce availability of Phase Plant — pushing the creative sound design envelope as a truly limitless hybrid synthesizer plugin that can be used either directly in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) as VST (Virtual Studio Technology), AAX (Avid Audio eXtension) and AU (Audio Unit) audio plugins or as building blocks in a Phase Plant patch.

Phase Plant represents the pinnacle of the snapin eco-system that Kilohearts has been busy developing since the 2015 release of its award-winning Multipass modular multi-band host. Combining the power of snapin effects with new modules for signal generation and modulation, Phase Plant is a hybrid synthesizer capable of what has previously only been possible in classic modular setups. Indeed, it empowers users with more options than they can shake a stick at, allowing anyone to make their thing as big or small as they need it to be.

Phase Plant is available directly from Kilohearts in different pricing brackets dependent upon the number of bundled effects. Details are copied from the Kilohearts website and shown below:

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated Phase Plant webpage

Note that Kilohearts has a single installer for all its products — available as 64-bit VST, AU, and AAX plugins for Windows and Mac, downloadable from here

Summary

There are many synths that you can load, select a preset and you’re good to go. This is not designed to be one of those synths. The default screen is blank, encouraging you to experiment and create your own sounds. Of course it does have presets, some 300 of them, and they include an excellent range of instruments and sounds that are ready to use but that kind of misses the point.

That’s because it’s very easy to create your own sounds. Select your signal generators, modulators and effects, it’s quick and incredibly flexible. Whether you want 1 oscillator, 4 of them or 8; a wavetable, noise, FM, a sampler, ring mod you can have any or all of these, in any combination up to 32 generators. Modulators can be envelopes, LFOs, randomisers or maths and you have a huge range of effects (dependent upon the number you’ve purchased) to choose from that you can use in serial or parallel in 3 effect lanes.

Bear in mind that this is all done on one screen using a click and drag approach with very easy to assign modulation options. This makes the process incredibly quick and best of all, very enjoyable.

Often you wouldn’t necessarily pay too much heed to built in effects, but with Phase Plant it is an important consideration. I say this because you can easily apply simple or complex modulation to these effects which would be much harder, maybe not even possible, when using external effects. Kilohearts snapin effects are designed for ease of use, they have a straightforward interface and most importantly, sound excellent. If you don’t own the effects, factory and third-party presets will still work but you won’t be able to adjust effect settings. The basic version of Phase Plant includes Kiloheart’s free effects – 3 band EQ, Chorus, Delay, Gain, Limiter and Stereo which is more than enough to get started. There are 28 snapin effects in total, covering filters, bit crusher, reverb, trance gate, tape stop, compression, distortion, resonator and many more.

It’s an incredible sound design tool, I’ve barely scratched the surface discovering the potential it offers. Phase Plant is equally at home producing simple or extremely complex patches with superb sound quality.

In Use

When you open Phase Plant, it feels unusual for a synth that you are presented with a blank screen.

The menu bar is located at the very top. 8 macro knobs sit beneath this with the generators occupying the upper left, effects the upper right and modulators at the bottom. Clicking the keyboard icon on the lower right reveals the on-screen keyboard.

Generators are what produce the sound. There are 4 different kinds – analog oscillator, noise generator, sampler and wavetable. They automatically mix their output on top of the signal coming from above. You can group them together to break the signal flow which is useful for layering sounds.

The analog oscillator has a number of waveform options, sync, pulse width and unison controls.

The noise generator supports 3 types of noise, two of which are key tracked and has slope and stereo controls.

The wavetable oscillator has a number of wavetables and you can also load wav and flac files provided they are in the required format (256 frames, 2048 samples). There are also frame and bandlimit controls.

The sampler is well featured with root note, offset, start, length, crossfade and various loop options. A number of samples are provided but you can load your own.

Other generators include filter and distortion effects and the utilities of group, aux, mix and output.

The output is a very important module, if you don’t add this you won’t get any sound, as I found out when I first started using Phase Plant and couldn’t figure out why. It also allows you to send the enveloped signal to other parts of Phase Plant. I added one to the analog oscillator image to show signal routing.

There are three effects lanes with a range of controls – enable, poly, mute and solo with gain and mix controls at the bottom. You can route effects from lane 1 to lane 2, lane 3 or master; lane 2 to lane 3 or master and lane 3 is routed to the master. This allows you to use effects in series or parallel, apply specific effects to particular groups etc.

Modulation options in Phase Plant are extensive. The macro knobs can be routed to any parameter so that you can control many aspects of the patch with a single knob. They can also be used for automation within your DAW, most won’t support automation of parameters within Phase Plant.

The modulator lane at the bottom of the display allows you to add envelope, LFO, Random, midi modulators, multiply and min / max.

LFOs have sine, square, triangle shapes and the typical controls but also a very handy editor – click the pencil – where you can create interesting and unusual waveforms.

The envelope is a standard ADSR with the added controls of delay and hold.

The random modulator has the same waveform shape but you can vary this extensively with the jitter, smooth and chaos controls.

Assigning modulation is where things get very interesting. It’s a simple case of clicking on the orange plus at the bottom right of the modulator. Any modulatable parameter will have a similar orange plus and you can see that this includes nearly any generator, effect or even other modulator parameter.

To assign modulation, simply click on the orange plus on the modulator and then on the orange plus for the parameter that you want to modulate and they are linked. You have a small knob underneath that sets the amount of modulation, this is also duplicated and labelled on the modulator so you can adjust the amount there too.

If that’s not enough modulation, hovering over the lower right-hand side of a generator reveals a green plus and this can be used for audio rate modulation of other generators.

The album embedded at the top of the post uses Phase Plant for all sounds, except some drum loops and vocal loops. It’s a minimal / minimal techno / techno sound. I’ve created a number of patches and modified some of the presets that I’ve used on the album. This one is a fairly simple sampler based one with automation of the sampler and some effects to produce background glitched drum loop effects.

This one uses a combination of sampler and wavetable with numerous modulation options.

These highlight the benefits of extra effects in Phase Plant, being able to modulate the bitcrusher and filter in the first example produces exactly the glitchy sound I’m looking for. You could do this without Phase Plant, but it’s much more difficult.

I’m very impressed with the delay effect. I am slightly obsessed with delays as you may have noticed from the numerous reviews of several delay effects but sometimes you just want a simple delay and I’m particularly impressed that it sounds so good and is very quick and easy to set up.

Another effect I’ve been very impressed with is the limiter. I’ve not had much success with these in the past, this one you dial in the threshold, adjust the release and in / out gain if required and it works, perfectly. This will be used a lot in many projects and live recording where I often have issues with volume peaks.

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