The V Collection 5 boasts a huge range of faithful recreations of legendary analogue synthesizers
“If you could have dinner with five people, alive or dead, who would they be?” My answer to that would be: Oberheims SEM, Yamaha CS-80, Roland Jupiter 8, Prophet 5 and Moog Modular. Yes, strictly speaking they're all synthesizers rather than people, but it would be awesome.
Everyone from Vangelis, Moby and Depeche Mode to Prince and Stevie Wonder has succumbed to the siren's call of these coveted pieces of hardware. And now Arturia has gone to painstaking lengths to breath new life into these classic synths, turning analogue dreams into a digital reality.
On each of the 17 varied and awe-inspiring synthesizers in this bundle, a rabbit-hole of incredible preset sounds awaits, giving any user starting points for glorious decades, and reviewing the different synths has been lots of fun. There is wonderful attention to detail and the synths sound phenomenal.
The ARP2600 and Modular V are the two modular-style synthesizers included in the bundle. Being the synth that gave you the R2-D2 sound and being created by Bob Moog, respectively, means you're never going to be short of inspiration. Actually controlling the cables and re-routing the sounds can be quite tricky at first, but it felt like using a real analogue synth. At points I had no idea where sounds were coming from, but I was always inspired!
The B3, Farfisa, Stage 73, Vox Continental and Wurli V are the electric pianos and organs that are included. The moment I opened these instruments and started to play, it felt like classic genres were crashing like waves out of my speakers. With this arsenal of keys you can create convincing and useable jazz, soul, reggae, funk, rock and pop sounds, with great control over tone and features. If this isn’t enough, the Piano V is included for a radically fresh approach to modern piano. The synth uses modelling techniques to give you a choice of nine pianos from a respectable concert grand to a eyebrow-raising, metal-encased, lean mesomorph of a hybrid piano.
On first glance, the Mini V, Prophet, Solina and Synclavier might look like quite similar, but once you get under the hood with these four synths you have a world of breathtaking sounds at your fingertips. I found myself creating beautiful vocal sounds, biting leads, tight punchy bass sounds and even some distorted screeching. The synths sounded incredible, too...
The SEM V and Martix-12 tip their hat to Tom Oberheim’s classic synthesizers which have shaped the history of electronic music as we know it. In their heyday, these synths gave users enhanced connectivity and broke the boundaries for the voices that could be used in a synthesizer.
The Jup-8 and CS-80 are emulations of the gargantuan heavyweights from Roland and Yamaha. The sounds from these machines are so good that they defy logic: expressive but controllable, fat and weighty but with crystal clarity. These synths are incredible.
The engine and interface
My one criticism of the V Collection was going to be option paralysis. Sometimes, having this many synths can mean that you never get any work done - instead you just find yourself recreating moments from Bladerunner at 8am and making your wife late for work. However, Arturia offers a secret weapon in the form of its final synth, Analog Lab 2. This gives you a wide selection of sounds but with a simplified interface and just the basic controls to tweak and personalise the presets. This offers a refreshing change of pace if the controls and dials of the classic analogue synths prove overwhelming for a new user.
Arturia says the secret to its success is technology it calls TAE (True Analog Emulation). This is used to capture the nuances of analogue synthesis and recreate them digitally. The oscillator section is at the heart of any synth and they make sure this behaves in a way that is believable. It's not a recording of an analogue synth being merely replayed, it is being generated in real time, with tiny fluctuations giving the sound life and intrigue. Similarly, the filter is the part of the synth that gives a sound its character, and on old synths they didn’t work in a linear way: the sound changed and evolved with different extremes, and this generated the harmonics which are an important part of a rich sound. Arturia has captured these subtle details beautifully, while removing digital gremlins such as aliasing. I think that TAE is a success and makes this collection something special.
Generally speaking, these plug-ins look amazing, too: the graphics are stunning and resizeable to fit the user's needs. Sometimes some of the smaller buttons and re-routing wires on the modular synths can be a little fiddly to use, but it's nothing to get hung up about.
There are so many functions and extra added features that it would take a lifetime to truly master all of these synths. Seasoned pros will have a world of fun playing with these classics and there are also some new hidden extras to bring them up to date. For the beginner, meanwhile, Analog Lab 2 and the pre-sets contained in each synth give a wonderful starting point if you are overwhelmed by the amount of control before you.
These synths have taken the spirit of analogue synths and given them the control of the digital world. The sound quality is incredible and I will definitely be using these in future. The synths can also be used as plug-ins for your DAW or as standalone synths, which makes them great for both live and studio use as I found them very reliable to work with.
Finally, the bundle has a current price of €399-499, which is very reasonable for the range of synths included. Visually the synths are excellent, and the quality of the sounds and presets is outstanding.
Words: Matt Chapman
Review score: 5/5
More info: Arturia.com