Late start on the team review...
I haven't yet learned my way around Logic Pro to use Pigments as a plugin so I'm playing with Pigments as a standalone app with CME USB controller. Loaded on MacBook Pro (8GB RAM) and on MacPro (mid-2012 twelve cores with 96GB of RAM), both running OSX High Sierra.
I come from the prog/classic rock world with an extensive sound design background dating back to the 1970s. I initially browsed Pigments using the presets, then dove into creating my own sounds. I started with new preset with bare patch no FX, just the way I like it. FX are often the last modifier I apply, I prefer to achieve most of the sound design with the patch dry.
To test the intuitive design of the interface, I did my sound design while referring to the user manual as little as possible. Some actions required a referral to the manual but for the most part the interface is very intuitive.
I'm pretty much an outboard guy. I own Andromeda which is king of modulations in analog polysynths. Also own vintage analog monosynths & polysynths like Moog and Oberheim as well as plenty of vintage pro audio outboard FX. Pretty tough crowd here.
Pigments has a VERY extensive feature set, so today I focused on emulating my favorite analog sounds which I have no learning curve. As today was "learn my way around Pigments interface" day, I will explore other features later.
Don’t rely on Pigment's CPU meter, check the Activity Monitor app (OSX) or Task Manager (Windows) for the true load on the CPU. It was easy to approach 50% on my MBP with just one engine, and OSX struggled to run other apps like Safari while Pigments was open. MacPro did not suffer from this, it multithreaded merrily.
Be careful with laptops. According to what Activity Monitor reports, Pigments puts a heavy demand on the battery and it prevents sleep mode (for very obvious reasons). Always have the charger plugged in.
So let's start with the "acid test" of my sound design toolbox... choir patches test the modulations and quality of the filter resonance. If the filter(s) can get a decent choir sound, then they can pretty much do anything. It took some playing around to get good results; not great but the filters show promise. The least impressive was the anemic cold "mini" filter, and I own a vintage RA Moog Minimoog that is a tough customer. A choir patch will test the modulation because the modulation depth has to be real fine. I've played digital synths where the mod depth was too coarse and was unable to get a decent choir sound. Pigments does have fine enough resolution to meet this test.
When adjusting a control, I like the popup that tells me the value of the control. Nice for modulation depths.
THANK YOU for using REAL WORLD VALUES on the controls not just abstract values.
This is the first Mac application I used that doesn’t use cmd-S for a save operation. I intuitively reach for this but Pigments uses a different hot key (uh, is there one?). It dawned on me later that this may had been a deliberate decision because it is a plugin where cmd-S is reserved for the host DAW. Pigments does use cmd-Z for undo (Thank you!) but how about a hot key to revert to the selected patch after multiple edits (without pressing cmd-Z multiple times) so I don't have to move my mouse to the menu.
I like the level meter by the Master Volume, easy to glance if clipping internally. Handy for balancing the volume on my user library patches.
Envelopes: better name for “ADR” is “unconditional contour”. That initially confused me at first, and was one of the few referrals to the manual
One thing I REALLY don't like: VCA envelope resets to zero with repetitive strike on same key. VERY annoying with release tails like pads, calliope, celeste, tine pianos, choirs. Still searching the user manual how to correct that.
Analog Oscillators; With pulse waveshape, width control will not set <50%. There’s a world of sound design here that I can’t get to. Boooo
. When I want to design patches that use PWM between <50% and >50%, LFO will not modulate pulse width <50%. Boooo.
For patches where I need filters with resonant color, “Multimode” work better than “SEM” (!). I own Oberheim polysynths (FVS, OBX, OBSX) and the Pigments SEM simulations have weak resonant color. “Multimode” or “Matrix 12” sounds closer to legacy Oberheims. Still need to play around more to find a filter that can approach my Memorymoog patches.
Formant filters are quite good! If only I could get an oscillator pulse width <50%…
LFOs: phase sync available? I have sound design tricks using two LFOs where frequency of both are controlled from master LFO, while the slave LFO is phase sync’d to get phase offset of 90deg, 120deg, 180deg, etc. When applied to oscillator pitches this gets a chorus effect that you can't get from a standard modulated delay.
How about LFO frequency tracking the keyboard… YES! Little known but excellent sound design trick from my toolbox.Matrix 12 filter in 12dB lowpass… judas is that good for Oberheim brass sounds.
Bump the pitch of one of the oscillators with the filter EG… FAT
EG curves really help here. Matrix 12 LP 12dB sounds more authentic than the SEM LP!!! SEM BP works good for OB brass too. Some patch variation and add chorus FX: instant Rush “Subdivisions”. Not an easy timbre to get outside a real Oberheim, much less a software synth… *applause*
I only wish the EGs had an extra D/S stage, but this is already powerful software.
Had to try "Tom Sawyer". First off, it's a unison multivoice sound. Pigments is halfway there, a big step towards authenticity is emulating the "imperfections" of the OBX that was the source of that sound. See, the OBX filters don't track very well between voicecards, and the EG timings aren't exactly the same either. But imperfections can be a good thing, as the imperfect tracking and EG timing resulted in high resonant filters sweeping out of sync, which gave "Tom Sawyer" that grinding timbre that sounds like a tablesaw cutting wood. To emulate these "imperfections", I searched Pigments for "voice number" modulator that could be use to offset filter cutoff or modulated the decay transient of the filter EG... no luck.
So far I like it. The more I use it, the more I like the interface especially with a trackpad as the only controller. This is the first synth plugin I've had major flight time with. I've sampled too many that came up short but Arturia had been listening to customer input and coming up with softsynths that are getting closer to the real thing (but that "mini" filter has to go...).
More to explore, more to come.