Madrona Labs Aalto software synthesizer

Madrona Labs today released Aalto, a new semi-modular software synthesizer with a patchable UI, distinctive sounds, and a charming personality. The heart of Aalto is a Buchla-inspired complex oscillator, with FM, timbre and waveshape controls that enable a wide range of expressive sounds difficult or impossible to make with softsynths before now. These sounds are uniquely malleable and alive, in part because they are made with dynamic calculation, not static wavetables.

Aalto is designed as much for sequencing patterns as for playing individual notes. Each voice has a separate, built-in sequencer with a patchable, independently controllable rate and offset that make it easy to achieve evolving, chaotic textures.

Each voice also includes a lowpass gate module with a vactrol emulation in the control path. The vactrol equation slows down the response to incoming control signals through a complex nonlinear filter. You can turn the vactrol response down to instantaneous, or up to a pronounced ring.

Following the lowpass gate is a patchable waveguide / delay module with a waveshaper and a peaking EQ built into the feedback loop. Because it has such short and controllable delay times, unlike a typical analog delay, it can be used as an additional oscillator or waveguide.

Aalto’s filter is a state-variable topology with mixable simultaneous outputs, tuned to have a similar range to an Oberheim SEM filter.

Aalto is out now as an Audio Unit plug-in, and requires Mac OS 10.4 or higher, running on a 1.6 GHz Intel Core Duo processor or better. Aalto is admittedly a CPU hog at the moment, but Madrona Labs promises to improve efficiency in future updates.

Purchase Aalto directly from Madrona Labs online for $99. The purchase price includes a license for Aalto on all future formats and platforms as they are released. A free trial version is also available. It is identical to the full version, except that a gentle reminder sound plays every 60 seconds or so, and saving of patches is disabled.

Discuss Aalto in our Instruments forum.