XILS-lab Synthex

XILS-lab is proud to announce availability of its third soft synth plug-in. Synthix is an AU, VST and RTAS virtual recreation of the much-sought-after Synthex, a lush-sounding, 1982-vintage, eight-voice programmable analogue polysynth independently designed by Mario Maggi and built by Italian home-organ manufacturer Elka.

The Synthex was much beloved by synth luminaries of day, such as Jean-Michel Jarre, whose well-known Laser Harp performances still emanate exclusively from an awesome-sounding Synthex patch produced by one-time UK demonstrator/programmer Paul Wiffen (audible in isolation in ‘Second Rendez-Vouz’ on Jarre’s multi-million-copy-selling Rendez-Vouz album of 1986). Pity, then, that the Synthex did not sell in such Jarre-like quantities during a four-year, three-stage (50-, 800-, and 1,000-unit) production run, with one last post-production unit being made especially for Steve Wonder, such was the legendary American singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/record producer’s love for the future-classic instrument that effectively failed to fly in the face of the-then ‘art nouveau’ digital age of dominating desirable FM synthesis from Yamaha’s considerably cheaper, MIDI-equipped DX7, and subsequent super-selling, all- singing, all-dancing digital designs from the likes of Roland (D50) and Korg (M1).

That said, with 30 knobs, six sliders, 80 switches, a joystick (replacing traditional pitch and modulation wheels to allow greater variable real-time control over the two LFOs, oscillator, and filter modulation) spread across its spacious front panel, the Synthex had some unique features for its time, including two stable DCOs (Digitally- Controlled Oscillators) per voice; oscillator cross-modulation of pulse width; multimode (Low-Pass 24dB/octave, 1st Band-Pass 6dB/octave, 2nd Band-Pass 12dB/octave, and High-Pass >12dB/octave) filters; separate envelope generators; Chorus effect; and Dual or Layer keyboard modes — little wonder, then, that many came to consider it a worthy adversary to the dominating American analogue programmable polysynths of the day, such as Sequential Circuits’ Prophet 5 and Oberheim’s OBXa. Better sounding, some said, and arguably more reliable to boot, thanks to those trusty DCOs!

So how, exactly, did they get from Synthex to Synthix? Says XILS-lab CEO Xavier Oudin: “After developing the PolyKB, I received lots of requests regarding recreating the Elka Synthex and began to look for more information, initially discovering its ‘Laser Harp’ sound, then all the well-known artists who used it, and, of course, its features. It’s a polyphonic synthesizer, but very different to the RSF Polykobol II — each oscillator having its own PWM and ring-modulator module in addition to standard hard sync-able sawtooth, triangle, and pulse waves; furthermore, the filter is a multimode design, offering self-oscillating band-pass and high-pass filtering, as well as standard low-pass. Interestingly, its keyboard can be spilt to play two different sounds at the same time, so I thought, ‘Why only two sounds? Why couldn’t it be multi-layer?’ The answer was obvious: this should become the next XILS-lab product!

Synthix audio demos

As a virtual analogue synthesizer, and then some, Synthix successfully combines now-standard analogue features with several new and exciting ones — truly more than the sum of its parts:

  • Two oscillators with four selectable (seven available) waveforms — triangle, PWM triangle, sawtooth, PWM sawtooth, square, and PWM pulse (plus a PWM cross modulation mode and a ring modulator).
  • One multimode filter, based on a Curtis CEM3320 24dB/octave (multi) chip emulation — provides low-pass 12dB and 24dB, band-pass 6dB and 12dB, and high-pass 12dB.
  • Four D-ADSR — enhanced standard ADSR envelopes, each with a MIDI-sync-able delay.
  • Two polyphonic LFOs — each capable of modulating the oscillators’ pitch and width, filter frequency (with host application tempo synchronisation), and amplifier level, or as a modulation matrix source.
  • Four embedded effects — delay, chorus, phaser, and dual EQ.
  • Polyphonic sequencer — up to four tracks (with legato mode).
  • Chaox — an LFO module that calculates the movement of a point in a 2D space (with each axis capable of modulating any of 132 destinations).
  • Rhythm — an LFO module dedicated to rhythmic effects (with five modulations assignable to any of 132 destinations).
  • Split keyboard — each with an individual arpeggiator and MIDI management settings, and capable of managing up to 16 freely-chosen voices to make full use of the multi-layering capabilities (with eight totally independent layers).
  • Guitar mode — two voices can be assigned to up to six MIDI channels to play various sounds with each guitar string (when using a MIDI-to-guitar converter).

A wide range of sounds — from straightforward recreations of vintage or modern analogue synths to more complex patches — can be created using Simple Mode Edit or easy-to-operate Split and Layer modes; Synthix is bundled with 250-plus presets produced by a talented team of notable sound designers (including Kelvin Ford, Thomas Hook, Kire, Lotuzia, Peter Schelfhout, Soundsdivine, Tzadi, and Vivolator).

On the Mac, Synthix requires OSX 10.3.9 or later, a 2 GHz processor, 1 GB of available RAM and a VST, Audio Unit, or RTAS (Pro Tools 7.0 and later) compatible host application. Synthix is currently a 32-bit plug-in, but a 64-bit version is promised soon.

XILS-lab Synthix is available now for €169 (including VAT for EU countries) from the XILS-lab Store or through a growing list of online retailers.