Wednesday, 30 December 2015

TAL-U-NO-LX V2 synth overview

Mr Patrick Kunz alias TOGU AUDIO LINE have been bringing to light wonderful pieces of virtual audio instruments and effects for a long time. And along with his commercial products many of them are available as free downloads too.
The list is huge and if you haven't already done so I strongly recommend you pay a visit to his website and check them out. They're all characterized by great sound quality and are easy to use. My production needs and tastes often lean towards his TAL REVERBS, TAL VOCODER and TAL DUB delays (especially the second version) and his Tal Noizemaker and Tal Elektro among the others synths are brilliant pieces of freeware vst.

Among the payware ones, thinking about its musical quality/value, the great TAL-U-NO-LX is available at a reasonable price.


Mr Kunz spent a huge amount of passion and energy in creating one of the most faithfully sonic and visual reproductions of some of Roland's synthesizers coming out of the 80's like the well known Juno 60, with the handy addition of midi sync and learn functions that this digital recreation allows.
This virtual analog synthesizer comes with a 32 and 64 bit installer for Windows and OSX platforms, working fine with all the most well known DAWs, its pdf manual and with about 300 well made factory presets, some of them recalling the original Juno sounds, plus a large number of other patches made by sound designers and users, demonstrates the sonic variety achievable with this vst. All banks are available as a free download from the official TAL U-NO-LX website page.

THE INTERFACE

For those like me who had the chance to put their hands on the real Juno 60, this one brings on its characteristic sound and mojo, thanks to the accuracy spent on its ideation, audio construction and programming.
Furthermore the U-NO-LX's look, colors and the disposition of the various parameter controls recall that good old original interface style and makes you want to have a real midi controller/interface, stuffed with faders,knobs and buttons, to be able to control it with your fingers! And if you're a touch panel geek, it even makes you wonder how great it would be to have a parallel version available for touch pads to always keep with you.
The attractive dark grey, blue, red and yellow color palette lets your eyes focus without effort on the various sliders and large square buttons with their old fashion (ed) red leds.
Above all, right in the middle of its name, there's the dropdown menu where we can load, save, rename the presets and browse all the available U-NO-LX banks.
The gui is organized in three rows containing various sections and controls alligned in a logical order. The upper part shows the DCO (digitally controlled oscillator), the HPF (high pass filter) and the VCF (voltage controlled filter) described as the heart of the synth.
In the centre we find the MASTER section with the main parameters like volume, the tunining faders and the octave transpose switch, the VCA (voltage controlled amplifier), the ADSR (attack,sustain,decay,release), the LFO (low frequency oscillator) and the typical CHORUS effect. In the third row we find the latest sections: the white CONTROL one, the PORTAMENTO, the blue CONTROL one and the beloved ARPEGGIATOR. 

IN DEPTH: SOUND CONTROL
 
Both in the original version and this digital reproduction the trademark of this synthesizer is the DCO (digitally controlled oscillator) that gives more stable tuning. In this section the LFO slider controls the amount of the pitch oscillation where 10 as it's maximum value gives an excursion of 6 semitones, the PWM (pulse width modulation) slider controls the amount of modulation that can be given, via the selector, by the LFO rate, manually, or by the ADSR envelope allowing many interesting and catchy different results.
We can then activate and use in addition to or separately a SAW wave, a SUB oscillator (which adds a lower wave) and the NOISE generator.
 
In the filter section we have the HPF (high pass filter) to remove all the unwanted low frequencies and the VCF which is meant to be a true low pass filter with cut off and resonance sliders which can be used manually or controlled by the ADSR envelope, in a direct or inverted way set by the dedicated switch, where the ENV controls the intensity of the ADSR action, the MOD controls the LFO action depth in oscillating the cut-off and finally the KEYB, which at its maximum value gives the possibility to play the sounds generated by the U-NO-LX at full resonance, as mentioned in the nicely covered user manual.

In the centre of the gui the VCA switch allows us to choose if the volume of our sound will be affected by the following ADSR envelope parameters or not (if in GATE mode).

In the LFO section we can send the desired amount of oscillation RATE to influence, rhythmically, the correlated parameters of the synthesizer, its fade-in time is controlled with the DELAY TIME slider, and nature of the TRIGGER MODE. We have three options to control LFO rate, KEY following, the FREE mode and host tempo SYNCHRONIZED mode with several time quantizations.
The LFO has four waves to choose from: Triangle, Sine, Saw, Random and Rectangle and these can be set to direct or inverted states.
 
Then pops in the warm, wide and deep Chorus Fx with its three switchable modes: I, II and both.
At the beginning of the last row we are presented with other useful sound controls like the key transposition, the synth polyphony (from mono up to 12 voices), the midi learn available for every function, the Panic button (all notes off) and the LFO TRIGGER manual button that works coupled with the MAN option available in the LFO section described above.

In the CONTROL blue section we can set up what will be influenced by our pitch wheel, with the freedom to operate on the BENDER DCO affecting the pitch, and the BENDER FILTER affecting the cut off. We can also set what will be influenced by our key velocities operating on the VELOCITY ENVELOPE (which gives the amount of filtering) and the VELOCITY VOLUME (operating on our keys volume).
As with many other synths we can activate the PORTAMENTO with it's related options.
Last but not least we have the ARPEGGIATOR, finally able to be, in this digital version, midi synchronized.
 
It's features include, free or in sync, up to 3 octaves of range, up/down/up-down functions, host sync with several quantisation choices, the HOLD option that keeps our notes played as long as we're not playing a new key, and the useful KEEP which maintains our arpeggiator settings even when we switch between the UNO-LX patches.

WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE ?

Well,as always it sounds how our hands and ears want it to sound. Togu Audio Line created THE ANALOG VIRTUAL tool for all of us and now we can use it the way we wish. From imitating the classic 80's synth pop tunes, to designing new contemporary scapes and drones, from sculpting decent drum'n'bass leads, pads and basses, to preparing one shot glitchy fxs or carving neverending arp leads and groovy lines, the possibilities are endless.
As a true digital reproduction (even under a technical point of view concerning its programming and use of algorithms not mentioned in this review) it can reach all the sound possibilties owned by the Juno synthesizers, like fat wide pads, deep mono basses, squelchy leads, endless sci-fi effects, angelic breathy pads, lush strings and so on. As mentioned before browsing through its 300 or so available presets gives us a wide spectrum of use and comprehension of its possibilities.

The game gets deeper when we add our favourite audio plugins like reverbs, filters,loudness maximizers, any other modulation and distortion fx and surely whatever our production taste brings into the creative process. Personally I truly had fun matching UNO-LX with the other TOGU AUDIO LINE freeware effects, and it also work's great with the TAL VOCODER.
It's totally easy to play straight away "out of the box", without the need of knowing much about sound design and signal processing, but simply hearing the affect we have on it's sound when moving its sliders, and at the same time it's direct and easy to understand thanks to its clear construction and structure, even more if matched with an easy reading of the pdf manual, and it proves to be an affective excellent tool to dig into the comprehesion of this kind of synth based on the DCO and VCF, how they work and what we can achieve.

TAL U-NO-LX V2 will give you hours of fun, playing and designing your own patches. It is extremely satisfying in live situations too, as though we were playing a "real" synth not just a "plugin", realizing the fact that, at long last, the time has come when a instrument that depends upon the computer/laptop to process sounds is finally as mature as it's former analog relatives.


DCSI
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