Arturia Pigments 3 by Sound-Guy
PIGMENTS 3 from Arturia
You’d have to have rather poor eyesight to have missed the announcement of Pigments 3 since it’s been a banner at the top of the several Gearspace pages since its release a few days ago. And if you just ignored the announcement you might want to think again – Pigments 3 is a significant update to Pigments 2 which was significantly expanded from the original Pigments. If you are a drummer or guitarist, you may be excused, but anyone creating music with virtual instruments should take a look and listen.
First, Pigments 3 is free if you already own Pigments or Pigments 2. That’s a no-brainer. Also, if you already have any Pigments version, there is a great deal during the intro period on a set of 500 presets called the Spectrum Sound Pack – for $20. And if you don’t have Pigments, version 3 is currently half price with the Spectrum Sound Pack thrown in as a welcome gift.
What is/are Pigments?
Pigments is a virtual analog/digital synthesizer/sampler with a number of sound engines and FX. The original version was excellent and included two synth engines types (analog and wavetable) that could be mixed in various ways using one of each engine type or two of either type, lots of filter options and a baker’s dozen of excellent FX. It also provided excellent modulation options, an arpeggiator and a very flexible step sequencer. Pigments 2 added a third sound generator type (a sample engine) and hundreds of samples, and you could import samples of your own. The sample engine has six sample slots and six playback modes. They also added a granular mode that enabled samples to become granular synth patches with a host of parameter controls such as density, envelopes, size and randomization. And there was an additional filter and a tape echo delay – the filter being an emulation of the Buchla Easel low-pass filter (from their V Collection series of classic keyboards). Version two also added MPE capability and enhanced modulation capabilities.
So now what have they done? The changes in Pigments 3 quite blew me away! Yes, there are more sounds as one would expect (200 new preset sounds and 64 new wavetables), but there is also an entirely new sound generator, the Harmonic Engine. And more – there is also an additional “Utility Engine” that enables quite a few new tricks, and can be run at the same time as two of the “traditional” sound engines. And there are new FX, a new filter type, and more ways to modulate almost everything.
Does it Sound Good?
As Billie Eilish says, “Duh!” Pigments is a beast, and can make sounds ranging from subtle, gentle pads, tinkley bells and environmental atmospheres to earth shaking bass and explosive crescendos. If you want light, FM-like sounds, you’ve got it. Fat analog basses, OK. Thick complex evolving textures, easy. Check the link below to hear some examples of the various sound modes.
The new Harmonic Engine is an additive synth, but a different kind of additive synth than I have used or seen before. Rather than combining multiple sets of waveforms (sine waves or otherwise) the Harmonics Engine is a single module with several controls that enable you to quickly create a fundamental (sine wave of course) and up to 512 partials (harmonics). And you can very easily, even in real time (manually or using automation or modulation), adjust the number of harmonics, the balance of odd to even harmonics (from all odd to 50%-50% to all even), the relative levels of harmonics, apply two “Spectrum” profiles to the partials and even morph between them for an extreme range of sounds and evolving sounds.
The Harmonic Engine lets you pan different partials across the stereo field for wide movement of sounds, and has three modes for further modulating and altering the balance of partials in a sound, including “Shepard’s tone” the audio illusion in which a complex sound seems to be eternally rising or falling in pitch even though its base frequency is unchanged. And there is a lot more just related to this new sound engine, but too much to describe in this short review. Suffice to say I spent hours playing with it and found an amazing range of sounds.
The new Utility Engine is simple but effective and provides a sub-oscillator with five analog waveforms (sine, triangle, saw, ramp, and square) and a whopping +/-36 semitone tuning range along with two creative “noise sources” that provide sampled sounds including noises, various ambiances, nature and machine sounds, even vinyl record crackles. You can layer any of these three engines together at once and you can separately tune and filter each engine’s output. And as I mentioned, you can run the Utility Engine along with one or two of the other sound generators.
As before, Pigments has extensive and very quick to use modulation capability. Setting up modulation for parameters is very easy – hover the cursor over a destination control and a ‘+’ appears to the upper right, click it and the source bar shows sources. Click on any source and adjust the amount of control, plus or minus. Any destination can have multiple modulators and any modulator can be set to control multiple destinations, each with their own strength setting. This allows setting up multiple modulations very quickly, much faster than with many software synths.
Speaking of modulation, there is also a powerful Combinator mode which can be used to generate a modulation source based on the interactions of one or two other modulation sources. There are three of these mathematical manipulators available for use as a modulation source and they include functions like sum, difference, multiplication, division, crossfade, and filtering. Oh, and if you want to control any parameters with MIDI, I counted over 1,600 possible MIDI CC options – obviously not all of these should be controlled at once!
As before the Analog Engine includes three oscillators per voice with multiple waveforms, variable pulse width for the triangle and square waves, quantizable modulation of pitch, programmable random oscillator drift to emulate vintage oscillator behavior, and frequency modulation.
The Wavetable Engine lets you browse factory presets of wavetables or load your own, morph or jump between wavetable positions, quantize the modulation of pitch, and has four excellent ways to further “mangle” the sounds: FM (frequency modulation – linear or exponential), phase modulation, phase distortion, and wavefolding.
I played Pigments 3 standalone and as a plug-in using REAPER and Studio One in a PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC (64 Bit Windows, 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM). Latency seems to be a constant 44 samples (tested at 48 kHz, so under 1 msec delay) and total CPU usage varied depending on number of notes played at once and the complexity of modulations and oscillators used, varying from 0.5% to 2% for practical use, and as much as 4% if I smashed hand fulls of notes. RAM use is about 700 MB when loaded and operating.
WOW! An amazing synth/sampler/wavetable instrument has been expanded again in new dimensions, improving capabilities of the previous sound sources, adding a unique take on additive synthesis, and a new auxiliary oscillator and sample player source. And for current owners, it’s FREE! Of course all this technical complexity would be nil if it didn’t sound good, and it sounds superb (check out the link below). And it also wouldn’t be great if it took a degree in engineering to operate, but a six year old child (even a 26 year old drummer!) will find it easy and fun to explore.
A truly monumental sound machine that is easier to program than most complex software instruments I have used and provides a superb range of excellent sounds.
Up to three of five sound engine types (Analog, Wavetable, Sample/Granular, Harmonic, and Utility) can be used at once.
Ten continuously variable filter types with very flexible routing.
Eighteen FX are available with up to nine effects applied to a sound at once.
Vast modulation capabilities with very easy and flexible control.
Pitch bend and transpose have +/- 36 semitone range.
Powerful step sequencer and arpeggiator.
Excellent browser that can find sounds by type, style, name and bank.
Free to owners of Pigments 1 and 2!
None – except the front panel still says PIGMENTS, rather than PIGMENTS 3!
See the site for more details and sound examples: https://www.arturia.com/products/ana...cs/pigments#en