Applied Acoustics Systems Multiphonics CV-1 by Tommy Zai
Multiphonics CV-1 is a new virtual modular synthesizer from Applied Acoustics Systems, a Canadian-based audio software development team that has produced some of the world's most innovative plugins . . . . Lounge Lizard, Ultra Analog, Chromaphone, Objeq Delay, etc.
WHY DID I BUY THIS AND WRITE ABOUT IT?
I'm a registered user of the AAS bundle. Over the years, I picked up each synth and effect one-by-one, usually on an introductory offer, and I never had regrets. When Multiphonics CV-1 was officially released, I wasn't sure if I could justify the purchase . . . I'm currently not working, and I have a good semi-modular synth from another developer. Still, I tortured myself by checking out the promotional ads, watching YouTube tutorials, and reading comments on the forums. I noticed that the tone of the posts range from glowing to dim and not much in between. I simply had to check this out and see and hear what all the hullabaloo was about. AAS makes it really easy to demo, but I pulled the trigger, optimistically hoping I would love it. So, I purchased, downloaded, installed, authorized, and began noodling. As I dove in, I felt compelled to share my first impressions. I hope you find my words informative or at least an enjoyable read. ;-)
THE MODULAR SYNTHESIZER (Gurus, feel free to skip this section)
Modular synths are comprised of separate modules, each with a different function. These modules can be connected together by cables in various ways to create a patch. This environment is perfectly suited for creatively sound design. Like most modular synths, Inputs and outputs can be "patched" together in many ways. These synths lend themselves to experimentation and offer a signal path that is extremely flexible in comparison to other types of synths. Wikipedia has a sweet list of “typical modules.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_synthesizer. They include: Sources (VCO, LFO, EG, Etc.) and Processors (VCF, VCA, LPG, RM, Mixer, etc.).
Modular gear is in vogue. Over the past few years, several virtual options have been released. I'm actually surprised that it took so long for this mode of madness to become fashionable. These synths are a natural fit for EDM, Ambient, and anything experimental. I did some research about the various available virtual models. There are a few different approaches that include:
1. Open-Source (expandable via 3rd party modules)
2. Closed-Source (self-contained modular environment)
3. Semi-modular (collection of pre-wired modules)
After noodling around for several hours, here are a bulleted list of my first impressions and thoughts . . .
REASONS TO BUY
• Version one of Multiphonics CV-1 provides all the basic modulation options needed to make great sounds. There are plenty of modulation and audio possibilities to keep users of all levels satisfied . . . until more modules are added, of course. ;-)
• The built-in factory library is modestly comprehensive; yet, the patches are well-crafted and offer a rounded aural palette that illustrates what this synth’s capabilities. Some of the patches in the Generative Folder are addictive. The library patches also provide a great starting point for user tweaked sounds.
• This synth sounds fantastic! The modules are pro quality in look, feel, and sound. They are not clunky and chunky like some offerings out there. And, like all AAS synths, CV-1 manages is capable of the unique combination of clarity and warmth. Sonics range from clear as a bell to deep and dirty and everything in between.
• Objeq Filter and State Variable Filter Modules are wonderful.
• This synth looks fantastic! Streamlined elegant interface. Eye-pleasing. Not intimidating. Seems 3D. Patch librarian is smooth, and I especially appreciate the notes section for each patch . . . they are visable without clicking anything.
• Super easy to use. Everything is right there on the main interface, providing a fast, efficient work-flow. Although it’s virtual, it behaves and feels physical and tactile. Nothing gets in the way of sound designing and playing patches. It’s perfect for modular rookies and veterans. Regardless of experience, CV-1 enables users to work quickly before their muses abandons them.
• It’s fun, inspiring, and musical. This is one of those instruments that are a joy to experiment with and play.
• Multiphonics is a closed system, which means the entire library is integrated with all modules sharing the same conventions and designed to work well together.
• Relatively low-CPU hit for a modular.
• Easy to read manual (probably not needed). Good video tutorials.
• Standalone and plug-in (AU, VST, VST3) version.
• Small footprint. Hard to believe so much fits in a handful of megabytes (8.8MB for application version).
• Being a registered user of this synth won’t become a money pit. AAS will undoubtedly provide us with exciting free updates, and down the road when they create v2 . . . it won’t cost much for registered users of v1.
• Applied Acoustics Systems has a strong user base with a responsive customer service.
DON’T BUY THIS IF YOU . . .
• like an open android-type technology that allows you to collect 3rd party modules. The Open vs. Closed system debate is much like PC vs. Mac. Some users like to mix and match components from a variety of sources, while others like to keep it all in a neat, clean box. Some users might want more complexity, more menus, and more under-the-hood tinkering. There are advantages and disadvantages to both camps. For those campers who prefer open architecture, look into: VCV Rack, Voltage Modular, and Softube Modular.
• cannot wait for this new release to add modules and grow into a beast.
• have enough synths. I tried to explain to my girlfriend why I needed another synth. My arguments made me sound like a junkie with a serious addiction problem. It’s hard to argue or justify why we need more gear to a non-musician. Yet, we musicians know we need more! Why do I need a Telecaster and a Stratocaster when I can only play one guitar at a time? Because they each have their own unique feel and sound. The same can be argued in favor of purchasing another synth!
Multiphonics CV-1 is a virtual modular synth that inspires creative experimentation and educational probing. It appears oddly tactile for a virtual instrument. Users can almost feel the patch cables and they drag them from module to module. Speaking of modules . . . they are clearly high-end and provide many patch options; yet, we want more! Experienced modular enviroment users will yearn for more, and I’m sure it will develop and evolve with each update. Knowing AAS, I am confident more modules are in the works, and I look forward to grabbing them. This company is best known for physical modeling. I’d like future updates to include more of their signature physical modeling via modules. Tassman, their synthg from years back included lots of modeling modules. When CV-1 includes more modeling, there will be little comparison between this and other modulars . . . assuming you are like me and dig physical modeling. ;-) What I like most about Multiphonics . . . it’s fun to use . . . time flies by as I move cables around, creating sounds that will surely lead to tracks and songs. Overall, the synth is expressive and musical. I don’t find myself frustrated working with it. My head isn’t buried in a manual, fiddling with hidden menus. What you see is what you get, and what you get is pretty cool! Everything is accessible directly from the interface. This makes it both a fast creation tool for seasoned patch designers and a great learning tool for modular newcomers. I’ve tried other modulars, both hardware and software, and I found most of them to be overly complex. This one is simple, yet powerful. And, the price is great. There is a demo. I highly recommend checking out this modular beast. I’m glad I picked it up!
OUTRO: SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO TASSMAN?
Tassman used to be Applied Acoustics Systems’ flagship synth. I loved it! Is this a new version of Tassman, renamed? Well, Tassman was discontinued a few years ago. I did some investigating and found this: https://www.applied-acoustics.com/tassman-4/faq/. Multiphonics CV-1 is not a continuation of Tassman. This is a totally new synth. Both share the same modular philosophy and are closed systems (no third-party modules), but Tassman behaved a lot like Reaktor, whereby patches were created in a “builder” interface, which required users to switch into the “Player” interface to tweak and play — sounds were interrupted when changes were made in the patch. Multiphonics is more like a Eurorack with patching done with wires directly on the playing interface. No doubt, the Tassman’s coding became outdated. Multiphonics CV-1 represents the latest in coding/tech, and in my opinion it’s much faster, smoother, and more fun.