Sample Logic Synergy X

July 27, 2012

by John Krogh

SAMPLE LOGIC HAS BEEN GOING STRONG FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, producing a number of high-caliber collections aimed at composers-for-media and musicians looking to add a modern cinematic edge to their tracks. Though Sample Logic is still a relative newcomer, its libraries have quickly gained critical acclaim and permanent positions in the sound palettes of many A-list composers and producers. For Synergy X, the company has returned to one of its earlier products, Synergy (reviewed Dec. ’08 by yours truly), and given it a major overhaul both functionally and sonically, adding an inspiring level of customization and tweakability to the instruments and boosting the sonic quality to new heights.

Synergy X is a Kontakt-based library/instrument that weighs in at just over 20GB of sampled material, with the library divided between individual instruments and multis, which are stacks of instruments assigned to the same MIDI channel to create a composite sound. Much of what I wrote in 2008 remains true for Synergy X. Th e instruments come in seven categories: Ambience, Bass, Drums, Impacts, Melody, Pads, and Rhythms, and each has been moderately expanded with patches that are variations on the original material. For example, whereas the original version may have a single creepy texture, in Synergy X that texture may have several variations, with one offering rhythmic modulation or character and another radically EQ’ed and eff ected. In almost every case, EQ and dynamics processing give the original presets a new lease on life, imbuing them with a level of hi-fi polish that the original instruments lacked. I was surprised by the improved sonic quality across the board.

Multis have also been expanded with 53 new presets in three categories: Construction Beds, Instruments Stacks, and One Note Glory. Most of the new multis comprise between five and nine instruments to create a composite that typically includes several rhythmic parts, either loops or pulsating harmonic/melodic material, paired with impacts, pads, and bass/foundational sounds. In many cases, incidental sounds and miscellaneous ear candy are mapped to the higher and lower registers on the keyboard, with the main layered sound mapped to the middle. Th is lets you get a groove going or play a texture from the middle, and then add interesting musical gestures with the sounds at either end of the board. In practice, that proved to be very effective for writing nearfinished cues in record time. It’s exactly that kind of musicality and forethought that makes Synergy X more than a collection of sounds—it’s a creative and compositional partner.

Graphically, the interface has been redesigned to off er an impressive array of sound-shaping controls. Visually, it’s a cross between something from an X-Men movie and Avid’s orange-plated Eleven Rack. Th e new look and functionality is made possible via Kontakt’s scripting language, which lets developers customize their instruments to provide specific functionality that’s otherwise only accessible by digging into an instrument’s edit mode. In the case of Synergy X, a consistent interface has been implemented, with dedicated sections for EQ, dynamics, reverb, delay, lo-fi , distortion, and other effects, as well as the arpeggiator. Additionally, instruments based around looped audio samples feature a step editor for adjusting volume, pitch, pan, and filter cutoff settings for each slice within a loop. There’s even a button for randomly generating new parameter values. I haven’t seen this kind of depth and programmability from any other Kontakt-based product.

In Session
With just over 20GB of content and more than 1,600 presets, Synergy X is a large collection that could easily take weeks to sift through to decide which sounds to include in your template or tag as favorites. I suspect that many original Synergy owners never dug deeply into the wealth of presets, which is why the new multis are so beneficial. They’re deftly programmed to combine complementary sounds in musically useful and creative ways.

In the process of auditioning the new multis, I soloed each instrument to hear how it contributed to the overall sound, and through that I discovered many more gems that I’d previously left unearthed. Adding to the inspiration factor, the preset names make obvious blockbuster references: “Blade Walker,” “Tatooine Pad,” and “Tron Racer,” to name three.

I have a couple items for the wish list. For starters, a lot of the looped material is presented as one- or two-bar patterns; I’d like more variation, as some of these can get repetitive. More four- and even eight-bar patterns would be welcome. Also, there are no velocity-switched multisamples, and because of that many of the acoustic instruments (e.g., ethnic fl utes, strings, and mallets) are lacking in dynamics. Lastly, the instruments can’t be opened in Kontakt’s edit mode. While the interface provides a ton of tweakability, I’d like to get under the hood more deeply. According to Sample Logic, they’re awaiting a bug fi x in Kontakt that will make this possible. You still get plenty of tweaking in the Synergy X interface itself. None of this is a deal-breaker, but it’s worth noting that Synergy X’s strengths are its textures, atmospheres, and rhythmic material, as opposed to deeply multisampled musical instruments.

Synergy X is an impressive redux on what was already a stellar collection of sounds that blurs the lines between music and sound design. Th e $60 upgrade is a no-brainer for existing Synergy users. For anyone looking for a high dose of inspiring cinematic sounds, Synergy X should be at the top of the shopping list.

Key Info
FORMATS AU, DXi, RTAS (Pro Tools 8 and later), VST, plus standalone.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Mac: Latest version of OS 10.6 or 10.7, Intel processor. PC: Windows 7 with latest service pack. Both: 2GB RAM, Native Instruments Kontakt Player 5.0.2 or later (free) or full version of Kontakt soft sampler.

Bottom Line
A comprehensive one-stop collection for all things “modern cinematic.”

$399 direct | $60 upgrade from earlier version

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