in the ’70s and early ’80s, string machines were an absolutely
integral part of every keyboardist’s arsenal, and the ARP Solina
String Ensemble was arguably the most popular of the lot. Based on
the Eminent 310 electronic organ, its sound was so distinctive and
ubiquitous that it transcended genres. Hits ranging from Gary
Wright’s “Dream Weaver” to The Buggles’ new-wave anthem
“Video Killed the Radio Star” featured its ethereal, orchestral
sound. Even progressive rock legends like Yes and Pink Floyd embraced
the Solina’s unmistakable shimmer on seminal albums like Tormato
and Wish You Were Here
With the introduction of programmable
polyphonic synths such as the Sequential Prophet-5 and Roland
Jupiter-8, the relatively limited string machine quickly fell out of
favor, compounded by the fact that its sound had become associated
with countless disco tracks. But now that vintage technology is all
the rage, string synths are making a comeback in a big way. Even
hardware manufacturers like Waldorf are getting into the game, with
their recently released Streichfett desktop module (reviewed Nov.
Arturia’s new Solina V is a lovingly
crafted reproduction that includes several new features, giving it a
much wider array of textures than the original without venturing too
far off course.
purists, the original front panel of the Solina is identical, with
just a few parameters governing the sound. As with its predecessor,
the keyboard is pseudo-splittable with contra bass and cello
emulations in the lower half and viola, violin, trumpet, and horn in
the upper half. Granted, the cello and bass sounds are essentially
identical to the upper instruments, with different filtering being
the real distinction.
Like the lower half of the keyboard,
the four upper instruments are all based on the same
frequency-divided oscillators, so again, any significant sonic
differences between the two boil down to filtering. The viola and
violin are the source of the legendary string sound, with the viola
being an octave lower than the violin. These can be combined by
activating both switches, but as with the original ARP hardware,
there’s no mix adjustment.
You can add the trumpet or horn
instruments to the strings for a slightly different character,
imparting a bit more midrange. On their own, they’re not really
horn-like—at all—but we’re talking about an instrument that
arrived in 1974, so that’s not the point.
As with the original, there are only
two envelope parameters, “crescendo” and “sustain length,”
which are simple attack and release controls. That’s it, but that’s
fine, because the real star of the Solina show is its ensemble
effect, which is arguably one of the most influential innovations in
The Solina ensemble was far more than
a simple chorus and while there were many imitators during this era,
the Solina’s implementation was the definitive version. For trivia
buffs, the effect was created via three “bucket brigade” delays
being simultaneously modulated by two LFOs at different speeds, with
each delay’s phase being offset by approximately 120 degrees. The
end result was an incredibly deep, shimmering effect that gave the
notoriously thin frequency-divided oscillators a lushness that made
the Solina sound remarkably realistic for its time—especially if
you then drenched it in plate reverb. Last but not least, Solina V
includes the ensemble effects from the Mk. 1 (monaural) and Mk. 2
that we’ve covered the original’s features—which Solina V
captures perfectly—let’s delve into Arturia’s updates to the
Solina engine. For starters, there are adjustable pitch-bend and
modulation wheels. The modulation wheel works in conjunction with a
new LFO that offers tremolo and vibrato for the upper instruments and
cutoff modulation for the contra bass. There are five waveform
options for the LFO: triangle, upward and downward saws, square, and
random. Of course, the LFO rate can sync to your host tempo.
Speaking of the contra bass, Arturia
added some customization there as well. There’s a lowpass filter
(modeled on a classic 24dB-per-octave ladder filter) with cutoff,
resonance, and a simple envelope with attack, decay and sustain
parameters. Despite these features, the filter retains the overall
character of the Solina, so don’t expect any TB-303-like tricks
here. It’s much more subtle than that and the result integrates
nicely with the overall vibe of the software.
Interestingly, there’s also a basic
arpeggiator for the bass section that’s does all of the standard
tricks, in case you’re using the stand-alone version of the
software in a live stage rig.
For the upper instruments, there’s a
new resonator section that’s a little like a three-band EQ that’s
based on filtering instead of equalization. This feature is based
more on the Polymoog than the original Solina, but the end result
gives allows for authentic-sounding customization of the basic tone
generators. That is, the results of these filters are completely in
line with overall tonality of a real Solina. The three filters can be
switched (globally) between lowpass, highpass, and bandpass modes,
creating a distinctive sound that’s also well-suited to vocal
Finally, the Solina V includes three
additional effects: a chorus/phaser, two types of delay, and a
convolution reverb with models of vintage plates and such. The
reverbs here are really quite lovely and, combined with the phaser,
really up the ante on the Solina’s vintage character.
at an affordable $99, Arturia Solina V is a lovingly crafted
reproduction of the original. Frankly, they nailed it. The resonators
and convolution reverb are intelligently implemented additions that
add flexibility while remaining faithful to the sound of that era. If
you’ve never heard a proper string machine, much less a Solina, you
owe it to yourself to download the demo version from Arturia’s
site. You’ll immediately recognize its ethereal, shimmering sound
from countless hits, and more than likely summon a little inspiration
for your next track.
recreation of the Solina sound. Shimmering ensemble effect.
Three-band resonator for sculpting your own variations. Convolution
reverb includes a collection of vintage plate models.
filter and envelope tools in bass section could be a bit more
most authentic Solina string synth recreation available.
| $99 street | arturia.com