The keyboard section has several clean and dirty variants
of Rhodes and Fender Piano Bass, Wurly, Clavinet, Hammond, and combo
organs including Farfisa Compact, Vox Continental, and even an air-blown
Emenee toy organ. Across the board, the samples are full of character.
The Rhodes has plenty of both sparkle and bark, and its harmonic profile
leans slightly Wurly as some real Rhodes pianos did. While the Hammonds
don’t have drawbars, they’re grindy, full, and warm. However, on
patches that have harmonic percussion, it triggers polyphonically, i.e. not vintage-correctly.
Key-switches trigger variations such as drawbar
registrations, Clav pickup settings, and the like. Other than that, the
user interface generally doesn’t get you inside the keyboard sounds at
the “synth editing” level (not counting the deeper editing you can do in
the full version of Kontakt, of course). Instead, it focuses on the
effects (keep reading), which are excellent and can get a lot of tonal
variation out of one instrument sound.
Guitars and Basses
The expected Strats, Teles, Les Pauls, and Rickenbackers
all deliver authentic tone, key-switched variations, and tons of
expression. “Guild Acoustic Clean” was a standout that made me want to
play the guitar part from Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick.” Often,
different velocities will vary the amount of sustain, so be sure to
My favorite bass was “1950s Gibson EB2 Clean,” which put a
dense, browned-butter foundation under anything it touched—I’m reaching
for it on all kinds of tracks now. A couple of surf guitar options are
dutifully Dick Dale, and if there’s a better sound to open a cover of
Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” than Vintage VI’s electric
sitar, I haven’t heard it.
All guitar and bass sounds feature a legato/portamento
mode that aids realistic note slides, and has presets optimized for
playing different intervals. The trade-off is that this makes the
instrument monophonic, so you’d use it mainly for lead and bass parts. A
“release retrigger” option combines last-note priority with
retriggering of the first held note when you let go of other notes. With
a little practice, this facilitates guitar techniques such as
Drums and Percussion
The drums just may be most flexible and powerful aspect of
Vintage VI; Big Fish would probably have had no trouble marketing it
by itself as a retro drum instrument. The names any drum aficionado
would search out are all here: Rogers, Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, and
the like. Sampling is hi-fi and, to my ears, loop-free.
Where the keyboards were sparse on user editing, the drums
are just the opposite. Clicking on a drum or cymbal in the graphical
kit brings up a pane of parameters where you can swap out pieces, tune
them individually, and adjust several velocity response settings for
each. Also adjustable for each piece are the
“humanize” settings, which use round-robin sampling and velocity
response to vary pitch and volume, avoiding the telltale “drums on a
The drums’ mixer pane is surprisingly sophisticated for
this type of all-in-one product. In it, you can blend close, overhead,
and room mic positions—and access insert effects (such as EQ, dynamics,
and saturation) per drum. Then, send-based effects include reverb,
chorus, flanger, and delay. You can also customize the keyboard mapping
of drum hits. Seriously—both the audio quality and programmability of
the drums made me do a double take.
Instruments in the Percussion folder comprise four presets
that cover the Latin and orchestra/band percussion. One is an extended
rack of Roto-Toms, so you’re covered if your definition of vintage
extends to the ’80s.
All instrument types except the drum kits (which have the
effects in the mixer) put 12 effects front and center in the main
window. Though the stompbox-like chain varies based on the patch,
staples include a transient shaper, rotary speaker, stereo widener,
distortion, cabinet modeler, four-band parametric EQ, bus compressor,
and tape simulator. Next are sends: delay, chorus, flanger, phaser, and
reverb. If you drag another VV instrument into the same Kontakt rack,
its send effects are independent and can have different settings.
Clicking any effect’s Edit button opens a pane of
parameter knobs—the speed for the rotary effect (surprisingly good given
that this isn’t a dedicated B-3 plug-in) is in here, so assign a
physical control to it if you want it at hand’s reach. The effects sound
great, and the way they’re presented makes it inviting to just click
away until you get a sound you like.
Home studio denizens tend to go for specialization in our
virtual instrument racks. That can make it tempting to dismiss an
all-in-one approach as less than serious, but I suspect that serious
composers who work under deadlines will think differently about Vintage
VI. You could easily spend far more time choosing the right sample,
layering the right audio plug-ins on it, tweaking their settings, and by
the time the track sits in the mix how you want, wind up with a sound
very close to what VV would’ve produced in just a few clicks.
This becomes pertinent when your deadlines are for a
non-musician client who described their vision in non-musician terms. If
those terms are meant to evoke a time when neither cigarettes nor
unprotected intimacy were considered bad for you, Vintage VI is the
quickest route from blank DAW arrange window to “Where’s my check?” that
we’ve yet seen.