Review: Apple Alchemy

With seemingly limitless sound design possibilities, Alchemy should satisfy even the most die-hard synth players and programmers
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Introduced in 2009, Camel Audio’s “sample manipulation synthesizer,” Alchemy, quickly gained favor among hard-core synth heads for its multiple synthesis types and sophisticated modulation scheme. Then in early 2015, Apple acquired Camel Audio and shut down its UK operations, effectively discontinuing the boutique instrument and effect plug-ins that Camel was known for.

Fast forward to August 2015: Apple released Logic Pro X 10.2 and, to the delight of many Mac-based musicians, the update included a new version of Alchemy. Huzzah!

Apple’s re-launch of Alchemy offers a number of new features and improvements to an already robust synth. In fact, there are more additions than I have room to detail here, but some of the highlights include improved audio morphing and cross synthesis, additional and redesigned filters that claim to “faithfully reproduce analog filters from classic synthesizers,” and an expanded modulation section that includes four simultaneous arpeggiators (up from one).

The sampler element has been beefed up to support release samples and the ability to import EXS24 instruments. This blows the doors open to a wealth of creative possibilities, especially considering the hundreds of EXS sampler instruments already included with Logic. However, the most immediate change you’ll notice is the user interface, which is considerably larger and redesigned for easier operation. Compared to the previous version, I found the new UI more intuitive and appealing— its flat, high-tech look is fresh and inviting.

Starting with the basics, a preset can contain up to four sources—A, B, C, and D—each of which can use multiple synthesis methods, including additive, granular, sampler, spectral and virtual analog. The variety of synthesis types is one of Alchemy’s many strengths. For example, you can combine granular with virtual analog, or additive with spectral to create complex hybrid pads, leads, basses, and textures that would be impossible with other lesser instruments. The possibilities are truly staggering.

Alchemy’s browser uses a tagging system that encourages exploration and allows you to add custom tags per patch (find me phat, classic synth sounds for my down-tempo track!). This is nice for organizing presets for specific projects or by characteristics.

More than 3,100 presets are included, many of which are ported over from the previous factory and add-on libraries (14 GB of content in total). Stylistically, Alchemy leaves no stone unturned, although choice patches from noted producer and composer Junkie XL did not make the cut (presumably due to licensing issues). Still, few soft synths can match the depth, breadth and quality you’ll find here.

Like the other instruments this month, Alchemy can certainly produce cinematic textures when called upon. But that is only the beginning of what this monster can do. Whatever synth-inspired styles of music you may be into, Alchemy is equally capable of delivering first-class results and it is worthy of your “desert island synth” consideration.

Snap Judgment

PROS Stellar synthesis capabilities. Transform pad allows for subtle or radical tweaking in real time, even from an iPad running Logic Remote. Bundled with Logic Pro X 10.2.

CONS Logic-only. Lacking some of the third-party content previously available from Camel Audio.

Bottom Line

With seemingly limitless sound design possibilities, Alchemy should satisfy even the most die-hard synth players and programmers.

(free to existing Logic Pro X users)