Review: Tone2 ElectraX

Tone2 ElectraXIn recent years Tone2 delivered a couple of excellent synthesizers with Firebird and Gladiator. Expectations were therefore high when ElectraX was announced, Tone2′s new flagship.

ElectraX is a synthesizer with enormous possibilities. Unique to ElectraX is that the plug-in has as many as four (!) synthesizers on board. Each synth has three oscillators, two filters, an arpeggiator, an effect, four envelopes, a modulation matrix, and four LFOs, including a step-LFO. A master effect can be added to the sound of the combined four synthesizers.

Many features
The versatility is not just about the four built-in synthesizers, but also about the many synthetic possibilities. Besides the common subtractive synthesis ElectraX includes FM, wavetable and fractal synthesis. For each oscillator, you can choose from a standard number of waveforms, including virtual analog, ultrasaw, noise and wavetable. You can even create and import your own wavetables and samples.

Loading your own samples is interesting for using the built-in vocoder, included in effects section. You can also use ElectraX as a drum machine by importing custom drum samples. The samples can be assigned to the keys on your keyboard or drum pads. Sample playback is in mono only and the maximum duration is 10 seconds at a sample rate of 44 kHz, up to 40 seconds at 11 kHz. ElectraX also uses the loop information embedded in the sample.

Filter and modulation
After selecting the basic sound of the oscillators, you sculpt the sound further with the filter section and add modulation with the modulation matrix. The filter section consists of two slots, where you can load different filters. Each slot has an overdrive, which adds some extra grit to the sound. The filters can operate separately or serially connected. Both can be panned for a nice, wide stereo sound.

You can make the sound even more interesting by using the extended envelope and LFO sections, aftertouch or the modulation wheel on your keyboard. This can be assigned in the modulation matrix, for example to the oscillator pitch or the filter cutoff.

Effects
ElectraX has many good sounding effects on board. You can add one effect to any individual synthesizer, and then add a master effect to the whole. Besides the vocoder ElectraX has all common effects you wish: a reverb, delay, chorus, the (unison)-like ensemble, phaser, flanger, the rotary for a Leslie-like effect, amp, transgate, compressor and equalizer. It is unfortunate that the effect sections can only load one effect. Sometimes you have to use external effects, as the effects section is fully occupied.

Intuitive user interface
Despite the enormous possibilities of the synthesizer, Tone2 succeeded in making a clear user interface. The interface is nice and large with easy to read buttons for use on large widescreen displays, and designed to fit well on a laptop screen.

Immediately noticeable is the use of the so-called blooming effect, you often see in video games. The blooming effect is used to highlight buttons when they are activated. A small area around the button is also highlighted. The interface looks great, but sometimes the blooming effect makes it a bit uneasy on the eyes.

The four synthesizers in ElectraX have their own skin. One skin is more exaggerated with blooming effects than others. If you have a favorite skin, then you make it your standard skin for all synthesizers by modifying a .txt file. Personally we prefer the black skin for all synthesizers, because it is the most quiet on our eyes. But of course it is a matter of taste.

 

Blooming effect Orange Skin

Blooming effect Orange Skin

 

The interface visualizes the sound very good. In the oscillator section you can instantly see which waveform is set, and you can see it running through the waveforms while applying wavetable synthesis. This also applies to the filter, envelopes and LFOs. You can not only hear that the filter is put into effect, but also directly see the shape of the curve. This is very useful when setting the filter envelope, which affects the cutoff frequency. This ensures you that a twist to the filter envelope controls actually take effect. Or no effect at all of course.

All genres
The enormous potential makes ElectraX a true all-rounder. The plug-in sounds great. So great actually that we hardly could read us through the excellent manual, as we were playing with a nice new sound for hours. It is also highly recommended to read the manual completely to get a better understanding of the synthesizer.

Trancy sounds for dance productions are just about the trademark of Tone2. Of course you can find them back among the more than 500 patches. You can also find almost every genre in the appropriate patches: ambient, R & B, house, trance, dubstep, you hear it all passing by more or less. The patches are neatly divided into different categories (Bass, Brass, Keys, Pad, Atmo, Arp, etc.), allowing you to quickly find the appropriate sound for your production.

A special category is the Action Sequence, in which patches are using three or four synthesizers simultaneously. These are super rich, evolving sounds. They sound so full that it will often will be difficult to fit them into the rest of your production.

Despite the decent amount of patches, people on the internet still complain that Tone2 must add more factory patches to ElectraX. Probably this says much about the dizzying possibilities of this synthesizer. We think ElectraX might get very popular, especially in the dance music scene. It is likely that soon a lot of patches will be available from third parties, commercial or otherwise.

Init-patches
ElectraX invites the user to create their own patches with its user friendly interface. Besides the patches in the browser, you can find a number of patches under the Init tab of the Settings section. These are an excellent starting point for creating your own sound. If you want to make a pad sound, you can choose Subtractive pad, or 303 if you want a nice acid-like bass. We are very pleased with the Init patches. They offer a convenient starting point for a new sound in your productions. Actually, any standard synthesizer should offer these init patches. You should be careful with the Init tab once you tweak your own sound, because once selected it directly overrides your patch.

Low CPU usage
With four built-in synthesizers ElectraX has a surprisingly low CPU usage. On our 3 years old quadcore-PC running Ableton Live it’s quite difficult to rise the CPU utilization above 20 percent with the multi synthesizer patches. That’s really a good performance. In order to save CPU you can choose a lower sound quality or power off synthesizers you don’t use.

Great product
With ElectraX Tone2 again delivers a great product. The synth sounds great and offers lots of possibilities with a user-friendly interface. The Init-like patches work very well as a starting sound for your own sound. Every synthesizer should have them. ElectraX suits every music production which needs a synthesizer sound, but it would not surprise us if this VST-plug-in will be very popular among dance music producers.

Score: 9/10

+ Pros:

  • Fantastic sound;
  • Many synthesis options;
  • Clear, user friendly interface;
  • Relatively low CPU usage.

- Cons:

  • Interface features blooming effects one must love;
  • Limited number of effects you can use simultaneously.

Specifications
Product:
Tone2 ElectraX

Platform:
PC and Mac

Price:
€ 189

Website:
www.tone2.com

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