Synthix is a recreation of the Elka Synthex, reportedly a powerful analog synthesizer from the early 80s. “The Elka Synthex even has a sequencer!” says Vintage Synth Explorer. Nowadays some plug-ins have a built-in sequencer, but in the hardware days it was an exception.
The Synthex is reported to be a very good synth for pads, drones and leads. Artists like Stevie Wonder and Jean Michel Jarre would have used one. We haven’t played the Elka Synthex, so we can not judge whether or not Synthix is a good emulation.
When you start to play Synthix, you immediately hear that it is a virtual analog product of Xils-lab. The PolyKB II synthesizer comes to our mind to be a direct competitor. With Synthix you can create awesome full, warm, organic and dynamic sounds. This is also because it features up to eight different layers, like you play eight synthesizers at once. Synthix has 16 voices which you can put on and off for the individual layers.
The basic sound of each layer comes from two oscillators in which you can load different waveforms: saw, triangle , pulse and square. These oscillators are complemented with a noise oscillator. The sound can be further customized with a (self-oscillating) filter, ring modulation, pulse-width (cross-) modulation, four ADSR envelope generators with a handy delay option, two standard LFOs, Chaox LFO and a Rhythm LFO, and six separate modulation slots which let you assign different parameters.
The Chaox and Rhythm LFOs are special. Chaox can make somewhat controllable variable modulations. With the Rhythm LFO you can make, as the name says, surprising rhythmic sounds. Both LFOs can be assigned to almost any parameter of Synthix, such as pitch, frequency, resonance, envelope, and more.
You can split the keyboard for live performances, with different sounds (layers) assigned to the two parts. For example you can assign a bass to the lower octaves and chord sounds to the higher octaves. Each keyboard has its own arpeggiator.
The combined sound of the up to eight layers (of course you can also simply use one layer) can be enhanced with five effects (unison, chorus, phaser, delay, and EQ), a polyphonic stepsequencer (128 steps), an arpeggiator, and glide/ portamento. In addition, Synthix features a performance section with a special joystick which lets you assign different parameters. It also features a special midi guitar mode, a feature that you hardly see in other synths.
Synthix comes with 250 great sounding presets, which give a good impression of the capabilities of this plug-in. Besides the simple init preset, which is a good starting point for building your own sounds, the patches include pads, leads, basses, keys, strings, arps and sequences.
The very full sound of Synthix comes with a price. Like Xils-lab’s PolyKB II synthesizer, the plug-in requires relatively a lot of CPU power. Some patches require more than 50 percent of the CPU on our four years old laptop and desktop. Therefore you occasionally need to use the freeze function on your sequencer while mixing, or to bounce the output of the MIDI track to an audio track.
The GUI is layed out logically, but some elements of the user interface are on the small side. These elements are so subtle that you’ll find them only while reading the manual. For example, it appears that you can make simple selections by clicking on the small bar above and below the layer section.
The manual does give an impression of what the various sections do, but gives no information about how to make some basic sounds, such as a bass, lead or padl. For this you have to examine the presets if you have little or no experience with programming synthesizers. Currently there are also no tutorial videos available for Synthix on the Xils-lab website. This is unfortunate, because these can be very enlightening for people with little tweaking and programming experience.
The criticism above does not take away that Synthix is a very welcome addition to the crowded VST synthesizer market. Synthix is a great sounding virtual analog synthesizer with a unique sound, which allows you to go as deep as you want. It is highly recommended for lovers of thick, full sounds – and who is not? – and for sound designers who want lots of features to create their ultimate sounds.
The price of € 169 is competitive. Synthix is available for Windows and Mac. An eLicenser or iLok USB dongle is required to run the plug-in. Until September 15th Synthix is offered at a 30 percent (€ 50) discount. More information is available on the Xils-lab website.