Harmor by Image Line is an additive/subtractive synthesizer, with subtractive features like the filter also taking an additive approach.
Hence, to summarise the sound design process, you can build up your sounds from basic waveshape (like sine, sawtooth, etc.) and add harmonics to it, after which you can take the subtractive approach to subtract unwanted sonic properties from the sound.
Since you can add harmonics and harmonies to the waveform selected in the first step, hence the name – Harmor. However, this instrument’s unconventional design, layout, and terminologies may make you scratch your head at first and read its manual, but it will give you plenty of inspiration. So first, let’s look at the key features of the software.
- Two synthesizers in one
The unique feature of this synthesizer is that it has two parts, which can be the same or different, and you can also use them in a mix. Each of these parts is a separate synthesizer by itself, and you can have different sounds coming from both of these parts. You can also see these parts as the same by linking them.
- Easy modulation assignment
You can modulate parameters like Volume, Dry/Wet mix, filter parameters, pluck amount, and a lot of other different options, by selecting it from a simple drop-down menu and then assigning a modulator (like an envelope, LFO, keyboard mapping, velocity mapping, etc.) to it. Hence, there’s no drag-drop option to perform modulation. Further, modulations can be edited, snapped to the grid, and locked to the tempo.
The envelopes in the plugin are multi-stage and powerful enough to double up as sequencers and arpeggiators. In addition, Harmor can also analyze the audio and suggest an envelope based on that.
- Dual Oscillator section
Harmor has two oscillators to mix between and select from. You can load up a stock waveform on each of these, edit its phase, and randomize it. You can randomize the waveform itself and load up any complex waveform which you could further subtract from. The two oscillators can be mixed with and into each other using algorithms like fade, subtract, multiply, pluck, etc.
- Multiple filter algorithms
You get about 20 filters for the subtractive part, from a classic low pass to a band phaser to a custom shape filter. Further, there are ten more different algorithms like a wide bump, double cone, etc. So there are two filters in total that you could use.
- Instant visual feedback
To comprehend and understand the partials and harmonics of the sound, Imagine Line gives you analyzers and charts to monitor the audio visually. Apart from that, the envelopes, LFOs, knobs, sliders, etc., are well-laid out and easily editable, giving you good visual feedback for your actions.
- Image Synthesis
You can drag and drop JPEGs and PNGs on this synthesizer, and the Image synth engine will convert that to audio which you could further edit the image, control the speed, mix, loop, and position in time. This synthesis can produce great sounds with sweeping timbres and unconventional sonic movements.
- CPU Efficient
Harmor is programmed as a multi-threaded processing software, which gives us some extra CPU core. Hence, even after generating multiple harmonics and partials and using many tools, the plugin is light and not heavy on the CPU.
Unfortunately, Harmor is written in Delphi and is not available on Mac. However, it can work on Mac and Windows if you use it on FL Studio. Though, Harmor is not a standalone plugin and can only be used on FL Studio, with general FL Studio CPU requirements.
When it comes to generating pluck sounds, Harmor is a great choice. It has a unique additive synthesis approach with its interesting subtractive synthesis blend. However, the plugin may appear all over the place because of its complex arrangement and design.
It doesn’t function like other synthesizers but has a huge fan base because of its interesting sets of presets and functionalities. For example, that includes effects like blur, prism, harmonize, tremolo, etc., which may look unfamiliar but are great tools to shape your sound and give them a unique texture.
A straightforward voice manipulation tool that will bring that characteristic “robot quality” to your voice, as simple as possible.
Image Line developed an interesting version of the vocoder effect, with easy controls and an insightful interface that can help you better visualize what’s going on with your audio signal. All effects and tweaks are present here, and although some knobs might not be as intuitive as in other plugins, it’s fairly easy to get around after a few minutes of using it.
Vocodex controls the frequency band activity of another synthesized sound by examining the actual frequency band of your audio input and using it as a modulator. It then filters out the synthetic sound frequencies that aren’t present in the voice sound with a sequence of narrow-band frequency gates.
The result is a vocoder effect similar to that of a “talking synthesizer.”
- Carrier synthesizer
Vocodex features a carrier synth among its features, based on the Sytrus synthesizing engine. Using mouse clicks, you may turn on and off the locking of keys to generate chords. When the interface is selected, it can be played manually by stealing any MIDI keyboard controller input. The note or chord will persist until the next one is played when responding to a controller keyboard. This engine will pair nicely with MIDI controllers and get your vocoder effect just the way you want it.
- L-R encoding
Basically, this feature makes the left channel deal with modulation, while the right channel gets the carrier of the stereo input. By setting a numeric value from zero to 100, you can adjust how much of each band will act on your final sound and tail how the synthesizes will be applied to your voice.
- Bonus options
The “down arrow” at the screen’s upper right corner brings two “bonus” options: a “Detect Modulator Noise Level,” which analyzes the “MOD” input source for about two seconds and generates a modular noise level mapping, and a “Subtractive Denoising” that, when selected, reduces the modulator noise level from the same input.
- Mixer Section
At the top, you get faders and filters for the modulation and carrier inputs and noise. This lets you blend the effect and the source as you please. The SG controls are a Maximizer called “Soundgoodizer.” It is applied to the output and can control the vocoder’s sometimes unpredictable output levels.
The knob lets you alter the pitch of the modulation input. Roll it to the left to lower the pitch and to the right to increase it. This will cause the vocoder effect to sound more masculine or feminine.
This section includes three parameters: Unison Shift, Panning, and Order. The first controls the pitch shift between multiple Unison voices. Panning lets you narrow or extends the stereo width of the Unison effect. Finally, the Order detunes and pans up to five copies of the original signal. It is similar to a chorus effect.
- Carrier synthesizer
This plugin runs only in Windows XP or higher, both in 32 and 64-bit options. It comes in VST plugin format.
This simple-to-use plugin offers the popular controls for getting the perfect “robot voice” vibe your track deserves. The overall design interface might not be as intuitive as other options, but the straightforward controls help ease things up by delivering instant results without many clicks or tweaks.
Considering it’s a lightweight plugin, producers with slower CPUs might take advantage of this software without giving up the sound quality. Apple users can’t get to use this, but gladly there are other plugins that can do the same as this option and also run on Mac computers.
3. Sytrus (Subtractive, Additive FM, RM Synthesis)
Sytrus by Image Line is an interesting sound design plugin that combines subtractive synthesis with Frequency Modulation and Ring Modulation in a very analog style Matrix.
The MATRIX window could be used to create signal flows according to your needs. With six operators, three filters, and a create effects section, one can create some innovative sounds with this synthesizer.
It’s a powerful synthesizer capable of performing subtractive, additive, FM, and RM synthesis, with a huge palette of sounds and a versatile collection of presets, with categories like Arp, bass, brass, pads, strings, etc.
- Well-structured interface
The interface contains the Main tab, where you can control and set the overall signal flow, edit the frequency and amplitude envelope of the sounds, a modulation pad, and assign unison voices. Apart from that, it has separate tabs for oscillators, effects, and filters.
- Elaborate Oscillator Tabs
There are six tabs for six different oscillators, with each oscillator having sliders for setting shape, tension, skewness, and other parameters to set the waveform. Under the oscillator tab, you also get a window for assigning targets and sources of modulations. You can modulate pitch, volume, pan, phase, damp, input modulation, and harmonics for the oscillators using an envelope, LFO, Keyboard Mapping, Velocity Mapping, Random Mapping, and Unison Mapping, etc.
- Extensive Filter Tabs
There are three filter tabs, each containing thirteen different types of filters, each with different functionalities and knobs, with modulation-enabled filter parameters, including pan, volume, cutoff frequency, resulting, low band, multiband, high band, waveshaper, and waveshaper mix.
- Switchable Quality
With such elaborate features, Sytrus can get heavy on RAM, but using it can lower the resolution of the sound using the QUALITY window in the Main tab. In addition, you can oversample your sounds up to 64x in two modes: Draft and Render. Draft mode is the lower quality mode you could switch to if the software gets too heavy on the system, and Render is the mode you can use before exporting the audio.
- Cross-oscillator modulations
Each operator can modulate (RM and FM) the other operator, for which we can also control the phase and mix of the modulation.
Sytrus was designed way back in the early 2000s and has been developed since then. Hence, it’s compatible with Windows XP (SP2), Vista, Win7, Win8, Win8.1, Win 10 – (32 & 64 Bit), and only 512 MB of RAM is required to run this plugin. However, it’s available as a VST only.
Sytrus has endless possibilities and is a go-to soft-synth for many FL Studio users. You can hear its presets on much common pop and dance music. Its unique and simplified interface and versatility in producing sounds of different genres and moods make it special.
It may not be the best plugin in the modern day, but it’s still a pretty good tool.
Sawer is a software synthesizer based on the 80s analog sound engine, with a unique sonic character reminiscent of the Polivoks hardware.
You could use it to create old-school west coast synth leads that are famously found in the GTA San Andreas soundtrack, Nothing but a G-thang, Music and Me, and more 90s gangsta rap songs. You can also create funky bass lines and atmospheric pads & chords using the synth. All you need to do is to utilize the portamento and glide knobs on a simple sawtooth or a triangle to create that slow note transition when the note changes.
The virtual synth is a stock plugin on Image Line FL Studio and is an underrated and underutilized production tool, given its precise analog modeling, making it sound great. It has a main oscillator, a sub-oscillator, a filter, an LFO, and an ADSR.
- Ready-made sounds for the genre
A preset called “LD classic gangsta” in the porta and mono mode plugin will give you the signature synth lead. Other presets like FG Analog Funk, FG Classico Bass, FG Vintage, MC Ducky, and more will give you the classic saw-based bass sound, using which you can create funky basslines. Besides, its glide and detuning features will let you create the texture needed for the genre.
- Authentic analog sound
Sawer sounds so warm and organic; its sound engine is sophisticated and well-designed to create good quality sounds that are punchy and deep. It has a voltage-controlled filter and up to eight unison voices on the main oscillator.
You require FL Studio to run the plugin, which can be used on both Mac and Windows.
You need to know only the sound design basics to create West Coast & G-Funk sounds on Sawer, and even if you don’t know that, the presets have you covered. The synth has a straightforward, streamlined signal flow and an intuitive and responsive interface. Combined with external drum samples, you can easily create a kick-ass West Coast beat with this synth alone.