- Intuitive, easy to understand, semi-modular synthesizer
- Simple to set up realtime control and change the sound
- Variety of modulation settings and macro controls
From KILOHEARTS, a new modular synthesizer has arrived: Phase Plant. After using Phase Plant we thought of it as more of a semi-modular synth, with virtual analog/digital sound generators (oscillators), effects and modulation, which you can control freely to synthesize sounds.
When you think of modular synth software, Arturia's Modular V, SOFTUBE's MODULAR, and Cherry Audio's Voltage Modular come to mind. These are emulations of real-life modular synth modules. With some, if you set up an initial patch and make a sound, no sound will actually be produced unless you connect virtual patch cables between modules in the proper signal chain flow. Others let you use templates which you can customize into your own sound. In any case, the hurdle is rather high, and unless you really know what you're doing, it can be quite difficult to create sounds.
In this area, KILOHEARTS' PhasePlant is more of semi-modular synth in that some modules are pre-wired together internally. You select oscillator, modulation, and effects modules and go about making sounds by concentrating on doing just that, as opposed to focusing on the connecting of modules together.
Phase Plant Structure
Before we dive into Phase Plant, a quick look at KILOHEARTS' Snapin Audio Effect Module will come in handy, so we'll start there.
Snap Heap & Multipass
KILOHEARTS' products come with a free host plugin called Snap Heap. We say free, but basically you get the audio effect module Snapin（3-Band EQ, Chorus, Delay, Gain, Limiter, Stereo included) with additional modules available for purchase.
KILOHEARTS Tool BOX Free (download link)
Snap Heap lets you freely combine Snapin audio effect modules however you want. Essentially, it's a host framework for building sound altering effects modules.
Snapin (Audio Effect Module)
Snapin refers to Snap Heap（Free host product）and MultiPass（Multiband Modular Multieffect bundle), which are audio effects modules that can be used with Phase Plant.
Other Snapin modules are available for purchas aside from the Free ones, and are bundled with the higher grade version of Phase Plant and as the TOOLBOX Snapin bundle.
Phase Plant Synthesis Method
A simple way of looking at it is to view the Phase Plant as a synthesizer that takes the waveforms produced by a synth engine, and processes them with Snapin module signal generators, effects, and modulators.
Each module can be added and placed as you like, with the signal automatically routed, so a vast number of configurations and ordering is possible. You can control the modulation patching and amount, for total freedom in controlling your sound.
From that perspective, the synthesis method of is that of processing, through the arranging of modulation and effects.
Phase Plant consists of
- MACRO CONTROLS（Top of screen）
GENERATORS are the synthesizer oscillator section, and are also called Signal Generators. Modules used for sound generation include the following four types:
- ANALOG Oscillator
- WAVETABLE Oscillator
- SAMPLE Player
- NOISE Generator
Also, other modules in the oscillator section that may differ from the usual image of "oscillators" are:
- Filter Effect
- Distortion Effect
- Output Module
- Mix Module
- AUX Module
- Groups ...Other
Phase Plant GENERATORS together with processing modules are responsible for creating the basic sound.
In the oscillator section you can find Filter, Distortion and others, which may seem like a mishmash, but keep in mind that GENERATORS is a large section responsible for producing the basic sound, and that includes sound-shaping elements such as Filter, Distortion and others.
Furthermore, in the Groups module you can group arrays of different oscillator modules, and combine them with other groups to produce layered sounds.
The EFFECTS section is constructed of three lanes. The waveforms created by the Signal Generator can be separated into three lanes, so each lane can have an effect applied to it.
Now, what is called an EFFECT here includes spacial effects, dynamics, and what could be considered synthesizer filters. This is a bit different from a conventional synthesizer structure, but the EFFECT section is one of the biggest features of PhasePlant and the Snapin modules.
Within these EFFECTS lanes, you can select one of the many Snapin modules that Phase Plant has, combine them together, and process the sound. Of course, even in the filter module you have options including Filter, Comb Filter, Formant Filter, Ladder Filter and others depending on the package, and some are sold separately. In any case, a variety of filters are ready for immediate use.
The bottom line her his that each and every Snapin can be used, and with the staggering variety of modules available, you can process the sound to the point that the original sound itself is completely destroyed.
One more big feature of Phase Plant is MODULATORS. Things like envelopes and LFOs are obviously included, but there are also some rare and unusual things like the Random Modulator, MIDI Modulator, and Multiply Modulator, which you may never have heard of before. These too are freely selectable and assignable.
Modulators work as mod sources, and can be connected by simply clicking on the modulation destination connector, and then setting an amount. Of course, destinations are all visibly indicated, and multiple destinations can be connected at the same time.
Phase Plant utilizes these modulators to dramatically change the sound. If you check out the almost 400 preset sounds, you can hear these mysterious sound alterations, as well as being able to visually and aurally enjoy this feature.
Macrocontrols, on typical synthesizers, are parameters assigned to and controlled by knobs and buttons. Of course, you can do this exact thing with the Macro knobs of Phase Plant, but you can assign multiple parameters, modulation, effects, and more to one single knob, which is a big feature.
There are 8 Macro knobs available, and at the right side, you can set names for the controls. You can see a round, orange icon at the right side of the captured image above, and this shows the connected parameter and the amount.
By turning just this one Macro knob, you can manipulate multiple assigned parameters in real time, which translates into changes to the sound that are quite dramatic.
Get the total package if you can
While Phase Plant may be modular in design, it differs from typical modular synthesizers, which make sound by patching modules together. Phase Plant makes sound by assembling and connecting modules that process sound. This allows for a high degree of freedom in sound design and control.
The modules that serve that specialized purpose are the Snapin modules. KILOHEARTS offers Snapin modules for purchase individually. And, there are three grades of Phase Plant for sale, ranging from a basic module set, to the everything included package.
Once you start using Phase Plant, it's inevitable that you'll want to get your hands on every module available, so the best approach is to just get the total package from the get go, which is what we recommend doing.
The sounds Phase Plant can produce are full of movement, unlike anything available until now. What's more, even if you've gone through the painful experience involved in patching an actual modular synth, Phase Plant makes the process of sound design enjoyable again. The structure of the synth is very easy to understand, which in turn makes it easy to learn how patching and modulation work.
The Sounds of Phase Plant
Phase Plant includes your typical analog, wavetable, and sampling sound engines, but because of the vast variety of modulation and other controls available, a wide range of sounds can be created.
Sounds we were impressed by include very fat analog waveform sounds that were a bit abrasive, as well sounds which had a unique character due to the sound created by multiple filters. We also thought that pad sounds which mixed analog and wavetable engines were quite good.
Also, the envelopes are VERY quick, so the percussion sounds, and bass sounds with a strong attack were quite appealing.
You can hear a number of the sounds in our demo & review video.
Other than the rhythm loops, all of the sounds we used in our demo were made starting with an Init Patch on the Phase Plant. It is VERY easy to make musically useful sounds with Phase Plant, so we tried our hand at a few analog style sounds as well.
In order to make the patches themselves easy to understand, we tried to use as few modules as possible. Even with a small number of modules, it was easy to make really fat, analog-feeling sounds.
Bass Sound Sample
For the Bass Sound we used two analog modules.
With the first one, we chose a sawtooth waveform and set the unison mode to 2. A little Detune fattens up the sound. As Phase Plant modules offer unison, it is possible to make a very fat sound with just one module.
With the second one, we added upper range harmonics via the sync knob. Sync usually requires the use of two oscillators synced together, but with Phase Plant you can use just one oscillator, obtaining an even higher frequency sync (simulated) than normally possible. So, as you twist the Sync knob, the high frequency harmonics increase, and as there is a waveform display you can see the results, and have a very fine range of control.
For the Filter, we chose a GENERATIONS Filter, and an EFFECT Ladder Filter. We wanted an envelope with a very fast attack, so we used MODULATION to achieve this. From the Envelope module's modulation point, we patched and controlled the Filter and Ladder Filter.
Brass Sound Sample
Our Brass sound was simple, and uses just one oscillator much in the way of a Prophet-5 patch. We sent a sawtooth from an Analog module without any further processing straight through a filter, and controlled the Filter and Ladder Filter with an envelope.
For the EFFECT, we used a 3 Band EQ and tailored the sound, with the final stops being a Limiter and a touch of Reverb. It's a very simple analog oscillator sound, with a sharp filter controlled by an envelope.
Pad Sound Sample
For our Pad Sound, we used an Analog oscillator with Unison and Detune, for a fat sound even though it's just one oscillator. After being processed by the Filter there, the basic sound then is shaped by the envelope found at the oscillator OUT. In this case, the volume of the sound is controlled, so it's basically the same as using a VCA envelope.
We routed the OUT to EFFECT Lane1, ran it through a Ladder Filter and while simultaneously shaping the sound, applied a tad of distortion to it. We also used Ensemble to give the sound some motion, a chorus style effect, and stereo width. In the last lane we applied Delay and Reverb.
How you use these effect lanes is totally up to you, there are no limitations, so you could line up individual lanes and obtain the same results if you wanted to.
In the MODULATION module, we have MIDI NOTE (pitch) controlling the cutoff frequency of the Ladder Filter, which serves the same purpose as Key Follow.
Wavetable Pad Sound
For our other pad sound, we layered our analog pad sound with a wavetable module.
We chose a waveform from the Wavetable, and then set it up so an LFO controls the position of the waveform being read within the wavetable—this creates motion in the sound. Because the Wavetable waveforms are digital, we fatten them up via Unison and Detune, then use Spread to add width to the sound. Here too, the only envelope we used is the one on the OUT, which controls volume.
Different bundles of Phase Plant are available.
Before buying, you can download and try the Snapin free version, and also the demo version of Phase Plant. We're sure you'll see just how good it is.
Snapins kHs Toolbox ULTIMATE
This is a bundle of Phase Plant, Multipass, and all Snapin modules.
Everything's included! We recommend this one!
Phase Plant includes three different Snapin modules.
Kilohearts Phase Plant
This is the most basic set.