AIR Music Technology is a German music software company that started out under the name of Wizoo Sound Design. They’re a member of inMusic Brands, which is a family of companies that includes some big names in the music industry. Some of those companies are Alesis, Numark, Akai Professional, and M-Audio.
AIR Music is the creative force behind many plugins for Avid’s Pro Tools. Some of AIR’s many products include Vacuum Pro, Loom, Xpand!2, and The Riser.
Hybrid 3 is their versatile six-oscillator synthesizer plugin. It’s basically subtractive in its nature, but also uses wavetable synthesis, and a bit of FM is included as well. They’ve added over 200 new presets with this latest release, and they have also revamped over 1,000 presets from Hybrid 2.0. The synth plugin originally was only available to Pro Tools users, but they have just recently started to sell it separately.
Installing Hybrid 3 was simple, but it does require the PACE copy protection, and it will be installed if you don’t have it already. You will also need a serial number that they send you after ordering the product.
For the PC, you’ll need Windows 7 or 8, and at least a Dual Core 2 GHz CPU (an i5 or i7 is recommended).
For the Mac, you’ll need at least OSX 10.8, and a Core Duo Processor (an i5 or i7 is recommended).
Hybrid 3 includes three oscillators in each of its two layers. The first two are the main oscillators, with controls for tuning in semitones (+/- 24) and cents (+/- 50). The Shape control will change the resulting sound, and how it works depends on which waveform you have selected.
The first two oscillator’s waveforms include Saw Sync, Saw CM (cross modulation), Multi-Wave, Square Sync, Square CM, Square PWM, and Wavetable. The two buttons in the upper right let you select between the oscillator controls and a modulation section. We’ll take a look at the modulation section later in the review.
To check out the oscillators, I used the “Default” preset. This preset has initialized settings, and makes for a good starting point when creating your own presets from scratch. The only thing that was a little confusing for me was that they have it set with the third oscillator’s level turned up, but the first two oscillator levels turned down. I thought the initialized preset should be set with the first oscillator’s level turned up, and not the third.
For the Saw Sync and Square Sync oscillator types, adjusting the Shape control will change the pitch between the master/slave of the sync oscillator. With the Saw CM and Square CM, the Shape control will change the carrier and modulator’s pitch ratio.
When you select the Multi-Wave and turn up the Shape control, it will increase the detuning between the multiple waves in the oscillator. If you set it to about 50% or higher, you can get a huge, supersaw kind of sound. Below the Multi-Wave waveform display, you can switch it from the Saw to a Square waveform.
If you are using the Square PWM, the Shape control adjusts the pulse width. For the Wavetable, adjusting the Shape control will morph between the different wave shapes of the wavetable index. There are 100 different wavetables included, giving you plenty of sounds to choose from.
The third oscillator includes sawtooth, triangle, and square waveforms. They’ve also included a sub-oscillator in this section of Hybrid 3. It uses a square waveform, and it’s tuned one octave lower than the third oscillator. A noise generator rounds out this section of the synth, and it has four different types of noise available.
The three other oscillators are located in part B, and you just click the “B” at the top of the screen to get there. Part B is basically a duplicate of part A, with all the same controls. Each part can be saved separately if you’d like, and they have included a generous number of part presets ready to use. You can load these by clicking the “Part Presets” button at the top of the interface. Either part can be quickly turned on or off by using the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
Modulation and Filters
At the top right of each of the three oscillators there is a tab labelled “MOD”. This is where you can set the modulation sources for certain targets. You could modulate the oscillator’s pitch with the Step Sequencer for example (more on the Step Sequencer later), or change the Shape setting using an Envelope or an LFO. The targets include the oscillator pitch, Shape control, and level. Some of the other modulation sources include velocity, after touch, and key tracking.
The filter section is located in the middle of the interface. Hybrid 3’s filters have two modes included. There is a DCF mode (Digitally Controlled Filter), which has a sharper, edgier sound to it, and a VCF mode (Voltage Controlled Filter) which mimics a smoother, analog type of sound.
There are two separate filters, and each of them has a whopping 23 filter types to choose from. They’ve included the standard cutoff and resonance controls (self-oscillation is possible), and each filter can have its own saturation effect added on to it. In total, there are six different types of saturation/distortion available: Overdrive, Distort, Hard Clip, Rectify, Bit Crush, and Resample. A slider control lets you adjust the amount of distortion effect that is added.
Finally, there is the Gain control, which increases the level going to the filter, and the Env (envelope) control will adjust how much the Filter envelope affects the filter cutoff.
You can route the filters in different ways, such as setting them to parallel or serial modes. Another way you can set up Hybrid 3 is to have the first filter going to left channel, and the second filter going over to the right channel. “Osc” mode configures it so the first oscillator will go to the first filter, and the second and third oscillators will feed into the second filter.
The filter section also has a Modulation tab, similar to the oscillator section. The sources you can pick from are the same as those in the oscillator section. What’s different is the choice of destination, which include Cutoff, Resonance, and FM amount.
There are a total of four LFOs in each part. The first three have eight different waveforms, and one of them is actually a “drift” effect instead of a regular waveform. This can work well when you’re trying to simulate a bit of that old analog oscillator drift, where the tuning can vary slightly over time. Others shapes included are sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, sample and hold, and a random shape.
The waveform is displayed on the screen, and to adjust its speed, you click and drag a little white dot right above it. You are also able to adjust the phase, turn on sync (with five different settings), and the LFO depth can be affected by many different sources.
The third LFO has a little trick up its sleeve. It is identical to LFOs 1 and 2, but it can also have its rate modulated, as well as the depth.
The last LFO is called “Pump”, as it creates an effect similar to side-chaining. This kind of effect is used much of the time in EDM (electronic dance music), and it has an off-beat, breathing type of character. In Hybrid 3, you can use this effect on other parts of the synth, not just the overall volume. The envelope shape has controls for attack, hold, and release. It can be found in each of the Modulation tabs I had mentioned earlier, so it can be used in a multitude of ways.
In Hybrid 3, there isn’t just one 16-step sequencer, they’ve given this synth plugin two separate sequencers. You can access modulation options for either one in the Mod tabs.
Each sequencer has four lanes, with the first two controlling note and velocity values, and the last two lanes can be used for whatever you’d like to modulate. They show up as Seq1 and Seq2 in the Mod tabs. To get to either of the Sequencer pages, you click SEQ at the top of the screen. Part A has its own sequencer, and so does Part B.
Near the top of the screen are buttons which can be used to play, mute, or to tie the notes together. You can create a gated pattern by turning off certain notes, and set it up just the way you’d like.
There are nine different mode settings, three sync modes, and the two sequences can be optionally linked together from part A to part B. On the left side are controls for Rate, Gate Length, and Swing. They’ve included a huge amount of MIDI phrases you can load up, and MIDI file import is included as well.
Hybrid 3 has two Modulation envelopes (per part) that you can use in your presets. These can be assigned by using the Modulation tabs I mentioned earlier, which are located in the oscillator, filter, and amplifier sections. Amplifier and Filter envelopes are included as well, and all of the envelopes have the same controls in each: Velocity, Attack Velocity, Key Velocity, and Key Tracking.
Instead of the regular ADSR type of envelope (attack, decay, sustain, and release), Hybrid 3 has an extra Decay stage (ADDSR) for the Filter and Amplifier envelopes. This gives you more flexibility and control in your sound design. The envelopes themselves have been modelled after analog synths, and have an attack stage which is logarithmic, and an exponential decay and release.
The two Modulation envelopes have been kicked up a notch, as they have a total of six segments per envelope: Delay, Attack, Decay1, Decay2, Sustain, and Release. These two envelopes are also bipolar, so you can get both positive and negative modulations.
In order to get to the Effects page, you click its designated button at the top of the screen. Hybrid 3 has two insert effects per part, and three additional master effects. There is a nice selection of insert effects on hand, among these are many types of reverbs, delays, EQs, distortions, a vintage filter, and they’ve added compression and limiting as well. For the master effects, they have included a delay, reverb, and chorus/flanger.
I like how all the insert effects for both parts (and the master section) are together on one screen. It makes it so much easier to really see and control what is going on.
The large variety of effects work well and they sound good. In a future version however, I’d like the ability to modulate the effects. I was thinking it would be great if they could add a MOD tab to the effects section, similar to other areas of the synth.
And More …
I can’t mention every little feature in Hybrid 3, as there are so many. However, there are two more items that I do want to mention. One of them is the “Doubling” feature. This is found on the Common page, and what it is does is widen and thicken the sound with some detuning and panning, giving it an even fuller sound than before.
The other feature is the Morph section that is found along the bottom of the screen. You can use the Morph controls on certain parameters, such as filter cutoff, LFO speed, etc. I am not sure what the upper limit is, but I assigned four different parameters to just one Morph control. You can also assign a Morph control to a modulation wheel, aftertouch, pitch bend, foot pedal, or breath controller.
This is one of the only synthesizer plugins I know of that doesn’t have a demo version. You basically just have to make sure and listen to lots of demo tracks that have been made with it, and watch some demonstration videos over on YouTube. The main problem with having no demo version is you can’t check to make sure it works correctly with your system.
From what I gathered during this review, I can say Hybrid 3 is definitely worth getting. The CPU usage is decent, it’s packed with features, sounds great, and has good modulation options. I checked out nearly all of the presets, and I didn’t have any problems playing them back on my older PC.
A couple things I’d like to see improved are the preset browser and the unison. The browser does the job, but it’s pretty simple, especially compared to many other new synth plugins on the market. There are no features built-in to help organize anything by type, or genre. They have it setup so each type is in a different folder, which works, but this could be improved. I’d also like to see a “favorites” type of function added..
As for the unison, (enabled on the “Common” page) it does work well, but it is monophonic. I’d love to have polyphonic unison, even if the CPU usage goes up. This synth plugin is not that CPU hungry to begin with, so why not throw that it in there as an optional feature? I believe it would be worth it.
All in all, Hybrid 3 is great, and I wish it was around sooner for the non-Pro Tools users (myself included) as I could have been using it a long time ago. Now everyone has a chance to use this versatile and powerful synth plugin.
Hybrid 3 is in VST and AAX formats for 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, as well as AU for 64-bit operating systems.
Original Review at SoundBytes Magazine