support reviews

Residentadvisor Review: Sinevibes Turbulence

Having previously reviewed Sinevibes' Turbo—a dedicated waveshape transformer—I immediately felt on familiar ground with Turbulence. It works on the core concepts I've described, and the user interface design is consistent with Sinevibes' other plug-ins in look and feel, with high-contrast controls, colour-coded to differentiate waveshape functions (blue) from modulation functions (orange). However, the link between Turbo and Turbulence is even more fundamental: Turbo was initially released in two versions, which differed in their approach to the modulation of waveshaping parameters. Turbulence seems to be an evolved version of Turbo-S, which featured a 16-step sequencer as a modulation source, and which no longer appears in Sinevibes' product line. Having overhauled Turbo-S's sequencer into something much more powerful, Sinevibes have deemed the result worthy of the "new" plug-in tag, rather than an upgrade.

 Like all of Sinevibes' range, Turbulence is installed as an Apple AudioUnit, with no VST, RTAS or TDM version available. A manual is provided but, as with Turbo, this provides only a brief explanation of the controls; the relationships between them are not always obvious and user experimentation is the key to understanding the software's potential. As recommended in the manual, users should start simple: feeding a monophonic saw, sine, triangle or square wave into Turbulence is more than enough to generate satisfying results.

Instantiating the plug-in brings up a default setting which immediately goes to work on the incoming waveform. As with Turbo, users can modify waveshape parameters in real-time using an X/Y pad. For each of the 32 available sequencer steps, users can specify one of six waveshape models, one of six Mod Envelope shapes, and a Mod Depth. Given that all waveshape models and envelope shapes are displayed for each of the 32 steps (i.e. 13x32 graphic elements), the user interface is somewhat crowded, and while a larger interface would of course consume more screen space, it would be good to have the option of resizing the interface, or hiding inactive controls or sequencer steps.

To the right of the interface, there are a number of global controls: waveshaping controls include the X/Y plotter and a +/- modulation depth slider, while the sequencer options include sliders for envelope smoothness (similar to a combined attack/release control), envelope decay and sequencer swing. There's also sequencer rate selector, with rates from 1/64 note to a dotted 1/2 note.

Although there are a number of presets to explore, the default setting offers no dynamic movement, and results can be coaxed from the sequencer in a couple of ways. The simplest is to select a different waveshape model for each step. Alternatively, the same waveshape model can be used throughout, but with different modulation settings for each step; however, this approach will not yield an audible result until the Mod Depth slider is moved away from its central position, and even then results are dependent to a large extent on the active waveshape and the position of the X/Y pad. All 32 steps are active by default, but users can easily specify a shorter sequence length by clicking on a step's identifying number, thus disabling all subsequent steps. For example, clicking the number "4" will result in a 4-step pattern, and I found it helpful to work with shorter patterns while learning the software.

The envelope shapes on offer include two "double" settings (square and saw), which have the effect of doubling the sequencer rate—useful for varying a continuous rhythmic pattern. For example, a sequence of 8th note steps can include steps of 16th notes; conversely, an 8th note sequence formed mainly of these double steps will sound like a 16th note pattern, until the user includes a few regular envelope steps. This simple but clever feature affords much greater rhythmic flexibility and is a valuable inclusion.

 Sinevibes have built in a number of operational features which make software easier to use. For example, the mouse can be dragged around the sequencer to instantly set waveshape, envelope shape and mod depth values for each step, rather than clicking on them individually. Waveshapes, envelope types and modulation depths can all be set to a common value by Command+clicking, or randomized by Option+clicking.

The simplistic (although in this case, cluttered) interface design of Sinevibes' plug-ins lends itself to intuitive tweaking, and like their other products, Turbulence demands—and rewards—experimentation. The extra power of its sequencer (double the number of steps, plus powerful envelope controls), and the enhancements to waveshaping functionality, do a great deal to distinguish Turbulence from its forerunner Turbo-S. From