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Audiaire Zone Review at Music Radar

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An ambitious new virtual instrument.

Available as either a one-off purchase or via Splice's rent-to-own model, Zone is the first product - a "parameter sequencer synthesizer", no less - from Audiar, anew software company founded by Sample Magic head honcho Sharooz Raoofi.

Claiming it showcases "the beautiful idiosyncrasies seldom seen in digital instruments", Zone is cheeky going head to head with modern 'power synths' such as Serum, Thorn, and VPS-Avenger. Can it stand up against these well-established big boys? Lets, ahem zone in and find out...

Pros:

  • Immerse sequencing options.
  • Powerful versatile sound generation.
  • Sexy single-screen interface.
  • Effects are all terrific

Cons:

  • Sequencer and macro mod depths cant be adjusted.
  • Macro knobs cant be renamed
  • Only one modulator per sequencer lane

Danger zone 

Zone’s scalable, single-window interface is as easy to navigate as it is aesthetically pleasing. Sound generation starts with the two identical oscillators, each of which can be loaded with one of 151 single-cycle waveforms, all sampled from vintage synths and ranging from analogue waves through to more modern, esoteric shapes. And, yes, you can also import and load your own single-cycle waveforms. 

Each oscillator sports coarse Tune and Fine controls, Level and Pan sliders, plus a Shape knob to skew and bend the wave. For hard-sync tones, you can either link the two main oscillators or independently detune Osc 1 or 2 against its own inaudible ‘slaved’ oscillator. The central Osc Mod section, meanwhile, facilitates even more creative wave manipulation by allowing you to dial in FM, ring/amplitude modulation, cross-oscilloscope waveshaping and more. Elsewhere, fatness can be bolstered with the 

Sub oscillator, switchable between one of five waveforms (Sine, Triangle, Saw, Square and Pulse) and tunable either one or two octaves below oscillator 1. There’s a Noise oscillator, featuring nine available shapes, and a dampening Density control. For thickening and detuning effects, up to seven true Unison voices can be dialled in, detuned and spread apart for stereo width. 

Filter zone 

No modern softsynth is complete without a quality filter, and Zone’s powerful multimode resonant option comes well equipped. 12 types are available, ranging from more functional State-Variable (low-pass, high-pass, bandpass and notch), Sallen-Key (low- and high-pass) and Ladder topologies, through to more flamboyant Comb, Phaser and Circuit-Bent models. The slopes can be set between 12dB and 48dB/oct, and as well as the expected Cutoff and Q (resonance) controls, a four-stage ADSR filter envelope sits directly underneath, with mod amount governed by the Depth knob. 

Mod zone 

Speaking of modulation, the top-centre envelope section is where you toggle between another pair of four-stage ADSR envelopes (one hardwired to Amp, the other assignable), while the synth’s two identical LFOs boast 12 wave shapes. There are also six Macro controls for controlling one or more parameters, but annoyingly, these can’t be renamed, and mod depth can’t be adjusted at all. 

Mod envelop and LFO modulation is assigned via the eight-slot Mod Matrix’s menus: choose a Source (one of nine), Destination (19 are available) and MIDI CC number, then apply depth with the Amount slider. This process works well enough, but it’s a shame you can’t hook up an envelope or LFO modulation via drag-and-drop like you can with the Sequencer and Macros - an odd omission. 

FX to impress

Coded by Sinevibes DSP guru Artemiy Pavlov, Zone’s 22 FX modules serve up signal processing of the highest calibre. Upon loading an effect into one of the four available FX slots, its parameters populate the knobs. Every effect utilises a dry/wet Mix slider for signal balancing, and effects parameters can be sequenced independently - see Stepping out. 

The majority of modules tackle virtual ambience and modulation duties, ranging from several delay types (Stereo, Ping-Pong, Ball Up/ Down, a modulated delay and space elastic Rain Drop) through to a Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, a trio of Reverb options and five Phaser flavours. There’s also a one-knob Stereo Width effect, while a Distortion, Decimator and Compressor bring the crunch and punch. 

Read the full review at Music Radar here.

 

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