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Samplecraze Review: Image Line Toxic biohazard

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The overview for Toxic Biohazard makes for some interesting reading but what sticks out for me, as a sound designer, is its synthesis engine and modulation matrix and how well they are featured and the fluency of delivery.

Described as having a hybrid synthesis engine, combining the best of FM and Subtractive synthesis Toxic Biohazard boasts a pretty impressive list of features.

But does it deliver?

The strength in any vsti lies within its synthesis engine, filters and the modulation matrix. Of course, the GUI plays a big part in workflow and in this department Toxic Biohazard is simply laid out with a sensible hierarchy and component flow;

Configuration, which deals with all the usual preset global settings like Transpose, Poly, Unison (I wish more vstis would have this feature) with voice selection, detune and pan, glide mode and time.

 Bank, preset and program load and display section. Master Envelope, which deals with the overall program ADSR shaping, velocity curve etc. Oscillators followed by LFOs, the Filter section and then Effects. effects engines which are serial and the order can be swapped through the options menu. Finally, a global EQ is provided for some final sonic tweaking.

At the centre of all this lies the ‘heart’ of the synth, the Modulation Matrix, which also includes the Midi Modulator (for selecting sources and destinations), and the Sequencer.This is pretty much how a sensibly designed vsti should look like and behave.

The order of the components is simple to follow and pretty much how a sound is designed when using traditional design techniques.
For me it is as easy as it can get.

In terms of features Toxic Biohazard has a pretty extensive and sensible array of features. I have already mentioned how Unison mode is a feature that many vstis seem to ignore when confronted with sound design projects, so it is good to see this implemented here. However, it doesn’t end there. The effects are in series and the order can be swapped which is useful bearing in mind that the effects on offer are limited in terms of variety, but potent when edited.

Importing cc maps and modulators, along with sequencer data, is also important and highly useful, again, a feature that many seem to overlook.
If I had to have a little complaint then the filter section, which is usually one of my first ‘go to’ sections on any synth, could be a bit more detailed in terms of variety. Offering a basic selection of LP, HP and BP filters can be a little limited as varying pole values could have been even more effective and not hard to implement and code. However, this is a limitation that can be worked around but where my real gripe lies is in the slopes of the filters on offer. HP and BP perform adequately but I would have liked a gentler slope for the LP. Again, I am not picking and the filters, and the ADSR envelope, are more than adequate for most sound design tasks.

The oscillators are both varied and are offered with detailed editing and shaping tools. An oscillator waveform can be selected from a drop down menu and there are many varying shapes on offer. A list of the shapes and their descriptions are omitted from the manual, so you will have to work out what each one is and does. The shape algorithms have been designed from an array of different synthesis formats and the developer has gone to length to make sure that a variety are on offer with different flavours to suit most needs.

The Lfos also offer extensive waveform selection from drop down menus and are some of the most varied I have seen on any vsti. For the Trance and Dance heads some of the Gate waveforms will be right up your street particularly when routed to control an oscillator’s amplitude (standard routing).

The global EQ section is a little bonus and features an 8 band graphic equaliser, much akin to those found on hi-fis. This is a feature that can be useful for final dynamic tweaking, but is not meant to substitute a detailed and fully fledged EQ.

The ‘meat’ of this vsti is in its matrix and the features offered here are extensive and very useful.
The FM Matrix, as Image Line like to call it, is where oscillators are routed to each other and to themselves with controls for Pan (oscillator placement in the stereo field), Level (where the summed output of the oscillators is selected along with single oscillator output selection), Lfos (whereby an Lfo can be routed to control the amplitude of an oscillator) and Master Pitch Modulation which is self explanatory and configurable.

The Midi CC Modulation is a decent and detailed source and destination matrix and covers most of the standard source modulators.

Sequencer/Arpeggiator is very good with all sorts of note and step features, swing functions, split and so on.

Combined, the Matrix covers all sound shaping and expressive tasks more than adequately. I do not want to go into a detailed ‘manual’ of features and what they offer but to concentrate more on the usability and results attained by this vsti.

To say that using Toxic Biohazard is easy would be the understatement of the year. The GUI is both intuitive and sensible laid out, so there are no excuses for not understanding the hierarchy and how to access different feature sets. In effect, very little is hidden and everything is both visually ‘available’ and a click away.
The 6 oscillators offer some real ‘stacking’ options and the editing allows for some very interesting sonic scapes. Add this to the detailed Lfo waveform selections and you have some great mangling tools at your disposal.


Ultimately, and as always, choosing a vsti is a personal choice but there are criteria that must be met otherwise a vsti cannot have a sensible comparable.
For my tastes, and the way I conduct my workflow, I really like Toxic Biahazard. It’s detailed feature sets make for designing sounds for most genres although the vsti is clearly aimed at the Dance and current Electro genres. However, do not think that Dance is all that this vsti can handle. I, strangely enough, have used it more for ambient sculptures and Hip Hop simply because it can cope with most extremes.
There will be the invariable comparisons made against other vstis of this ilk in the marketplace but most will be negated simply because of their price. To say that Toxic Biohazard is less than half the price of some of its competitors would not be an inaccurate statement. I suggest you visit Image Line and add Toxic Biohazard to your list of ‘must haves’.

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