FXpansion continues to expand its lineup of interesting products with Strobe 2, a successor to the much loved Strobe synthesizer. It’s an analogue modeled synth that’s been heavily inspired by the Roland SH-101, Oberheim OB-1 and Sequential Circuits Pro One, though as you might expect it neither looks like any of these nor is limited by their original designs. A standalone or plug-in for Mac and PC, it’s competitively priced and easy to install and authorize. There’s a lot that’s new, so let’s dive right in.
Strobe 2 retains the original “super oscillator” from its predecessor and this has sync, stacking and detuning capabilities that enable it to sound much bigger than a single oscillator normally would. The synth is laid out logically, with a browser to the left that is searchable using categories as well as a text field. At the top is a quick preset switcher for storing multiple patches and a randomizer and morph grid for quickly mutating any patch, with freeze and lock options.
Along the top you’ll find a row of modulation sources, and any of these can be assigned to almost any parameter within the synth using the company’s TransMod system. There are now 16 slots as opposed to the original’s 8, and modulation is now animated in real time. TransMod works by letting you draw in areas around controls as modulation ranges, and it’s both powerful and intuitive to use. The interface is now vector-based which means it can scale comfortably even up to huge 4K screen resolutions.
The body of the interface can be switched between Synth, Effects and Arpeggiator sections. The effects page is a major addition and you get two effects chains, each with three slots. There are a total of 25 effects available ranging from EQs, choruses and shapers to reverb, delay and bitcrushing. There’s preset support and the effect control sections are compatible with the TransMod system for creative animation of effects. The Arpeggiator page is also revamped and features a more advanced arpeggiator as well as a modulation step sequencer lane. You get independent rate and swing controls, and it’s easy to draw data in with the mouse.
There are over 900 presets available and these cover a wide range of sounds from subtle pads through dirty basses, searing leads and skittering sequences. Many of Strobe 2’s sounds feature animation of some kind, whether it’s arpeggiation or movement created by modulation of synthesis or effect parameters using the TransMod system. The power and approachability of TransMod—a system FXpansion uses in quite a few of its products—makes modulation much easier than it can be in some other soft synths and thus makes the process of sound design both more fun and more creative. There will be some presets here that perfectly suit your needs, but tweaking them or indeed starting from scratch really isn’t difficult so you shouldn’t have any problem creating your own sounds. If you already own DCAM Synth Squad, special upgrade pricing is available via your online account.
Price: $179.00, €165.00, £119.00 inc VAT. Upgrade offer for registered DCAM Synth Squad customers: $79.00, €72.00, £52.00 inc VAT
Pros: Great depth of programmability. TransMod is powerful and creative to use. Handy new effects and expanded arpeggiator. Good performance features. Quickly create new sounds with randomization and morphing.
Cons: Nothing really!