Review: Rob Papen Predator 2

Rob papen's original Predator is a monster synth, so we were very curious to hunt down Predator 2, explore its new sound design tools, and discover how it would improve upon a winning instrument.  

Rob Papen’s Predator has been a staple virtual synth for more than a few years, and it was with no small amount of anticipation that Predator2 was finally unleashed. Building on the three oscillator architecture, creamy filter circuit, and powerful effects of its predecessor, Predator2 delivers a wide range of new features that exponentially expand Predator’s sonic potential while retaining the rich sound quality that made it famous. 

Predator2 in action, editing user waveforms as partials.

Predator2 in action, editing user waveforms as partials.

Oscillation Fixation

Starting with the three oscillators, each can be selected from 128 different waveforms, from classic analog shapes to unique additive and spectral tones (along with 8 user-definable waveforms—but more on that later). Each oscillator now allows for a second waveform, Wave B, selectable from the same options, that can be morphed or combined with the first Waveform using a number of algorithms, instantly resulting in a huge range of dynamic timbres absent from the original Predator—or most other synths you might encounter. Direct mixing, harmonic partial morphing, wavetable interpolation, ring, frequency, or phase modulation are all available options to blend the two waves of each oscillator. 

Another new oscillator feature is the Symmetry control, available for each oscillator along with dedicated modulation amount and rate. Essentially a pulse width control applied proportionally to all available wave shapes, Symmetry opens another dimension for each oscillator’s tone. The second oscillators can both be hard synced to the first, with their own dedicated cross modulation section. Throw in tuning controls along with dedicated per-oscillator spread and sub amounts, and a vast amount of oscillator combinations and modulations are possible, that, when stacked, lend themselves to nearly unfathomable possibilities. Whether you’re looking for hefty bass, glistening pads, searing leads, chunky chords, or otherworldly effects, all are attainable with the wealth of core tones on offer. 

Triple Filtration

Predator’s notoriously lush analog-modelled filters have been doubled up for Predator2. A pair of circuits, each selectable from your standard low-, high-, band-pass, or notch filters (featuring up to 36 dB slopes), along with increasingly more unique comb, vox, formant, and ring filters provide more than enough tonal sculpting options for a wide variety of specialized sonic pursuits. Both come with a pre-filter distortion circuit, selectable from Edge, Smooth, or Dirty settings, and can be run in serial, by default, or in parallel. A dedicated filter envelope and LFO make modulation easy, while a separate, third high-pass circuit is on hand to help rein in your low end.

Amp Fiddling

The Amp section also comes with its own envelope to make modulation settings more straightforward later on. For those who might complain Predator2 sounds “too clean”, a built-in distortion circuit helps dirty things up with eleven distortion types to choose from, including Fuzz, Overdrive, Saturation, Power, and Foldover.

The Play Mode section comes with the new strum feature, working in concert with the new Chord mode, while 14 Unison modes come with Detune and Spread controls. Finally, the effects section is more than ample, with three separate effect slots hosting a wide array of impressively programmed delay, modulation, distortion, filtration, and stereo effects, including a Widener, Analog Phaser, Tape Delay, Reverb, Gator, Wah Wah, and more. Just when you thought your sound couldn’t get more engrossing, Predator2’s effects can easily take it to another level.

Multi-Mega Modulation

Besides the new oscillator options and additional filter circuit, the biggest change to Predator2 is the Multi-Page and XY Pad at the bottom of the GUI. Featuring in-depth arpeggiator control, user-definable waveforms, chord trigger settings, and a dedicated three-band EQ with filters on either end, the Multi-Page section adds a wealth of modulation, sound creation, and playback enhancements. 

XYZ & Beyond

Familiar to users of other Rob Papen synths, the XY section is a brilliantly conceived multidimensional user-definable modulation source. With four modulation destinations for each axis—eight in total—you can record and play back your own mouse movements within the XY field to create unique modulation patterns that would be impossible to generate otherwise. You can even edit the shape you drew in, or choose from a number of starter patterns, such as spiral or circle, from the right-click context menu. By default the XY pattern only plays once, but it can be set to loop normally, or backwards and forwards, with a wide range of speed and synchronization controls available to generate extended shifts in tone and color. If you’re looking for non-linear sound transformation, the XY control is an ideal place to start.

Editing XY settings.

Editing XY settings.

Arpeggiation & Modulation 

The full-featured arpeggiator goes beyond what you would expect by providing slide, tie, and step-tuning options that essentially transform it into a host-synchronized step sequencer when holding down single notes. The Chord section allows for as many additional notes as specified in the corresponding Play Mode drop-down menu, each of which can be assigned their own pitch and panning, with the Play Mode Strum control determining the distance between their triggered playback; attack, decay, and velocity slopes control the chord’s articulation, while an Analog Drift amount provides additional variance from one trigger to the next.

Modulation-wise, it’s hard to imagine running out of options with Predator2. Four synchronizable, repeatable 5-stage envelopes and four LFOs are on hand for various modulation assignments throughout. A dedicated Pitch LFO is accompanied by pitch-bend settings, while the Modulation section allows up to twenty assignments of any Modulator, including the four Envelopes, four LFOs, three oscillators, and both XY axes, to any possible destination throughout Predator2.

Editing the Arpeggiator.

Editing the Arpeggiator.

Power Usage

Eight user waveforms can easily be drawn in from scratch via the mouse, opening access to infinite tonal option. You can view and draw them as either waveform or partials, and select from any of the 128 oscillator waveforms as a starting point and edit from there. Once defined, each or the 8 User Waves can be deployed as waveforms in both the Oscillator and LFO sections. Throughout the interface, right-click options provide rapid access to key editing commands for additional programming control.

Predator2 Easy Page.

Predator2 Easy Page.

Predation Station

If Predator was a cougar, Predator2 is a lioness. Lush pads with intricate movement, thick dubby chords, elaborately arpeggiated leads, and towering juicy basses are just a few of the areas where Predator2 excels. For those well versed in synthesis, Predator2 offers the stunning sound quality of its predecessor with powerful new sound design tools and immense modulation capabilities that make it an even more enticing option. And if you’re a synthesis beginner, have no fear—Predator2’s easy editing mode removes extraneous features for a more streamlined approach, while the huge number of presets make it easy to find the sounds you seek, and tweak from there. Either way, Predator2 is well worth consideration as a one-stop solution for all your virtual synthesis needs, combining industry-standard sound quality with deep programmability and impressive effects at a solid value.

Price: $149 / €149 (currently on sale)

Pros: Exquisite sound quality, dazzling modulation options, highly programmable, excellent effects, and relatively easy on the CPU.

Cons: Arpeggiator sequencer and Chord section lack scale quantization; more thorough device-wide randomization options might have been nice.

Webhttps://www.robpapen.com/Predator2.html

 

 

Noah Pred is a Canadian techno and house producer, DJ and Certified Ableton Trainer living in Berlin, Germany - where he runs his label, Thoughtless Music. His Juno-nominated full-length album Third Culture, is out now: http://www.thoughtlessmusic.com/releases/tlm086-noah-pred-third-culture/ - and you can check out his new project with... Read More

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