Review: Synthology: Analog Rack Attack

If you're after a collection of classic analog synths, ready racked up for Ableton Live, check out Analog Rack Attack. You even get the raw samples to use in your software of choice.  

Following their popular House Racks Pack, Undrgrnd Sounds’ latest Ableton-optimized package features a substantial library of classic analog synths racked up for easy use in Live. Comprising over 8 GB of multisamples recorded from infamous Roland, Sequential Circuits, Oberheim and Korg hardware, Synthology comes equipped with 148 individual racks grouped into three primary categories: Bass, Synth, and Chords.

The essential Synthology Pack content structure

The essential Synthology Pack content structure

All three sections are composed of roughly 50 racks programmed for optimal performance and Push integration: macros are nicely assigned for creative starting points, while clever velocity and aftertouch assignments allow for maximum expressivity via pad input. Additional effects are included on a per-rack basis, adding welcome embellishment and reinforcement where Undrgrnd deemed appropriate. Live’s Rack system being open to user editing, effects can be deactivated or replaced as needed. 

Those seeking sounds based on their particular hardware source may find themselves frustrated: each rack and corresponding sample has been given an independent name with no indication of the synth it was recorded from. While the appetizing vegetable-oriented names might make you hungry, they won’t necessarily help you hone in on specific tonal characteristics. That said, Synthology’s racks are easily previewed in Live’s Browser, so while their source might remain a mystery, it’s not difficult to find suitable sounds by ear.

The (hopefully non-allergenic) Peanut Bass Rack

The (hopefully non-allergenic) Peanut Bass Rack

Synthology’s Bass racks provide a range of ideally monophonic sounds ready to be sequenced and tweaked. While certain racks seemed to benefit from more coaxing than others, quite a few seemed more suitable as leads than bass tones, as only a handful naturally provided the low-end content I would normally look for in a bass patch – not to say they aren’t useful, but perhaps misleadingly categorized.

The cruciferous Cauliflower Synth Rack

The cruciferous Cauliflower Synth Rack

In comparison, the Synth racks, while more obviously geared towards lead-type sounds also contained a few patches with solid low end. The occasional extreme pitch envelope or other unorthodox default settings – sometimes contained within multiple nested audio effect racks – necessitated a degree of tweaking that some users might find troublesome, but as starting points, the Synth racks worked great overall. 

A look at the Bok Choy Chord Rack

A look at the Bok Choy Chord Rack

The Chord category provides a range of thick harmonic sounds ready for creative sequencing and playback. Perhaps the most rewarding category in the pack, the unique Chord Inversion macro allows for unique voicing and enhanced expressivity with a simple twist of the dial. Simply retriggering the same note with a bit of creative Chord Inversion automation quickly yields satisfying results.

A glimpse inside the SELECTOR Synth Rack

A glimpse inside the SELECTOR Synth Rack

While you’ll likely find it’s a more efficient use of your processor to load individual instrument racks, Synthology comes packaged with four handy SELECTOR Racks, grouped by category: Bass, Synth, Classic Chords, and Contemporary Chords. Each SELECTOR Rack contains all of the individual racks in the corresponding category, each assigned to the Chain Selector, which is then assigned to a Selector macro for quick access to all the Synthology sounds. Designed for ease of access on high end systems, automation of the Selector Macro can also be a shortcut to nifty multi-sound patterns.

Conclusion

While certain features of Synthology’s rack configurations may not be to everyone’s taste, the core samples are available independently – so even if you don’t find the Racks particularly helpful for your workflow, at the very least you’re getting a sizable library of raw analog components. If you’re looking for juicy analog sounds, it might be difficult to find a larger collection available at this price point. Throw in the Push-friendly rack configurations and Synthology should provide a solid starting point for producers in a wide range of modern electronic genres.

Price: €49

Pros: Solid sounds, clever Macros, controller-friendly.

Cons: Unorthodox effect configurations and patch titles, not exactly brimming with low-end content.

Webhttps://www.ableton.com/en/packs/synthology/

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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