Carbon Electra by PluginBoutique
Directly from a future: a modern aggressive sound with best step sequencer ever and lots of presets from star producers.
by Alex Arsov, September 2015
This is an aggressive virtual synthesizer that sounds quite different from many others. It’s inspiring and has numerous very unique, preprogrammed sequences, ideal for any Electro/Dance/EDM production. It offers numerous “out of the box” preprogrammed sounds that otherwise would require serious programming skills. There are all sorts of sounds, mad riffs, phrases – the type of thing you would hear on top produced electro or EDM songs. Not to mention it also offers a huge number of presets made by well-known producers that give additional value to this wallet-friendly instrument. Actually, this is more or less all you need to know about this synthesizer, as everything else is just detail.
Details, Step by Step (Sequencer)
The thing that makes this synth so unique sounding, along with its sharp filters, is an absolutely unique and very capable step sequencer with which you can build a sequence by combining a large number of various wave shapes for every separate step. This builds a bigger picture and combines those shapes into one big, mad looking envelope which can be further assigned to pitch, volume or cutoff frequency. Setting up a number of steps is also just a one-click story, so after just a little trial and error I found that it’s not so hard to make interesting sequenced lines that would be almost impossible to accomplish just by playing those notes in real time. OK, my sequenced phrases aren’t really up to those you can find in the preset section, but at least it’s not impossible to start toying and enjoying.
The next quite interesting addition that I haven’t seen for a while is a four oscillator structure. All four can be synced together. They come with the standard wave shapes, and the first oscillator has a Frequency Modulation knob instead of Tune, as the other three have. This FM knob gives a more aggressive character to the first oscillator by adding some lower sub-harmonies to original one. According to the manual, “the sync feature generates a screaming effect when adjusting the pitch of synced oscillator.” End of quote. One way or another, it works. Carbon Electra can really bark like a rabid dog.
The relationship between all four oscillators can be controlled through the Mixer window, where you can set the volume for each oscillator, or add some noise to the signal, or even push the overall level an additional 12 dB.
Of course, it would be hard to talk about the general character of any synthesizer without going through the Filter section. Of the most noticeable additions is a Vocal filter which comes with the standard Low- and High-Pass filter types and of course a Saturation switch that can add some extra colour. Vocal filter and this extra Saturation can really make a difference, giving recognizable and unique results.
In the LFO window we can find three almost identical LFOs having different destinations. The first LFO controls the pitch of all four oscillators, the second one is linked to FM1, PW2, PW3, or even LFO1, with an additional resonance knob and a third one to control the general tone, effecting all four Oscillators, plus a cutoff option.
The rest is quite standard. An Effects section with a pretty common set of effects: Chorus, Delay, Phaser, Distortion and Equalizer. The Envelope section with ADSR, additional Amp knob for taming the level of the signal before going to distortion, and an Exp switch for giving the slope of attack an exponential curve. Actually, Carbon Electra doesn’t have a Modulation Matrix section and therefore some of those options that are usually connected through such a section are included directly in some of the basic sections. This is the personal decision of the developer and, one way or another, this synthesizer has other advantages, so you probably won’t miss a Modulation Matrix section much.
The sound of every synth is mostly a combination of the programming skills of developer, a clear idea how internal elements should be connected, along with choosing the right people to do preset programming. Carbon Electra nails all three elements. It’s not an all-round tool, intended for all purposes, but it’s a very specific and unique virtual synthesizer with a very up-to-date modern sound, furnished with a large number of hip electro sounds. After all, who the hell needs just another virtual instrument with that standard set of sounds. This one is definitely everything except standard.
For $91 USD you get a synthesizer that makes a difference. Maybe it’s not a toy for every taste, but being blessed with such great presets, where a good number of them are made by some big electro D.J. names, you can hardly make a mistake buying this one. At least you can download the demo version and give it a chance. I know you can’t buy a new synth every week, but…