Review – ONE by kiloHearts

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ONE is a polyphonic subtractive synthesizer plugin programmed by the Swedish-based kiloHearts. Should it be the one for you? See what our reviewer thinks here.

by Rob Mitchell, Mar. 2014

ONE is a polyphonic subtractive synthesizer plugin programmed by the Swedish-based kiloHearts. They are also the makers of the Disperser and Faturator plugins. ONE is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Windows and OSX.

For the Mac, there are VST plugin and Audio Unit versions available. For PCs, only the VST plugin format is available. There is no standalone version of ONE, so you will need a DAW (host application) to run it. ONE’s system requirements are refreshing, as the minimum CPU speed is a modest 2 GHz or higher, and the installed memory should be at least one gigabyte.

Installation was very easy. The copy protection uses a product key, and I had it up and running in my DAW in a couple minutes. When you run the installation, you can install the 32-bit and 64-bit versions at the same time (not sure why, but it’s possible), but the manual says to not install them both to the same folder. Each version of the plugin has the same name, so one will end up installing over the other.

KHs ONE is a virtual analog (VA) synthesizer plugin, many of which have already been released by other companies over the years. At first glance, its layout is simple, and it would be difficult to get lost in any of its menus. No extra layers here; everything is on the one screen. Unlike many of the other VA plugins out there, this one isn’t a clone of some other hardware synth.

You might be asking: What makes it different from the rest of the VA crowd? We’ll take a look at it in this review, and go over its pros and cons along the way.   

Oscillators and Filters

ONE has three oscillators.  The first two are of the multimode variety, and each of them has waveform choices of Double Saw, Pulse, or Noise. To the right of the oscillator menu is the Shape control, which lets you adjust the waveform you have loaded.

Normally, the Shape control is at the center position and the phase offset will be set to zero degrees. As soon as you load in the Double Saw, and the Shape is at the default center position, it is the same as a single Sawtooth waveform.

Here’s what happens: It is actually two saw waveforms, and when you change the Shape control, you are changing the offset of those two waveforms. If the knob is set all the way to the left or right (-1.0 or 1.0) it will then become a Double Saw.

If you choose the Pulse waveform, it works a bit differently. The Shape control will change the pulse width for that selected waveform.

The Noise waveform is controlled by the Shape knob as well. Turning the Shape control all the way to the left gives you white noise. As you turn it to the right, it will filter out more of the frequencies from the noise signal.

Besides the Shape control, the first two oscillators also have Sync controls. To manipulate the pitch of those two oscillators, there are controls for changing the octave, semitone and percent settings. 

The third oscillator is a Sub-Oscillator, which can be tuned five octaves down, or all the way to five octaves above. It is a bit tamer and rounded-off sounding, and more like a sine waveform than a sawtooth. This works well to give the sound a solid foundation in the lower registers. There is a Shape control to change its waveform, similar to the first two oscillators.

At first I thought: Why have it go all the way up to five octaves up in the audio range if it’s a “Sub-Oscillator”? Then I thought, hmm…why not?  You can then use it as a “regular” oscillator with a normal tuning, like the other oscillators use. This could come in handy for certain types of presets. There are other synth plugins that have a wider range like this one, while many others are limited to just the lower range. 

You can’t load in any other single-cycle waveforms, and the oscillators can’t self-oscillate. However, it is possible to get a good variety of sounds out of them by changing their respective Shape controls, and/or using the Sync function.

There are two filters, and they are setup in a serial configuration. You can’t change these to work in a parallel mode. The signal goes out from the first filter to the Shaper, and then it goes on to the second Filter. I will go into more detail on the Shaper later on in the review. 

Each of the two filters has a LP (Low pass), HP (High pass), BP (Band pass), and a VOX (Vocal) setting. The Cutoff and Q (for resonance) sliders work in the normal way, except for when you use the Vocal setting. It is a Formant filter, and when it’s selected, the Q slider changes the vowel sound it will make.

In the Voice Configuration section, you can control parameters for when you playback notes. Here you can change the Pitch bend amount, Polyphony amount, Legato, and the Glide controls.

To top it all off, ONE also includes Unison, which can use up to eight voices. You can detune the voices and spread them apart, depending on how you set the controls. This can give it a beefier, fattened up kind of sound.

 Envelopes and LFOs

There are three envelopes available, and they are assigned to Amplitude, Filter, and Modulation. The Amplitude envelope controls the amplitude of all the oscillators together, while the Filter envelope modulates both of the filters. The Modulation envelope isn’t set to any one type of modulation; you can assign a variety of targets to it. I will get to those options later in the review.

There are two LFOs (low frequency oscillators) in the synth, and the first is a Voice LFO. It has controls for Key tracking, Rate, Depth, and Phase. It will restart each time a new note is pressed. You can’t sync this LFO to the host tempo.Each of these three envelopes has ADSR controls. They use slider controls to change the amount of Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release.

The second LFO is Global, which basically means it is free-running. In other words; it will keep operating the same way no matter what notes you play.  It will not restart for each note like the regular LFO.  This LFO also has a Sync control, which lets it stay in time with your host tempo.

Effects and Modulation

The kHs ONE synth includes 3 effects; a Chorus, Delay, and the Shaper.

The Chorus has a nice sound, and has controls for Delay, Rate, Depth, Width, and a Mix control.

The Delay has settings for Delay time, Feedback, Width, and a Send control. If you select “ms mode”, then it will use milliseconds as the delay time. Using the “16th mode”, it will track the host tempo, and that will be measured in 16ths of one bar.

In the manual it states there are two modes available in the Shaper effect. In reality, there are four different settings you can choose from. Originally there were two, but then kHs added two more after the manual was written.

The Shaper’s modes include an overdrive for a gritty/distorted sound, and a foldback mode that can give it a bit of an FM sound. A third mode you can use is the bitcrusher setting, and another variant of the overdrive setting is also available. Compared to the other overdrive setting, its tone is boosted slightly for the bass and treble part of the signal. The Shaper also includes Drive and Mix controls.

You can select from the following modulation sources when designing your presets: Velocity, Modulation envelope, Modulation wheel, Voice LFO, and Global LFO.  For each of these, there are three slots available where you can add targets for modulation.

There are a good amount of modulation targets to choose from. For example, there is Voice pitch, Gain, and Glide time.  For the oscillators themselves, you can select Osc Gain, Shape, Sync and Pitch.

I won’t list them all here, but I just wanted to mention that for the Velocity envelope, there are three additional target areas that the others don’t have. These are the Amp, Filter, and Modulation envelopes, and you can pick from the Attack, Decay, Sustain and/or Release as targets.

One other nice touch they’ve added is the ability to modulate the effects using the Global LFO. All parameters in the Chorus effect are available as targets. For the Delay effect, you can select from the Feedback and Send amounts. You can also set up the Shaper’s Drive and Mix amounts as targets.

A few more items I wanted to mention: The Master section is where you control the final volume of the synth, and they’ve included Bass and Treble controls for changing the EQ. A Limiter is also included here, so the output can’t go above 0dB if it’s switched on.

Preset Browser

To load presets, you can use the up/down arrows to skim through the included presets one at a time.  The other way to get at the presets is by clicking on the preset name. This will open a window where you can see all of them at once. Alternatively, if you right-click on the preset name, a menu will appear to load and save banks, initialize a preset, and some other options.

The number and quality of presets kHs have included is pretty good. There are 100 presets with ONE, but it could use a larger amount. It would be nice if they could bump up that preset count a bit, or offer more banks. There are some additional presets on their website that were designed by KVR members, and some of those are really quite good. The only problem is that they just whet my appetite for more.

Conclusion

There are a few features that I’d like added to ONE. First of all, it could use a few more waveform types. While I’m at it, I’d also like ring modulation thrown into the works. My last two requests would be to add one more LFO with sync, and a nice Reverb to fill out the effects section.

Ok, that’s it, no more…I wouldn’t want it to change too much, as I like its basic setup.

The kHs ONE synth is easy to use, and sounds great. It is my opinion that not being a clone of some hardware synth really gives it an advantage. It doesn’t have to prove it sounds like a Minimoog or a Roland Jupiter-8, for instance. It just works well, and sounds fine on its own.

Sometimes less is more; you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out how it works. They have designed ONE very well, with my noted exceptions of course. Whether you’re new to synths and preset design, or an experienced synth aficionado, you should definitely check this one out.

You can get the demo version from their website here:

http://kilohearts.com/products/one

 

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