Review – Tone 2 Electra 2 from Bestservice.de
Electra 2 from Tone 2, a very powerful workhorse synth, with a distinctive sound and a great palette of well-designed presets, is reviewed here.
by A. Arsov, Sept. 2014
Tone 2 is not a newcomer in the synth marketplace. In the past they brought us some versatile analog modeling synthesizers, mostly being known for supporting almost all known modeling techniques. Describing their synths was almost the same job as writing the history of analog modeling. At first it looked like someone just showing off, but over the years it became a significant advantage. Electra 2 is not just a powerful workstation, supporting all sort of synthesis, a monster offering multi layering and sample implementation, it actually sounds really good. It has a very versatile arsenal of sounds and, what is even more important, all those options, various approaches and controllers are packed into a very clear and well-organized general interface that is easy to manage.
When I read the specifications for the first time, I thought it would be hell to understand all those features, but in the end, it is all about sound. And Electra 2 sounds great – it sounds somehow rounded and punchy, like Roland synths compared to Yamaha. After seeing presentation videos, also all those hellish capabilities became comprehensible and not nearly so complicated as it would appear on first glance.
What Do We Get?
Before we get technical, let us dive into a more abstract field – we get 1200 presets sounding different than your standard Massive, Sylenth1, Lush or SynthMaster arsenal. If we must compare, it is closer to Nexus 2, but with different character and sets of sounds. Electra 2 is not so dance oriented but it still has more than enough sounds that can be used also in a dance electro sort of production. It sounds more pop, “charty”, Top 40 and such with its polished and well-produced, rounded sound. It has a not-so-standard set of basses, various unusual, rich-sounding synths, and punchy leads. Also there’s a great array of sounds that you can’t find on other synths with unique character: some eternal winds in Semireal section and ton of original sounds combined from samples crossed with synthesis. All that comes to mind when considering Electra 2. It is definitively one of the most versatile, best-sounding virtual synthesizers that I have come across lately. I thought that I had enough analog modeling, romplers, sampler sort of virtual synthesizers, but this one made me change my mind.
Now we can go to more specifics, describing pure technical facts.
Every sound or patch is made from up to four layers, meaning that single patch can be combined from different elements, various types of synthesis or even combination of samples and synthesis. Talking about samples, many samplers have fewer options for sample manipulation than Electra 2. Working with Electra 2 is easy and fast, implementing and adopting a sample is just a matter of a few clicks. On every layer you can use one of the fourteen possible synthesis methods: from FM to Wavetable to Vocoder to Fractal to PWM. There are thirty-eight filter types, thirty-two effects with really outstanding reverb and an excellent vocoder among them. Actually, it is hard to find anything that you would miss on this monster workstation. To be honest, it reminded me of some modern hardware synths that cost an entire fortune.
Part by Part – Multilayer
Actually, you have four synthesizers playing unison at once; you can edit layers or individual synthesizers together or separately. You can even combine various layers from other patches with your currently opened patch. Inside every layer you can find a full-featured synthesizer with three oscillators, inside any of this oscillator you can set different types of synthesis or even import sample. For every layer you can set different play modes, like poly, mono, legato or glide. Each layer can use its own settings for arpeggiator. There are dual multi-mode filters and separate LFOs for every layer. There is also a send option where you can employ common effect settings using the send level for every layer.
Combining those layers and various synthesized modes with some samples and the ability to manipulate almost every parameter gives Electra 2 a special character resulting in a vivid pulsating and very versatile sound. Electro 2 can sound really powerful and impressive.
Fourteen different type of synthesis can be used on any layer and/or oscillators. Pressing the Init button in the third row of main general interface will give you a drop down menu with all types of synthesis, allowing you to set it for all three oscillators at once. Later you can change that on any individual oscillator. We have almost all known old and modern synthesis modes along with one new unique one that Tone 2 added for this synthesizer: a Noise/Fractal mode. We even have good-old PWM and physical modeling for concocting some interesting hybrids between acoustic instruments and synthesized ones. Add to that the ability to import samples or to resynthesize wave and you have pretty powerful beast, especially considering that Electra 2 is very CPU friendly even with all four layers at work using different synthesis models, samples, vocoder or any other effect.
Every layer can be filtered with two multi-mode filters containing 37 filter types, from analog, Moog-like filters to newer digital ones. Along with all those filter types there are also three tone controllers and multi-mode distortion. The most attractive thing is a real-time display in which you can see all the changes you make. All filters also have an ability to self-oscillate, so getting crazy with your sound is just a tweak away.
Adding a sample is a piece of cake: load and select. You get the question as to if the sample should be tuned automatically. Press Yes and you are in. When clicking on an edit button, you can select one of many options. You can also loop it (Electra 2 will find optimal loop point automatically), or play it as a single shot. You can change the character of a sample by tweaking some knobs in the oscillator section or adding any effect. In the past I collected many synth hits from various sample libraries. I think that it is a time to finally use some of them. The best thing is that important samples are stored along with your song, so you don’t need to worry that you could lose your imported samples.
There are 32 different effect types that can be used in eight effect sections and that that can be synced with host BPM. Along with all the other classical and must-have effects, we also get infinite reverb that lasts forever. There are all sorts of reverbs, delays, modulation effects, smart unison, equalizer and vocoder. The quality of effects is the same as quality of all other elements on Electra 2. No objections, everything sound as it should.
No matter that Electra 2 offers so many goodies, it is impressive how easy it is to navigate through all the sections. It is almost easier to navigate it than in reFX’s Nexus 2. Everything is arranged in a logical order; everything is accessible and just a click away. When clicking on a browser button, you will get all presets sorted by character, and after choosing right one, you can go back to the edit window, which is where all fun begins. I’m a big fan of presets, but this one inspired me to go away from my safe tweaking zone, adding some samples and trying different synthesis modes. This is a very powerful workhorse synth, with a distinctive sound and a great palette of well-designed presets. There are all the synthesis modes that you can imagine, powerful sampler suitable for synthesis and a great array of implemented effects with dual analog–digital filters. Add to that the user-friendly price, and you’ve got a summer-spring winner. It is not the power of different elements that makes this synthesizer so special; it is the unique character that can bring something new into your production, no matter how many synths or sounds you already have. We don’t need just another synthesizer, we need something fresh. And this one is definitively a fresh sounding beast.
PC formats: 32-bit VSTi, 64-bit VSTi, 32 bit standalone, 64 bit standalone
Mac formats: 32-bit VSTi, 64-bit VSTi, 32-bit Audiounit, 64-bit Audiounit; Universal Binary
€149 EUR or $189 USD
by A. Arsov