Review – VPS Avenger by Vengeance-Sound
VPS Avenger is a monster synth plugin from Vengeance-Sound that is a versatile all-in-one solution for producers in many genres.
By Rob Mitchell, Nov. 2017
If you haven’t heard of VPS Avenger, you might be wondering what the “VPS” in the name conveys. The answer is:Vengeance Producer Suite. It really does describe this all-in-one type of synth from Vengeance-Sound. I think of it as a collection of tools within one plugin that has nearly anything I would ever want to synthesize and shape a sound. Avenger is collaboration between Vengeance-Sound and Keilwerth Audio.
It is a challenge to try and sum up what is included in Avenger, but here is my attempt: Nearly 600 wavetables, thousands of waveforms, hundreds of resampler and other special samples, powerful routing, sample import functionality, 47 filter types, drag-and-drop modulation, a vectorized re-sizable GUI, multiple arps and step sequencers, sixteen sub-outs, and over 900 presets. There is much more to it than that, but that should whet your appetite for more. I will try to touch on the more important parts of VPS Avenger in this review.
Installation is simple – it just uses a key-file that must be downloaded from their website. After you’ve purchased Avenger, you receive a serial number that you must register on the site. After that’s all set, you can download the key-file and a large file (4.7 GB) which has the content to use with Avenger. You can install it on up to three computers at once. Avenger is 64-bit only, so it will require a 64-bit DAW.
For the PC you’ll need at least a 2.5 GHz CPU, 8 GB of RAM, OpenGL 3.2 capable GPU, and Windows 7 or higher. For the Mac (Intel-based only) you’ll need at least a 2.5 GHz CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and OS X 10.8-10.13. The installer includes VST2, VST3, AU and AAX versions.
In Avenger you can use up to eight oscillators at once. Each of them is added one at time, so you don’t have to have more than what you really need for a particular sound you’re designing. This area of the display shares the space with the drums that are built-in to Avenger (more on that subject later). Clicking either the Oscillator or Drums tab will switch between them. If you want to add another osc, you just click the “+” sign on the right side of the tab. As you add more oscs, it may get a little confusing as to which one is which. Since it it’s a tabbed design, you can only see one at time. One good point to make for this type of design is that it packs a lot of power into a smaller space. Also, you can rename the tabs to whatever you want to keep things organized. Near the top of the display is an additional control bar that lets you cut the low or high frequencies for the oscillator by dragging either end of the bar to the left or right. They’ve add handy mute and solo buttons on each of the tabs, so once you have a few oscs loaded up, you can (for instance) solo the one you’re working with at the moment.
When you first add an oscillator, it has its own set of controls along its perimeter. Some of these include Level (also controls panning with its inner ring), Transpose (+/- 48 semitones and Fine tuning). The “Fine” control has an inner ring similar to the Level control. Turning that ring to the left will add a random amount of fine detuning which could (for example) be used for an analog type of preset. Turning it to the right will add an alternating min/max amount of fine detuning. The amount of these two types of detuning depends on far you turn the inner ring to the left or right. The Noise control has three stereo width settings and its inner ring lets you smoothly blend between white, pink or brown noise. It also has a bit rate reducer you can adjust.
Along the bottom of the oscillator section are the FM and AM controls. Each of these has twelve different waveforms that can be chosen for the modulator. The rate can be set normally or it can be set using one of the seven other presets which use certain intervals. Over on the right side, there are a few more controls. X-Side will shape/warp the waveform you have loaded, and the Formant is for adjusting the pulse width and works on any of the waveforms. The Bits/Rate control will reduce the bit depth, sampling rate, or both at once. There’s also a Sync function. Adjusting the sync control will change the pitch of an extra oscillator (it uses a sine wave) that is synced with the oscillator with which you’re working. It has four different sync settings available, and an inner ring on the sync control will let you add an envelope for the sync. It can either ramp up or down depending on if it is turned to the left or right. I thought this was a very useful addition. Also, a slider control beneath the sync knob sets the envelope’s speed. In other words, if you just need a simple envelope for the sync, you won’t have to assign one of Avenger’s envelopes to the task at hand.
Clicking the waveform name above its display brings up a menu from which you can select other waveforms and types of functionality. Some of these waveforms are basic VA types (sine, square, saw, etc), but there are also special types of “attack” samples and wavetables. You can even draw your own waveform with the Freeform setting, or use the Sample Stacker mode which can stack up to four multi-samples per oscillator. FFT editing lets you edit a waveform/wavetable’s frequencies or harmonics using three different modes: Free (boost/cut frequencies), Harmonic (boost/cut the individual harmonic/disharmonic bands), and Bin (boost/cut 256 harmonic/disharmonic bands). There are several controls to make adjustments in the FFT editor. Here are a few of those controls: “Sweep” lets you shift the changes you’ve made up or down through the frequencies. “Flip” inverts the edits you’ve made. “VSpeed” and “VStrength” controls let you modulate the harmonic/disharmonic bands in the FFT display automatically. 42 presets are available to load into the FFT editor, and you can save your own creations.
A new granular mode has been added in a recent update, and resampling/wavetable editing is possible in Avenger as well. The V-Saw and Voicing options are very nice as they let you use up to seven unison voices which can be detuned and spread out across the stereo field. They can also be utilized across a four-octave range. On top of this, it has its own LFO (global or per voice) you can use to affect the pitch of the voices. In the Voicing section there is another feature called “Chorder”. What it does is let you configure chords using four voices. Each of the voices has their own coarse and fine tuning, panning and volume. Over 30 presets for the Chorder are already included, and you can save your own presets. The Chorder settings are in addition to the regular oscillator settings, letting you build a powerful sound with just one oscillator. In addition to all those features, there is a sub-oscillator with four different waveforms to choose from.
If you select one of the provided wavetables, the display will change to reflect more controls for manipulating the wavetable. The keyboard towards the bottom is then replaced by a view of the wavetable itself, and there is an envelope that can work with the Index control. When the envelope is enabled, the Index control will track the envelope’s path. Controls to change characteristics of the wavetable are available, such as Strength (sets the amount of the envelope), Smoothing, Speed and Phase controls. They have also given it a sequencer and 61 patterns you can load which will affect the wavetable playback in various ways. The sequence can use up to sixteen steps, and each step can use one of nine different modes. If the available patterns don’t suit you, you can create your own sequences and save them. This sequencer can also be used to modulate other targets in Avenger. I will get to the modulation features later in the review.
I briefly mentioned that granular functions were recently added to Avenger, but I’d like to cover that in some more detail here. Once you’ve loaded a preset that uses the granular functions, or you are starting with an INIT preset and then select the Granular setting for an oscillator, the controls for the oscillator and the granular/waveform display under the oscillator display will change. The controls include density, grain size and shape, pitch and position randomization for the grains, and stereo spread. The Stereo Pitch control is interesting and fun to use as it raises one side of the stereo spread’s pitch by 12 semitones, and it lowers the pitch for the other side by 12 semitones. It can set be anywhere in-between pitch-wise, so you can just dial in the setting you’d like.
Filters, Envelopes and LFOs
Avenger can use up to four filters in one preset, and has a whopping 47 filter types available. The standard controls are here, such as cutoff, resonance, key tracking, as well as cutoff and resonance velocity (velocity affects the cutoff and/or resonance). “Drive” is an overdrive type of effect. Another selection under the Drive menu is for the “Band” function, which lets you control how far apart the low and high bands are for the bandpass and notch filter settings. The last one in the Drive menu is for Comb filtering. It can add a comb filter effect on top of whichever filter setting you have already selected. Each of the four filters has an AHDSR envelope. Using the routing settings, the filters can be setup in a serial formation. There is a Master filter (same 47 filter types) which can be enabled and it affects the overall signal.
The Amp envelopes are also AHDSR types, and besides the usual functionality, they offer a control called “Spike”. It adds a little accent in volume at the beginning of the notes you play. The inner dial on the control changes the shape of the spike, and changing the Velocity slider setting will affect the spike level. Panning and Key-track panning can also be adjusted from here. The Spread control will move the notes around in the stereo spectrum. Depending on which way you turn the dial, it will cause panning to either alternate from left to and right or to just be random.
LFOs are in no short supply here, as you can add up to four per preset. There are twenty waveform shapes to choose from, and you can customize the last three of those waveforms (C-LFO1 to C-LFO3). Double-clicking on the waveform adds a new point and then you’re able to drag them around however you’d like. Among its other features, the LFOs can be set up in One-Shot mode (i.e. only plays once, versus constantly looping).
Avenger can use up to eight powerful arpeggiators and eight eight-step sequencers. Each of them can be assigned to nearly anything you’d like. Many sources and targets for modulation are available with Avenger’s built-in drag-and-drop modulation system. This makes it very easy to configure. Or you could just use the built-in mod matrix to set things up manually.
You also have access to eight pitch and eight modulation envelopes. The pitch envelopes will of course affect the pitch, but you could also assign them to other targets. Unlike the pitch envelopes, the modulation envelopes must be assigned to something first before they will work, and you can pick almost anything for them to modulate. There are several ways the envelopes can be triggered, and there are many play modes to choose from. As usual in Avenger, there are numerous presets for these envelopes you can use, and you can save your own.
Drums and Routing
The Drums section is quite a capable module all on its own. There are many drum sets ready to load with their own sequences all ready for use. You could also set it so you can load a different sequence than what is normally loaded. The sequencer is easy to use with many built-in functions, such as copy/paste of notes for building sequences the way you want. Some other functions you can control for each note are the panning, velocity, and the playback can be set up with a shuffle setting as well. Clicking on the sample slot will bring up that sample in a display for editing. It has an envelope with which you can modulate panning, hi/low pass filtering controls, and more. Also, your own samples can be loaded in place of what is already within Avenger. All you have to do is go to the File menu in the upper-left, navigate to your sample library, and then drag-and-drop from there to the correct slot in the Drum module.
The Routing section is for arranging the signal flow to your liking. For instance, you might want a shaper/distortion before the filter, or maybe you want to have it appear right after the filter. Another way to use this is for making a send to the effects (more on the effects shortly). This includes the drum section, and each part of the drums (cymbal, hi-hat, snare, etc.) can be separately routed to different effects, or you can set them so they all go to one effect of your choosing, such as reverb or delay. When you add a new oscillator, it will get its own routing section. Any of the modules you have in the routing chain can be switched off if they aren’t needed, or moved with a click/drag (except the Arp and Amp). Using a left-click and selecting “Go To” gives you a handy reference as to where the controls are for the particular module. If you’re in more of a hurry, right-clicking on a module will do the same thing without having to click anything else. Another important note to remember is if there is only one filter in your preset at this point, you won’t see a second filter in the choices on a module to add for filtering. That may seem obvious, but it’s good to remember before getting lost in the middle of designing your preset. You ask yourself: “Why isn’t this working?! Oh, yeah… I haven’t added a second filter yet.” The same goes for an effect you thought you had added earlier, as it won’t show up in the choices unless you have added it first in the effects section. If I haven’t lost you yet, I better switch gears and talk about the effects now.
The effects section is located in the lower-left of the display. There are four effects busses (FX1-FX4), a Send Rack bus, and a Master effects bus. Each bus can include up to eight effects. One of the cool things you can do with the effects busses is to route them to each other. For instance you could have FX1 with a delay and reverb routed to FX2, so whatever is in FX2 (say you have a chorus in that bus) will affect just the delays and reverb tail. Or you could have everything that’s in the Send Rack routed to FX1, it’s up to you of course. Very flexible!
There are many effects available. Some of these are by ArtsAcoustic, and one of my favorites is the AA-Reverb which sounds very good. Other ArtsAcoustic effects include Vintage Chorus, Vintage Flanger, Vintage Phaser, Ensemble Arp, and Ensemble 330. There are many other useful effects from which to choose including gated reverb, distortions, delay, EQ, filter, limiter, trance-gate, and several others. The “Multimod” is quite useful for several different types of effects, as it can modulate the pitch in different ways with its own LFO. It can also add ring modulation, tremolo, and panning. All of Avenger’s effects have their own presets included, and you can save your own as well.
There is no way I can cover everything in a synth review such as this. However, I think I covered the more important parts of Avenger and it will give you a good idea of what to expect. It clearly is a powerful beast of a synth with ample options available. One thing I didn’t even mention was the preset browser, which is quite good actually, althought I thought it could use a “Favorites” function. Besides that, I can’t really think of anything for which I would ask to improve upon in Avenger. Vengeance-Sound is probably currently working on some new additions (features, improvements, etc.), but for me this instrument is a top-notch product right off the shelf. I wish more synth/sampler developers would add the resizing capability that Avenger has, and I appreciate being able to see the oscillator waveforms changing in real-time. I love the way the effects section works, and the new granular synthesis capability expands Avenger’s possibilities even more.
If you want to have an abundance of features all within one plugin, you really can’t go wrong. You could go ahead and buy two or three individual instruments to try and cover what this one product can do, but why bother? The separate prices of all those other plugins can really add up. VPS Avenger sounds great and is overflowing with options for the modern day producer.
VPS Avenger is available for $220 USD. You can get more information here: