Review – Sunrizer by BeepStreet
There’s a new kid on the block with a low CPU usage, lots of filter types, and a familiar supersaw sound. We put this one to the test to see if it has what it takes.
by Rob Mitchell, Nov. 2015
Over the years, there have been many apps created for making music on the iPad, and some of these have received more attention than others. One of the more popular apps is called Sunrizer by BeepStreet software. Recently they have created plugin versions of their app for use on the PC and Mac. Its basic structure is that of a subtractive synthesizer, but it also has a bit of FM and RM added in there as well. Over 400 presets are included, and any presets created with the plugin can be used with the app version, and vice versa.
It includes two oscillators, 24-voice polyphony, a noise source, hard sync, two filters with sixteen filter types available, two ADSR envelopes, two LFOs, morphing capability, effects, and more. It also has a low CPU usage, which is always a bonus. Now that we know a little about what it has included, here are the installation requirements.
For the Mac, you’ll need OS X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, or 10.10.
For the PC, you’ll need Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8.
A multicore 2.8 GHz CPU (or higher) with SSE2, and 1 GB of RAM.
The installation was very easy, as you may choose where to install it, and uses a serial number for authorization.
The Plugin Has Landed
I had read many good things about the iOS version of Sunrizer before this plugin incarnation arrived. I have to admit, for some reason I was a little skeptical about what this plugin would sound like. Maybe it is the thought of a synth on an iPad as some sort of toy or a gimmick. Or maybe I am just jealous of these cool apps I keep hearing about, and I really should just buy an iPad. Anyway, during the course of this review, I actually ended up being very impressed as you’ll soon find out.
Sunrizer has a fairly straight-ahead browser with varied categories to choose from, making it easier to navigate to the type of preset you’d like to use. You can select more than one category (pad and keys for instance), and mark certain presets as favorites. It also has a built-in search function, and allows you to search with just part of the name if needed. This is a handy feature, especially if you can’t remember the full name of a preset.
Sunrizer has two oscillators with a few different waveforms from which to select. I will cover the first oscillator for now. The first waveform is actually a supersaw which can be fattened up by using the width control. The MIX/PWM control will adjust the amount of the supersaw, and the sound that it has is very good. Even though I have not used an actual JP-8000, I suspect it is similar. I have heard so many examples of the hardware synthesizer on recordings that it is pretty easy to identify that type of sound. Sunrizer’s supersaw has seven detuned saw waveforms, just like the JP-8000.
The other waveforms include a regular sawtooth, square, and triangle waves. When you use the width control for these types, it mixes in a sub-oscillator that is one octave lower than the main oscillator. The sub-oscillator will have the same wave type as the main oscillator, and it can’t be changed in the settings.
When you use the regular saw, the MIX/PWM control doesn’t change anything (as I expected), but if you select the pulse wave, it will change the pulse width. If you select the Triangle, the MIX/PWM control will soften up the sharper “edge” of the triangle, making it sound more like a sine wave.
The second oscillator has a few more options than the first. One way it can be used is to sync it to the first oscillator. This only works when it is set with a saw or square waveform. Another option in this section is the ability to route the second oscillator to the second filter. When you enable this function, the first oscillator will then be routed to the first filter, as you might have guessed. This oscillator also gets semi tune and fine tune controls, as well as an octave button which can go up one or two octaves. When the FM button is enabled, the first oscillator’s frequencies will modulate the second oscillator. It is a simple form of FM, but it’s also an effective way to add varied tones into your presets.
Unison is also included, and the controls for this are located along the left side of the synth plugin. To enable the unison, either of the two main oscillators can be switched to “Multi” mode. When using this function, it’s like having three oscillators that can be detuned and fattened up by using the “Detune” control. The “Spread” control will adjust each of those three multi-oscs with a difference in pitch of up to twelve semitones. This gives you a quick and easy way to make chords. This is great, but I was thinking the Spread control would evenly distribute the voices from left to right. I like the way it is now, but would also like that type of feature I mentioned to be added in a future version. Finally, the Side/O control will adjust how much the extra multi-oscs blend with the main oscillator itself.
To the right of the oscillator section are the Mix and Noise controls. There is a balance control for oscillators one and two, and the ring modulation controls are here also. The ring modulation won’t really become apparent until you have the second oscillator turned up a bit, and you change some of the detuning settings for it. Last but not least is the noise generator, which has a balance control to blend from the oscillator amount and the noise amount. It also features a “Color” control, which really is a low pass and high pass filter. When it is turned to the left, it’s a low pass, and when it is turned to the right, it’s a high pass.
Filters and LFOs
Sunrizer has two filters which can be setup in a parallel or serial configuration. Each filter has many types to choose from, including the usual low pass, high pass, and band pass (all three of these can be 12 or 24 dB).
Other filter types which can useful for getting varied types of sound are here as well. Some of these are the Formant, All Pass, and there is the Resampler filter, which provides an adjustable amount of bit reduction. The Power LP filter type gets some distortion first, and then moves on to a low pass filter. Besides the standard cutoff and resonance controls for each of the two filters, they also have an envelope amount control, and you can switch on key tracking using the “Track” button. The output of the two filters can be split apart in the stereo field, and this is adjusted by using the “Filter Stereo” control.
There are two LFOs per voice in Sunrizer, each of which has 17 modulation targets. For the waveform settings, they have included six different shapes: Sinus, Square, Random, Exponential, Triangle, or Continuous Random. There are three LFO modes to choose from: Trigger, One Shot, and Global.
“Trigger” means the LFO cycle starts over on every new note that is played. “One Shot” means it will only play once per note, and “Global” means just that: No matter what notes are played, the LFO just continues its cycle. The LFOs can also be synced to the host.
Effects and Morphing
The effects section is not too well documented at the moment. In Beepstreet’s defense, they are working on it, as the documentation is at version 0.5. Hopefully they will complete all the details and have a full manual shortly. They do mention the “Crossover Filter” feature which sends a filtered amount of the audio signal to the effects section.
The first section in the effects area includes four different effects to choose from: Distortion, Chorus, Phaser, and Rotor. To the right of these are three more: Delay (can be synced to the host), EQ, and Reverb. The reverb has the most controls available, with pre-delay, low/high cut, and damping.
The Morph function lets you set the controls two different ways, and then morph between them with the wheel on the left side. You could use this for just about anything you want, including the effect’s settings. The configuration you setup is saved with each preset you design. The buttons at the top and bottom of the wheel indicate which one you’re editing at the moment. This works great, except I thought it would slowly move the controls from one setting to the other. It sounds correct, i.e. smoothly changing with the wheel, but the controls jump from the first setting to the other.
Sunrizer’s modulation target choices are good, but I’d like if there were a few more. One I was looking for (but isn’t in the selection of targets) is the Color for the noise generator. Of course, you can have the noise going along with the oscillator signal, and have both filtered the regular way. I just thought it would be great to have it so (for example) an LFO could modulate the Color setting separately. You could use the DAW’s automation to change its setting over time, but I’d still like it setup as a target.
One other issue I ran into was using the sliders to change envelope amounts. It seemed it jumps from 0.0 to 0.10, and I couldn’t fine tune it get it any “snappier” when using the mouse. However, when the amount is above 0.10, it lets you get to the points in-between, such as 0.23 for instance. I found that using the Control key and then moving the slider solved this one, and I was able to set it just like I wanted. Numeric input would be a great addition, but this worked for me.
Some other nice additions they’ve added to the package are chord memory, an arpeggiator, a handy “Swap” (or reset) for the morph settings, and separate MIDI velocity settings for each filter.
Sunrizer has an introductory price of just $50 USD, but this lower price will be gone by the end of 2015. From then on, it will be priced at $80 USD. In addition to all the presets it has included, there are 200 more downloadable presets on the BeepStreet website. It is very easy to use, and for $50, this plugin is a bargain. Considering it has over 400 presets, a morphing capability, and an easy to use interface with a great sound, this is one synth plugin that I can easily recommend.
You can download the demo version and try it for yourself from their website here: