Review – Three Libraries of Analog Synth Sounds from PinkNoise Studio
PinkNoise Studio produces sound sample libraries of analog synth sounds and they do so with considerable aplomb. Find out more as we take a close look at three of those libraries.
by David Baer, Mar. 2015
We’re going to look at three excellent libraries of solid, musically useful analog synth sounds in this installment of Points of Kontakt. They come from PinkNoise Studios, a small company based in Budapest, Hungary. I should point out at the outset that the full version of Kontakt (version 3.5 or later) is required for all these offerings.
PinkNoise first came to my attention several months ago when I stumbled across a library made using the venerable Roland D50 synthesizer. Back in the days before software synths, I owned the rack mount version of the D50 and had a lingering hope that Roland would produce a software emulation. Since that didn’t look like it was ever going to happen, I jumped on this offering of sampled sounds. Long story short, it was love at first sight … or that is … first listen.
Before we get into the sounds, here is some interesting background information about the developer. PinkNoise is a family business founded in 1996 by Andras Haasz and his wife Csilla. Although he studied chemical engineering in college, Andras followed his bliss and pursued other interests upon finishing school. In the 80s he was keyboardist/song-writer/singer for an indy rock band with the whimsical name (translated, of course) “Tilting Garage Doors”. Inspired by the likes of Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, he learned to program synthesizers and became an accomplished sound designer (supporting himself with computer programming and technical sales/support as a day job).
Upon discovering sampling technology, which he immediately embraced, he became a developer of Reason Refills, which slowly gained traction in the marketplace starting about twelve years ago. Since that time, he has worked full time as a sound-designer/engineer (and Kontakt script coder to boot). Along the way he began releasing his creations for Kontakt … and here we are today. As you’ll see below, I’m a big fan of his work, both as an analog synth sound designer and as a Kontakt library producer.
Let’s begin with the biggest offering, Analog Monsters, a huge collection of sounds created using ten synths of yore:
- Alesis Andromeda A6
- Korg MonoPoly
- Korg MS-20
- Korg Poly800 MKII
- Moog Prodigy
- Oberheim Matrix-1000
- Roland Juno-60
- Roland Jupiter 4
- Studio Electronics SE-1X
- Waldorf Microwave XTk
The collection is mostly custom designed patches but some great sounding factory presets are also included – more on this momentarily. Although the source hardware is diverse, a number of overall general observations are in order. First, the sounds will, I think, appeal to those looking for a “classic synth” sensibility. Producers of progressive rock and classic electronica in general will find much here appealing. Secondly, the engineering is first rate.
Quoting the documentation, the library makes use of “extensive editing techniques: multiple velocity layers, random and round-robin triggering, alternate sample starts to achieve fat, lively and realistic analogue sounds”. I’m happy to confirm that this is an accurate portrayal. I have zero nits to pick on the quality issue. As to the factory patch samples, these are nevertheless altered somewhat from the factory programming, transferring some of the original envelope activity to be under Kontakt’s purview, thus giving the user more opportunity to further tweak to taste.
There is a nice consistency across the library as well. Aftertouch uniformly can be used for vibrato and the mod wheel for filter cutoff control. As can be seen, easily accessible controls for filter, filter envelope and amp envelope are accessible on the front panel.
A huge number of instrument presets are included, grouped into eight categories:
- Bass and Poly Lead
- Drums and FX
- Keys and Polysynth
- Mono Synth
- Strings and Choir
The samples weigh in at a substantial 5 GB. As stated above, I find much of the content to be musically useful. That is to say, it’s suitable for many diverse styles that need appealing, non-gimmicky synth sounds. Needless to say, you won’t like everything. For example, I find little attraction in funky pitch manipulation, a quality seemingly universally customary in Oberheim patches. Your preferences will dictate what works for you and what doesn’t. But the point is that there’s a great deal to choose from, so you may very well find much that appeals.
This is the largest offering from PinkNoise, and not surprisingly the most expensive at €60 EUR (about $68 USD at the time I’m writing this). Compared to similar size offerings from other vendors, the price is more than fair. This is a deep treasure chest of great sound and easily worth the purchase price in my book.
PinkNoise does not provide demo tracks on their web site, but you can download a collection of free sounds to get a sense of what’s there. These only scratch the surface, but there is some great stuff among the freebies. Those with constrained budgets would be well-served to pick up the free downloads of everything from PinkNoise.
One final note, another PinkNoise offering is called Matrix. It is the complete Oberheim component of Analog Monsters. If you have the latter, you already have Matrix as well. Matrix is a more economical €22 EUR if you want to get in on some of the Analog Monsters action but cannot part with the full price (and there’s an upgrade option if you do decide later that you want to go “full monster”).
The next offering we’ll look at is Orange, based on sounds from the Waldorf Microwave XTk synthesizer. The library name comes from the color of the synth body. Alert readers will have noted that this synth is also represented in Analog Monsters. Unlike the Matrix library, however, the Orange library has much not contained in Analog Monsters. Having both libraries would not be redundant, or even close to that.
The Waldorf STk did digital wavetable synthesis and FM mixed in. It combined that with ten different special “Waldorf” filters for a reportedly unique sound that no other hardware matched, according to the developer.
Of this library, everything said about Analog Monsters generally applies. The sounds are (to my sensibilities, at least) quite tasteful, and the engineering is first rate. It comes with over 400 presets in the same categories found in Analog Monsters minus Strings/Choirs. There is nearly 2 GB of sample data.
The same general UI layout found in Analog Monsters is provided for basic, straightforward sound refinement. And my observation about who Orange sounds should appeal to is the same as Analog Monsters. This is superb material for progressive rock and classic electronica. I’m quite sure they could be applied to other genres as well, but those are the two that immediately come to mind.
The price for Orange is €30 EUR. For the amount of capability included, I would again say that the price is entirely reasonable. Once again, no demo tracks are to be found, but a set of free sounds is made available which will hopefully be sufficient to make an informed buying decision.
And now we come to my favorite, Deepflight (although a direct comparison of Deepflight to Analog Monsters it really getting into “apples and oranges” territory). Deepflight had me at the letter “D”. I knew I had to acquire this library before I had finished auditioning even half the free download sounds.
Deepflight was created from sounds that were custom developed for the Roland D50. Now, there seems to be some conventional wisdom floating around that if you try to sell anything sampled from the D50, you can expect to hear from some lawyers of Roland or Eric Persing (principal sound developer for the D50) commanding you to cease and desist. I asked Andras Haasz about this and he said that this has never been a problem. He has not sampled the factory patches but rather created his own presets. We can all hope that doing it this way is sufficient protection from unwarranted legal wrangling.
Since I no longer have my hardware D550 around, I am not able to do a head-to-head comparison. How D50-ish is Deepflight? I cannot say definitively, but it undeniably sounds wonderful. Those of a certain age might recall when the D50 first came on the scene. The prominent synth at that time was the Yamaha DX7. The D50 was a game changer in that it was a mass market instrument (expensive but not overly so) that sounded like nothing else at the time. And although part of its sound creation came from samples, it also used synthesis and had real analog filters to complete the process. By today’s standards, the sampling capability was crude, but the overall instrument delivered an imposing sound.
The library consists of 170 presets organized in six categories. The samples are all 24-bit and weigh in at 1.5 GB. As with everything else from PinkNoise discussed so far, you will be hard-pressed to find anything other than high-quality work represented here. Deepflight costs €22 EUR (or a little less than $25 USD). For that kind of money, it’s a great value and one I can highly recommend.
To purchase any of these libraries (or to simply grab the free samples), go here: