Mac and Windows VST versions are planned. The heart of Aalto is a Buchla-inspired complex oscillator, with FM, timbre and waveshape controls that enable a wide range of expressive sounds. These sounds are uniquely malleable and alive, in part because they are made with dynamic calculation, not static wavetables. Aalto is designed as much for sequencing patterns as for playing individual notes. Each voice has a separate, built-in sequencer with a patchable, independently controllable rate and offset that make it easy to achieve evolving, chaotic textures.
Aalto – A Buchla-Inspired Soft Synth For The Mac
Shares Our Verdict Aalto is aimed at those with a penchant for the unusual. It sounds splendid but may put the hurt on your CPU. Pros The spirit of a maverick modular. We love the low-pass gate. Sequencer is quite powerful. Sounds wild and woolly! Good built-in reverb. Cons LFO is under-spec’d. A little CPU-heavy.
Tired of the same old subtractive synths? Madrona Labs clearly was, as the Aalto instrument for OS X takes its cues from analogue synth legend Don Buchla’s legendary and quirky units.
Aalto is brimming with features that provide an alternative to common methods of sound design, composition and performance. It’s a semi-modular instrument, so it offers a fixed number of synthesis components, but these can be freely patched together. Read more: Pittsburgh Modular Microvolt “Aalto sound rich, evocative and wonderfully weird. Aalto’s GUI is divided into two sections.
The top half of the interface sports most of the modulation and control sources, while the lower half provides oscillator, filter and other audio-level modules. There’s a black band across the middle peppered with tiny knobs and coloured dots, and this is where all of your patch connections are made. The dots are signal outputs, while the small knobs are both inputs and the control by which you set the amount of signal to pass to the target.
To make a connection, you drag from a node to a knob to create a virtual patch lead. Multiple cables can be routed and summed to a single destination. The Amount dial will then multiply the input by the dial’s value. At first glance, you might think that the signals flow only from the top of the interface to the lower half, but there are quite a few input points up top as well. When the going gets weird Aalto’s unusual Complex Oscillator is based on a legendary vintage oscillator, inspired – at least in part – by Buchla’s Complex Waveform Generator.
Thankfully, it’s not quite as complex as the real deal! You’re provided with both Modulator and Carrier oscillators, joined at the middle by a Mod Index knob – yep, we’re talking basic frequency modulation FM synthesis here. Unusually, control signals are sent to the Mod Index through a multistage low-pass filter that emulates the response of a Vactrol-style opto-isolator an LED driving a light-dependent resistor.
There’s a Timbre dial that mimics Buchla’s wavefolder circuit, and tweaking this adds harmonic richness and weirdness to the sound. A Shape control enables you to dial in waveforms from square to sine to saw, as well as anywhere in between. The Complex Oscillator spits its signal through a Gate module.
This is another nod to Buchla in that it includes a mode that enables low-pass filtering along with amplitude attenuation. This is useful for a range of timbres, but is probably most applicable to percussive patches. Like the Oscillator, the Gate mimics a Vactrol’s response, and there’s a Decay knob to control how quickly it closes. It’s a variation on the combo that’s widely used in physical modelling synthesis and, accordingly, you’ll find a few presets that draw on this section to make rudimentary woodwind or plucked string sounds.
By using longer delay times, you can also tap into this section for standard delay effects. While we’re grateful for all of the weirdness, it’s nice to see that Madrona have included some more familiar functions, too. There’s a lovely resonant multimode filter for one, and it takes its cues from Oberheim’s SEM filter.
You get three modes: The sound itself is oh-so-analogue. At the output section, meanwhile, you’ve got modulatable pan and a reverb section for added ambience. Top heavy The upper half of the GUI is less likely to confuse. To the left, you can route pitch, aftertouch, mod wheel and velocity messages, and there’s a Voice output that sends a signal proportional to the number of each voice.
Unison and glide are provided, and you can adjust bend, range and the number of voices to be played. Tuning tables are supported, and you can load scala. There’s a sequencer and an LFO, along with a pair of envelope generators.
The LFO is a bare-bones affair and produces a sine wave: You can, however, add noise to this for more chaotic modulation.
Of the envelopes, the first is a typical four-stage ADSR, while the second offers attack and release parameters along with a pre-trigger delay time and a Repeat function that retriggers the envelope. What you can’t appreciate from our static screenshots is that Aalto’s controls are animated, with an additional line displaying the effective post-modulation value in real-time.
This helps a great deal in getting a grip on what’s going on under the hood. Seq and ye shall find It’s all too easy to think of a sequencer as merely a method by which a series of notes are programmed and played back.
You can do that with Aalto, certainly, yet it provides a number of features that set it apart. The sequencer generates both pulses and values. The former are used to trigger other events, such as envelopes or the Gate, while values are used for modulation. They might be routed to pitch or filter cutoff, or even LFO rate. The sequencer can be clocked internally or to the host. Up to 16 steps are provided, and you can adjust the width of the outgoing pulses.
Each step can be toggled on or off via a row of square cells just below the value sliders. The sequencer can be re-triggered via MIDI note-on commands.
There’s a built-in quantiser that, when activated, locks the output to the currently selected tuning table. The sequencer even has built-in glide, and you can delay both the pulse and value by up to eight steps. Oh, and there are three waveform buttons that snap the sliders to a preset shape. The sequencer is quite powerful as a modulation source, though we wish the Rate dial’s range could be extended into the audio range. Still, you can push things quite a long way by driving it with a modulation source.
Real good Aalto is one of the few modular soft synths that captures the elusive feel of real analogue modular systems. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that it’s pretty tough on the CPU. Three instances were all we could manage on a 2. Madrona Labs are going out on a limb here with an instrument that can at first seem intimidating, though, really, it isn’t too hard to grasp. It sounds rich, evocative and wonderfully weird at times. Like the hardware that inspired it, Aalto can surprise even veteran voltage jockeys and that, in our books, makes it a winner.
Those looking for huge supersaw sounds or phat bass tones might as well look elsewhere. However, if you got into synths because you wanted to explore new sonic territory, Aalto could be just the ticket. Finally, note that a Windows version is scheduled for February.
Now listen to our audio demos to hear Aalto in action:
When the going gets weird
Aalto by Madrona Labs (@KVRAudio Product Listing): Aalto is a semi-modular software synthesizer with a patchable UI, distinctive sounds, and a charming. Description: Aalto is a semi-modular software synthesizer with an innovative, added response to “canDo” MPE query in VST plugin. Normally, when you touch reverb controls, you get weird clicks and ranges that make no sense Aaltoverb is different.
Shares Our Verdict Aalto is aimed at those with a penchant for the unusual. It sounds splendid but may put the hurt on your CPU. Pros The spirit of a maverick modular. We love the low-pass gate.
Its inclusive real-time media control and settings are amazing. The program is capable of handling audio and video tracks in any format that saves a lot of space and time.
HOWTO: Madrona Labs Aalto review | MusicRadar
Aalto. West Coast sound, intuitive patching. Asset 2 Kaivo and Aalto updated to (a tricky one). Kaivo aalto update. Beat Magazine has released Aalto Beat Edition as a free download for ( MB download size, bit & bit VST plugin for Windows). presets for Madronalabs’ Aalto. Featuring steel drums, pan flutes, brass ensembles, strings, trippy sequences, bells, chimes, & vibes.