|SQ80 V, Click to Enlarge
THE ARTURIA V COLLECTION REVIEW
If you spent all your time testing and listening to ALL the various synthesizers and presets included in this package of instruments I think it would take a lifetime. It's D E E P !
I have been composing with the V Collection since version 8 of the package. I started this review after downloading fresh new versions of the complete V Collection 9 which has been updated for running native on Apple Silicon. Arturia generously gives you 5-authorizations, which lets you install it on several machines, dig into the software and forget about everything else. The newly recoded versions for Apple Silicon seem to be functioning beautifully. I'm using the V Collection with my buffers down at 32 samples in Logic Pro, which yields roundtrip latency of 2 milliseconds and synth output in 1.1 milliseconds through the Quantum Thunderbolt interface.
This review is mainly going to be ME, cherry picking the meat and potatoes of this instrument collection to help you decide if this software is right for you. Don't be confused by all the pretty instrument interfaces, these are powerful synthesizers. At the end of this article I'll reveal some secrets I've discovered to make them sound even more like real hardware synths.
INSTALLATION. . . .no iLok required
Arturia has created a good software licensing system which is straight forward to operate. You create an account on the Arturia web site, then download the software licensing application for your operating system. Whenever you need to get updates or interact you simply run the app on your computer, the software knows your computer so the whole process is very streamlined and secure for Arturia and the user. An "Install All" button gets the full-install process rolling or you have the option of installing the synthesizers one-at-a-time in case you're limited on hard drive space and install time.
ARTURIA V COLLECTION, INSANE OR INSANE VALUE?
My introduction to the Arturia V-Collection began many years ago (around 2005) with my purchase of their Mini Moog, stand-alone, virtual instrument plugin. I was struggling with an early ProTools system on a Mac Laptop; every time I tried to use the Mini Moog plugin the DAW computer crashed. The Mini Moog V sounded very good but it was a huge processor resource hog. I'm so happy to report those days are far behind and the V Collection on modern computer hardware sounds fantastic and won't bring the system down.
Why use virtual synthesizers? Especially if you already have some really great hardware synths?
The answer comes in two parts.
1. The virtual synthesizer sounds REALLY REALLY good and each one comes with a LOT of presets that can help get you into the ballpark when you're composing. The knobular interface of these software synthesizer(s) allow you to manually tweak parameters to fit your song, speed up an attack time or adjust a filter and its release time. It's all adjustable and it's real synthesis inside your computer, so it requires almost zero setup time, no cabling or preamps and no physical space in the studio.
2. All the settings on the virtual synthesizer are stored, along with your musical session, inside your DAW so you don't need to write it all down or export the synth tracks to analog tracks. This allows all your synth parts to remain fully editable in the future if you want to remix the composition.
Couple these virtual synthesizers with a really nice keyboard controller and you've got an extremely powerful synthesizer system.
WHAT IS THE V COLLECTION
For the most part the V Collection is 33 virtual software instruments that resemble hardware units from many years ago. Each of the classic virtual synthesizers has controls and operates similarly to the way the original functioned. I like this system because I know how to operate many of the hardware units from experience a long time ago. I owned two Mini Moog Model D back in the very early 1980's so working with the knobs on the virtual version is like an old friend. More recently I owned a Moog Voyager for a few years. The excellent sound quality produced by the Arturia Moog(s) made it easy to sell off the heavy Voyager hardware and never look back.
While I never owned a Moog Model 55 Modular synthesizer I understand the workings from other Moog products so the Arturia virtual modular gives me a chance to experience things I never would otherwise. Before he passed away Dr Moog worked with Arturia on the creation of their virtual Moog synthesizer products so the sound quality is satisfyingly similar to hardware I'm familiar with. When I call up synth voices like the ARP 2600 (which spent time in my studio back in the 1980's) I love having that familiar sound inside my DAW attached to and stored with my song.
Many of the Arturia software synthesizers are capable of playing polyphonically, something the originals could not do.
None of this would matter if the software did not perform at a very high level; great sound quality is the only way to entice composer/creators to use a product like this. Fortunately, if you have the DAW computer horsepower this software delivers amazing sounds.
This company is very clever. They get you to buy one instrument for around $149 and it sounds great, so you buy another, and it sounds great and .....wait a minute, the V Collection offers ALL the Arturia software synthesizers for one low price. Suddenly that $599 price is starting to look like an amazing deal. . . . and it is!
An ever growing list of virtual instruments in the "Collection"
I'm running the latest V Collection on a 20-core Mac Studio, I'd almost swear the synthesizers sound better on the native Apple processor than they did on my 12-core Intel Mac Pro.
I bought into the complete V Collection back in 2020, you save a lot of money on the complete collection even if you don't use all of the individual instruments. Typically the synthesizers cost around $149 when purchased individually but your cost each goes WAY down when you buy them all in the V Collection.
After playing the V Collection for a couple of years I can finally say I am DONE with keyboard hardware. I've spent time comparing the V Collection Moog instruments to my Mini Moog Voyager keyboard hardware. I've spent time comparing my 1980s Yamaha DX7 keyboard to my DX7 V. I've also spent time comparing my Sequential Prophet 6 keyboard to the Prophet 5 V. I have also spent time comparing the sound output from my Kurzweil keyboards to the V Collection. In the future I'm going to put my money into the most powerful computer I can afford and run the Arturia V Collection on it.
ARTURIA AUGMENTED INSTRUMENTS
Augmented Voices is a new synth in the V Collection. A simple interface gives way to powerful sound creation,
Piano-V I already own so many great sounding piano sample libraries that this one is not getting much love but it is an amazing sounding collection of piano voices with a nice interface that invites experimentation. These piano sounds are generated, not sampled. Samples were involved in creating the sounds but the Arturia Piano V engine creates the sounds you're playing. It is processor demanding but wonderful sounding and it takes up a smaller hard disk footprint.
Augmented Strings is another new addition. This one is not a redo of a vintage synth, this is Arturia stretching their legs and creating something brand new. This instrument is a malleable mashup of string voices, textures and effects. In typical Arturia style, there is a big collection of presets which can get you close, then use the knobs to tweak it more to fit your song. The interface is simple but very effective for accessing a huge variety of sounds easily.
A FEW OF MY FAVORITE V COLLECTION SYNTHS
MOOG Mini V is what started it all for me with Arturia. Even though I lost track of my initial log in and license Arturia had everything on file and my original license still intact. This is a powerful and good sounding lead instrument. If you know how to adjust a Mini Moog Model D then you already know how to work this synth.
|Moog Modular, Click to Enlarge
MOOG Modular V is where I go for Moog sounds whether it's leads, pads or basses. The ADSR are easy to adjust so you can really get this dialed in to match the song you're working on. The patch cords are easy to move when you want to do some experimenting. The attack in the virtual ADSR has the same fast snappy performance as the attack in the hardware ADSR.
|ARP 2600 V
ARP 2600 V has the classic brash ARP tone which cuts through a dense mix. Stack up a few oscillators and enjoy the vintage flavor.
|CS-80 V, Click to Enlarge
Yamaha CS-80 V is a heavy beast of a keyboard machine in real life hardware, they were very complex and "flakey" is how I'd describe their reliability, as a result there were not many of these expensive synthesizers made. Fortunately we have the Arturia virtual CS-80 and it is a juicy sounding synth capable of awesome pads, big resonant basses and wild lead tones. It took me a while to get around to getting into this one but it has great sounds in it. The filters are warm and very pleasant sounding. This synth has special character if you get into it deeper. This one dings the processor horsepower demands more than any other in my experience so far.
|Oberheim SEM V, Click to Enlarge
Oberheim SEM V can be a wonderful sound effects engine for things like wind, steam or surf. It also produces some juicy bass sounds. I have one of these included in my "regular" song writing template because it sounds so good and it's so versatile.
Ensoniq SQ80 V is another bold sounding synth from the 80's. A friend of mine had an 88 key version of this synth hardware, I remember it being heavy and awkward to move and support but what a sound, massive, full dynamic, bright and imaginative. I never got a lot of hands-on time with his hardware because it was too heavy and difficult to carry it to the studio.
|Click to Enlarge
Jun-V sounds better than I remember the original Roland keyboard hardware sounding. I love surfing around the presets to see how the sounds are made by studying the front panel controls. There are good pads, leads and sound effects waiting for you to discover.
|Mellotron V, Click to Enlarge
Mellotron V is much better sounding and way more versatile than the current digital Mellotron brand keyboard hardware. The Arturia Mellotron V is easy to use and is dripping with the original instruments vibe and character. The interface works like the original hardware did, complete with dial to blend between the three tracks on a Mellotron tape cartridge.
|Prophet 5 V with Advanced Panel, Click to Enlarge
Prophet 5 V offers the classic Dave Smith polyphonic synth sound. It will instantly sound familiar to anyone who has ever noodled around with one of Daves synth creations. I still have my Prophet 6 but it's in danger of heading to a Reverb or ebay sale soon. This Prophet 5 sounds great and it lives inside my DAW, zero setup time makes it the obvious choice for tone and convenience.
Solina V String Machine is a modeled version of the original string machine from the 70's with one big difference, this modeled version sounds A LOT better than the old hardware. The hum and background noise are gone. I have several different plugin versions of the original hardware, this one by Arturia has the closest to original tone (that's a good thing).
Wurlitzer V electric piano is a modeled version of the old keyboard complete with "whoomph" when you release the keys (it's the sound of the mechanical action in the original hardware). These pianos used small metallic reeds which were struck by little hammers to deliver their funky mellow tone. I love this sound as a background to progressive rock instrumental guitar songs; it's a great complement to acoustic and electric guitar.
The V Collection synthesizers have extended control features beyond the original knobs and switches of the vintage designs. A hidden switch or button reveals these extended adjustments, on a per instrument basis, ranging from effects mixing to arpeggiator to sequencing, depending on the instrument.
Arturia continues to improve their classic creations. The latest versions for Apple Silicon are playing without any problems on my Mac Studio.
"GENESIS" AN ARTURIA SYNTH COMPOSITION BY MARK KING
For this ambient style musical creation I loaded up a LOT of Arturia V Collection instruments (see end of article for full updated list); these are all big processor-horsepower demanding choices like the CS-80 V, DX7 V, Piano V with lots of damper pedal down to keep a lot of strings ringing, Moog Modular V dancing back and forth with an ARP 2600V, with a Juno 106-style V sound playing across the full length of the tune. I added two different Mellotron V for the choir voices. No effects were added during the "out of the box" mixing, everything you hear is coming from the Arturia instruments (most are playing default patches). I did use an arpeggiator provided by Logic to creatively over stimulate the Prophet 5 V during the final minute of the song. It was the fastest way I could think of to play a lot of notes and see/hear if the computer would max out and choke (it did not).
My ultimate goal was to see and hear a bunch of my favorite V Collection synthesizers, all engaged and playing across one another on the 20-Core Mac Studio. Would it run out of processor horsepower? None of the tracks were frozen, they're all live and fully editable as midi.
The track was mixed through the H.o.T. hybrid Soundcraft GB40/Neve 8816 mixer, Coleman TC-4 with Neve 33609 bus comp engaged. The analog output from the TC-4 feeds the Tascam DA3000 converters and was recorded 192k/24-bit.
HOW TO MAKE VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS SOUND MORE LIKE HARDWARE
An analog hardware musical instrument like a Mini Moog, has a big physical body with "Output" electronics which add muscle, color and hue to the analog tone source. A digital hardware instrument like a Kurzweil K2000 keyboard also has an "Output" stage which delivers the analog audio signal in a useable form. Like Glen Coleman always says, "in the end, it's always analog" which means until we all get digital implants we will be hearing with our analog ears for the foreseeable future. All electronic keyboard instruments whether they are analog or digital deliver analog output(s) for us humans to listen to.
So, to make your virtual synthesizer(s) sound even thicker and more delicious, give them analog outputs by routing them out of your DAW to a mono or stereo tube EQ like a Warm or KT EQP style. As an alternative try routing it out through a stereo compressor like a DBX 166. Be sure to have the controls of the 166 handy, you need to be able to tweak them. Better yet run the EQ into the compressor for extra fatness. Even if the EQ is set flat or the audio is below the threshold on the compressor, the electronics you've added are like hardware outputs on a real keyboard instrument, they give adjusted sheen and girth to the virtual instrument voices.
This is where mixing "outside the box" adds unique color and dimension options to your musical creations. In this case it's about giving your Arturia digital instrument a physical body to speak with. You could attempt something similar with plugins but in my experience that never yields as BIG of a final sound as playing through real hardware does.
If you don't like my hardware choices use whatever you like, the important thing is to route the virtual instrument to the outside world by converting it into analog signals (exiting digital realm, entering real world as analog like we hear with), then give those analog sounds some electronic stages to play through so they can manifest more as pieces of analog hardware.
My first job in the Musical Instrument Industry was "repair technician". From this throne I got to see the circuitry in a lot of Roland, Korg and Yamaha synthesizers and effects. Whatever budget EQP style gadget you choose, the circuitry inside will be more robust than what keyboard manufacturers actually used in their products.
Arturia virtual synthesizer instruments require significant computer horsepower to run in a fluid and natural way but they deliver huge sonic performance. At $149 each they are worth their price of admission but the $599.00 V Collection bundle price for 33 instruments makes these a must have for any serious modern composer.
Good Music To You!
Words and Music ©June 2023 by Mark King, all rights reserved. It's not ok to copy or quote without written permission.
Thanks for reading High on Technology
|Arturia DX-7 V, Click to Enlarge
INSTRUMENTS USED IN "GENESIS" COMPOSITION
ARP 2600 V
Moog Modular V
Matrix 12 V
(2) x SEM2 V
Prophet 5 V
(2) Mellotron V