‘A fun, versatile instrument exuding that trademark EII grit and punch” – Computer Music magazine review, Janary 2017
Massive Emulator II-derived sample-and-synthesis machine in the style of the Roland D50 • Emulator grit and heft; synthesiser scope and scale • X-Mod and comprehensive performance control allow for dynamic, expressive, shifting timbres • Graft sampled Attack waves to synthesised (or sampled!) Sustain waves for complex, rewarding patches… or use the Glitch control for instant new sounds • Over 90 factory patches included: 1.32Gb of authentic EII samples!
The Emulator II is a glorious slice of musical history, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of turning it into an archival Kontakt instrument in the Emulator II Universe of Sounds libraries. But even before we embarked on that mammoth sampling session, a thought was stirring at the back of our minds. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Emulator hadn’t just been a sampler? Wouldn’t it be cool if it had been more of a synth as well?
Of course, the Emulator II did have some synthesiser-type capabilities: that awesome analogue filter, to name just one. But the dots didn’t really join up into something that you could use to create sounds from scratch. Enter the Synthulator, which is at its heart a very simple idea indeed: use the Emulator II as the basis of a sample-and-synth creation in the mould of the Roland D50.
Early S&S instruments managed a neat tradeoff between the undeniable accuracy of sampled sounds and the equally undeniable price of sample memory by dedicating a small amount of memory to a handful of short attack samples, which were then spliced onto synthesised (and hence non-memory-intensive) sustain waveforms. This trick relies on the human ear’s tendency to make most of its assumptions about the sound it’s hearing in the first few fractions of a second, and it led to some cracking S&S machines. Synthulator sits in that proud lineage.
Synthulator takes as its starting points a series of custom soundbanks, including all the core analogue waveforms (saw, sine, square, pulse, triangle etc). These we sampled into our EII and then back out again, to stamp them with all that wonderful 8-bit sonic impurity. There are also sustaining sounds taken from more complex instrument sources, so there are complex synth waves sourced from analogue and digital gear; and also things like the sustain portions of string and brass sounds.
Two separate oscillators are given over to these sustaining waves, and the two can be mixed freely and have the rather cool X-Mod applied to them (X-Mod being, basically, a slow LFO that blends between the two waves, allowing for radical periodic shifts in tonality).
There’s also a separate Attack oscillator, which draws on its own collection of short attack samples – everything from piano strikes through saxophone blurts to flutey chiffs. Graft one of these characterful Attacks on to a couple of modulating Sustains of your choice, and you have instant access to a whole world of pseudo-instruments with unique characteristics. Best of all, they all sound like they’re coming from an Emulator II, with the classic weight and grit that defines EII samples.
We’ve included both typical synth control features (like a filter) and some pretty comprehensive dynamics control, so that Synthulator is a really expressive instrument to play. You can use Velocity to cross-fade between Sustain waves, or to open the filter; lay into your keyboard and the whole tonality of the sound can change or open up. Synthulator‘s sound character is firmly in the vintage digital camp: you can wring almost PPG-style sounds from it remarkably simply, or get into DX or D territory, but always with that additional grittiness that sets the EII apart from its peers.
Also at your disposal are some excellent effects: the icing on the cake here is the inclusion of the same nine convolved Lexicon reverbs we used on the EII libraries, which bring period-authentic rich, digital reverb spaces to the sounds. Normally we’re rather sparing with reverb, but on these patches the Lexicon just works wonders, and it’s tough not to lay on the Plates, in particular, with a shovel 🙂
We’ve also paid a lot of attention to the Glitch button, tweaking its parameters so that it hits the sweet spot even more frequently. Click on this and you get a ‘musically randomised’ new patch, and we’re betting that the keepers are now more like one in five. Instant gratification! Synthulator also ships with over 90 factory patches, many of which were created by synthmeister Anatol Locker and which are really rather awesome.
Synthulator is a unique resource for creating original sounds which sound like they’re coming straight from a big blue EII. With a sound palette that spans acoustic and synthesised sounds, all imbued with grit and weight thanks to the EII’s wonderful convertors, it’s a great way to weave your own sonic textures from classic source material. The 80s have never sounded so good!
(All our Kontakt instruments require a full copy of Native Instruments Kontakt v4.2.3 or higher (including all versions of Kontakt 5). Kontakt Player is not supported: instruments will load, but will time out after 15 minutes. See the FAQ for further information.) You can read more about the original hardware E-Mu Emulator II here.
johnup12 (verified owner) –
The presets are a little too pedestrian-sounding for my taste, and I haven’t had as much luck with the Glitch button as for other RR instruments. Tweaking some of the presets has gotten me more interesting sounds, but nothing spectacular.
dannyhearnmusic (verified owner) –
This is awesome; Emu style sounds in a D-50 style format! Some great presets from the start, but with a good range of attack samples available you can come up with some pretty cool sounds of your own. Definitely easier to use than a D-50, with more of a retro charm to it’s sound.
Oh and don’t forget to save Ferris…
aqaraza (verified owner) –
As I suspected it would be, Synthulator is a gem. There are so many sounds in here that seem to come from somewhere deep in the caverns of the unconscious. Of course, growing up in the 1980s probably helps. But so much of this sound is woven into our cyclic sonic worldview now that I suspect this feeling is universal. Synthulator includes the coveted glitch/rnd button, which allows for some truly haunting and unexpected sounds. An indispensible tool for the kit, at this price.
micha.adam (verified owner) –
It is not the real Emu Libairy, this is complete different. The Plugin captured the sound and the feel of the Emu Systems, but you get different types of presets with every single click. The sound has that magic 80s feel to it. Buy it, you won’t regret it.
Poesque (verified owner) –
OMG, OMD and Depeche Mode without the floppy disks and pesky load times.
dstey24 (verified owner) –
Love the sound. This has an fm sound with a warm analog feel.
dstey24 (verified owner) –
Love the 80s sound. This has an fm sound with a warm analog feel.
Guillaume (verified owner) –
A clean yet warm and vintage-sounding UFO with many presets from which to choose. Time and effort are to be spent on it to come up with your own original settings, but the possibilities seem almost endless – so yes, if you’re into 80s electronic sounds, definitely consider this one!
Stefano (verified owner) –
Is fantastic how every sound here has the specific character of the EII. Even the oddest hybrid patch has the tipical musicality and solidity of this great sampler. And for me is a big surprise to find also a sample of the wurlitzer theatre organ.. with an 80s twist!
Michael (verified owner) –
Rhythmic Robot Synthulator is the real deal. Rarely does one find a virtual instrument so inspiring. The grit of a vintage sampler and the flexibility of Kontakt implementation combine to provide a singular sonic experience for the performer and the listener. Don’t miss out on this.
kingpaulhaynes (verified owner) –
Recently bought the Synthulator… after only a few hours of exploring it and basically just messing around and having fun, I can already say that it is pure magic. It’s something special when you come across a new instrument that is so inspiring that you almost wonder what the hell you were doing with your song writing/sound design pursuits beforehand! I can’t imagine moving forward without this sonic gem in my arsenal lol!! My favorite aspect of the Synthulator is the fact the Professor (and Mongo!) cared enough about the details and actually “imprinted” the sound of the EII’s grit and weight onto the sustain waveforms. This is what makes it all work imho and truly makes me feel as if I’m creating with an actual Emulator II but in a whole new magical synthesized way. BRILLIANT! Thank you Rhythmic Robot!!!! I can’t wait to try out all the other special gadgets and wonders you have to offer!!
taperryman (verified owner) –
I”ve been looking for something this unique for a while!! I no longer have to search for THAT sound.
Saukar (verified owner) –
What I like best about Synthulator is that as complex as this sounds it’s so easy to work with. Even just using the basic saw, sine, tri, & pulse sustain waves gives you something with character due to how well RR sampled it. Synthulator definitely has girt… but not sloppy grit. Soothing exfoliating grit if you will. Those reverbs play well in this instruments and it gives everything a nice smooth coating. I think what makes this synth so dope is the Glitch function. It’s random but like a musically randomness. You can come up with some great ideas just by hitting the button & doing further tweaking. Again… this is not super complex to work your head around. It just feels right. Like Alex said previously… a lil tape compression effect from Kontakt & maybe also for some craziness you could use Replika XT with this and you have yourself an 8 bit synth with lots of depth. My ONLY ONLY ONLY ONLY criticism of this that this scream for a mono poly legato mode to be implemented. I come up with nice lead sounds with this and have that much more of control would make this perfect… and I don’t believe in perfect LOL
The Professor –
Alex (verified owner) –
Synthulator is Epic – nice entry price to the 8 bit world of the Emulator. It is nice that some of the emulator filter, ASDR controls and patches have been recreated in this little synth – spent an hour just going through the presets!. I find it easy to dial in new combinations from the drop down list of “Waves” you get an attack wave and a sustain one – so you could get a bottle blow to drive a brass patch (for instance). Nice sounds and you can spend literally hours honing your own patches, I also use the “Tape Saturation” module in Kontakt’s output effects to add extra depth to the instrument. In all it is nice “authentic” 80’s sounding instrument which you can easily delve into – past the presets and beyond
Philippe (verified owner) –
Synthulator for Kontakt that’s become an inevitable sound bank in my compositions. The sampling is a perfect success of what they can achieve. I speak of course of The Professor (and Mongo). I can not help saying: Buy Synthulator. You will never be disappointed. And long live of the 80s. Thanks for your job!
James (verified owner) –
Lovely idea – taking the sampled sounds of the legendary Emulator II and bringing a full synth engine to bear on them. The possibilities are probably endless – I haven’t had the time yet to explore fully. Glitch makes it easy to find starting points for new sounds and the effects are the usual excellent array from RR. I will be using this synth for a long time to come.
Ian (verified owner) –
the RR guys just keep the cool stuff coming and Sythulator is no exception. As an early sample/synth user with a Kawai K1 I like the the approach and it’s cool to see this back with some vintage feel to it. As a wish list I’d like to be able to add in extra samples, but it’s still a great way to generate a new sound
Simon (verified owner) –
If you’re looking for something extremely stereo-wide, to make your newly started EDM career go off, this is not for you.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for sounds with true character and grit, adding warm, slightly off key dimensions to your music, this is a must have. The sonics of this can’t be found with any other developer, and with some creative effects added on top, you can get modern sounds, with that classic vibe intact.
5 stars for both this product, and the company in general.
Robert (verified owner) –
Been thinking of working on that concept album you put aside thirty years ago? Want to get your Foreigner on? Ready to make your Hearts of Space tape? Want to invent new soundtracks to those eighties movies you loved? Rhythmic Robots has another odd duck on its hands. Like Tomasz says, this will definitely give you the sound and feel of the 1980s. This is not a playback machine. It’s there for you to create your own sounds. Lush, inspirational digital stuff.
Plus it’s fun to screw around jiggling with the controls.
Tomasz (verified owner) –
Writing a review for Synthulator is a bit difficult, as the more I use it the more I feel I have only just skimmed the surface. Let’s put it this way – Emulator had in its sample libraries besides the “real” instruments, a lot of those spectacular, futuristic sounds, expensive sounding, definitely synthetic, but very different from traditional subtractive synth sounds. Depeche Mode were particularly fond of these. The EII Synthulator brings in those sounds by the boatload only this time around they are properly tweakable. It is really hard to dial something that does not sound good with this library, it lends itself particularly well to polysynth, keys and digital bass sounds. And obviously pads. The funniest thing is whether you are just putting a piano attack on a pair of detuned pulses, or roping in the vocal and orchestral waves for a lush pad, all the sounds retain that 80’s digital feel – I am not sure if this is due to the EII imprint on samples, or due to the Lexicon reverb IRs, or both, but it sounds great. There are a few technical kinks – it would be useful to have the layer volume controls on the front panel (or at least mute buttons) and the Glitch button sometimes does not kick in on the first click, but considering the great sounds coming out of this thing, those can be overlooked.