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Review: Softube Model 84 - This synth sets new standards

Published 7:45 pm on Sunday 1st August 2021 by Beat Magazine

Very realistic sound

The sound generation is strictly based on the original and is therefore limited to six voices. A digitally controlled oscillator generates a sawtooth and / or square wave, the latter with a pulse width that can be set manually or modulated via LFO. Modulation using the envelope would have been a nice alternative, but Softube remains true to the model. Accordingly, both waveforms can only be switched on or off, here we would have liked a stepless volume control as with Roland‘s emulation. The sub-oscillator plays an octave lower and is an important part of the Juno sound with a very concise sounding square wave. In addition, there is also a noise generator.

Filter emulation

At least as important for the popular sound of the Juno-106 is its legendary 24dB low-pass filter. With low resonance, it provides the typical creamy Roland sound and is capable of both, soft sweeps and crisp, clean and transparent bass and percussion. The filter shows even more character at higher resonance values. Then it starts to sing wonderfully and to distort harmonically. While other filters with high resonance often thin out the bass range extremely and quickly become exhausting in sound, the Juno filter always behaves musically even in extreme settings. And Softube reproduced this behavior really well! At high resonance, the filter goes into self-oscillation and can be played octave-clean with the keyboard tracking turned up.

Modulation, playing aids

An LFO with a triangular wave, adjustable in speed and delay, and an ADSR envelope are used for modulation. Here a few extensions compared to the original would be good, e.g. additional LFO waveforms or a second envelope like in the plug-in from Roland. The LFO can be used to modulate pitch (vibrato), pulse width (PWM) and filter frequency. The envelope is responsible for the filter and volume, but the VCA can also be controlled by a simple gate envelope. This is followed by a high-pass filter for thinning out the low frequencies in polyphonic pads and strings or a little bass boost as well as the legendary Juno chorus with two different modulation levels. The glide time can be continuously adjusted for synthesizer solos or gliding pads. Model 84 has pitch bender and modwheel as playing aids. There is no arpeggiator or sequencer.

Extensions, modules

If you open the right panel, there are a few extensions to discover. Volume, filter frequency and even the pulse width can be modulated by keyboard expression, the latter in particular allows interesting variations when playing. Aftertouch can also affect these parameters. A spread parameter for detuning the voices against each other and a fixed phase for an identical starting point for all oscillators (for basses & kicks) have been added to the unison function. In Softube‘s Amp Room, the perfectly reproduced Juno chorus is available as a module, even with a stereo input! And if you own Softube Modular, you get six new modules for the virtual rack when you buy the Model 84.

Verdict

In our ears, Model 84 is the best virtual replica of the analog Polysynth to date. This may not be immediately noticeable in static comparisons with the digital competition from Roland & Co. But when you play the Model 84 on a good keyboard like a real instrument, the synthesizer sounds and reacts like hardware, not a plug-in. It is somewhat regrettable that Softube did not use the extended possibilities of software compared to hardware to give the Model 84 more voices or a second envelope. However, this is made up for by the integration of separate modules in Softube Modular.

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