It seemed like we'd only just finished exploring the original Wusikstation patches when we got word that the second version of this powerful Windows VSTi was on the way.
What's more, the Big Package (stop sniggering at the back) is now available. Costing 50 bucks more than the standard version of Wusikstation 2, this also ships with a staggering 1520 presets and 2390 samples. Wow.
We should also point out that the price for the basic Wusikstation package has been dropped by $50 since we last reviewed it, meaning you can get all those new samples and presets, along with the plug-in itself, for the same price as the original Wusikstation. We'll say it again: wow.
For those of you who missed out on Wusikstation the first time around, a little recap might be in order. Like a certain famous hardware synthesizer that bears the WS initials, Wusikstation is a sample-based instrument that makes use of layered oscillators, vector synthesis, wavesequencing and effects processing to produce rich, evolving timbres.
Where Wusikstation parts ways with its spiritual ancestor is in the level of flexibility it offers. You can import your own samples (even pre-mapped multisamples) and make use of the multimode resonant filters (something that the venerable Wavestation never had).
A typical Wusikstation patch can consist of up to six different layers. Four of these rely on the usual sort of sample-playback oscillators, while the remaining two call upon the Wavesequencer.
The sample playback engine operates at 32-bit resolution, and, as stated, you can import WAV files directly into it. Importing multisamples still requires an external application, but this can be downloaded for free from the Wusik site.
However, there's such a vast array of samples included that you may never actually need to bother rolling your own. Each of the layers can be manipulated and processed in a variety of ways.
There are the aforementioned filters – offering high-pass, low-pass, band-pass and notch filtering – and a Smooth option is included to alleviate the dreaded zipper noise that often plagues digital filters (though why you would ever choose not to engage this option is beyond us).
Each layer has four (yes, four!) of these filters in tow, and they can be routed in parallel or strung together in series.
You can do far more with Wusikstation than just layer and filter sounds – it also has myriad modulation possibilities in the form of eight ADSR envelopes and eight LFOs.
We were initially inclined to kvetch a little about the old-school four-stage envelopes, but then it occurred to us that the powerful Wavesequencer can provide many of the same benefits as the more modern multi-segment envelopes (such as those seen in Absynth).
Sure, it's a workaround, but it gets the job done. These modulation sources, as well as many others, can be accessed via the now-obligatory mod matrix. A whopping 36 simultaneous modulations can be created, making use of more than 20 sources (including the envelope generators) and 11 destinations.
That's per layer, by the way! Finally, you can shuttle your sounds through two onboard effects processors. All of the usual suspects are here: delays, reverb, chorus and more. There's also an onboard mixer for adjusting the overall volume of each layer and the effects send levels.
Even the Wusikstation 2 Small Package offers more sounds than version 1, and at just $50, it's a very tempting buy. However, we installed the Big Package, which contains enough sounds to keep you scrolling through patches for days.
Fortunately, Wusik have revamped the browser, and it's now possible to lump groups of sounds together by category. So what about all of those sounds? Many of them are very good indeed – downright inspirational, in fact.
When programmed well, Wusikstation has the power to beat the best hardware ROMplers. However, some of the presets sound amateurish and rushed.
There are relatively few that exhibit Wusikstation's massive potential, and far too many are smothered with delay and reverb. In fact, we were dismayed to discover that many of the patches have exactly the same delay settings. Not too imaginative, to say the least.
Still, thanks to the excellent interface, you can easily adjust the presets to taste. With this many sounds to choose from, you're likely to find more that you love than loathe.
We can't help but praise Wusikstation 2. Even if you don't care for the included patches, the samples alone make the Big Package a no-brainer.
And as for the synthesizer itself, we can think of very few instruments that offer this much power at anywhere near this price. Highly and enthusiastically recommended.