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Beatskillz RetroVolt review

BeatSkillz deliver a sample player with synth ambitions and a plugin simply drenched in nostalgia

  • £99
Beatskillz Retrovolt
(Image: © Beatskills)

Our Verdict

If you’re after any kind of nostalgic vibe then RetroVolt is a must-have blend of synth + samples. How very '80s.

Pros

  • Surprising synth depth.
  • Lovely Arp and FX sections.
  • Bombastic 80s sounds.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Very 80s.

Cons

  • UI can be in your face/basic (very '80s!).

What is it?

You have probably noticed that there’s a bit of a nostalgia thing happening – indeed Computer Music's recent '90s issue, for example, was one of its bestsellers. 

OK, perhaps there always has been a look-back longing, and maybe it’s the fact that so many of us have been locked up watching old films (or yearning for better times) but, whatever the reason, there are definitely rose-tinted spectacles being worn above face masks the world over. 

RetroVolt taps into the midst of it all and tugs your heartstrings. You’ll be Pretty in Pink and enjoying your Breakfast Club in no time. Yes, it’s the '80s – here we come…

Added Extras

RetroVolt installs as a plugin as normal but you’ll need to download around 2.5GB of data which turns up as five files. These are best placed in the Samples folder that appears wherever RetroVolt has installed. 

RetroVolt comes with over 500 presets made from that sample content, with a synth engine on top of it all, so is what you might call a ‘Samplesizer‘

You’ll then need to open the plugin within your DAW and install the presets, first locating the samples – it takes less than a minute all told. After 15 minutes of free use, you’ll be asked to enter your serial code to authorise the plugin and that’s it.

RetroVolt comes with over 500 presets made from that sample content, with a synth engine on top of it all, so is what you might call a ‘Samplesizer‘. There’s also an Arp tab that reveals a very easy to use arpeggiator, complete with graphic lines to control up to 32 steps with velocity, pitch and note length. 

There are five patterns to choose from and controls for Octave, Swing, Tempo and so on. We weren’t expecting it to be quite so packed – it’s a pretty inspiring section. The effects too offer more than we bargained for, with what Beatskillz call ‘a full-blown 10-slot multi-effects system’. 

You get these 10 effects, covering EQ, Saturation, Reverb, Delay etc. Click on each to introduce it which then reveals a set of controls for each.

Performance and verdict

We’re not sure, at this point, why we’re surprised at the depth on offer with RetroVolt. We think it might be the fairly simplistic UI – and its retro vibe – which kind of lulls you into thinking that the features will be on an old-school level as well. But while the knobs might be big and clunky, there’s plenty going on under the big 80s bonnet.

Also consider...

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

IK Multimedia Syntronik
Vast number of synths and presets – and a much higher price – deliver a similar 80s vibe.

Samples!
There are simply loads of 80s samples out there – check out our SampleRadar hub and get them free. You can't beat free.

But as good as these extras are, a plugin like this will live and die on its samples. Beatskillz has tapped into their classic synths – Roland, Sequential, Oberheim, Yamaha and more – to offer three banks of aggressive and thick (bank A), subtle and rich (B) and raw (C). 

Sure RetroVolt won’t be everyone’s can of Top Deck, but we’re almost embarrassed about how much we like it

Big and brash are what sum up a lot of the sounds – that was the decade after all – although there are some more moody offerings. There is also a good mix of analogue and more digital sounds (again that was the 80s) and there’s everything to cover the wide industrial and synth-pop remit. The best part is making your own sounds via the dice – and the results always sound 80s!

Sure RetroVolt won’t be everyone’s can of Top Deck, but we’re almost embarrassed about how much we like it, almost to the point where we’ll tell people that we’re using some cool Eastern European synth when really it was RetroVolt. It’s our guilty pleasure plugin.

MusicRadar verdict: If you’re after any kind of nostalgic vibe then RetroVolt is a must-have blend of synth + samples. How very '80s.

Hands-on demos

Plugin Boutique

Beatskillz

Specifications

  • TYPE: Samplesizer plugin (VST/AU/AAX/standalone)
  • FEATURES: Powerful synth engine using Multi Samples – Multi Zone & Multi-Velocity Filter types including the famous “ladder“ filter, Amp and Filter Envelopes, Velocity curve editing, LFOs and more, Full Arpeggiator/ Sequencer with user patterns saving, Effects section with 10 simultaneous effects including Convolution Reverb, 500+ Factory Presets included , users can also save their own presets, Auto Preset Generator for unlimited combination of sample maps and parameters, MIDI Controller Assignment for all parameters, Simple “right-click” & assign
  • CONTACT: Beatskillz