We won't deny that we stifled a yawn as we heard that there was a new virtual analogue soft synth on the way.
Can you blame us? We've seen zillions of the things, and there seems to be little ground that's not been covered at this point. The fact that kiloHearts' debut VST/AU plug-in has a fairly pedestrian - even simple - architecture didn't exactly get us hot under the collar.
Our doubts were cast aside once we fired the thing up and heard it. Many companies have made claims of accurately emulating this synth or that, when what they really should say is that they've wrapped a good VA in a reproduction of a legendary instrument's interface.
A lot of them are excellent instruments anyway, but more than a few fall flat when compared to an actual analogue synth. Not so, the kHs ONE.
We were particularly impressed by the full bass sounds that ONE could manage - such sounds often highlight the difference between analogue and digital synths. Even some of the lead sounds deliver a significant kick below the beltline.
Mind you, some of them fall short of their advertised intent. The patch named Jumpy, for instance, doesn't come close to the power of the sound upon which it's obviously based, but truth be told, we really didn't need another version of Van Halen's Oberheim OB-XA patch for Jump anyway.
The irony is that if kHs ONE reminds us of any one analogue synth, it's the OB-XA, as it provides a similar combination of simplicity and raw beefiness. However, kHs ONE goes far beyond what that synth could give.
The oscillators offer two waveforms, square and saw, both subject to the Shape control, which controls pulse width for the square wave and dials in a 'dual saw' for the saw wave. This enables more potential than you might expect.
A sub-oscillator has been fitted in addition to the main oscillators, and this may account for the weight of the ballsier patches. There's glide and a unison mode too, with up to eight voices.
Bringing the beef
There are two filters, arranged in series, each offering low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and formant/vocal modes. What they don't do is self-oscillate.
A waveshaper section lies between the filters and has two styles of shaping - it can add a lot of beef and even attain clangorous tones with the right settings. Modulation is in the form of three ADSR envelopes: one for the amp, another for the filter and another assignable.
There are two LFOs: one per voice and a global one. Only the latter can sync to the host's tempo.
Each mod source has three slots below it for routing to mod destinations. Two effects - delay (with tempo sync) and chorus - can be applied.
Making a noise
When we first got ONE in for review, it was lacking a noise generator and oscillator sync. However, kiloHearts has now provided an update that includes both of these desirable features.
The sync function exists as a single (modulatable) knob attached to the two primary oscillators. Sync is a function by which the cycle start of one oscillator is made to lock to that of another.
Changing the pitch of one creates a sweeping, nasal effect. Here, however, you just crank up the knob and the sync effect is taken care of 'behind the scenes', so adjusting one oscillator has no effect on the other.
A noise waveform has also been added to each oscillator, and the Shape knob adjusts the width of an extra band-pass filter that's applied to it - turning it right up results in whistling 'pitched' noise. This makes it a candidate for tuned synth percussion, breathy pad sounds and so on.
kiloHearts' intent is to provide an instrument that lets you get on with making sounds and music without leaving you overwhelmed by options. Here, ONE succeeds, maybe to a fault, but the developers seem to understand that and are acting on it.
The fact that kiloHearts already stepped up to the plate to deliver the initially absent noise generator and oscillator sync speaks volumes about their commitment and does a fair bit to expand the instrument's repertoire. Still, we wouldn't mind at least one self-oscillating filter mode.
Nevertheless, the sound is indeed excellent and the price is certainly right. If you're looking to fill out your bass and lead sections with some authentic analogue oomph, this'll do the trick nicely.