Toontrack EZKeys Synthwave & EZX Expansion: What is it?
Many things in life are assured; night following day, and paying your taxes to name but two, but we could also mention Toontrack, which reliably creates useful products and expansions, for its ever-popular band-in-a-plugin software.
This time, it’s Synthwave that gets the Toontrack treatment, with the release of two expansion packs designed to fulfil your every whim, at least in terms of ’80s synth and drum sounds.
The branding ‘EZKeys Synthwave’ pretty much tells you everything that you need to know, but what’s less clear is how far you can go with this expansion.
You’ll need a copy of EZKeys, to act as host for this pack. If you don’t own EZKeys, there is an option to buy the application alongside the expansion, and of course once you have it, you can access all of the other EZKeys libraries.
Toontrack EZKeys Synthwave & EZX Expansion: Performance and verdict
The EZ remit is to assist producers or musicians, who are looking for inspiration in both sounds and phrases. Bizarrely, MIDI phrases do not ship with this pack as standard, meaning that you’ll be reliant on your own stylistic performances, or need to spend an additional €29 on the associated Synthwave MIDI notes and phrases pack.
However, the expansion pack itself is filled to the brim with classic ’80s synth sounds. All sounds are categorised by menu, including basses, keys, leads, pads and more. There is a guitar category, but these are all synth-derived, with chord thrashing removed at source.
The sonic quality of the content is excellent, being drawn from a plethora of vintage ’80s synths, ranging from analogue Roland Jupiters, to digital and FM-based Yamaha DXs. It’s all production-ready but with limited access to editing.
Edit controls and parameters are patch-dependent, reflecting the chosen sound. You’ll generally have access to a global low-pass filter (cutoff control only), delay and reverb, with the occasional appearance of chorus or the release phase from the envelope.
One thing we did notice is that the filter pot operates in reverse to what you might expect; when to the left, it’s open, and to the right, it’s closed!
The ideal companion to EZKeys is the Synthwave expansion for EZDrummer 3 or Superior Drummer 3. You’ll also need either of these two packages in order to install Toontrack’s EZX expansion libraries.
It may not surprise you to learn that this pack also contains a vast array of sounds, sourced from electronic drums and drum machines from the ’80s. Linn drums reside next to 808s and 909s, with 440 fully produced sounds which are ready-to-go. The 20 mix-ready kits are also accompanied by MIDI content; it’s a useful startpoint to select one of these kits, and then run the associated MIDI track, indicated by the same track and kit name. It’ll give you an instant ’80s feel, with minimum hassle.
Within EZDrummer, you can also swap out different drums or other elements from within a kit, and while EZDrummer offers a basic amount of editing, Superior Drummer provides far more capacity for editing and controlling drum sources, such as control over a drum’s envelope.
The mixer page provides plenty of options for refining a selected kit, although for our money, the sounds are a cut above the average collection of electronic drums sounds, packing plenty of punch, albeit with a very stylised ’80s slant.
Playing in pairs
These two expansion packs could be regarded as another completed tick on the Toontrack to-do list. Notably, the sonic content is exemplary, across both expansions, but the lack of sound editing, particularly within the EZKeys domain, might prove challenging to more seasoned synthesists.
MusicRadar verdict: Given the popularity of Synthwave, these expansions are on-trend and sound fantastic, with a ton of sonic diversity.
Toontrack EZKeys Synthwave & EZX Expansion: Hands-on demos
Toontrack EZKeys Synthwave & EZX Expansion: Specifications
- EZkeys: macOS 10.10 or higher, Intel or Apple silicon processor, 2 GB RAM. Windows 7 or newer, Intel or Athlon processor, 2 GB RAM. 4GB of free hard disk space. Audio Unit, VST 2 or AAX host application (64-bit on Mac). Standalone version included.
- EZX: 90 MB free disk space, 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended).
A working EZdrummer 3.0.5 (or above) or a Superior Drummer 3.3.5 (or above) installation.
- CONTACT: Toontrack