IK Multimedia Syntronik 2 review: A dizzying array of synths at your fingertips
IK’s monster synth collection just got even bigger. Could it be the ultimate virtual instrument?
⊕ Extensive edit section allows creation of all-new sounds
⊕ Well-stocked FX section adds depth
⊕ Onboard Arp and sequencing sections bring patches to life
⊖ Stereo output only, no split-by-layer
⊖ No master FX slot
A cost-effective and authentic-sounding instrument, the Syntronik 2 brings many classic synths to your studio or live setup.
IK’s Syntronik isn’t so much a synth as it is a collection of recreated classic synth instruments within a kind of mini workstation that runs either as a standalone application or as a plug-in inside your DAW.
It’s a concept that other developers use as well – get a bunch of synths and effects in one place and then give users tools layering and arpeggiation, thus making the whole experience more flexible than simply loading up lots of synths on DAW tracks. This also makes it much more cost effective than buying virtual synths individually.
To the MAX?
The Syntronik 2 comes in four versions: CS, SE, Regular and Max, with the difference being the amount of content that you get. We’re focusing on the two larger collections here: the Regular and the Max.
After authorising and downloading the main application, you can use the Product Manager to decide what content to download. There’s an option to download everything at once or you can download and install each instrument separately.
The Regular bundle weighs in at 80GB and the Max bundle at 200GB, making them hefty files that can take a while to download and unpack. In the download manager, you can specify an install location before starting so that the large libraries can be sent straight to an external hard drive for example.
There’s an efficient browser system within the application for filtering the installed libraries by instrument, patch name, attribute and using text input. It’s just as well since the Regular version comes with over 4,000 presets and Max with over 5500. Despite having so many presets included, searching through them never feels anything less than quick and easy.
The Regular version comes with 22 bundled synths, and 33 with the Max. A breakdown of what’s available can be found on the IK website. There’s a ton of very usable and authentic-sounding synths with presets ready to get you started right out of the box, with some highlights being the OSCar, Prophet VS, Korg Trident and Oberheim OB-1.
The Syntronik application is what elevates it beyond being simply a selection of synths. It can be dynamically resized to suit your needs and respond to control changes even in standalone mode, making it suitable for use in a live performance independently of a DAW.
There are four layers, each with assignable key and velocity ranges, mute, solo and level controls. You can also control how and if each one responds to pitch, mod, sustain, and aftertouch input. This makes creating multi-instruments where you have, say, a bass assigned to the lower octaves, a couple of layered pads in the middle and a lead at the top is simple to do. The instrument can be set to use four different keyboard modes – mono, poly and legato 1 and 2.
For any synth in any of the four parts, you can click Edit to cycle between the synth’s own GUI and the generic Edit interface which provides access to a deeper level of control, hooking into the bones of the instruments and including parameters that may not be present on the synth’s ‘real’ interface.
One of the most powerful options here is to use the Wave Set Browser to mix and match individual oscillators to create a near-infinite combination of new sounds, especially when you factor in the number of filters you can add on top.
A powerful modulation matrix expands on the capabilities of the original synths and enables much greater control on how sound is generated and processed. Each of the four oscillator sections per patch also has a Drift option which when activated introduces subtle variation to the signal for a warmer and more authentically analogue feel.
You also get four dynamic arpeggiators and step sequencers to animate your four layers of sound. Then there’s an effects stage with an impressive 71 effects sourced from AmpliTube, T-RackS and MixBox and using a familiar rack-style interface. There’s an excellent selection of amps, dynamics, EQ, modulators, reverbs, delays and filters, and each of the four synth layers can use its own 5-slot FX chain for a total of 20 effects per patch.
The effects sound fantastic and bring added depth to any patch. They are also charmingly designed, which makes them more fun to use.
There’s no master FX slot, which is a bit of a shame as it would be nice to be able to sum everything through a gentle compressor or a limiter. It’s more of an issue for standalone mode and less so for running in a DAW, where you could simply add another insert or two to achieve this.
The mixing tools available inside Syntronik 2 are also a little basic, being limited only to volume and pan. It’s also disappointing that the system is stereo out-only both in standalone and plug-in mode, with no facility to route the four layers out separately for mixing or processing.
Considering the amount of synthesis and potentially also effect processing going on, Syntronik is pretty kind to your CPU and system resources in general. Even while running a couple of multi-layer instances inside Logic, each with 10-15 effects going on internally, we didn’t notice any significant load to our CPU meters. The only thing you’ll want to watch out for is those library sizes, which could be an issue on smaller hard drives of 500GB or less.
Syntronik 2 is a cost-effective way to bring the sound of a bunch of classic synths to your setup. Whether you opt for the Regular or the expanded Max bundle, there’s a wide selection of very usable presets plus the ability to customise patches and build entirely new sounds both by layering and by swapping out waveforms and filters and adding complex modulation assignments. Whether you want to just plug in and play, or delve deeper into designing custom patches, there’s much here to like.
- Standalone or plug-in format
- 22 (Regular) or 33 (Max) synths
- Four types of circuit-modelled filters
- DRIFT technology for oscillators
- Native Apple M1 support
- 71 effects
- Wave Set Browser
- Four dynamic arpeggiators and step sequencers
- Scalable interface
- Advanced synth editing
- €299.99, Introductory price €199.99
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