Sonic LAB: impOSCar2 Synthesizer + Controller

Software synth, Touch Digital Controller      22/07/11
    MP4 12:29 mins    

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The original impOSCar was a hit for GForce, they being one of the first software instrument companies to capture the special sauce transforms a piece of software into a near-analog experience. The release of impOSCar2 - though has been beset by delays, keeping an eager public waiting for nigh on 1.5 years. But for many, July 4th 2011 was the finally the day when it became available - though only for Mac AU/VST and RTAS - PC users still have to wait a little longer (Autumn we’re told). This is due some particularly thorny issues with RTAS on PC -and I guess thankfully, they want it work on release...

We’re also lucky enough to have got hold of a Touch Digital Controller - dedicated impOSCar2 hardware controller (no keyboard, just control) - one of only 100 initially made to compliment the synth experience. Made by a separate company its designed to offer an extremely robust hardware control of this synth. Somewhat inspired by the one-off controller made by earlier this year.
But back to the software:

  • impOSCar2 has a familiar layout to imp1 users:
  • 2x Oscillators multi-wave with 2, Additive 24 partial user waves
  • 2 LFOs syncable with multi-waves
  • Multimode VCF with separation control for adding a dual peak resonance
  • 2 ADSRs ADSR2 features a delay trigger
  • 2 FX - Chorus and stereo delay tempo syncable

New features
  • Separate Instrument and Effects Versions
  • Mono Unison and Poly Unison Modes
  • New Aux Mod Section with comprehensive routing
  • Nine Filter Types with Drive, Cutoff, Q and Separation.
  • New Chord Memory and single note retrigger
  • 6 Portamento modes with new Unison glide voice spread
  • New Unison Voice Pan
  • New Note Pan Modes
  • Programmable Velocity Responses and New Aftertouch Modes
  • Improved Arpeggiator
  • Small, Regular or Large Interface Sizes
  • New Ring Modulator

impOSCar2 does not disappoint on the sound department - the oscillators have plenty of analog beef and the additive user-built waves give you some unusual tones and buzz to broaden the sound. The filter is of the standard we’ve come to expect from GForce with a real character and musicality - even the 2-pole LPF - somewhere I dont usually venture has a lovely smooth quality to it. Envelopes are very fast and snappy giving plenty of scope for percussive sounds. However, dial in some multi-voice unison (up to 8voices) add a little detune and it grows an extra pair of the proverbial. For pads it can really create some massive stereo textures and creamy beds - very nice. Although you might be forgiven for thinking this is more of a polysynth, but its equally adept at basses and leads - the arpeggiator and envelope triggering (linked to a tempo control) can get some good sequence fodder.  One thing that made it pretty hard to review was each time I focussed on a feature, I’d wander off into synth exploration - very much aided by the hardware controller - these two together are like having a massive hardware synth - a real joy to tweak.

Back to the controller - this thing is built like a tank - 2mm metal plate, each aluminium capped knob bolted on, extremely heavy - I've not come across anything like this before in terms of construction. One might be tempted to say its over-engineered, but it is designed to tour. The MIDI is handled by a custom implementation of the Kenton USB Solo interface. The result is very responsive and just works - I had no trouble - plug and play in the standalone version. It would have been nice to see some knobs centre-dented for parameters with +/- values and perhaps a program change panel for flipping through presets would have been nice, but as it stands, it integrates extremely well. In VST mode, you get bi-directional feedback with the LED status lights reflecting the patch settings.

The Bank
Speaking of which, the impOSCar2 handles patches in a slightly odd way - banks are selected by in the patch browser window, select one with to load - mouse driven only unfortunately. You can load patches into a program change slots to create custom banks which you can then recall from a master keyboard. Unfortunately, program/bank change assignments can not be saved in standalone mode, but are recalled when running as a plug-in saved in the DAW document. It makes flicking through patches a little clunky as you dont get to see the front panel unless you first assign a bank to program changes (a simple shift click).

I loved the combination of synth and controller - its amazing - totally changes the way you interact with the instrument, and indeed makes it into one in the proper sense. The impOSCar2 in itself is a very capable synth and does sound great  GForce having once again created a comprehensive synthesizer with a character of its own- very musical.

The controller designed to be linked to that specific software, though of course you can assign its controls to any plugin, and there are 84 knobs to choose from with familliar labelling.

Ultimately though, its  a pricey combination, the software is the least costly part, but the controller is a whopping £749 + VAT and shipping. Quite a luxury, but its transforms the experience completely and to be honest was never designed to be budget or low cost - its the Rolls Royce option.

Available now:
Mac AU, VST, RTAS Standalone €139 (full) €59 - impOSCar1 upgrade
Available as download
PC coming soon

impOSCar2 Controller
£749 + VAT (+/- $1220)


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