Monday, November 30, 2020

FREEWARE VST REVIEW: Vital. Spectral Warping Wavetable Software VST Synth. Free Version.


Much anticipated Vital wavetable software synthesizer is now available. 
A number of versions are available with increasing functionality from freeware to $80. Main differences between the versions are the number of wavetables and preset sounds. 

What we have is 3 wavetable generators plus noise. Two multi-mode filters, 3 six stage envelope shapers and 4 LFOs'. Complex modulation routings are available via the 'matrix' window and there's a powerful suite of effects and processors on board including EQ, reverb, distortion and modulation effects including phasing, chorus, and flange.

Although it's not modular in design, the whole thing kind of looks that way with each section looking as though it's placed into a slot, rather reminiscent of Kilohearts Phaseplant semi modular arrangement. 

Vital Waveform Generators. 

Vital's Waveform Generators

The power of the synthesizer really lies in the waveform generators and the amount of creative processing you can do before the sound arrives at the filters. Each wavetable can be edited, bent, and warped in so many different ways in terms position, phase, harmonics, formant, as well as frequency modulation and ring modulation from other oscillators. These 'warping effects' are applied using two controls to the right of the waveform display and can be be modulated to create motion over time. 
Various unison modes are 
Samples can be imported so you really do have infinite possibilities. Modulate the waveform' wave frame with a envelope generator to have the sample play from beginning to end or shorter sections. You can also decide on the starting point using the wave frame . 
Another interesting feature is the text-to-wavetable function which turns text into a waveform which can then be warped and modulated like any other. You can play just a short sample of the waveform or longer/larger sections by modulating via an envelope generator applied to the oscillator's wave frame parameter.

The free version of Vital is supplied with 25 wavetables, Plus version 75 and the Pro version 150. 

The fact that there are three such waveform generators and you really do have infinite creative possibilities. It really is one for the programmers and patch creators.


After the waveform generators things get a little more conventional with two powerful multi-mode filters with flexible routing. Offering no less than eight different filter types each with a number of sub-types. I counted 32 in total which include analog, 'dirty', ladder and comb filtering amongst others. Routing options allow each filter to be 'fed' from each and any waveform generator/oscillator. 

Envelope Generators.

Vital's Envelope and LFO Sections.

Three six stage envelopes are provided and can be used to modulate almost every aspect of the synthesizer. In a wavetable synth, envelope generators are critical to how the wavetable in each waveform generator is played. Given that you have to apply a modulator to the waveform generators in order for the wavetable to be played, I could actually have done with a couple more. If it had five, then you can apply a separate envelope to each waveform generator and have one each left for overall amplitude and filtering, although synths with five envelope generators are quite rare. I guess you have to weigh up complexity and ease of use and also space within the GUI. 


Four LFOs are available with 15 wave shapes. In addition to the regular triangle, square and saw wave shapes there are some more 'creative' options such as 'trance gate' and 'nervous groove'. This are great to experiment with and you can even take the cursor and edit/redraw these wave shapes so, again, there are infinite possibilities. 

Two 'random' modulators are available below the LFOs. These work in a similar vein to the LFOs but producing random waveshapes with four 'types'. Again, modulating the wavetable frame position of the wavetable generators can yield some very interesting results. 

(Correction: Vital actually has six envelope generators and eight LFOs. A certain number are only shown in the GUI at any one time.)

Effects Suite:

Vital's Effects Section

A powerful suite of effects is provided including chorus, phasing, flanging, delay, reverb, distortion and EQ. Again, effects parameters can be modulated from any modulation source. 

Voice Control:

Four 'macro' controls are provided which can be assigned to almost any parameter and can be controlled via MIDI with a MIDI learn function. Just right click whilst hovering over the required Macro controller and select 'learn MIDI cc' then send whatever parameter you want to use from your MIDI controller. In fact most of Vital's parameters can be assigned to MIDI control which actually offers greater flexibility than PhasePlant where you can only assign MIDI controllers to the Macro controls. Not really huge point, but assigning MIDI controllers directly to parameters may save a bit of time. 
Other standard voice controllers include polyphony and polyphonic glide. or portamento, is provided.


The left hand and right hand side of Vital's GUI remain static with four page options in the middle for voice, modulation matrix, effects and advanced parameters. Vital's graphic user interface provides a wealth of realtime information showing you in great detail exactly whats going on with 3d waveform graphics, animated frequency plots and scrolling random/LFO plots. It's all very useful feedback, showing you exactly what's going on.


I've only had a relatively short time to assess Vital, but it's very accessible and musical and I found myself coming up with some very pleasing concoctions in a relatively short space of time. It has to be the most powerful freeware synth yet.
The Wavetable VST synthesizer market is not exactly sparse at the moment, even within freeware there are quite a few around. The free versions of THORN and DUNE spring to mind. 
However, there are a number of things that I think set Vital apart. The 'musicality' of the supplied wavetables mean that Vital sounds a bit warmer to my ears. To my ears, wavetable synths do have a tendency to sound a little 'metallic' but Vital seems to sound a bit warmer and fuller and I can only really put this down to the supplied wavetables. 
There are other features too. Obviously the ability to load samples huge and the implementation of this seems to work really well, and the text to wavetable function is something I haven't seen before and is a genuine, creative, musical feature, not just a novelty. 
The preset sounds didn't really do much for me, at least on the free version, although this may be a matter of taste. However, it didn't take long to hear the potential of the synthesizer going beyond the presets.  
If I was being really greedy, I would love to have seen an arpeggiator/step sequencer on board. I love arpeggiators. 


More Vital stuff to come.......patches, videos, and demo tracks......

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  1. Just wanted to say that Vital can have a total of six envelopes and eight LFO:s. A new one appear when you use the last one.