You don't need to fill your space with 19-inch rackmount hardware and space-devouring synthesizer keyboards anymore - just buy a laptop, stuff it with virtual instruments, hook up a master MIDI keyboard, and get on with it. Cubase SX, for instance, can load up as many as 32 VST Instruments - and Steinberg seems to be aiming to sell you a different VST Instrument for each of these slots. The latest offering - D'cota VST synthesizer - offers a combination of three types of synthesis in one instrument: Analogue, Wavetable and Spectrum synthesis. D'cota is an eight-part multi-timbral, and each multi-timbral part can be assigned one or several voices. D'cota can play back up to 128 voices depending on CPU power. Each part can be routed to one of four stereo output pairs and you can freely assign Programs to Parts. A good selection of factory Programs is provided to get you started - but programming sounds is not too difficult either. Positioned at the top left of the main window are eight Part Select indicator buttons that can be clicked on to display the parameters for each Part in turn. At the top right of the window are three blue buttons used to switch between the three synthesis methods. The Analogue synthesizer uses the classic subtractive synthesis method where you filter a complex waveform to subtract certain frequencies, shape its amplitude envelope, and then modulate its pitch or amplitude. The Spectrum synthesizer has two waveform generators feeding two independent spectrum stages. This can produce a wide range of timbres - from fat lead sounds to clean organs. The Wave synthesizer uses six impulse waveforms with an assignable spectrum that can be altered in many ways to produce very natural sounding instruments. Most common functions for the three synthesis methods are located in the lower half of the D'cota window. A click on the ?C' button at the left side of the window opens the controller strip to let you route the LFO to various destinations. This strip has a series of buttons that can be assigned to virtually any parameter on any of the three synth pages or to any of the common parameters. D'cota also features four independent envelope generators for each Part, with two of these displayed at any one time. The Effects section has Distortion, Modulation and Delay effects that can be applied independently to each Part, along with master Volume and Pan controls for the selected Part.


The sounds are very useable - ranging from fat leads to funky basses, with plenty of pads, bell sounds and choirs thrown in for good measure. The user interface is informative, intuitive and attractive - which is always a bonus. Recommended.

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