ROB PAPEN BLADE – FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Once installation is complete, which is an incredibly easy process, the synth powers up as a plug-in for use within your existing DAW. For the purposes of this review, I am using it with Logic Pro as a 64-bit AU plug-in, although VST and RTAS formats are also available.
As soon as I loaded up the instrument, I headed straight for the presets and was immediately impressed with the rich variety of timbres that Blade offered. There’s plenty of depth both sonically and in terms of places you could go with this synth, and as always, the presets are there to show off its potential, which they do very well.
ROB PAPEN BLADE – ADDING IT UP
With a whole host of synth instruments on the market, there needs to be a nice hook for you to want to look at something that is a little off the beaten track. The big hook with Blade is that it uses additive synthesis as opposed to the far more common subtractive synthesis.
With a subtractive synth, you begin creating your sound with a waveform that is rich in harmonic content, and then you chip away at that waveform using filters to create the timbre you would like, by removing the harmonics you don’t want to hear.
With additive synthesis, you start with a single sine wave, or harmonic, and add more and more to create the timbre you would like, so it’s like ‘subtractive’ in reverse! In fact, there are 96 sine waves available within the oscillator section of Blade, which they call the ‘Harmolator’, and this is where the depth of timbre is created.
ROB PAPEN BLADE – HARMOLATOR
The Harmolator gives you plenty of control over the additive architecture of Blade, so you can create everything from very rich and beautiful sounds through to highly distorted textures, added to which, there is an auxilliary envelope, which allows you to route many of these functions through a 5 stage envelope generator.
Outside of the main Harmolator, there are the usual parameter suspects that you would expect to find on a professional synth:- amplitude envelope, a bewildering array of filters (including Low and High pass, Band pass and even a Comb filter, which is a very useful addition), an assignable LFO and a very fun X-Y pad in the centre of the synth, which is also fully assignable, and in pure ‘play’ mode offers some nice dancing graphics as eye candy.
Blade also has a fully programmable step sequencer, so you can build up arpeggiated patterns, or even create a sequence to route elsewhere. All very useful stuff.
ROB PAPEN BLADE – THE SOUNDS
Whilst Blade is a very powerful synth that is clearly capable of great things, it will require a degree of practice and ‘getting used to’ before you will be able to get the best out of it. At least, that’s my opinion! Like any synth, it has its own sound, which for me is slightly reminiscent of the Access Virus series, and at a price of €99, it’s certainly excellent value.
Working with version 1.0 of the plug-in, I did find a few minor ‘clunks’ in the interface, although I am sure that these will be ironed out very quickly as I generally find that Rob Papen products are extremely stable. However, whilst I wasn’t too concerned about such small issues (such as an occasionally erratic filter pop-up menu), I was not a great fan of the general design of the interface. I know that this is completely down to personal opinion, and I have spoken to people that completely disagree with me, but I just found the large graphic of a ‘blade’ at the top of the interface, combined with the dark generic background, a bit too ‘obvious’, if you get what I mean. I know that with synths, the sound is the most important thing (and I have already paid testament to how good this is with Blade), but I would just liked to have seen a little bit more effort behind the interface design and slightly larger buttons would also have been welcomed by me.
My only other concern about Blade is that it is quite CPU hungry, although this is to be expected with any additive synth. Loading up a reasonably complicated patch and playing 6 notes on my 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo laptop, made the metering shoot right up, meaning that I would be forced to track freeze if I used it within a complex arrangement. There is no surprise in finding out that a good synth is power hungry, but it would have been pleasing to see multi-timbrality implemented in Blade, just to lessen the CPU burden and allow users to make full use of the synth in multiple instances.
ROB PAPEN BLADE – SUMMARY
In essence, Blade is a very interesting synth, which with patience, will yield some incredibly interesting and possibly very different results. Sonically, it has plenty to offer and will be a very versatile addition to any DAW based setup, especially at such a low price.
As I said, there are some minor bugs that need looking at, but these will undoubtedly be fixed with the first Blade update. However, for now, I would suggest heading over to the official Rob Papen website and downloading a free demo for yourself. If you’re after a versatile synthesiser with a trademark additive sound, then you’re not going to find much that rivals Blade, especially at this price point.
For more information on Rob Papen Blade, give us a call on 01202 597180 or click the link below: