Friday, May 11, 2012

The most underrated VST Synth - Oatmeal

This is a VST Synth I discovered just recently, but some people say that ancient Sumerian musicians allready used it. Jokes aside: It is said to be very old. How could that Synth not get my attention earlier? Well, I think the reason is in the title of this posting. The Oatmeal VST Synthesizer seems to be the most underrated VST Synthesizer of the world. So not many people are talking about it and thus it didn't cross my path earlier.
Oatmeal Default Large Skin
Is there a reason I know why that Synth is underrated (I will talk about the quality later)? Well I think so. The Oatmeal VST Synthesizer comes with a default skin / GUI which is ugly, to put it in a very kind way. The colors are awfull and the GUI tells, that this Synth must have been designed in ancient times, because it seems to be designed for Computerscreens with a very low resolution, thus the knobs and other controls are very tiny on todays high resolution screens. But there is a solution for that problem, which may be missed by many first time users. There is tiny (especially while using the default skin ;)) button which says "Skin". If one clicks on it one is able to select a different skin. There is a skin named "large", which comes with Oatmeal, which fixes the resolution problem even on my 1680 x 1050 screen. But the colors stay ugly as they are. But there is a fix for that too. There are many custom made Oatmeal skins available on the Web, which make Oatmeal pretty.
Ahh, this looks better! Oatmeal with the Blueberry Skin
In my opinion the most clean Skin for Oatmeal: SteelCut
So that's why I think that Synthesizer is underrated. Is there anything else why Oatmeal could be underrated. Yes it is. A HUGE load of knobs and widgets, which are often, especially for the average VST user, not self-descriptive. Ok, Oatmeal comes with a HUGE load of presets and there is also quite a lot of preset banks made by users available on the web, but who wants to use presets all the time? Many folks want at least to tweak the sounds a bit. And such a vast number of knobs and widgets scare most of the people away. Not me, but most people like their VSTs to be simple and easy to understand.
So, that was a lot of negativity. But it is just to describe, why Oatmeal maybe doesn't get the attention it deserves. I would not say in the title that it is underrated, if I would not think that this is a great, if not to say, marvellous, VST Synthesizer, which has features that make it stand out from the crowd. The presets alone, which come with Oatmeal, tell a story, that this is a superb Synthesizer with loads of capabilities. Once one has understood just a bit about the user interface, a completely new world of Digital Sound Synthesis opens up. I spent whole evenings just turning knobs and tweaking gadgets. I am a sound designer from the heart and I love complex Synthesizers which give the possiblity to explore new worlds of sound. Oatmeal is exactly the tool for that job. And while we are at that topic, let's get to the feature I love most at the Oatmeal VST Synthesizer: The randomize function. Ok, many VST Plugins have a function to randomize certain or all parameters. The FL Studio DAW has it built in for all Plugins. But, let's be honest: Most of the time the results are unusable. You have to click the randomize function a lot of times to get usefull results... if at all. Most of the time you get ugly results or even no sound at all. Oatmeal is different here. I don't know how the developer of Oatmeal did that magic, but many times you get a usefull sound by clicking the randomize button just one time. I found out that most of the time 3 or 4 clicks on the randomize button give a usefull result. I created whole preset banks just by using the randomize function. Sometimes the sounds need a bit of tweaking, but if you want to create really new and interesting, sometimes baffling sounds, Oatmeal and it's fantastic randomizer are the way to go. Ahh, while we are at the randomizer: Oatmeal has a very funny autonaming feature for the sounds created by the randomizer. Just watch the status field in the lower left corner and you'll get more than just one good laugh.
Quality: The sound and capabilities are overwhelming. Since Oatmeal seems to be ancient, it runs on ancient computers also and eats up very little RAM and CPU. Multiple instances in a DAW are absolutely no problem. I have a track in production where 24 Oatmeal instances are active at the same time. I think that tells a story. The Plugin is VERY stable. It didn't crash or freeze and caused no other difficulties. The preset bank management is straightforward and works great. I think this is why so many preset banks created by users are out there.
Conclusion: Oatmeal may seem ugly and irritating if an average user sees it for the first time, but the uglyness is quickly fixed by using one of the many custom skins. And the complexity is only a problem at the start. You will get used to it. If you are a preset user, there is nearly no reason why you should learn about all the knobs and gadgets. There are LOADS of user created preset banks for Oatmeal all over the web. You can spend ages to explore them. If you are a knob-fiddler or sound designer from the heart like me, you will simply love that Synthesizer. The Oatmeal is a great new weapon in my sound arsenal and I cannot believe that there was a time I didn't have it. A must have! 

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