Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Looking for the absolutely simplest VST synthesizer ? Here is "Charlatan"!

When I tried to explain the basics of sound synthesis recently to a friend, I had a bit of a problem: Most of my beloved sound generators are quite complex. It is absolutely not a good idea to use a monster synth, overloaded with functionality, to explain this to somebody, who just wants to get into the basics. Not only that, in order to begin, one must first reset each parameter to its initial state. Everything is quite quickly becoming confusing.

So I was now looking for a synthesizer which was preferably reduced to the basic functions. Not so easy as one would think. I found some sloppy clicked together VSTs, made with SynthEdit, quite soon. But these had mostly the disadvantage that the sound was accordingly bad, and/or the user interface was a nightmare. Others swallowed, despite their simplicity, an amazing amount of CPU power and were therefore also useless.

In my distress another friend helped, who told me about a plugin with the unusual name "Charlatan". And here everything was just right: "Charlatan" has a clear and logical user interface, structured in the way of vintage synthesizers. It has everything that is necessary to enter the realms of sound synthesis:
  • 2 oscillators
  • a simple structured modulation section
  • a Noise Generator
  • a filter section with the common functions and filter types
  • LFO section
  • Settings for polyphony/monophony, legato, Retriggering etc.
  • typical ADSR section for the sound and modulation envelope
The only missing feature was an oscillator setting for pure sine sounds but that was to get over the end. The "Charlatan" provides an excellent sound and performance characteristics through the efficient use of resources. It also has native 64-bit support what avoids the dreaded "bridgeing" in FL Studio, which pretty much got each and every  FL user at least once into a bit of trouble.

I use the "Charlatan" since then quite often, when it comes to just quickly do a sound experiment. This VST is certainly not for the musicians, who prefer complex monster sounds "out of the box" or are really happy only with extensive preset banks. But hey: That thing is free, high-performant, resource saving and extremely stable and in addition, it also delivers a great sound.


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