Arturia have released their first (mostly) original synth plugin. Let’s find out what it’s got to offer
Before their analogue Brute range was ever released into the wild, French brand Arturia made their name in the realm of software synthesis. With their ever growing – and still excellent – V Collection range, Arturia have turned in emulations of many of the most famous electronic instruments of all time, including the Minimoog Model D, Oberheim Matrix 12, ARP 2600 and tons more.
Going into 2019, Arturia have something new on their hands: Pigments, a fully-featured softsynth that (at least for the most part) isn’t an emulation of something that’s come before. With a multi-part synth engine, sequencer and lots of creative tools, there’s a lot going on in this latest synth powerhouse.
We’ve been getting hands-on, so let’s take a whistle-stop tour of our favourite elements...
Wavetable synths are everywhere these days – from plugins like Serum to hardware instruments such as the Polyend-powered Medusa, and even in the stock tools of DAWs such as Live and Logic. Guess what? Pigments is another addition to the wavetable party.
In many ways, Pigments’ wavetable capabilities are pretty similar to its powersynth plugin rivals, but there’s plenty of depth here, coupled with sleek implementation. Naturally, users can modulate wavetable position and there’s an impressive set of tools on offer to do so (see below). Pigments has a neat Morph mode too, which affects how smooth or abrupt changes between wavetable positions are.
There’s an excellent stock of wavetables onboard as well, with classic synth samples, real-world instruments and esoteric sounds all covered. Users can upload their own wavetables too, to expand the sound set. The wavetable engine is equipped for an assortment of modulation synthesis techniques too, with both linear and exponential FM on offer, as well as phase modulation, phase distortion and wavefolding.
Arturia have paired Pigments’ wavetable engine with a threeoscillator virtual analogue. As you’d expect, given their history of emulations, this sounds great, and pairing the two elements together gives Pigments its unique character. There are two synth slots and the two engine types can be used in any
combination – be it dual wavetable or dual analogue or a combination of the two. In all, it’s a very powerful synthesis source.
While Pigments is an original instrument, there are still a few elements of vintage emulation onboard. As mentioned above, the wavetable selection includes oscillator samples from several vintage instruments and the virtual analogue engine does a good job of impersonating classic subtractive instruments (it’s not hard to get Model D-like sounds out of it).
The analogue-influence carries over to the filter section too though, where – along with multimode, comb, notch and formant options – we also get access to the three emulations from Arturia’s excellent ‘3 filters you’ll actually use’ pack from last year. These mimic SEM, Matrix 12 and Moog Ladder filter designs. Combined with the right oscillators, these make Pigments a surprisingly adept emulation machine. Given that there are two filter slots on offer though, there’s lots of fun to be had by combining filter types for vintagemeets-modern effects.
Arturia really haven’t skimped on the modulation options here. They promise that users can ‘modulate anything by anything’ and that’s a pretty accurate statement. In terms of sources, we get the expected LFOs and envelopes, but there’s also excellent controllable randomisation tools, a customisable Function generator and a Combinator tab, which allows for interesting and complex routings to be put together. The highlight on the modulation front, however, is simply how well the UI keeps track of routings, with a clear, colour-coded display along the centre of the UI making it easy to see what’s going on, even with particularly complex patches.
There’s plenty of processing power here. Pigments has three effects sections each with three slots. Two of these sections are inserts which can be arranged in series, parallel or in reverse series, and the third section is a send/return.
The slots in all of these effects sections can be filled with any one of 13 effect types, which range from compression, EQ and another multimode filter to reverb and delay, distortion, bitcrushing and wavefolding. All effects can be modulated too, for a bit of extra depth and movement.
Beyond its synth and effect sections, Pigments also packs a sequencer and arpeggiator with a lot of power. Both offer all the tools you’d expect plus extra creative tricks. The sequencer is polyphonic, with a velocity track and scale mode. There’s a flexible randomisation system too though, allowing users to generate random patterns and set steps that work on a probability basis. It has a polyrhythmic mode too, which is great for exploring creative timing ideas. It uses its functions in a way similar to some of the best creative tools in Max For Live.
The arp, meanwhile, has multiple modes and timing options, with a broad swing range that allows for some heavily grooved synth lines. Both the arp and sequencer can be modulated too, which open up some great creative possibilities once they’re coupled with the Function section or LFOs.