Alchemy: Pt.1 – Performance Perspectives
Rarely does the weight of expectation come much greater than the prospect of reviewing Camel Audio’s outstanding software synth – Alchemy. Four years in the making with a team of 25 sound designers including Tom Conrardy – Ian Boddy – Biomechanoid – Nucleus Soundlabs – Alchemy conjures a wealth of diverse sound worlds all wrapped up in the coded fabric of its amazing multiple synthesis engine.
What Is It?: Available as a VST(i) or an AU(Mac Audio Unit) and shipping with 5Gb+ of factory samples Alchemy is a highly interactive synthesiser which freely combines Additive – Granular – Spectral synthesis and Resynthesis. It has a powerful Virtual Analog (VA) engine, a range of high quality filters as well as a detailed rack of effects from CamelPhat and CamelSpace with the inclusion of new reverb effects too. Alchemy also provides voice Unison, Pulse Width Modulation and allows samples (SFZ – WAV or AIFF) to be imported into any of its four ‘Source’ slots A,B,C or D. Sounds can be chosen from a depth of superb presets organised into banks by using the bank selector windows, or; samples can be loaded into Alchemy using the ‘Load Sample…’ browser window. Sample sounds are shaped by choosing the type of synthesis for each sound source, and by manipulating their parameters, harmonics, partials and grains using filters, time-stretch, pitch-shift, effects and assignable modulation.
Views: There are two main user interface windows in Alchemy – Simple and Advanced. The Simple view by design is a slim-lined interface geared towards the live performer or for the user who prefers to exlore presets. That said, the performance controls made available through Alchemy’s Simple view harness a lot of modulation power and provide a fantastic platform for sonic exploration of Alchemy’s factory presets. In Simple view the preset banks window, performance controls, X-Y pads and the Remix Pad are the primary focus supported by the Envelope controls and a Mod Wheel controller section.
Performance Controls: To the left of the Simple view there are eight performance knobs assignable to a series of different parameters within Alchemy more often the important elements of a sound e.g. Pluck, Arp, Delay and Cut-Off e.t.c. Tweaking these knobs will produce a wide variety of time-based and timbral variations when used in live performance, when assigned to MIDI hardware controllers using the MIDI Learn function or by automation controlled via a host DAW. The X-Y pads can be used to control the movement of the parameters assigned to them similar in nature to the Remix Pad. However, the Remix Pad is the heart of Alchemy’s morphing features which intelligently morphs the sonic characteristics of a preset creating vibrant and fluid sounds as complex evolving textures. The Remix Pad can store up to eight snapshots of different performance settings, and each snapshot can be assigned to a defined MIDI keyboard note selected from the ‘Octave’ menu. The Snapshot section of Alchemy also includes a dedicated volume knob for output adjustment and all snapshots can be updated using the Snapshot options menu.
Performance parameters may also be assigned to the Mod Wheel controller found in the Mod Wheel menu to the right of Alchemy’s Simple View – which can be directly linked to the Mod Wheel of a hardware MIDI controller. Assignments made to the Mod Wheel controller are also saved as part of a preset and instantiated everytime that particular preset is loaded. Camel Audio presets make full use of the Performance Controls in Alchemy and it is truly worth the time exploring the sound shaping capability these powerful features provide. The end result is a totally interactive experience with Alchemy producing intense, dramatic and highly expressive music.
Brought to you courtesy of Soundwrx Digital