Arturia V Collection 5.

 

I once compared this software collection to the Smurfs. Let me update that slightly...

 

It is still the Smurfs, but with a hell of a lot of Gym hours.

 

Arturia’s V Collection has both the pride and misfortune to be one of the first to emulate known hardware. 200X era computers were not up to the task, and the required compromises pleased no one. The first time I tried to run the virtual Jupiter 8 it choked on the effort, with no great effect. I’ve never owned a JP8 – but I noticed there was no great advantage over no-name VSTs.

 

Over time things have improved. It’s not that the collection has nailed authentic sounds of MOOGs and CS80’s, but has become able to make useful, musical sounds that work in a mix much as the hardware would – not as an emulation but a substitute. The virtual Jupiter is able to serve the same role as the hardware. Arturia are shy of greatness, by only ever designing the expected, never the unexpected.

 

We are told that this version has ‘a new sound engine’. There are very few details about what this means. The new manuals specifically describe circuit modelling, but the older ones have a slightly woollier version of the claim. Likely that they had come up with something ‘good enough’ in the past but now have the luxury of the real thing. If you compare to U-He’s software you’ll see it can’t be nearly as hard on the CPU as Diva and I don’t hear a profound difference. Some key measures – such as the cross modulation in the Jupiter – seem better handled. I tried comparing the sound to the Origin, but honestly that has its own mislabelled noises, and doesn’t really help. Somebody will do a real test soon.

 

Actually the Jupiter 8 is now a ‘Jup8’, joining the Moog Mini and Modular as unbranded instruments. Likely this follows Roland’s move into Plug Outs. The Jup8 can produce many more voices than any of the Plug Out synthesizers, so Arturia’s “TAE” will still have a different use in your music to Roland’s “ACB”.

 

The interfaces are now big, and they scale. The improvement is more significant than you might expect: the Modular V is for the first time usable – I’m not exaggerating – I’ve only now made sounds, and enjoyed using it. You’re likely to load up a wider range of the instruments now that you remember where the controls are. But when you are working with a DAW the new big interfaces will block most of it. And most of them are uglier than the old hand painted ones.

 

The browser is improved, for people who browse.

 

The big addition is is supposed to be the Synclavier V. Frankly it’s more interesting as a historical document than as a sound source. There’s a bunch of VSTs that do that sound (for example Morphine) and have less hopping back and forth between virtual wood grain and virtual green screen. Not dismissing it, but the highlight for me has been the Piano V and the Farfisa V.

 

The piano is definitely physically modelled, and it can be bent and stretched into all kinds of distortions yet still sound good. It proves that NI’s endless array of sampled pianos are fool’s gold – lots of names no real distinction. You can tell me about superior overtones or some such, but what I want in a piano is for it to sit in a mix and most of the NI pianos seem designed for solo play. This guy fits where ever you tweak him.

 

I’ve also never seen organs as an instrument for my kind of music. The Farfisa V takes the best features of the real thing – envelopes for example – and adds in more synthetic controls, including advanced additive synthesis. It’s very simple, it sounds great in a mix.

 

It’s a very worthy upgrade. But if you are new to it, then you have a lot of other options. Diva is better if you wanted to dial up realistic poly synthesizers, but U-He is not cheap in CPU or Euros. NI’s Monark is a better mini Moog. The collection is really one for people who are not going to look too closely at each individual instrument, and would rather have a room full of things for a reasonable (given the quantity, yes reasonable) price. It is for composers, and not designers.

It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.