I’d been waiting for that blue and white box to come in the mail, with a sense of anticipation. I knew that I would be getting Sonik Synth 2 to review, so when it finally came, I was absolutely ecstatic. You see, for the greater part of the past 20 years, music has been my life. Due to limitations (mainly being in a wheelchair) I had to find other activities to partake in as a child, while all my friends were out playing sports. What I discovered was a love for the arts, and in particular…a love for music.
For years, I filled my days with music in any way I could. I took vocal lessons for over 14 years with professional voice teachers. I taught myself how to play the piano. I played in my school’s band. I was involved in Opera Camp and musical stage productions. Anything I could do to get involved in music, whether it was singing, playing, or composing on the piano, I was doing it.
When everything became computer oriented, it only seemed natural for music to do so as well. I am what I would call, computer competent. So, when I found this entire community of individuals who were as creatively driven as I was, it seemed natural to want to know what they were using.
I compiled a list of all the innovative programs that were allowing people a whole new level of music composition and creation from their home. Names like Cubase, Reason, and SampleTank became a normal part of my vocabulary, and then I heard those two magical words…Sonik Synth. I knew I had found one program I wanted to use no matter what software I was using with it to compose my music. I just had to wait until that medium-sized blue and white box arrived at my door before I was off into my own little world…a world where music creation and composition reign supreme.
IK Multimedia & Sonik Synth Make History
I knew very little about IK Multimedia, the makers of Sonik Synth 2, prior to learning about their software. However, upon further inspection of the IK Multimedia Web Site, I discovered all of the other amazing products the company has made. Besides Sonik Synth, IK Multimedia has developed the award-winning SampleTank & SampleTank 2 XL Sample Workstations, Miroslav Philharmonik Orchestral Workstation, the AmpliTube line of Guitar & Bass Software, a diverse selection of Professional Audio Effects, Audio Interfaces/Controllers such as StompIO, and a wide variety of sounds including refills for Sonik Synth 2 and the R.A.W. loop collections.
Just going to the website can be an overwhelming experience because there are so many products to choose from and there is so much information that is offered on all of them. However, if you are a professional musician (or want to be one) in any capacity, the IK Multimedia website is worth checking out. You will find multiple workstations with a wide variety of sounds to assist in all of your music production projects. Upon inspection of the website, you will learn not only about all of the products you can purchase, but also about the company itself.
As an international music software company, which operates primarily in four different countries (the United States, the UK, Italy, and France), IK Multimedia has set the standard for virtual instruments and plug-in workstations in a generation when cyber studios are reigning supreme for every type of music from classical to hip hop. Of course, you simply cannot find a better, more comprehensive set of instruments in a synth workstation then IK Multimedia’s Sonik Synth 2.
The company, which was founded as a private enterprise in 1996 has continually raised the bar for music production software manufacturers. By developing high quality, reliable software with impeccable performance capabilities the innovative line of IK Multimedia products have become a mainstay for many award-winning and top dollar producing musicians, composers, and vocal artists.
Sonik Synth first made its worldwide debut back in 2001. At the time, the musically inclined had nothing to compare this revolutionary synth workstation to, specifically because Sonik Synth was the only synth workstation of its kind! Comprised of some of the most famous professional synth sounds, Sonik Synth had combined thousands of dollars worth of equipment into one simple package. It only seemed natural for a second version, Sonik Synth 2 to be released in January of 2005.
Sonik Synth 2 was developed as the ultimate synth plug-in workstation and was made in correlation with Sonic Reality, one of the top sound developers for sounds and plug-in instruments in the United States. Users of the SampleTank family of workstations will notice a similarity in the appearance of Sonik Synth 2 and the SampleTank interface. Combining a similar interface style with the sounds that have made Sonic Reality famous, IK Multimedia developed this amazing product.
Sonik Synth 2 – Setup
The setup for Sonik Synth 2 went incredibly smooth. I just had to follow the on screen instructions and in less than five minutes I had the program installed. You will have to install the multiple sound folders separately from two different DVD disks. You must register your software online if you want to use it. There is a helpful setup and installation guide in Adobe Acrobat format in your Sonik Synth 2 folder. If you get stuck trying to use Sonik Synth with any of your music software programs you can look in the guide and find out exactly how to set it up. Most of the major software products on the market including Cubase, Reason, and Fruity Loops support Sonik Synth 2. All of these products, but Fruity Loops, was included in this guide.
Since I use a combination of music software products, I did not have a problem installing until I got to Fruity Loops. While it would have been nice to have an installation guide to help, it did not take me more than a few minutes of fiddling with the program to get Sonik Synth 2 working. This was a relatively minor complaint I had in the grand scheme of things and if you are familiar with music software programs you should not find this to be a major problem for you. In no time, I was hooking up my keyboard and plucking out the notes, as I got familiar with the various sounds (and there are many) that are included with Sonik Synth 2.
Sonik Synth 2 – Features
The most powerful aspect of the Sonik Synth 2 workstation is its synth capabilities. Sure, the slick design is incredibly attractive and nice on the eyes, but behind the pretty, blue and silver GUI is a powerhouse of synth sounds. The user manual that comes with Sonik Synth 2 describes it as “a polyphonic, multtimbral sample based workstation”. In fact, Sonik Synth uses as many as 16 multitimbral layers, which are combined with effects and a powerful synth engine to create sounds that retain the quality of many of the synths that used to be used, by hand, in music production.
Some of the most popular synth sounds used today and throughout history were combined to make Sonik Synth 2 what it is. You will have the chance to use sounds that include the various PPGs, the Gleeman Pentaphonic, Arp 2500 and Quandra and multiple Jupiter and Juno synths. There is five gigabytes worth of sounds so you will need plenty of room to store all of them on your hard drive. Categories for sounds include Synths, Keyboards, Drums and Percussion, Voice, Orchestral Textures, Guitar, Bass, Brass, Winds, Pads, Elements, and Special FX.
If you use SampleTank 2 (or 2 XL), you may already know about the three synth engines that IK Multimedia has developed for their workstations. Sonik Synth 2 uses similar engines to the ones that SampleTank does. You can switch between these engines at your whim allowing for both flexibility and continuity in any musical production. The engines used include the all new STRETCH™, Resampling, and Pitch-Shift/Time-Stretch. Most samplers just use resampling so you get that and more with Sonik Synth 2.
STRETCH™ stands for Sampletank Time REsynthesis TeCHnology. With STRETCH™, you have more control over the sound of each sample then ever before. When using the STRETCH™ engine, you can control the pitch of the notes played, the tempo that is played, and the harmonics. With STRETCH™ you can make sure your sounds are on target, in sync, and sound great with a natural quality unlike any other. STRETCH™ even works when you are using multi-sample instruments allowing for even more accuracy during music production.
The effects you can use are not limited in Sonik Synth 2. There are plenty of effects built in, with at least five per instrument channel. This means there are 32 different DSP effects you can tweak to make your music sound that much better. The effects include various types of reverb, flanger, wah-wah, and chorus. The simplicity Sonik Synth 2 has given musicians is astounding, as you no longer have to fiddle with a program to make the sounds, a program to make effects on each sound, etc. Everything is built right in to Sonik Synth 2 for your convenience.
Sonik Synth 2 is incredibly versatile. It will work with Mac, PC, and a wide variety of music software platforms. With full midi control, the ability to make your own sound presets (and save them) and patches, you will have the chance to collaborate when you exchange sounds and data amongst computers operating Sonik Synth 2. You will also have the ability to mix to further enhance your sounds as Sonik Synth 2 has mixing parameter controls and a mix view.
If you are looking for a particular sound, the interface of Sonik Synth 2 is easy to browse. Additionally, there is a search function included that make finding sounds a near effortless experience. The backup functionality makes saving information a snap, and Sonik Synth 2 can be fully integrated with the SampleTank GUI allowing you to use the two together. You can add realism to any sound production with the portamento feature and edit your sounds easily and efficiently with the zone feature.
As you are playing your sounds, you will see the notes played on the interface keyboard, which offers seven different octaves you can play. You can test notes out by pressing them with your mouse. The midi device you are using to play the notes will input the information through the keyboard interface, so you can actually watch the notes (which appear blue when you hit them) as you play them.
You also have the ability to play with the various silver knobs and buttons on the interface. For instance, near the left side of the Sonik Synth 2 interface, there are the mono, poly, and legato buttons. By switching between them, you can make your sound monophonic (mono), polyphonic (poly), or it can be a legato version of monophonic (legato). Other buttons/knobs help you control the various sounds and instruments including how the songs react to midi controls and changing the pitch and filter effects. Of course, depending on your program you are using Sonik Synth 2 with you can add further effects once your sounds have been played.
A Practical Guide to Using Sonik Synth 2
The best thing about Sonik Synth 2, in my opinion, is the ability to use the sounds in various types of music. I enjoy a wide variety of styles. As someone who is trained in both operatic and Broadway singing, was in a classical orchestra, and who listens to everything from rock to hip hop, this was incredibly important to me. I have the ability to create the more dramatic, classical pieces with the orchestral textures and conventional percussion pieces as well as the off the hook hip hop tracks with their fat kicks and crazy synthesized sounds.
You need to have a fairly decent computer to use Sonik Synth 2, especially with over 5 GB of sounds, which you will need to be able to access through your computer whenever you are using Sonik Synth 2. The minimum recommended settings for a Windows® based PC are as follows:
Processor: 744 MHz Pentium® III or Athlon™
Memory: 512 MB of RAM
OS: Windows 2000 or XP
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768
*IK Multimedia recommends the Pentium® IV with 1 GB of RAM
The minimum recommended settings for a Mac® are:
Processor: 667 MHz Power Macintosh® G4
Memory: 512 MB of RAM
OS: Mac® OS X 10.2.8
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 with thousands of colors
*IK Multimedia recommends a 1.25 GHz Power Macintosh® with 1 GB of RAM
Using Sonik Synth 2 is a piece of cake. You will want to play around with the effects, synth engines, and the various buttons and knobs on the interface. Try to experiment to see just how capable Sonik Synth 2 is when you are producing music. You might be surprised at how simple, efficient and effective this program is. It is no wonder it has become the primary plug-in I use for all of my musical creations.
A Sonik Sample
To check out something I worked on while using Sonik Synth 2 (it is a rough cut, but it can give you an idea of the sounds this workstation comes with and the kind of music you can create while using it) you can listen to the song here:
The Bottom Line
Sonik Synth 2 is an incredibly powerful synth workstation unlike anything else you will find on the market. If you are looking for a program that is going to work with you to make your production pieces better, more realistic, and smoother in sound then this is the program you need. I highly recommend Sonik Synth 2 for anyone involved in the music scene. While the price (at $399 USD) may seem a little high it is worth its weight in gold when you see how quickly you will complete your music projects and do so the right way every time.
You can purchase Sonik Synth 2 from a number of retailers at from the IK Multimedia website where it retails at $399 USD.