Voice Crystal Sound Cards
For The Korg Wavestation
Paul Ireson listens in to new Wavestation sounds from Voice Crystal.
Four RAM cards from Voice Crystal come under the microscope this month, each containing 50 new Performances for the Korg Wavestation. Card 1 kicks off promisingly with 'Rock Organ' and '5-speed Organ', both ballsy and highly playable simulations of one of rock's enduring instrument sounds; the latter makes good use of the Wavestation's high-quality effects section in applying both distortion and rotary speaker effects. The card as a whole contains a slightly uneasy blend of instrument imitations, which tend to be less impressive than the first two organ sounds, and more interesting synth textures. 'Fini' for example, is a glorious, shimmering, textured pad that I can see myself using a good deal, and if I'd spent as long playing all the sounds as I spent dreamily playing with 'Island Winds', you wouldn't see this review in print for another couple of months. The bass sounds herein ('Dance/Squash/Pop/Monster Bass') are all a little disappointing.
One of the Wavestation's great assets is its ability to synthesise rhythmic loops, rather than just play back sampled rhythms which cannot be altered. Card 1 contains one or two good examples of the creative use of such loops (eg. on 'Streets Of Frisco'), though I was interested to note that the step length in Wavesequences was such that the sounds cannot be synced to MIDI clocks without prior editing (or rather they can, but the rhythm is not in time with 16th notes). I like to be able to take advantage of the facility to trigger Wavesequences from MIDI clocks, so I had to do a little hacking to use these sounds to the max.
Card 2 is fairly similar, in that it mixes simulations with the synthetic; I can't help thinking that the two should have been separated and given their own cards. This time the first handful of sounds — two electric pianos and three organs — are not such a good prelude to the rest of the contents, though 'Real B3' is good enough (purists might object to velocity sensitivity). 'Pipe Organ 1' is the best of the bunch; not overly authentic, with a residual electronic quality to it, but it's nonetheless a gutsy and impressive timbre. The best sounds are the retro-ish inclusions such as 'PPG Pad', 'Chroma II' (which uses Wavesequences to recreate the sound of a resonant filter sweep, something the WS1's filters are incapable of), and 'Prophet V'. Excellent use of the effects section contributes to the menace of 'Ice Celeste' (a really spooky sound) and 'Saturn's Rings'; nevertheless, the sounds I've named are outstanding inclusions on a fairly lacklustre, uninspiring collection.
Card 3 is a vast improvement, offering sounds for both the player and the composer. 'Acoustic Piano' is all the more impressive for having been created from Waves available in the basic (ie. not the EX version) Wavestation, which do not include any piano samples. 'Dyno-My-Rhodes' (it's all in the name) uses velocity modulation of a Wavesequence to good effect in a responsive, playable patch. There are some good expressive leads, of the more laid-back variety, in 'Winwood's Chance' and 'OBX VPulse Solo', whilst anyone looking for soundtrack pads should head straight for 'Red October'. Classy synthetic strings, some attractive choirs, beefy brass and a couple of very solid synth bass sounds are also typical of the sounds on card 3; a special mention goes to 'Fiddle'n'Fifths', which might (I said might...) actually inspire you to have a crack at a little country and western. Most of the Performances on these cards, incidentally, use just one, two or perhaps three Patches, and the emphasis is on single composite sounds, with the same timbre(s) mapped across the whole keyboard, rather than elaborate split/layer arrangements, which I have little use for, and which are better left to the user to create in any case. None of the sounds appear to use either Waves or effects programs that are unique to the EX and AD versions of the Wavestation, so there is no danger of incompatibility with your machine.
Card 4 is unique in being credited to an individual, Dave Gould, who clearly enjoys programming his Wavestation. The sounds here explore new sonic ground rather than going back over well-trodden paths. 'Hollywood 1990', another atmospheric pad, and 'Biosphere 1', suggesting subtle subterranean rhythms to me, take us into film soundtrack land. There are some wonderfully gritty, living sounds such as 'PPG Emulation#1', and 'Squelch AT' is a buzzy, up-front synth patch with a great filter sweep effect introduced with aftertouch.
Dynamic control of digital effects, specifically the Wavestation's distortion programs, produces searing results in 'ABCD EdgeGtr' and 'EMG 81'; '[Air Lock]' uses exactly the same trick to create a sci fi movie sound effect. There are one or two other straight FX noises to be found, and as always with these things, they may sound fun but it's very unlikely you'll actually put them to any use.
"Dynamic control of digital effects, specifically the Wavestation's distortion programs, produces searing results in 'ABCD EdgeGtr' and 'EMG 81'"
'InYorFaceBass' is a truly outrageous killer bass sound — use it once, and you won't forget it in a hurry — whilst the more subtle workaday 'Analog PumpBass' will find more steady employment driving dance tracks along. 'Sweet Reeds' is another one of those slow, emotive pads that you find yourself just playing and playing... until you suddenly remember that you've got a review to write.
All four cards in Voice Crystal's collection have something to offer, though the contents of 1 and 2 should perhaps have been shuffled to put all the imitative stuff on one card and the original material on the other. Card 3 is the best player's card, yet still has its share of off-the-wall sounds for soundtrack work, but the Dave Gould card is my favourite. If you're just after a few mundane synth and imitative standards with a handful of classy patches thrown in, then cards 1 and 2 will probably suit you; if, on the other hand, you'd rather be shaken, stirred, and inspired, card 4 is the one.
Voice Crystal Cards far Korg WS1 £65 inc VAT.
Eye & I Productions, (Contact Details).
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Review by Paul Ireson
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