Ever wondered why the Virus is still around? We look into virtual analogue synths and check out some of the best Access Virus alternatives for music production and live performance.
Compared to other digital synths like the famous Yamaha DX7, virtual analogue synths were far easier and more intuitive to program. As they were based on subtractive synthesis concepts, you still felt like you were using an analogue synth for the most part.
Access Virus Alternatives
The Virus came along in 1997 with a slightly darker-sounding DSP engine than many of its virtual analogue counterparts, and it could also convincingly recreate sounds from your favourite analogue synths like the Minimoog, TB-303, and Juno series.
As a concept, the Virus caught on as a studio instrument with electronic music producers. However, it also made waves in live music where bands like Gary Numan and Depeche Mode were thrilled to be able to recreate most of their sounds from a single synth on stage.
Today, the Virus TI2 series is a considerable investment, and not every musician requires the same level of multitimbrality, depth of synthesis capabilities, or range of effects. Let’s take a look at some options with a similar feel.
The Modal Cobalt8 has a powerful 8-voice virtual analogue engine with a range of playing modes including legato and staccato mode, as well as mono, poly, unison, and stack modes.
Sound generation starts with 2 independent oscillator sections with 4 oscillators each, with 34 algorithms including sync, ring modulation, waveform morphing, and more.
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Korg Modwave MKII
The KORG Modwave MKII might be a wavetable synth, but it still follows familiar virtual analogue principles when it comes to interface design and layout. What’s more, it includes filter modelling of the famous MS-20 and PolySix analogue synthesizers.
The Modwave MKII continues the legacy of the DW-8000 from 1985, with 2 wavetable oscillators and a sub-oscillator per program and 60 voices of polyphony with incredibly flexible modulation options.
You can also morph your sounds with the onboard motion sequencer and the software editor allows you to create sounds and manage presets in a similar way to the Virus Total Integration system.
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The ASM Hydrasynth is a great-sounding digital wave-morphing synth with impressive creative capabilities. Its three oscillators give you access to 219 single-cycle waveforms, while there are options for blending wavetables and using them as mod sources.
The dual-filter section operates in series or parallel, with multimode Ladder and SEM-style filters to work with. In addition, the modulation section is extensive, with five DAHDSR envelopes and five LFOs to shape sounds.
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The Waldorf Kyra is regarded by many to be the natural successor to the Virus as a modern virtual analogue synth. Although it is now discontinued by the manufacturer, it is still a powerful and versatile instrument for sound design and live performance.
With a 128-voice 8-part multitimbral engine, you have a selection of basic analogue oscillator shapes and 4096 digital waveforms. Sound shaping is extensive, with 2 multimode filters, 3 LFOs, and 3 fast-response envelopes.
The Kyra exceeds the capabilities of the Virus in many areas except perhaps the effects section, but the four stereo outputs make it a formidable contender indeed.
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Clavia Nord Lead A1
Although, like the Virus, one might regard the Nord Lead A1 as a dinosaur compared to many modern synths, it still provides a high-quality 4-part multitimbral 24-voice polyphonic 96 kHz 32-bit floating point synth engine.
The oscillators have a range of 47 analogue and digital waveforms, and the intuitive interface allows you to quickly dive into creating your own patches from scratch rather than scrolling through the preset library.
Both the sound and build quality are still at a much higher standard than the majority of synths you’ll find in this price range, and it remains the one keyboard that Trent Reznor couldn’t break. It may take you a while, but everyone starts to love the Nord sound in the end.
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- Modal Cobalt Series: Modal Electronics
- KORG modwave: KORG
- asm-hydrasynth: ASM
- Waldorf Kyra SE: Waldorf
- nord-lead-a1: Clavia
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