What a strange and captivating synthesiser. Usually synths are a fairly simple affair, with essentially the same controls and expectations and you have to dig around to find the character that allows it to stand out. Monique is all character and coolness with an uncommon complexity and a sound that you have to discover as you play. Not that its impenetrable by any stretch but it leads you into thought and experimentation which, I think, is what Monique is all about.
Monique is a monophonic, subtractive synth angled at creating bass and lead sounds, which I guess is the bread and butter of a monophonic synth. You have 3 oscillators and 1 FM oscillator, a lot of filter business going on, resonant EQ, distortion, delay and reverb and an arpeggiator. In the more unusual category are the 4 morphing groups which can be assigned to 2 data sources and 4 LFO’s each. The Morphing lets you mix between 8 different programs, evolving the sound to somewhere unexpected while being able to return to exactly where you started. It’s all very kinetic and organic and not at all obvious. Download the demo and load up the “Full of Steps (automated)” preset and everything seems to be moving and modulating about. Open up the Morph XY pad and it goes all over the place in a very satisfying way.
Monoplugs are unphased by Monique’s complexity and direct you to a very useful 13 minute introductory video which starts from first principles of a single oscillator and takes you through the signal chain of the 3 filters, envelope and effects. They then suggest you might want to open the manual. The joy, for me, of synthesis is in the playing and so I’d suggest messing about with the presets and see what happens. This is doubly interesting on a touch screen because it is fully 10-point multi-touchable so you can get a sound going with the arpeggiator and then start getting your fingers in there. Monique has a larger GUI option to help with your fat fingers which is something I wish more developers would consider. At the bottom of the synth is an area with different views depending on what you’re doing. It can show a virtual keyboard – although there seems to be some stuck key bugs when using a touch screen – it can show detailed parameters and options. But the most pleasing view is the oscilloscope which beautifully displays the oscillators and the filter envelopes in real-time. Overall the GUI is dark and brooding which reflects the sound nicely, but the sections are not very well defined and a bit more contrast would help navigation.
Monique is certainly a bit different and worth spending some quality time with – even the trailer video (below) is dripping with quirky coolness. She’s available now for OSX, Windows and Linux as a VST, VST3 and AU plug-in or standalone for USD $99.
More information: http://monique.monoplugs.com/