The original Phonec synthesizer was inspired, so they say, by the “mystique of video logos you hear at the beginning of worn out VHS tapes”. I think I know what they mean – those idents of long forgotten tech and media companies, the wobble and phase loss of a well worn video tape. Version 2 builds on and expands that idea. The sound examples on the website definitely have that kind of feel going on – like you’re about to be treated to an awesome 80’s sci-fi B movie.
There’s a demo you can download from the website and when you punch up that first preset it does absolutely sound like an 80’s B movie. The key is probably the “Drift” function which allows the oscillators to drift in and out of tune. There are four oscillators in total, two main Osc1 and Osc2, a sub and a noise oscillator. Osc 1&2 can choose between nine different waveforms, the sub between three. The second oscillator has a separate tune control and can be pitched up or down in semi-tones to create some duophonic tones or 5ths or 7ths which seem to work really well in the context of these sounds.
You’ve then got a large modulation section with three LFO’s, a HFO (which brings in FM elements), envelope and aftertouch. A little step sequencer in the middle of the GUI brings in it’s own modulation over the filter, amp and glide parameters which introduces a nice choppy feel to the sound. A simple arpeggiator brings some rhythm to proceedings and then an “Echoshifter” adds some nice dub style pitch-shifting delay. Low and high pass filters do as you’d expect and the master section adds some gain as well as output volume. The final knob on the circuit is called “Melt” which is one of those character, warmth, vintage type things that you see a lot of these days.
The GUI is right on message giving a cool vintage look with a clear layout that’s not too flashy. Overall it’s not laden down with features or presets but the virtual synth world is terribly cluttered so you have to do something to stand out and Phonec 2 has a fair stab at offering something quirky and pleasing. I stepped through the presets with a big smile on my face which is half the battle, the other half is trying to work out how and when I would be able to use it.
Phonec 2 is available now for OSX and Windows, VST and AU for $59.
More information: http://psychicmodulation.com/phonec.html