KaoX is a virtual instrument inspired by a classic piano-like FM synthesizer wrapped up in virtual analog and pushed through chaotic algorithms.
XILS-Lab doesn’t like to mention their inspirations by name leaving enough doubt for people to argue over. So when they are talking about a legendary FM synthesizer we naturally assume they are talking about the Yamaha DX7. However, the KaoX has 8 0perators as opposed to the DX7’s 6 operators. So we need to look slightly further back to the GS1 which was Yamaha’s first commercially available FM synth and the last one to be built into what looks like a grand piano.
It had nothing like the interface we’ve come to expect from an FM synth. XILS-Lab has preserved this with the rendered wooden front panel where you can access a number of characterful controls. Tuning and Drift add a vintage feel as do the Vibrato and Tremolo effects. You’ve also got access to the layering, key splitting and four effects processors offering Chorus, Delay, Phaser and Reverb.
The GS1 was only the inspiration and with the Kaox we find quite a different animal. KaoX has 8 operators in 2 banks with independent pitch. Each operator has an LFO, envelope, up to two more assignable modulators, low pass filter and Ratio controls. The 2 layers can be played separately or together in a single/double/split mode. There are two arpeggiators that can run separately or together.
The virtual analog side offers 2 oscillators with continuous waveforms, noise and a pair of filters. Add to that a pair of chaotic oscillators with chaotic modulators to find the sorts of sounds you never thought of looking for.
All of it is wrapped up in a graphical user interface that hopes to make sense of it all and show you the important bits that might benefit from tweaking. They’ve illuminated parts of the interface to reflect signal flow as you navigate which could make things easier to follow. If not then it also ships with 500 presets to play with and use as the starting point for your own explorations.
The sound is impressive. The pulling in of analog elements is always a good way of bringing out warmer qualities in the often glassy FM synthesis. The interface is relatively easy to follow and I appreciate any assistance giving in navigating this type of synth.