Carbon Electra Review
When I’ve fired up the Carbon Electra synth plugin for the first time, I’ve found myself at home! This is an analogue style polysynth. with some few modern tweaks. In the user manual, they say it’s an advanced learning tool thanks to the graphic displays, whilst being powerful and easy to program synth, and to be honest, I couldn’t agree more!
Let’s check it out!
The Carbon Electra, is a subtractive synth, with a very familiar architecture, and very flexible modulation and routing options, making it a really powerful poly synth. This is not modelled after any particular know vintage synth, and that’s very refreshing, cause it has some character of its own.
We’ve got 4 oscillators that can output every analog wave, this is, Sine, Triangle, Saw tooth, Pulse with variable width and Sample & hold noise. All four oscillators feature pitch and width controls, while oscillator 1, also features FM amount. As I understand, it generates a sine wave a couple octaves below the original pitch and uses that sub oscillator sine wave to modulate the original wave, producing new harmonic content. Oscillator 1, can also be set as “master” for sync effect with oscillator 2. You can also sync oscillators 3 and 4. Oscillators 2, 3 and 4, all feature fine tune adjustments for making the sound bigger, and with four detuned against each other oscillators, you can for sure create some fat timbers right from the oscillator section.
The mixer section is very clever, here you have four volume knobs, one for each oscillator, plus and extra knob for a noise generator, and something really cool: a +12 dB boost switch for overloading the filter. What’s even cooler is the graphic display in the mixer, which acts something like an oscilloscope for visual feedback on what’s coming out of the oscillator section.
The filter is a 12 dB state variable resonant filter, which can be set to LP, BP, HP, Notch and vocal. It is, in fact, a very nice sounding filter, but, unfortunately, I can hear some stepping in the upper range when doing slow sweeps. I mean, nothing too terrible, just a bit of stepping. The resonance sounds really good and vintage, and unlike some designs, it won’t make the sound thinner. Yes, it self-oscillate, and yes, there’s a keyboard tracking knob for the filter, so you can definitely play it. The Envelope amount is bipolar, so you can apply positive or negative amounts of modulation.
Again, there’s a graphical display, showing you the filter’s curve, which comes very in handy, especially if you are learning.
Finally, there’s a saturation switch for some extra character and beef. When activated, the difference is really huge, especially when you apply some resonance.
The Carbon Electra features two sets of ADSR envelope generators, that sound pretty snappy to my ears. Both Envelopes can be modulated via velocity or keyboard tracking which is pretty cool.
Envelope two can be used to modulate the filter, or/and pitch, and envelope one is used to modulate the amplifier.
Moving on to modulation sections, we find three LFOs which are pretty identical, except for the destination possibilities.
All three LFOs, go from 50 seconds (which is to say, a lot!) to 32 Hz, which is audio rate, but, not that high as you could expect, they all have controls for delay, width and phase, and all can output square, triangle, sine, filtered noise and S&H. All of them can also be tempo sync’d, triggered by key, and be set to mono. Also, all three LFO’s amount can be controlled with the mod Wheel.
- LFO 1, can be used to modulate the pitch of each Oscillator, or the Amp, for some tremolo effect.
- LFO 2, can have the FM1, PW 2, PW 3 LFO 1 or Resonance as destinations, and LFO 3, can modulate the mixer, or the filter’s cutoff.
There are four built-in effects in this unit: Stereo Chorus, Syncable digital delay, which can be also modulated, and can be set to stereo, cross or ping pong modes, a Stereo Phaser, a distortion, and a three band eq.
The step envelope is something quite clever, it’s like a traditional 16 steps sequencer, where amp, cutoff and pitch for oscillators 2 or/and 4 can be set as destination, but, the clever thing is that you can set different envelope curves on each step, creating some really complex sequences, you can also make the sequence to have less than 16 steps, and the rate goes from half notes to 32nd triplets.
Finally, the master section, is where you make all your settings: There’s a glide amount knob, a knob to set polyphony from 1 voice to 16 voices, unison mode settings, pitch bend wheel range, master tune, output volume, set the envelopes to retrigger or play in legato mode, and finally a blunt in brick wall limiter, which unfortunately doesn’t have many options, just enable or disable.
This is a very powerful synth with lots of modulation options and very familiar architecture. It is not modelled after any particular vintage model, and even though, it’s got some character of its own, and that’s not something easy to find this days. It can do a lot of things, and the envelope step sequencer is one of the most clever additions I’ve seen.
If you are interested in getting this synth, I have to say that Carbon Electra is available in VST, AU, 32-bit and 64-bit plugin formats, so will work on both Windows and MAC.
More Details/Buying Options: Carbon Electra