Arturia CS-80V Review
Oh, this must be heaven for Vangelis fans, the best-known Yamaha CS-80 user. But, wait, if you never heard from Vangelis, still, I’m sure you’ve heard the CS-80 many times in many records from Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Jean Michel Jarre, Asia, Yes, etc, etc.
Why? Because this synth is a beast (literally over 200 lbs): 8 voices polyphony, patch storage, and polyphonic aftertouch, and of course its sound make this synth unique, and nowadays, rare and very expensive. Luckily for us, Arturia has come up with the CS-80V synth plugin, a wonderful recreation that sounds as warm and fat as the original! Let’s check it out!
The signal path of the CS-80V starts with two VCOs which can produce Triangle, Saw, pulse waves, and noise. It will always output triangle or saw, and you can turn on or off the square wave and set volume for the noise. The pulse width can be set up manually.
Then, there are two sets of VCFs with resonant HPF and resonant LPF, which can be switched from 12dB or 24dB modes, and no, it won’t self oscillate (unless you keep reading). Each set of VCF has its own dedicated ADR envelope.
There are 2 sets of VCAs with VCF level, OSC sine level, and ADSR envelopes.
Speaking of modulation sources, each VCO, has its own dedicated LFO which will go up to 50 Hz, making audio rates modulation possible; each LFO can output sine waves, ramp and inverted ramp, pulse, noise and random waves, it’s good to mention that pulse wave from LFO has its own dedicated PWM slider. LFO can be free-running, triggered by note or mono.
One thing that made the CS-80’s sound famous is its detuning ability, you’ll find a slider for this matter right before the ring mod section.
Speaking of which, the Ring Mod, is beautiful, it will go up to 300 Hz, and its speed and depth can be controlled with a simple AD envelope.
Original CS-80’s LFO would output only triangle waves, but in the CS-80V, it can output all the same waves that dedicated VCO’s LFOs can. Labeling is a little weird, as the LFO is labeled as Sub Oscillator. Another weird thing is that all small sliders, function the other way around you’d think so: for higher settings, you need to pull down the slider. This weirdly labeled LFO can go up to an even higher 60 Hz rate and can modulate VCO, VCF or VCA or all three at the same time.
Next, we’ve got octave settings for each VCO, two rows of presets, and some interesting macro controls for filter: here, you can balance between VCF I and II, and weirdly labeled brilliance slider, is nothing else but a cutoff macro slider, and then resonance, and here things get awesome. Do you remember I’ve said filter won’t self oscillate? Well, I’ve kinda lied about that, cause with these macro controls you can indeed make the filter self oscillate! Sorry about the lie…
Finally, for this row, we’ve got aftertouch and keyboard control sliders for pitch bend and LFO (aftertouch) and HPF/LPF and VCA1/2 level for keyboard.
Another cool addition from Arturia is the Arpeggiator, which can be of course synced to MIDI, and will play Up, Down, UP/DOWN, Random, or as notes were played in up to four octaves and up to four repetitions.
After the arpeggiator, we’ve got one of the coolest controllers ever: the ribbon strip. This is long and can bend the pitch up to two octaves.
For the left-hand controllers, we’ve got some cool switches and sliders, as well as very clever extras from Arturia: there are switches for sustain and portamento on/off, sustain mode, which works in conjunction with the slider for setting how long notes will be sustained (up to 50 seconds), as well as portamento/glide mode switch and portamento time slider; you can go crazy and set portamento times for up to 10 seconds for very long effects.
There are also tabs for Tremolo, Chorus, and Delay (which can sync to MIDI clock), and knobs for controlling the speed and depth of chorus and tremolo, and another set of switches for speed, depth and mix for the delay, which in fact will behave like an analog delay, so, it will mess with the repeats pitch if you change the time on the fly. Awesome!
As usual, there are some under the hood (literally) extras. In this case, you’ve got a side lid that when opened reveals a ten slots mod matrix with 13 sources (including the ribbon controller and exp. pedal) and tons of destinations including every parameter in VCO, VCF, VCA sections, as well as the EGs and LFOs.
Under the top lid, you will see a couple of fans and, what’s more important, a voice manager which lets you select how each of the eight voices will behave, including volume, detune, pan, transport and buttons for turning on/off the FX, ring mod and portamento on each voice. You can split those eight voices into up to four zones and then set each zone on individual MIDI channels. You can set how will the voice allocation work and the keyboard range for each zone as well.
The original CS-80 is well known for its fatness, and everyone loves how strings and brass patches sound in it. Despite I never quite liked the filters on the CS-80, I’ve got to say that after spending some days with the CS-80V, it sounds amazing! It’s really warm and fat and with all the extras, this thing is much more flexible than the original. It might be one of the coolest analog emulation plugin synths for programming pads, and everyone should have this in their arsenal for that fat, warm, big analog sound.