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Review: D16 Group LusH-101 Synth Plugin

Review D16 LuSH-101 Plugin

D16 Group LusH-101 Review

D16’s LuSH-101 isn’t exactly a new kid on the block. But neither was Roland’s SH-101 when D16 released their virtual emulation of the hardware classic two years ago. So now that the dust has settled and the hype has died down, and with the recent version 1.1.3 update, I decided now was as good a time as any to look into how D16’s homage has faired since its release.

The LuSH-101 produces the typical analog sound of the Roland synthesizers of the 1980s. For me, it sounds very convincing and at the same time independent due to the many useful extensions compared to the SH-101. Even with full polyphony, additional modulations, and effects, it always retains its own character that sets it apart from other synth plug-ins.

The arpeggiator/gater also deserves special praise for its countless possibilities and clever operation. Despite the many controls, the most essential functions of the D16 LuSH-101 can be understood without a manual. The manual explains in detail and clearly what is possible. The original Roland SH-101 was launched as an inexpensive entry-level synth, and the D16 Group has further developed the template into a comfortable synthesizer workstation.

D16 Group LuSH 101 VST Synthesizer Plugin

The Meat

D16 Group LusH-101

At the heart of LuSH-101, you will find four oscillators. A PWM, a Sawtooth, a Sub oscillator with five switchable wave types, and a Noise oscillator with three switchable noise types. The four oscillators appear in the Plugin’s Source Mixer, each with its own dedicated fader allowing you to mix them up til your heart’s content and achieve some pretty fat sounds off the bat.

In the Source Mixer, you will also find a Supersaw button that does exactly what it says on the tin when switched on. This little beauty comes with two faders, one for detuning and one for amplitude. To the left of the Source Mixer is a section labeled Pulse which allows for control over the width and modulation of the PWM.

The main GUI also contains two Envelopes and two LFOs, two Filters, a Pitch Modulation, and Hard Sync section, and a Voices section which gives you control over polyphony and unison (this is maxed out at 32 voices so if you have 16 voice unison you can only have 2 note polyphony), an Insert slot which gives you the choice of 8 different effects, and finally an Arpeggio/Gater.

And for those of you that took the red pill and bought your computer from Morpheus, LuSH-101 contains 8 instances of this synth for you to layer on top of one another!

The Two Veg

LusH-101 VST Plugin

For me. the stars of the show are the two filters. LuSH-101 gives us a Hi-pass and a multi-mode resonant filter (LP, BP, and HP) which are connected in serial. The multi-mode comes in two different flavors: ‘Normal’ which sounds super sharp and pristinely clean, and ‘SH-101’ which gives you a warmer and creamier filter sweep.

The Hi-Pass is a passive-modelled-on-an-RC-analogue-filter type of affair. Both filters sound amazing whatever the weather and are almost worth the price tag alone. In fact, I would definitely pay good money to have them in a stand-alone effect.

Sort it out D16 and I will be forever in your debt. You can also use the two envelopes and two LFOs to modulate the filter cut-off either individually or all at the same time… which kind of hurts my head to think about… but can garner some fine-sounding results with very little effort.

Yeah, so you really can’t leave the modulators out of your Filter Plugin D16!

The Gravy

LusH-101 VST Synth Plugin

Away from the main synthesizer’s GUI is the Modulation Matrix. This is both simple and intuitive in design and practice. It allows you to modulate most, if not all, parameters within the synth using incoming MIDI events. A nice little addition here is the ability to use LuSH-101’s rather brilliant Arpeggio’s Gate and Tie as source modulators.

This can quite easily result in some nifty movin’ n groovin’ modulations, even for an arp shy/doubter like myself. The only thing I don’t like about the Mod Matrix is the fact that you can only apply either a negative or a positive value by which the source affects the destination – which always starts from zero.

It would be nice to be able to select a range that spans either side of zero where you are modulating the filter with note velocity, for example. Or maybe I am just nit-picking. Or talking nonsense. But I’m sure that could be done. Maybe.

The Taste Test

So how does LuSH-101 stack up against its competition in 2015 [In the author’s humble opinion]? Well, the only other SH-101 emulation that I know of is the TAL-Bassline-101 which, although performs reasonably for its price (about 1/3 of what LuSH sells for), is a monophonic synth and sounds in no way as sweet on the bottom end as LuSH. But like most things in life, you get what you pay for. So maybe not a fair comparison then.

Therefore LuSH’s real competition comes from other big-hitting analog emulations. Yeah, I’m looking at you Diva by u-he. And you individual components of Arturia’s V collection 4. Let’s start with the latter. Well, the individual synths in the V Collection 4 can be purchased at a slightly lower price than LuSH and to my ears do not sound as rich in comparison.

But they are significantly less CPU intensive and most of them come with Arturia’s genius Sound Map feature which makes creating your own unique patches a breeze. So pros and cons for sure. And as for Diva, well that bad boy (or should that be a girl?) does sound a wee bit fatter than LuSH-101… but at a cost.

I don’t think my i7 could handle 32-note polyphony in Diva without its head exploding. And Diva may come with two insert effect slots but it only has five effects to choose from in comparison to Lush-101’s eight. LuSH also has three high-quality and very tweakable send effects accessible via the Mixer page. But with its mix-and-match component setup, Diva has an arguably broader sonic palette, though. Again pros and cons

But neither the Arturia synths nor Diva is SH-101 emulations and, so by design, sound completely different. Rather than sitting on the fence about which is the mightiest here, I feel like I’m not really comparing apples with apples.

They all have their own unique sounds and workflows and at the end of the day, which is best for you depends entirely on your own end goal. LuSH-101’s slightly overkill eight-layer option does set this emu apart from the crowd though.


In conclusion, I have to conclude that D16’s LuSH-101 has and can still hold its own in today’s rapid and exponentially growing soft synth market. It comes packaged with a generous serving of tasty presets to whet your appetite [maybe I hadn’t completely run out of food-related metaphors after all] and for even the most novice of sound designers, like myself, it is pretty straightforward to create your own rather satisfying patches from scratch.

I don’t know if I can fully justify the developer’s claim that this is the only synthesizer you need, but it is definitely a must-have for anybody who wants those virtual analog sounds without those actual analog pains.

Download / Buy Plugin: D16 LuSH-101

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