Arturia Solina V Review
So, following with the great vintage instruments emulations from Arturia V Collection 4, we’ve come across one of the probably more misunderstood types of synths: the string machine, in this case, the venerable Solina. Ok, I know lots of people who think string machines sound cheesy, but, I’ve got to say I just love them, they are the heart and soul of Disco, are awesome pads for House, and get along beautifully with Funk (if you don’t believe me, listen to Parliament’s Chocolate City album). So, yeah, the Solina, may not compete with your favorite string samples for Kontakt, but, it has charm, it has character and it’s fun to play with, so let’s check Arturia’s Solina V!
So, is it a synth?
Of course, it is! The original Solina uses analog oscillators, one for each tone, and then an octave divide for full polyphony, this means that all, let’s say, C notes, share the same oscillator. It has a simple AR envelope generator, it has six different sounds that you can mix and match (more on this later), finally, a big chorus to fatten up the sound. That’s all for the architecture. Well… of course, Arturia has not only made a faithful recreation, but, as usual, added some awesome extras, so, keep reading!
As I’ve mentioned before, this features full polyphony and six basic sounds you can mix and match in any way you want. Basic sounds are divided into two groups, lower and upper. So, in the lower part, we’ve got Contrabass and Cello, which are fairly basic sawtooth waves, contrabass is one octave below cello, so, when both are selected you’ve got a nice octave bass. This lower part will play up to G2 (you can change the split point on preferences). The upper part will actually play all across the keyboard and the sounds are Viola, Violin (again, saw waves set one octave apart), Trumpet, and Horn (also one octave apart from each other). Each part, lower and upper, has its own level control, and there’s also a master level.
We’ve got two envelope controls, the first labeled Crescendo, which is actually an Attack control -don’t expect very long attacks even with crescendo all the way up, and don’t expect very punchy snappy sounds with a crescendo at 0-, and then we’ve got another control labeled as Sustain Length, which is in fact a release control, and it only affects the upper section, the lower section has a fixed release which is something like 2.5 seconds or so, this release will take the upper part to 4000 ms! Finally, there’s the ensemble button, and here’s where all the magic happens! This is like a really massive chorus that will make this thing sound fat and very recognizable.
As expected, Arturia has put up various extras for this machine which makes it much deeper and complex. So, when we open the lid a whole new world appears a master section with controls for velocity and aftertouch for level and brightness, an LFO (from 0.10Hz to 13Hz) with five waveforms to choose from (tri, saw, inverted saw, square and random), tremolo (Amp) and vibrato (pitch) as destinations, it can be tempo-synced and it can be set to retrigger with every new note, also, there’s a bass cut for the LFO to not affect lower sounds, very clever, Arturia! The LFO is controlled by the Mod wheel, and when the lid is open, you can set the amount of mod and the amount of pitch bend right next to the wheels.
Then, we have controls for the Bass section, and here you’ll find a filter with cutoff and resonance, an EG for this filter with the attack, sustain, release controls, and an envelope amount (which unfortunately it is not bipolar, just positive amounts).
Then, there’s a four-mode arpeggiator for the bass, which again, can be synced to tempo. Ok, seriously, have you read that? An arpeggiator for the bass part on a Solina! Thank you, Arturia!
For the upper section, there’s a (sort of) fixed filter bank which can be set to low pass, high pass, or bandpass. The first filter goes from 60Hz to 300Hz, the second goes from 300Hz to 1.5kHz, and the third from 1.5kHz to 7.5kHz. All of them are resonant and have a gain control, but, no, they won’t self oscillate, it’s a great tool for shaping the sound and extending the pretty much limited tonal palette from the original.
Moving on, there’s the Fx section. Here, we have got three slots, slot one can either be a chorus or a phaser. Chorus, has three different modes and sounds very much analog and warm, it can widen the sound with the width control; Phaser, can be MIDI synced, and can be used in dual or single-mode. Slot two can be set to digital or analog delay.
Both delays go up to 1 second, the analog delay is mono and has some modulation controls and the digital delay is stereo, can be set to ping pong, and can be synced to MIDI clock too. Finally, Slot 3, is for Reverb, and boy, there’re lots of Reverbs to choose from: many springs, a hall, plates, rooms, and shimmer. When the lid is open, three knobs for FX amounts appear on the right corner of the keyboard, one for FX1, one for FX2, and one for reverb.
As if this was not enough, the good guys from Arturia also added the possibility to make the Ensamble mono or stereo with a switch that appears when the lid is open, and they’ve added an extra upper sound: Humana, which sounds something like the Viola sound, but with some phasing.
Of course, every button and slider can be set to MIDI CC#, also, it is possible to assign different MIDI channels to the lower and upper sections.
This is a very faithful recreation of the Solina with lots and lots of extras which turns this machine into something very powerful and versatile. I’m sure all Disco lovers will be pleased with this, as it is probably the only instrument in the world that you can hold one note down through all the verses of a song and know it will work! Don’t believe me? Try it!
Arturia Solina V synth string instrument is available at PluginBoutique.com for £75.20 / $115.75 / €102.30 in VST2, VST3, AAX, Audio Unit, and Standalone versions.
Also, you can get the V Collection 4 bundle that includes all 16 virtual vintage synths developed by Arturia: Wurlitzer V, Modular V, CS-80 V, ARP2600V, Jupiter 8-V, Prophet V & VS, Oberheim SEM V, Matrix-12 V, VOX Continental V, Mini V2 and the Spark 2 drum machine.
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