Synth Site: Access: Virus Ti Polar: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 3.8 out of 5
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a professional user writes:
OS v 2** I just got this synth pretty recently, but I wanted to post my impressions so far to hopefully answer questions people who have been waiting for this synth for a year may have. I use this synth almost exclusively as a hardware synth, so I can't comment on its TI features nor its behavior as an AU plugin. (The reason I still buy hardware synths is that plugin stuff is too finicky and unreliable for my tastes.)

It's not too difficult to use, but definitely not the easiest synth I've ever programmed, either. The limited number of knobs means there are A LOT of menus and a lot of button-pressing. It's really a shame that they didn't use the other half of the front panel for more knobs or sliders. Sliders are much better for envelopes, anyway! Some very commonly used parameters, like arp hold and osc 3 level, have to be accessed by holding the shift key--very user unfriendly, although the three assignable knobs under the diplay make up for that to a small extent. The display is fine, the wheels are great, and the internal power supply is great, all increasing the ease of use. The manual is very good, although a spiral binding would make it easier to lay it out flat so you can read it while using the synth with both hands. Tempo-related LEDs are white instead of red, so they're easy to pick out quickly. Plus they blink in a way that corresponds to the waveform--instant on and fade off for sawtooth, fade on and fade off for sine, etc. Very nice. The one other white LED lights up when you pass any knob through the value stored in the preset. That way you know exactly how to undo an edit you've made, even if it wasn't the most recent edit. This is a really great feature, and one that you'll soon wonder how you did without.

Some of the presets are amazing. Many of them are drowning in WAY too much reverb, and many of them are clearly designed to show off what the synth can do instead of actually being useful. But they're just presets--you should program your own sounds, of course. It's too bad that there are so many ROM banks, though, and so few RAM banks (but this situation is soon to change with the new OS2.7 thats coming out in the spring).It would be nice to be able to keep some of the presets, for instance, but to turn down the reverb on them or something like that. But the only way to do that is to use up one of the user memory slots. Bad design. Also not great is the fact that the rear jacks are below and inset from the main rear panel. This makes it more difficult than it should be to plug or unplug things, when a simple angled rear panel like that on the Jupiter 6/8 would have fixed that. The jacks are labeled along the top of the synth, so that helps a little. (But just a little.)

The number and complexity of the synthesis options makes this a synth programmer's dream, and the expressiveness makes it a true instrument. The polyphony is nominally around 80 voices if you don't use the third oscillator or the modelled analog filters. I do use those things, so I have less polyphony, but I don't know (or care) exactly how much. It's enough. No traditional expansion capabilities, although Access has a great track record of providing OS updates with new features, so I guess that counts. Effects are great (if overused on the presets), and it's great to not hear them burp as you change presets. Since they're fully multitimbral, the prevous sound keeps its effect and dies away, while the new sound uses its effects and is unaffected by those of the previous sound. Excellent.

Although the end-cheeks feel like real, solid wood (unlike most synths with "wood effect" end-cheeks), I'll actually come out of the closet as someone who hates wood end-cheeks. It's a marketing ploy capitalizing on our nostalgia and attempting to further the illusion that this is like a real analog synth. It's not. Wood is less sturdy then metal, it dings more easily, and it contributes to deforestation. I miss the more aesthetically honest black end-cheeks of the Virus C. That said, the shape of the end-cheeks is excellent for carrying this synth around safely.

No sequencer, pressure-sensitive keys, and the best-feeling non-piano-weighted keyboard out there. The keys are full-size (unlike most other synth's keys, which are a little smaller), and they have a firm, smooth, perfect semi-weighted action. They bottom out onto something with a little padding, so you don't feel like you're banging your fingers on a table top, but they're definitely not squishy or spongy. Who would ever want to play anything else? The V-Synth's keyboard sucks compared to this, for example--smaller keys, less resistance (so harder to play expressively), and they bottom out on something hard and unforgiving. Ugh. The Virus' keyboard is the same as the one in the Novation Supernova II, the E-mu E-Synth, and the Kawai K5000. It's a joy to play.

This synth mostly sounds very digital to me, but that's mostly a compliment because I love digital synthesis. I have to admit, though, that the analog emulations are surprisingly unconvincing. There's A LOT of aliasing in the upper two octaves or so, even when the oscillators are set to classic mode playing square or sawtooth waveforms, and even when the modelled analog filter is in use. I've never played earlier versions of the Virus, so I can't say how it compares. The filters usually sound very smooth and beautiful, but occasionally not--ROM D-71 "LikeSkin @," for instance, sounds steppy when you turn the filter cutoff knob. Changing the filter in this patch to the analog filter model does not help, but other sounds that use the non-analog-modeled filters don't sound steppy. I don't get it. Also, the main volume knob is steppy in the very low-volume range on some sounds, but not on others. "LikeSkin" and some other sounds have clear jumps between volume knob settings of 0, 1, 2, etc., but other sounds do not. Maybe there's an effect they all share that is more processor-intensive? I haven't investigated this further yet.

I was hoping this synth would fulfill both digital and analog roles in my setup, but I think I'm going to have to buy an Ion or Micron for the analog stuff. Before anyone accuses me of being dumb for buying something without first knowing what it sounds like, they should know that I don't live anywhere near a store that sells synthesizers. I have to buy stuff online, then return it if I don't like it. Last time I drove 3 hours to get to a Guitar Center, the room there was so loud that I would have missed these subtleties, and this Guitar Center no longer lets customers use headphones "for health reasons." So I wouldn't have noticed these aspects of the sound until I got home anyway.

Two of my all-time favorite synths, the PPG Wave 2.3 and the Sequential Prophet VS, exhibit digital artifacts too, so these flaws are not a deal-breaker to me, I'm just surprised that the analog emulation isn't better. That said, the bottom end of this synth is huge and can probably knock you off your feet, and when the filters are smooth, boy are they smooth and creamy and beautiful. The Virus' digital side is gorgeous and amazing. "LikeSkin" struck me as beautiful, and I wanted to see what spectral waves it used, but they're analog waves! Alternatively, some of the spectral waves or wavetables have an acoustic richness and complexity that is fantastic for a synthesizer. I often find myself thinking that this is the sound that ROMplers dream about but have never yet acheived. I don't have much to say about the HyperSaw waves because I haven't really been using this as a VA. Some of the sounds that use HyperSaws are huge and expansive, though.

The wavetables (the main reason I bought this synth) are great. I wanted wavetables that could scan SMOOTHLY between waves, no stepping. (I sold my Microwave IIXT because of its steppy wavetables and because I can't really afford both synths.) 95% of these wavetables scan very smoothly, but there is occasional steppiness if you listen very closely. I think it's subtle enough that it would be unnoticeable in a mix, so it's OK with me. Some of these wavetables suggest PPG and Waldorf sounds, and some are totally new. Some focus on a few timbres, and some have waveforms that are all over the map. Excellent! I REALLY hope Access adds user wavetables to a future OS update, because I really, REALLY would love to use that feature. Oh man...

Too soon to say, but it feels very well made. The software hung up once during an OS upgrade, but it was easily resolved and all else has been great.

I emailed them once while waiting for the synth to be released, so I wasn't even a customer yet, and they got back to me right away. I emailed them once since buying the synth with the same results. Very nice. Plus they're still releasing OS updates for previous Virus models! It's hard to imagine Roland or Korg doing that. Their Programming Analogue Synths tutorial book must have been a huge effort for them to produce, with little advertising value, but they did it anyway. And it's free. Right on!

With an improved, Ion-level analog emulation engine and with the whole panel full of real-time controls, I'd give this synth a 10. Without those features, it gets a 9. It's an incredible synth, though, and deserves a 10 if compared to a ROMpler or some other lesser synth. (With a 76-note keyboard, I'd give it a 12!) The main things I love are the overall sound, all the waveforms and modulation options, and the keyboard feel. The main things I don't love are the way the third oscillator is treated like an add-on, all the empty space on the front panel, and all the digital artifacts in the analog emulation. It's still an incredible synthesizer, though, and I look forward to years of happy programming on it.

I also own a Sequential Prophet VS Rack, a Roland XV-5050 for acoustic emulation, a CME UF8, and Kurtzmann upright piano. I'll probably be buying an Alesis Micron soon, or a rack version if they come out with one, and I dabble just a little bit with a few soft-synths: PPG Wave 2.v, Vector Sector, and Cameleon 5000 on a G5 iMac with a Firebox interface. I sold a Novation Supernova II and a Waldorf Microwave IIXT to buy this Virus TI, and even though it has more shortcomings than I expected, I still don't regret the switch.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Mar-05-2008 at 13:52
lustral a professional user from Germany writes:
I cut it short, very short. I had my TI replaced two times already, and the third time might come because of another issue. Great support, big aliasing, great filters, instability, modulation matrix bugs, soundwise pretty versatile, moog filteremulations sound very digital (so if you expect an analogue influence, forget it, but still nice to have another filter option). LFOs sound steppy when you either let them run very fast or very slow. Only USB1.1, so 16 bit, record using the analogue out jacks. knobs are solid, but they get loose pretty fast. If you're after the supersaw sound, get it, otherwise you need to compromise much, very much... Presetheads, it's the way to go. Sounddesigners, prepare for frustrating nights...

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Thursday-Jul-26-2007 at 04:45
Alexader de Sade a hobbyist user from Australia writes:
I recently purchased the Access Virus TI. I can say for a fact that it is truly wonderful.

Im using the most recent OS. All the growing pains are over (thankfully).

How does it compare to the Virus C? Generally speaking, the sound is very slightly clearer, but the TI retains the dark, heavy Virus character. It simply sounds a little less muddy. The low end is still the second best in the digital realm (best VA for bass is the Alesis Ion). In addition, the TI introduces several new features to the Virus line, such as the wavetable synthesis mode (which I prefer the sound of to the Waldorf wavetables). This makes the TI shockingly versatile in nature. Probably the only synth that can match the versatility is the Waldorf Q. The interface is better than the Virus C, the effects are fully multitimbral, and as an effects processor this thing rocks.

This is a real evolution (mutation?) from the Virus C. I love my TI. Honestly, the bugs that plagued the device earlier are gone, and the sound is truly phenomenal.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Jun-25-2007 at 22:55
tagaluga a professional user from france writes:
After OS 2.02 is the aliasing-problem sill there.access can not fix this bug. this is the reason why Waldorf-synths are much better.

Rating: 2 out of 5 posted Sunday-Apr-29-2007 at 12:16
a professional user writes:
Running OS2.02 (latest as of 28th March 2007)

100% thumbs up. I have no integrations issues now. Sounds amazing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Tuesday-Mar-27-2007 at 18:08
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