In this review, we’ll take a closer look at Lethal software synthesizer plugin by Lethal Audio.
Lethal is a synthesizer in the category of the so-called romplers; a synthesizer which plays sounds based on samples and offers built-in functions to tweak these sounds further.
Now, if you like your synthesizers with lots of capabilities to design your own sounds from scratch, Lethal is not for you. But if you are looking for a synth that lets you dial in good quality sounds quick, and offers a big sound library to choose from, Lethal might be just what you’re looking for.
The GUI of Lethal has a nice modern flat look with a clear sectioned layout. At the centre of the GUI, we find the core section with six tabs: Library, Arpeggiator, Trance Gate, FX, Source and System. In short, these tabs offer the following functions:
- Library – select presets or store your own presets
- ARP – access the arpeggiator and its functions
- TG – access the trance gate and its functions
- FX – add effects to our sound
- Source – set max polyphony, a tune function and assignments for pitch wheel, mod wheel and aftertouch. Here you can setup the link assignments for the various LFO’s (for instance mod wheel to amp LFO, aftertouch to filter LFO, etc).
- System – shows version information, installed expansion packs and offers a license deactivation switch.
Left of the core section we find the AMP-, Filter- and Pitch sections. On the right, we find a noise generator, Unison settings, a stereo expander, and some more functions which we will come to later on.
I can be short about the quality of the presets. These are very good. You can hear that the sound designers who worked on these know their stuff. These sounds are top notch, and they are of pristine sonic quality.
Lethal comes with a 5GB core library containing over 1100 mostly EDM oriented presets neatly categorised in Bass, Leads, Plucks, Percussion and Drums, etc. I want to add that the percussion and drum presets contain over 2100 drum samples altogether.
The naming of the presets however, is a little unconventional. You’ll see names like Bounce Lead 001, Bounce Lead 002, Electro Bass 001, Electro Bass002, …you get the picture. It’s a bit awkward, but it works. In the latest expansion packs, which we’ll come to next, the preset naming has changed to more describing/unique names. So maybe Lethal Audio changed their course on the preset naming for future releases, I don’t know… Anyway, it’s not a big deal in my opinion.
As already mentioned, the sounds are mostly aimed at EDM styles like House, Acid, Bounce, Trance, etc.
Since the launch of Lethal in the first half of 2016, there’s the offer that all expansion packs for Lethal until the end of June 2017 will become available free of charge. This is a great value adding offer since there are already seven expansion packs out now: Hip-Hop, EDM, Trance, Ambience-Cinematic, Commercial, Tech and Killer Stabs.
These seven expansion packs together contain almost 1250 presets which you receive next to the Core Library.
It must be said.. with the expansion packs the emphasis is still most on EDM styles, but you’ll find some more ambient and classic style synth sounds in the Ambience-Cinematic and Commercial expansion packs as well.
The Tech expansion pack covers more techno sounds, and does this quite well. Going through the sounds I heard a lot of echoes of classic Detroit techno, as well as more modern techno sounds. The Killer Stabs expansion is also very good collection of stabs. Among them are a lot of instantly recognisable classic stabs which immediately brought a smile on my face when walking through them.
To tweak the preset sound further we can make use of the Amp, filter and pitch section of Lethal.
The Amp section offers a basic ADSR envelope with a setting for velocity response. You’ll also find a syncable LFO with which we can modulate the Amp and create some nice gating effects to the audio signal for instance. Furthermore, there’s a setting to change the curves for the different envelope stages of the Amp.
The Filter section offers a good quality resonant filter which we can set to Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass, Notch, Low Shelf, High Shelf, Peak and All Pass. The slope for the filter can be set to 6, 12 or 24db. All in all, a good amount of filter types. We’ll also find a drive knob to boost or dampen the signal here.
As with the Amp section, we’ll find a basic ADSR envelope with optional keytracking and velocity response to modulate the filter, and we can also make use of a syncable LFO for modulating it. The curves for the A, D and R envelope stages can be changed here as well.
For pitch modulation we find the same features as with the Amp and Filter; an ADSR envelope with optional key tracking and velocity response, and a syncable LFO for pitch modulation. And here too the curves for the A, D and R envelope stages can be changed.
To further polish and tweak our sound we can make use of the following features:
There’s a noise generator to add some noise to a sound. The flavours of noise we find here are white, pink and blue.
Always a nice feature to have with a synth: unison. The unison can be set up to 8 voices and can be detuned with a knob to spread the voices to your liking.
Well, what’s there to say… it adds vibrato to your sound… You can set rate and depth.
A nice feature to widen your sound. Works well. You can set the width and delay of the effect to enrich your sound with a nice stereo spread.
Drive and Shine
These are two knobs which respectively boost your sound (Drive) and brighten or muffle your sound (Shine).
Certainly a nice feature. With this, you can set the synth to play notes, fifth intervals, seventh intervals, multiple octave intervals, minor- and major chords, and a few other chord voicings.
Here you can set the direction the preset will be played; forwards or backwards. Useful for reverse sound effects.
Poly and Glide
Here you can respectively switch the synth to poly or mono, and set glide time for the glide/portamento effect when going from one note to another.
Lethal also comes with an arpeggiator, and with all these EDM sounds aboard the added trance gate seems like a welcome feature.
The ARP comes with a number of pattern presets with which you can quickly set an ARP pattern, but of course, you can also create your own patterns. It’s a relatively simple ARP we find here. It has all the basic features needed to create nice ARP’s and sequences, and you can edit it in a nice graphical way. Patterns can be up to 32 notes long and can be set at all the usual sync rates.
The ARP offers different settings for playing direction and octaves, and offers a shuffle function which we could describe as a function to add “swing” to our patterns. Gate length can be set and there’s a knob called “Strum” which delays the onset of notes somewhat. I found this strum function worked best with the ARP in poly-mode
The only thing I miss a little in the ARP is per note setting for velocity. That would be a nice option, especially when creating sequences.
All in all the ARP is easy to program and does its job well.
Next to the ARP Lethal Audio also added a trance gate to the feature set. This is a great feature and certainly adds to the versatility of the synth for use in EDM styles.
The trance gate comes with a good set of preset programs, but is also easy to program yourself. The maximum pattern length is 32 steps, and like with the ARP, editing the steps is done in a graphical way. You can set the gate to stereo, and edit the left and right channels separately for a nice stereo gating effect. Furthermore, you can set the rate, add some shuffle (swing) if you like, and mix the gated signal with the not-gated signal to create subtle to strong gating effects. There’s a knob “Wide” to widen the gate effect in the stereo field, and a contour knob to shape the gating waveform for more or less attack.
For even more fine tuning of the effect there is a delay- and a fade-in setting which respectively sets a delay to when the gating effect starts after sending a note and sets a fade-in time to when the gating starts.
Lethal comes with a 6-slot effects chain where we can add the onboard effects and place them in the order we want them to work. The included effects are Reverb, Delay, Chorus, Phaser, Distortion, Equalizer and Bitcrusher. All the effect modules can be configured manually but also offer various presets for setting up pre-programmed effect configurations. I find the quality of the effects in general good, although the reverb can be a bit metallic with long decays. Since each effect slot has a bypass button it’s easy to bypass an effect and for instance audition an external effect with the sound.
Lethal is a synth with great potential. It’s not for the die-hard sound designers amongst us, but more for musicians who want to have a good collection of high quality sounds ready to use in their production. The collection of sounds Lethal comes with currently is mostly aimed at the various EDM styles, and with that I think it’s mostly an EDM producers tool, but the addition of the good quality Ambience-Cinematic expansion pack might indicate that different musical styles will be served in the future, and with that the audience for Lethal could broaden.
Lethal comes with a user manual, but I must say it could use some work. It’s not complete on all functions… It’s not the first time I see a new synth on the market with a user manual that seems not fully finished. I hope this doesn’t become a trend ;-)
At a price of $199,00 it certainly doesn’t come cheap, but if we take into account the sheer amount of good quality presets Lethal comes with, I think it’s worth it.
If you would like to test drive Lethal yourself; there’s a fully functional demo available at the website of Lethal Audio. It comes with a demo library of selected sounds.
You’ll also find an introduction video and some short tutorials there which could give you a better insight of the synth’s capabilities.