In the world of hardware synthesizers there are models which have become real classics. Models like the Minimoog, the ARP 2600 or the Roland Jupiter-8.
In the world of software synthesizers there are no real classics. But if there are software synthesizers that could be called a classic already, I think Sylenth1 from Lennar Digital would be one of them.
A short introduction to the synth
Sylenth1 is on the market since 2006 and is a popular synth amongst EDM producers. For some time now a beta version of Sylenth1 v3 has been available for the public, but recently Lennar Digital released the official v3 version: v3.030
Sylenth1 v3 brings a lot of enhancements, and with the official release out now I think it is a good time to see if Sylenth1 still is a worthy addition to a musician’s digital toolbox.
The default user interface of Sylenth1 v3 has been given a nice makeover keeping it certainly recognizable as good old Sylenth1 but with a new sharpness and more modern use of colors. Most important, it’s scalable now which greatly enhances the user experience when using Sylenth1 on the bigger screens of today. Furthermore, the GUI now comes with extra eye candy in the form of some great extra skins. Two of them are variations on the default Sylenth1 skin, like the classic- or oldskool skins which give the synth the more classic Sylenth1 look of former versions. But four of them, the Apox, Halcyon, Kautschuk and Thackeray skins are really themed differently and very good in my opinion. They really enhance the synth visually and bring it more in line with today’s visual standards.
The layout of the GUI is not changed from former versions. Long time Sylenth1 users will feel immediately at home. A picture here says more than words I think:
A quick tour of the GUI (for the readers not yet familiar with this synth)
The upper part of the GUI comprises of two selectable parts A and B, each with its own two oscillators, amp envelope and filter panel. Under the parts section, there’s a filter control panel which controls the filters from both parts A and B together and a mixer panel which mixes parts A and B together.
In the lower part of the GUI, we find the modulation panel with modulation envelopes, LFO’s and a miscellaneous section in which you can make some extra modulation settings (source/destination). Furthermore, there’s a virtual keyboard, mono/legato switch and portamento controls.
In the center of the GUI, we find the master effects section with an effect chain containing a compressor, reverb, delay, equalizer, chorus, phaser and distortion. An arpeggiator/step sequencer is also located in this section.
A welcome functionality in the v3 update is that things like waveform selection or filter type selection are now possible by clicking on it and selecting the waveform. In the former versions of Sylenth1, this was achieved by a clicking and dragging until the correct waveform or filter type was selected. The new method feels more user-friendly. Using the mouse wheel for selection is still possible as well.
Another addition we find is an init function on the different parts of the synth next to the copy and paste functions.
Sylenth1 is a virtual analog synth which means it emulates an analog subtractive synth. I won’t do a full architecture description here. I think the GUI picture explains a lot about the architecture.
Sylenth1 is not as deep as newer generation VA synths, but it has all the basic nuts and bolts a standard VA synth usually has and is well enough equipped to create a broad range of sounds. What’s more important here is the character of the sound. That’s where Sylenth1 excelled in 2006 when it appeared on the market, and that’s been a major factor in its success. Does it still hold up to that legacy today?
With the v3 update, there are no changes made to the core architecture of the synth. Still, I find the character of Sylenth1 to be quite pleasing to the ears. It can sound warm and analog when needed, but it also can sound digital and aggressive.
The synth is capable of creating good sounding thick unison leads, snappy plucks and lush pads. The factory soundbanks, which come with over 2500 presets give a good impression of the sonic possibilities of the synth, although for the larger part consisting of more EDM style sounds. And Sylenth1 still is good at that. Although there are newer EDM oriented synths that might arguably sound better, I find Sylenth1 still to have a lot of character.
Sylenth1 always had a good factory soundbank, but with this new release, there’s a good amount of new sounds added to it. Most notably the artists soundbank which contains 512 presets designed by well-known artists like Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Markus Schulz and a lot of others.
The factory soundbanks now contain a total of more than 2500 presets, and there’s a lot of good quality sounds to find there.
Other updates in v3
Mac users will be happy to hear that Sylenth1 v3 is now available in a native 64-bit version for Mac. And good news also for users of Pro Tools; This release brings an AAX version of Sylenth1!
Furthermore, there are some bugfixes here and there, and under the hood of the synth, the audio thread is optimized – which should be an improvement in the prevention of CPU spikes and glitches happening.
Although other software synths with similar or more capabilities entered the market over the last years, Sylenth1 still seems to be a great workhorse synthesizer for creating good and usable EDM sounds fast and easy. The synth has a large and good quality factory soundbank, and not unimportant good third party soundbank support as well.
The EDM stamp that Sylenth1 seems to have does not mean that the synth isn’t suited for more classic analog synth styles. There are certainly soundbanks that proof otherwise.
Sylenth1 costs €139,- (ex VAT), also the update is free for existing users of Sylenth1. As for value for money, I think the synth doesn’t come cheap, but the price is in line with other similar synths. Considering the fact that you get a well filled and high-quality factory bank with the synth, I find the total package to be well-worth its price.
Sylenth1 still is a good and very enjoyable VA synth. The GUI update enhances the usability in today’s DAW environments nicely and brings it visually up to date with current standards.
In my opinion, Sylenth1 is still a must-have in an EDM producers toolkit today.