Image Line PoiZone 2.0 (Mac/Win)
Virtual Analog Software Synth
By Tony DiLorenzo
PoiZone 2.0 ($79) is a straightforward subtractive synthesizer with two oscillators, three resonant filter modes, two ADSR generators, and variable polyphony of up to 32 voices. Both standalone and as an AU or VST plug-in, it comes with 256 convincing virtual analog presets that are logically categorized and especially well suited for dance and electronica. PoiZone features an arpeggiator, chorus and delay effects, polyphonic glide, and a 4-voice unison function, as well as ring and pulse-width modulation.
FROM THE TOP
I installed PoiZone on a MacBook Pro with a 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 120 GB drive running Mac OS X 10.4.10 and Apple Logic Pro 7. PoiZone's clear-cut user interface resembles some of Roland's classic synths, like the Juno-106 and Jupiter 6. But the resemblance doesn't end there — a thick pad called Jupiter TC sounds a lot like an analog Roland synth (PoiZone Demo 1)
At the top left of the single-window interface is the Master Controls section. Its 3-line display simplifies mapping data from your controller to PoiZone parameters. When you adjust any parameter, its name will appear on the top line and its value on the second line. When you move a knob or a slider on your controller, the corresponding MIDI Control Change (CC) value will appear on the third line. Clicking on the Link button will pair the last tweaked parameter with the CC data received from your controller.
To the right of Master Controls, the Voice Controls section has knobs and buttons for parameters such as tuning, triggering, and glide. A pop-up Unison menu allows you to stack as many as four voices within a patch, and the Poly menu lets you specify the maximum polyphony. You can detune and pan the unison voices or put PoiZone in monophonic mode. Held, Static, and Glide Time controls all affect PoiZone's portamento. When Held is on, only overlapping notes will glide; when Static is on, glide time is independent and unaffected by the interval's size. In addition, you can fine-tune the oscillators by 100 cents up or down using the Micro Tune knob.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Signal flow is exactly what you'd expect from a virtual analog synth. In the Balance section, you can adjust the noise-generator level and the mix between Oscillators A and B. Each oscillator has a button to enable a pulse wave and a knob to adjust the pulse width; if the Pulse button is not engaged, the oscillator produces a sawtooth wave. In a future version of PoiZone, I'd like to see sine and triangle waves, too. Oscillator A has buttons to turn on ring modulation and to sync it to Oscillator B, and Oscillator B has knobs for adjusting its pitch and detuning. PoiZone's filter offers lowpass, highpass, and bandpass modes, making it easy to shape your sound from mellow pads to acid-dance timbres. However, I did notice that the highest and lowest knob settings for cutoff and resonance had little effect on the sound.
Experienced synthesists and newcomers alike will appreciate PoiZone's intuitive layout, and I liked most of the factory patches. I took a warm string patch called SYN PoizoneStrings, and with minimal tweaking I transformed it into a huge, arena-rock brass patch. A little experimentation with the arpeggiator and Trance Gate, and I was able to shape the same sound into an animated electronica patch (PoiZone Demo 2)
You can use PoiZone's Trance Gate function to chop the output with a 16-step pattern you can sync to your host sequencer. A Smooth knob lets you control the gate's attack. The built-in arpeggiator is pretty standard, but I combined it with Trance Gate and experimented with different step combinations to create some interesting rhythmic patches — nothing as deep as Korg's Wavestation or Karma, but very usable just the same (PoiZone Demo 3). You can also save and import gate patterns as FXP files. PoiZone's versatile Delay effect further increases your rhythmic possibilities (PoiZone Demo 4).
NOT FADE AWAY
PoiZone is clearly not trying to be the last soft synth you'll ever need, but it's very good at emulating a traditional analog synthesizer. Its user interface is clean and easy to navigate. The factory sounds are consistently good and work in a variety of musical styles. The Trance Gate function and arpeggiator are bound to be especially handy if you're producing dance music. And at this price, PoiZone should be on everyone's hard drive.