LinPlug Spectral – The Ghost In the Machine
In the early days of VST technology, it was virtually impossible for your average PC to supply the power requirements to run additive synthesis, at least to any degree of scope the modern plugin instruments have. And while the market is getting pretty crowded with incredible synths now it takes something fairly unique to stand out amongst the crowd.
LinPlug Spectral is without a doubt a top contender in the market and comes from a strong heritage of amazing synths from the small German software company LinPlug. Headed by lead designer Peter Linsener, LinPlug is well known for its high-quality virtual instruments, in particular, the Albino and Octopus synths. Spectral is the latest and greatest synth and promises to continue the heritage onwards.
Under the hood
At its heart Spectral is a basic semi-modular subtractive synth with four oscillators with filter and amp envelopes, 5 LFOs and four extra filters assignable – plus you can cross-modulate between them which is pretty remarkable. Oscillators can be further spread with detuned unison voices. Where the magic comes in is with the awesome arpeggiator and 24-point modulation matrix allowing hundreds of destinations, Spectral is flexible in the extreme. An extensive effects section featuring all your standard delays, chorus and reverbs, plus a good selection of handy tools like stereo enhancer, crusher and gator.
An interesting AHDSFR envelope filter – ADSR as we all know plus H (hold) and F (fade), or fall rate after the sustain. Nice little fine-tuning controls. Best of all these controls are set up in a way you tend to start experimenting and just playing around to see what happens, in which Spectral rewards you often with unique and usable tones. A nifty little feature is you can draw in by hand your own filter and oscillator curves, a nice touch.
Everything is MIDI-controllable on the front screen which we found excellent when paired with a keyboard like our Axiom Pro
The included presets are mostly excellent, with 850 to choose from you won’t get bored. Though the patch browser is a little clunky, the presets showcases the synth very well, especially the ‘Demo’ category.
She’s got the look
I for one love Spectral’s interface, immaculate and crisp in a Star Trek way. Big and bright dials with beautiful contrasting blue on dark look super cool. The signal flow makes sense immediately, and it doesn’t take long to work out what’s going on and start making up your own weird electronic bleeps and buzzes.
You can resize the UI, which is a nice touch – especially if you use Spectral for live performance, filling the screen would be essential on a dark stage.
I wouldn’t suggest Spectral for your standard synth sounds, but then again you wouldn’t be in the market for a power synth like this if you didn’t already own a selection of basic synths already. Spectral is your play toy, it’s for getting crazy and experimenting. With Alchemy no longer available, LinPlug are a leader in the game now and deservedly so.
Back down to earth
The original Spectral was quite a CPU hog, taking upwards of 30-35% of our test machine’s system resources per instance, though the latest patch seems to have rectified that quite a bit, showing marked improvements over all patches – though you are still going to need some serious processing to get the most out of this synth. If you are not running a reasonably modern PC with a big supply of RAM, now might be a good time to consider an upgrade.
The power requirements are high, but the rewards are worth it. Spectral is a brilliant synth with its own voice and style, and in such a crowded market that’s exactly what you need to stay ahead. Some time will be required to actually learn the ins and outs of this synth, but, fortunately, it’s not overly complicated that you can’t also jump right in and start having fun right off the bat. If you are looking for something that pushed the sonic boundaries with a robust and usable interface, Spectral from LinPlug might be right up your alley.
Test Machine Specs
Core i5-6500 3.20 Ghz 16gig RAM. Library installed on secondary 7200 drive.
Windows 10, 64bit.
Focusrite Scarlett 214 Interface
Yamaha MOTIF and Roland Jupiter 80 controllers
Presonus Eris E44
Shure SRH940 monitors