Cue Stravinsky on synths. This may be one of the nicest free-as-in-beer synths for Windows yet.

Cue Stravinsky on synths. This may be one of the nicest free-as-in-beer synths for Windows yet.

With so many choices, some beautiful software synths simply fall through the cracks – or fail to keep up with tastes and attentions. TONE2, maker of a number of nice soft synths, has therefore decided to put its FireBird synth out to pasture, releasing an update and marking down the price from $79 to free (as in beer – no source).

Of course, part of the reason people’s eyes glaze over with soft synths is the sheer number of two-oscillator, Virtual Analog, subtractive synths out there. But there are a few details that set FireBird 2 apart and ought to make you consider giving it a go – especially with a price of free.

The banner feature is “Harmonic Content Morphing” synthesis. It’s something like wavetable synthesis with a twist, but all without increasing the number of oscillators – even a single oscillator can be modified. And here’s where you get lots of choices:

  • 437 presets
  • 84 oscillator types that, via HCM, the developers describe as adding up to “18,000 morphable waveforms”, thanks to 23 spectral “modifiers” that modify the sound.
  • 38 filter types
  • True stereo, 4x unison, 8 oscillators per voice
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • 13 effects.
  • 38 filter types, from Moog to Comb to “Vocal.”
  • Skinnable UI (with various included skins).

Some of those choices get a bit ridiculous, but happily the UI is simple enough that you can dial in choices quickly, or try the presets for some fresh options.

The sound of FireBird is really rather nice: warm, but thick and shimmer-y in that wavetable way. And you get lots of phase distortion and supersaw sorts of sounds out of it. In fact, the whole thing feels a bit like an alternative to something like NI’s ubiquitous Massive – with a very different sound and UI approach.

Well worth picking up for Windows, as it now supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 with both 32-bit and 64-bit VST support. Correction: I misread their site and thought they’d done a 64-bit update. It will “work with” 64-bit Windows, but you’ll need a bridge. No huge problem – with the bridge, it should be fine, and the price is right.

FireBird 2

  • Allan

    Thanks Tone2, looking forward to making some noise with this.

  • Derp

    Unfortunately, it’s still a 32bit plugin… So it will require a bridge. I’m kind of saddened by this; as a paying customer, I was looking forward to using it again in my 64bit DAW w/o the use of a bridge… Maybe someday Ableton Live will have a native bridge feature like Bitwig.

    • Peter Kirn

      Thanks for the correction. I misread their site and thought they’d done an update, but you’re right.

      That said, jBridge isn’t working for you?

    • Derp

      I’m broke, and I’d just rather not have to use a 3rd party tool to use 32bit plugs ya know? Moving on for now…. I’m sure it works.

      They did do an update actually, it’s just not going to be a 64bit plug, just supports win 64bit OS. :

      New features and enhancements:
      – Enhanced sound: Less aggressive treble, more smooth
      – Ultra quality is selected by default
      – Lower CPU because of SSE2 support
      – Faster loading and saving of songs
      – Smart installer which automatically detects the correct location
      – Enhanced host compatibility
      – Accidentally visiting the website by clicking on the logos is not longer possible
      – Reworked some graphics
      – First patch was clipping in some hosts

      – The product is now freeware
      – Keyfile is no longer required
      – Iqm is switched to off by default

      Further notes:
      – V2.0 is downward compatible with previous versions
      – CPU can reduced by selecting a lower quality in ‘setup’
      – For
      technical reasons there will be no 64 bit or Mac version
      – You’re allowed to share Firebird2 with all your friends
      – If you like Firebird please support us by buying other Tone2 products

      They also released a final soundbank for paying customers via email. (Not sure if you can download that anywhere else)

  • dorf buttwig

    charlatan is better, free-er more-er

  • theaudiroom canada

    Stereo Calgary
    This is really interesting…!!!

  • David Cunningham

    I am new and asking a dumb question – but how do I play the Software Synthesizer For Windows – Firebird 2? DO I have to conect it to a keyboard or can I play it with the keys on my laptop? New so really not sure how to enjoy it other than clicking with the mouse.