Review: Arturia Analog Lab 4

How often do you find yourself browsing presets to look for that one sound to inspire you? Even though I’ve become more and more independent from presets since I’ve started producing music, I still often rely on fresh sounds to kick off my creative process – especially when I’m in the mood to write something instead of fiddling around with sound design. Analog Lab is made exactly for that: Look for a sound, find a sound, start writing.

What is Arturia Analog Lab?

When I first looked into Arturia’s product line I was confused about the difference between Arturia Analog Lab and the Arturia V Collection. Both seemed to be vintage synth bundles of some sort. Here’s how they differ: While V Collection is a “regular” VST collection and comes with 24 synths and keyboards, Analog Lab is an interface with 6500 presets from those synths.

Analog Lab allows you to play with all those presets and even gives you the option to modify those sounds, but it doesn’t give you full access to those instruments. This means Analog Lab is not meant for synth enthusiasts who want to create all their patches from scratch, it’s made for composers and producers who are looking for sounds to add to their production quickly and are okay with having less control over the individual sounds.

The Content

Presets from the following synths, keyboard and organs are included in Analog Lab:

  • ARP 2600 V
  • B-3 V
  • CS-80 V
  • CZ V
  • Farfisa V
  • Jup-8 V
  • Matrix-12 V
  • Mellotron V
  • Mini V
  • Modular V
  • Prophet V
  • Prophet VS
  • SEM V
  • Solina V
  • Stage-73 V
  • Synclavier V
  • Synthi V
  • Piano V
  • Vox Continental V
  • Wurli V
  • Buchla Easel V
  • Clavinet V
  • DX7 V
  • CMI V

The “V” in the names refers to the fact that these presets are taken from Arturia’s synth emulations (they are not sampled from the actual instruments).

What makes this synth collection so interesting is that it includes widely used and legendary synths just as much as more obscure and rare synths. This mix makes browsing through the presets fun and exciting. You’ll find airy Mellotron pads next to dirty Arp 2600 sequences next to legendary Jupiter-8 leads.

Now, I’m not going to review all these instruments here, especially since Analog Lab is a sound collection, not an instrument collection. But what I do want to talk about quickly is the sound itself.

The Sound

I have to say I was bracing myself for disappointment when I first opened Lab. Why? Because I had read in a few forum threads that the sounds were thin, uninspiring and partially unusable. But after just a few minutes of playing around with Lab, I came to an entirely different conclusion: Those sounds were awesome and exciting! I had so much fun playing with the collection, that I spent the next two hours just going through the presets and playing around with parameters.

When it comes to sound quality, yes, some synths sounds may sound better than others. There’s a muddiness/lack of presence to some and I’ve also encountered some thinness. But all in all, it depends on your preference and use case. I for one loved the sound of many of those synths. They are often gritty, noisy, dreamy, otherworldly, strange and very retro.

There are a lot of exciting vintage simulations on the market right now and if you need all your synths to sound as buttery and sweet as u-he’s Repro 5 or as fat as Diva, then Analog Lab’s sound might be underwhelming to you. However, I don’t find it fair to compare Analog Lab to a high-end boutique synth. Repro 5 is currently available for about $150 in a bundle deal with Repro 1. That’s two synths with a total of about 500 presets. While this is a great deal, Analog Lab costs just $50 more, includes 24 very different vintage instruments and comes with 6500 presets. It’s just not the same.

While I loved many of the sounds themselves, I found the FX section of the plugin less inspiring. Although the built-in effects do their job, I didn’t find them very interesting for shaping the tone. Maybe this is just my shallow first impression, but to get the best sound I recommend adding your own FX.

Audio Examples

Here are some short audio examples – no external effects were used:

Arp 2600 V:

Farfisa V:

Jup-8 V:

Mellotron V:

Modular V:

Synthi V:

And to add some examples by other people, here’s a short live showcase by Arturia:

And here’s a beatmaking demo using Arturia Analog Lab 4 by Accurate Beats:

Using Analog Lab

When you first open Analog Lab, you’ll be greeted by a dialog box that asks you if you want to go through a quick tutorial. I wish more companies did this! It’s a great way to learn about the interface quickly. And while we’re talking about the UI: Using Analog Lab couldn’t be easier. You’re able to search and filter presets, save new ones, add FX and go into concert mode. If you perform live, there’s also a convenient “concert mode”, which allows you to save presets in groups so you can easily access them during a live performance.

Changing the parameters of synth sounds is easy. There is a menu with knobs and sliders, which can control setting like cutoff, ADSR, LFO amounts, waveforms, timbre and effects. What you can change depends on the synth the preset is taken from. While these controls are great for automation and for tweaking the sound, you’re not able to make fundamental changes.  There is one type of sound where that is especially problematic: Arps and sequences. You can’t change the notes or rhythms – so they’ll either fit or they don’t.

To get a better understanding of what you can expect from the interface, this video by Arturia gives you an overview:

One note on CPU use: Analog Lab can demand quite a bit of CPU power – but this depends entirely on the preset. There are plenty of presets that barely moved my CPU meter. If you have a modern computer that can run synths like Serum, most presets should run just fine.

Rating

Should You Get Analog Lab?

If you’re a synth expert and you enjoy creating most of your sounds yourself, Analog Lab might not be the right choice for you. If you are in this category but you enjoy the sound of the demos, I’d suggest taking a look at Arturia’s V Collection instead (or look at the synths of u-he and Tal for an even more authentic analog synth experience).

If you liked the sound of the demos, don’t need total control over every aspect of your sound and feel like you could really use 6500 retro synths presets, this is a great bundle. The diversity of sounds make this a collection a great deal. No matter if your next track is ambient, a retro inspired score or a creative EDM track, I bet you’ll find some interesting sounds in there.

Analog Lab sounds interesting but you don’t want to spend $200? I recommend waiting for a sale. I have seen it on sale for 50% multiple times. You can get Analog Lab here.

Pros:

  • 6500 presets
  • diverse instrument selection
  • super easy to use
  • fun!

Cons:

  • instrument quality can vary
  • some parameters can’t be edited

Rating

Sound quality: 7.5/10
Presets: 8.5/10
GUI: 9.5/10
Versatility: 7/10

Overall Rating 8/10

Value for money (at $199): 9/10

Specs

  • Standalone or plugin (VST, VST3, AU, AAX)
  • 64 bit OS required (Win 7+, OS 10.11+)


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