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July/August 2023

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REVIEW 28 POST JULY/AUG 2023 28 POST JULY/AUG 2023 UNE 3 is Synapse Audio's flagship synthesizer plug-in for your DAW. DUNE may have been used for some of the music in the Dune movies, but the synth's name doesn't refer to a sand- worm-infested planet. It's an acronym that stands for 'Differential Unison Engine.' It means you don't so much work on oscillators as on voices or layers. The difference is subtle, but the ef- fect outspoken in able hands. It's almost impossible to produce such a rich, luscious sound in more traditional synths. DUNE 3 is therefore often listed as one of the five best available synth plug-ins you can buy. It's not hard to see — or rather, hear — why. Not surprisingly, DUNE has some famous users. Kevin Schroeder is one of them. Schroeder is known for Dune (2021), No Time to Die (2021) and Hunter Killer (2018). He also designs synthesizer sounds for Synapse Audio, U-he, Hans Zimmer, Paul Haslinger, Trevor Morris and more. DUNE is also credited in the later Jean-Michel Jarre albums. Unison Engine DUNE is a polyphonic synthesizer that combines virtual analogue/subtrac- tive, Wavetable, sample and frequency modulation synthesis. All modulation and filtering can be applied to up to eight voices. For example, the two filters — each carrying a long list of filter types — can be applied to all voices together or with different types, cutoffs and resonance settings to each voice individually. The same goes for the three LFOs, four MSEG curves, two 32-stack oscillators and the one ordinary oscillator. With a modulation matrix that has 32 slots, and combined with those eight voices, up to 200 oscilla- tors can be synthesized per key. The resulting sound can be extremely "fat" or luscious, but equally important is that the synthesizer engine is far more accurate than any other synth plug-in I've tested so far. This means you will never run into ugly artifacts when you, for example, push the resonance of a filter to its extremes. It also just sounds better than anything else. All of these factors together mean that DUNE 3 is the abso- lute top of plug-in synths. Interface The interface has a very simple layout and a nice design. If you don't like that design, you can apply different skins. I did run into a few mildly-frustrating quirks though. Turning knobs is a bit of a pain, as the dialed-in value is only visible when you're actually on top of the knob with your cursor. Setting up multiple voices can also become confusing, with settings for 'all' voices appearing to overrule 'individual' ones if you don't start with 'all' first and then strictly adhere to setting individual voices afterwards. Modulation monster Except for ZebraHZ, I've yet to try out a synth that has as many modulation capabilities as DUNE 3. And yet the modulations you can set are actually straightforward ones. The secret is that the Modulation Matrix allows you to mod- ulate the Matrix's own entries. Another eureka features is that the built-in step sequencer/arpeggiator's output can be set to a special 'silent' setting, which then allows you to use that as a modulation source. There's more to the arpeggiator/ step sequencer than meets the eye in that it also accepts MIDI files. Modulation is one way to create new patches, but DUNE 3 has a new way called Genetics. This consists of combin- ing existing patches to create something new. It's innovative and can speed up the sound-design process considerably. Verdict The digital sound you can get out of DUNE 3 has a clarity and purity that is unmatched. It is one of the most com- plex synths I've tried out, but its com- plexity isn't reflected in it being compli- cated to use. On the contrary, it's quite simple to use and to program patches from scratch. Even the few quirks that I mentioned never got in the way on a scale that they became frustratingly annoying. For any type of sound design, DUNE is unparal- leled, both for experienced synth artists and the occasional musician, thanks to its audible purity and accuracy, as well as its low learning curve. DUNE 3 is available for download online. The demo version is fully featured with some limitations (random silence). A license retails for $172. A large number of soundsets (patch collections) are also available for $20 or $40, depending on the set. SYNAPSE AUDIO'S DUNE 3 BY ERIK VLIETINCK ERIK@ THECONTENTGAME.COM THE BEST SYNTHESIZER PLUG-IN MONEY CAN BUY? D VITAL STATS MANUFACTURER: Synapse Audio PRODUCT: DUNE 3 PRICE: $172.12 WEBSITE:

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