Until this purchase, the only Arturia product I used was the Prophet V. As great as it sounded, I couldn't imagine using additional Arturia products at the time because it was their only vintage synth recreation that recreated more than just analog circuitry (which tends to sound the same to me), in the Prophet V's case, the wave tables of the Prophet VS.
And then just two days ago, I heard about it. Apparently Cameron Jones, creator of the New England Digital Synclaviers, followed through with his plans of having an official Synclavier VST, even if published by a third party (Arturia). From what I've read on the product page, it's faithful to what he had in mind because it incorporates the original C++ code that made the FM/additive synthesis that defined, among other classic 80s songs, Michael Jackson's "Beat It".
So, naturally, I bought it. $200 may seem high for budget musicians, but it's a HUGE deal when given the Synclaviers were once among the most expensive music equipment you could buy, rivaled only by the Fairlight CMI's.
All three major versions of the Synclavier (the I, II, and PSMT) focused first and foremost on additive synthesis further modulated by FM (though the PSMT also had sampling support) so naturally, this somewhat unique sound and programming process has been implemented in the VST, with up to 64x oversampling to avoid excess aliasing! Arturia took it even further, however: for instance, bitrate of the sound can be increased from the Synclavier II's mere 8-bit, and up to twelve partials can be played at a time instead of the Synclaviers' four.
Preset size is not overwhelming, but when going through the factory banks, it's easy to find gems from classic early 80s songs, from the gong in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" to the choir in the Princess Bride score, from the eerie vocal synth in Genesis' "Mama" to the bells used in some parts of the Halloween 4 soundtrack.
My only major disappointment, other than number of presets, is the lack of support for the 16-bit stereo sampling and samples that defined many Synclavier PSMT systems, including the one used by Mark Knopfler for The Princess Bride soundtrack. Not certain whether this was due to licensing with Arturia or the fact that the Prosonus Library, the most popular library for Synclaviers and Fairlight III's alike, is owned by an entity other than Cameron Jones (current owner is Big Fish Audio), but whatever the reason, I certainly hope that, at the very least, playback of pre made Synclavier sample libraries will be supported later. Which I'm guessing may be possible, given the VST DOES currently allow you to import sounds from the original hardware...
Still, all in all, this is a worthwhile purchase for fans of high-budget 80s music. Definitely check out the demos here, both trial software and mp3's:
UPDATE: Just ended an email conversation with Cameron Jones. Long story short, my dreams may very well have a chance of being fulfilled: in addition to the Arturia product, he started an Indiegogo campaign for an HTML5-based emulation of the Synclavier, and if both take off, he does indeed hope to incorporate the sampling engine! In other words, we may very well have a complete Synclavier PSMT workstation emulation in the near future!
His Indiegogo campaign for the HTML5 emulation (cleverly titled Webclavier) can be found here: