Among the most active of these legacy-prolonging brands is the remaining staff from New England Digital, best known as the developers of the Synclavier systems from the late 70s to the early 90s, with virtually unprecedented digital sound, and the first to support 16-bit sampling (even Fairlight fans had to wait until 1985 for the CMI 3).
Needless to say, when I was first informed a few months ago that they were revisiting hardware synthesizers with some one-ups from the Arturia VST recreation, I was immediately tempted. Fortunately, my family was supportive and generous enough that they were willing to pre-order it as a late Christmas gift (the production has apparently been slow for customers, meaning I only got my own unit a few days before this was published).
Enter the Regen.
Like the classic Synclavier, the Regen is a multitimbral synthesizer (albeit 12 parts instead of the usual MIDI standard of 16), capable of sampling as well as true synthesis (including the innovative resynthesis of audio recordings they innovated in the mid 80s), and unlike the Arturia recreation, it seems to support literally every sound-design-related parameter of the classics, particularly multisample support (up to 48 samples per partial, just like the old systems!). It doesn't stop there, however: it also adds some features unseen in NED products before. For the first time, Synclavier samples can have controllable filters applied (effectively making them passable for their old Fairlight competition), and in addition, analog modeling a la many 90s synthesizer classics are also a sound generation option, as well as built-in reverb! This is all in addition to supporting 12 partials a la the Arturia VST as well (the original hardware supported only up to four per timbre).
How does it handle all of this power at one's fingertips? The manual suggests it does so by computing a variable maximum of resources depending on the complexity of the session. The most obvious case stated: polyphony has a probable max of over 90 voices, but it does state the polyphony limit will be lowered with enough effects applied, the two clear cases being the new filters and reverb algorithms. Haven't tried to test these limits through a multitimbral production yet (a matter I hope to fix soon), but upon pressing the Volume button in the Master section on the unit, you can also find a meter that is generous enough to inform you of the CPU load, so it's not overly difficult to figure out if you're doing something too CPU-heavy or not.
Many of the classic presets and sounds are included (from the famous Michael Jackson "Beat It" FM/additive gong to the pizzicato violin multisample in the "Princess Bride" soundtrack), as well as some new ones by some new sound designers, but let's face it: many people will want to create their own, especially given each bank still only has up to 64 timbres. With an SD card (not included with my own order), it is possible to add more timbres and samples, and best of all, I have confirmed via the Synclavier3 software that it is easily feasible, albeit a bit time-consuming for samples, to convert all of the classic timbres into a Regen-compatible folder of text files! I was a bit surprised that the format of the timbres is that simple, especially in contrast to the binary code of the older format, but I'm certainly not one to complain about that, especially if I feel it best to make a small edit on my computer for whatever reason.
Overall, well done to Cameron Jones and the rest of the Synclavier team for keeping their legacy alive, and with some pleasant surprises as a bonus!
The Synclavier Regen can be ordered from their website. As of this writing, production is paused atm, but will resume next month.