Sonic Academy ANA Review
For many electronic musician and producers will know the name Sonic Academy through their huge amount of online tutorials. But some months ago they came up with something new – ANA. Their first synthesizer plugin, which is very focused on edm sounds and maded a good impression on the first look. But how will it be after a deeper view?
By looking the first time on ANA,, it drops right away that the GUI is easy to understand and to use. All parameters are easily to find and the signal flow is also understandable without any question marks.
The structure is as usual, started with the sound engine based on 4 oscillators, followed by the filter and ending in the effect section. Sonic Academy came up with a very smart sound engine layout, by using 3 different oscillator types. Oscillator 1 & 2 are based on wavetables, where each of them can be used with up to 8 unisio voices. So very similar to Sylenth1, but the retrigger option didn`t working so good as on Sylenth1.
It makes the sound softer with a light detune-slide on the beginning. Generally it very much looks like Sylenth1 was the the reference on concepting the features and structures of ANA.
The thrid oscillator is called “advanced noise” and contains several noise samples aswell as some on supersaw based sounds, which can be played static of keyfollowed. Nearly the same concept uses the fourh oscillator “attack” and is loaded with several attack samples, like e-bass or plucked guitar oneshots.
On this point one question drops in our mind – why the didn`t had build the third oscillator as pure sample oscillator(with some more samples to choice), instead of calling him advanced noise, but loaded with noise aswell as supersaw like synthsamples? There we missing this piece of logic.
The filter section offers a rich sortiment of different types(normal, vintage and format), especially the vintage types sounding very charming. Unfortunately the normal lowpass didn`t sounding right, with full open cutoff value it`s sounds like the cutoff frequency is set on the half, so more like a bug than a wished filter characteristic. Same as on Sylenth1 the ANA filter section offers next to the several controls of the both filters a global cutoff controller with effects both filters.
Also on the smaller basic things like envelopes Sonic Academy has build in some extras, like the G-Env. Which is offers the user to draw an own envelope by using nodel points. As addition this envelope can be operate as loop with adjustable speed and phase. A really nice feature. The 3 other basic envelopes can be used with 3 different slope settings, from falling, normal up to raising.
Lets go over to the effect section. Here are waiting 6 typical effects:
Phaser, Chorus, Distort, Compress, Delay and Reverb.
Phaser and chorus sounding ok, but not really impressive. Distort looks there much more interesting through the contained extras like amp cab simluation, crush and excite. The amp cab simulation works good and is without a doubt a small detail which enriches the possibilities for sound-shaping. But the crush feature(rate reducer) reacts to drastically. Just by using maybe 4% intensity it sounds like normal rate reducers on 60% or more and by using more as 50% intensity bringing quite confusing results – 55% can sound very similar as 90% and between this the result is untypical. Generally the behavior of the crush feature is very different as the typical linear rate reduction as we know and surely also you will know from other distortion or lofi effects. Through this non-linear and kind of confusing effection it`s not so useful as a “normal” rate reducer, where the users know which lofi effect they can except by setting on the respective value.
Compress contains with “bass mix” also an additonal feature. Through that you can adjust in the lower frequency range, which shouldn´t be effected by the compression. Delay is quite typical and standart, same as the reverb. Which is for many software synthesizers a hard point, where the mass can`t point out positive – this group also includes ANA.
An extra addition on ANA can be find on the preview area – “chord hold & fx”. This feature offers the users to use several included presets of different chords, with adjustable bpm and octave range. Pretty nice feaute, specially for sounddesign on the fly.
Over 250 sounds you can find in the factory sound library of ANA, and some more were added with the last updates. It`s not such a mass like other synthesizers providing today, just for example U-He DIVA comes with 1000 sounds. But the 250 patches are mainly focused on edm sounds, which surely the most Sonic Academy fans has as own prefered genres, so the contain preset collection should be enough.
The quality is good, a round-up collection of more the essential edm sounds, nothing spectacular – just useful.
The launch problems
Before we come to our final conclusion, we must praise Sonic Academy for the fast updates so far, which improved minor bugfixes and added a bunch of new presets for the factory. Sonic Academy also announced that the next update will comes with major changes, for example 2 new oscillators and more samples for the sample-based oscillators. Which is definitively a good improvement, but also brings up a big question mark, if the users can use in the newer version also patches done by themself without any problems. But next to this little praise we must criticize them – on the release of ANA there was no demo version available which is definitively a small no-go, but the main point of the criticism is another. It`s a real and big no-go to sale software without a manual. Also if this synth is on the first look easy to use, the manual is a part of the complete product, which must be available! Also if Sonic Academy provides a lot of walkthrough videos belonging the features of ANA, a manual is obligatory.
Another negative point which we see is the preset handling. It`s not possible to save presets in a free chosen folder. And the default(and so also fixed folder) is hard to find – specially without manual. For us on windows os, we weren`t able to get access the preset folder, because it was impossible to find him or get access on it, the folder was placed during the installation as hidden directoy. Again a nogo. If the user`s aren`t allowed to save their presets wherever they want, the default preset folder should be placed directly in the installed folder of ANA themself, so that the user`s can find it easily.
About the sound, well it sounds ok, not outstanding but also not bad, generally a neutral, lightly cold basic sound. The filters are ok, except the basic lowpass( like written above, cutoff bug). The effects do their job, some of them good, some of them could do it better. It`s a very basic synthesizer, with a easy to use layout, would be the cpu usage very lower instead of average, it would make ANA more useful as basic synth for standart sounds. We are also a little bit dashed, that features like the sample-based oscillators are used in such a limited way for noise and noisy supersaw aswell for guitar like attack sounds. With a more logical usage of the sample-based oscillator and followed by that with a bigger arsenal of samples to choice, the general sound capabilities of ANA would be enhanced a lot. Sure ANA has a very fair and low price, under 50 GBP, for subscribers of Sonic Academy tutorials only 30 GBP, and so it`s quite clear that these synth can`t be compared overall with the big ones like DIVA, SynthSquad, DUNE or Massive.
But also on the lower price area are there synths, which working on nearly the same layout or basement (wavetables, chord/midi import). Just for example – Z3TA+ 2 from Cakewalk. And well, in a direct comparision Z3TA+2 would blow ANA away just through the nearly same price, 4 times bigger factory, more feautes, higher quality and more.
So what we can say, except ANA sounds ok, has a nice and easy-to-use layout for a low price? Unfortunately nothing more. The sound quality is not outstanding, just ok. There are some little smart features in, like G-Env, but overall only relative small capability of sounds is possible. The factory complies the minimum requirement. Some features which could enrich ANA capability are not used as they should be. In the end we can`t find a real reason for speak out a buy recommendation. If you have already a Sylenth1, you won`t have a reason to get ANA, also it provides as addition 2 sample-based oscillators in a limited way. We missed just the big point, which makes ANA different or more justful compared to other synthesizers. Just a reason why we or the users getting this one line in our minds “I really could need this synth”…
It`s just another virtual-analog modelled synthesizer for a very low price with some nice details but also with some negativ points.
Available on: sonicacademy.com
49.00 GBP / 29.00 GBP for subscribers
Platforms: Windows & MacOS – VST/AU (32/64 bit)
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