Review of the MOTU MX4
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Review of the
MOTU MX4

Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) MX4 MultiSynth Software Instrument (Macintosh)
Meet the new instrument plug-in powerhouse for your studio. Inspired by legendary subtractive synthesizers, MX4 combines several core synthesis techniques in a unified, hybrid synthesis engine that delivers fresh and vintage sounds alike.

 

The MOTU MX4 is a great synth with a surprisingly well-thought out architecture that will give you access to a wide range of audio colors.  First lets get clear on what it is and is not.  Its not a sampler, so the disk requirements are miniscule. Lets not mistake it for a total composition environment like Reason.  Nor is it a multi-timbral softsynth.   One patch per instance.  If you want two MX4 synths in your song you call up the plugin on two different tracks.  Its a 100% tone generator plugin that uses 4 different types of synthesis--wavetable synthesis, frequency modulation, amplitude modulation and analog emulation.  It is these 4 different types of sound generation that gives the MX4 its unique character.

The MX4 comes with plenty of presets to get you going.  Enough, in fact, to satisfy if you simply want to use presets and not get into programming.  When I call up the MX4 for duty I nearly always find something I like without tweaking anything and it is easy to access the presets and banks, which are named with good descriptions and categorized in a meaningful way. 

CPU-wise, the MX4 cuts both ways.  The simple patches don't use much, but the really fast arps multiwoven with thick modulation will take a bite.  Not too bad.  Even when i have my G5 nearly maxed with other stuff I can usually fit in a few MX4s. I like to toss in lots of different sound generators--variety indeed is a spice.

How does it sound?  Overall, its a tight, accurate, squeaky clean sound like FM, without FM's sometimes annoying resonance.  The MX4 is capable of incredibly complex, dynamically moving sounds as well as fat leads and oozing pads.  The clock inside the MX4 automatically syncs to your project tempo and this allows a great many rhythmic things to happen, like arpeggios, and rhythmically syncing pads.  I like these sounds the best.  They stay on the beat really well with no irritating latency.  The sounds can get very big, thick and wide if you want them that way, and full of character, even analog grit, or they can by tiny small, precise, crystalline in purity. 

One of my fave features, that the true tweakin' synth heads will love, is the way you can modulate the "wavetable index" by envelope or LFO.  Get 2 of these going inside a patch, then adjust some basic parameters and you are out there in TweakLand.  Then flip to the "mods" view. (see below) and adjust the "pattern gate" and you have your wild creation syncing up you could use the tones as a line in a synthy drum track. 

You can do analog style "noise-based" drums with the MX4 using that method and they can really cut.  You can also program up single hits on your sequencer to do kicks and snares if you don't want to program, there are analog emulations of all the basic drums here, from big muffy kicks to metallic snares and chirpy hats--of course none of them sound like real drums, but hey, dude, there is nothing on this synth that sounds real.  Its all synthetic, a plastic, elastic sort of universe.  Those doing sounds for games will love it.  Those making abstract atmospheres or emulating exploding atomic atom smashers will be amused for years.  Those who need fat, thick leads dripping with FX will have a nice palette to choose from.  Anyone making inter-station radio static will be thrilled. OK! I admit, I love white noise, pink noise and modulating them. 

Ok the best feature of the synth is the randomize function.  Just hit the button till you find something as whacked as you are.  Believe me, its good.  Want to build a 2000 patch library?  Hit the randomizer 2000 times and save each one. 

Perhaps the most obvious musical application for the MX4 is trance music.  It lends itself to the genre very well.  Ambient Soundscapers will be happy as well.  Inventors of tonalities will be amused. Sci-Fi FX Freaks--you found heaven.  Blip heads--you get the best, tightest, tiniest blips here, way tighter than the FM7. Space Opera Soundtrackers--this is an indispensable tool.  Extreme glitch mongers might be happier with Absynth, which uses samples.  Those that want more control over what they are tweaking will like the MX4, which keeps you in a more ear-friendly range of the unknown.  Who will not like the MX4?  Country punks, Orch-Headz, RnB Only dudes, Realism fanatics and GM-o-philes, mainly.  Rockers might like the leads, Poppers might get a few pads. Hip Hoppers would like the hats and tinny snares and some of the kill-me now Kicks and some of the trippier tones.      

Watch out for compatibility.  This is a Mac only plugin as of this writing.  There's plenty of demos on the zzounds page.  Check 'em out. 

 

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Spectrasonics Omnisphere
Spectrasonic's Trillian
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Stylus RMX
Battery by Native Instruments
MOTU BPM
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Guru Review
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Altered States
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FM7 and FM8
NI's Komplete Bundle
MiniMoogV
MOTU's Ethno
Are Hardware Samplers Obsolete?
MOTU MX4
Absynth
Antares Filter
Logic's EXS24 Sampler
Kore
Kore 2 Review
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