Instantly hypnotic, seductive soft-synths without the need for massive manipulations to perfect the patch? The Teletone Ondine collection may be the very piece you seek.
Where exactly are we at in the hardware synth race right now? It’s been a while since I checked which pieces were still hiding out in grandad’s ceiling, four decades after his crack at a second-rate Mi-Sex-style new wave career, all musty and crackling over the turn of any knob.
And what are the synths that can still be had for under a fortune? Is there a genre-defining sound or beat still hidden within the op-shop Casio with the note names sharpied directly onto the keys, or has the chance to unearth a fresh Sleng Teng riddim revolution long since passed?
Anyway, we live in a fortunate future where nearly any desirable synthesiser has been emulated, and emulated WELL by either an established, heavy-backed software team, or a cooler small company with the cojones to try something fresh and exciting, at a considerably lower price point than hardware market value.
Teletone Audio out of Nashville, Tennessee is one of these cool small units, deftly presenting pieces since 2017. The company formed out of founder Jeremy Larson’s quest to reinvigorate his love for the piano and has thus far supplied us with the likes of some great altered pianos, accurate, manipulatable vintage keyboard emulations, and the synthesised world of the Scarbo collection.
The brand new Ondine collection comes forth as a prequel to Scarbo — both are named for Ravel movements from the Gaspard de la nuit piano suite.
Not that you need to be educated in the world of classical music to make a king-hitting modern tune, but maybe you find it enlightening, or even inspiring, to be across some genteel information. Whilst Scarbo is a nightmarish-goblin-based movement, the Ondine right here is a seductive water nymph a-beckoning.
And does the ‘seductive water nymph a-beckoning’ sound as it should? Most definitely. The Ondine collects 52 preset synth sounds and 26 multi groupings, ranging from silky to squared, round to resonant, all distinctive enough to use with minimal tweaking of the fundamental controls.
“But, as a synth-person I feel strongly about compulsive adjustment of sound, even at the cost of my personal creative progress.” Fear not! Each patch within the Ondine features just enough adjustment to satisfy these self-destructive tinkering urges.
I’m not going to pretend to know what, if any, some of these settings are emulating or quoting, so let’s just start whacking the keys on this thing.
The layout is comprehensive across each patch with what we’ll call the 3 major adjustment parameters set to the most creatively conducive tones, all changing and shifting depending upon what patch you’re currently using.
The MODULATION slider preset itself to the mod wheel on the tiny MIDI keyboard I’m using to test this thing out, and will do something entirely appropriate – within the Feels Like Falling patch or the Underwater Pulse multi it’ll adjust the vibrato, in Flanger Filter it’ll shift the resonance, and in Crackle and Hiss it controls the amount of noise.
Next up is the MOOD knob, controlling an array of effects markedly different for each preset. In the Host Malone setting (geez, that guy’s ubiquitous now) MOOD increases reverb, stereo-field and intensity, in Fanfare it’s a reverb and delay control, and in Complete Domination it washes out, reverberates, and takes a little off the edge off the ‘domination’.
MOVEMENT tends to add LFO in different flavours. Be it with the wide stereo panning of Cinematic 4th or intense vibrato and a wild downward pitch shift in Flashing Red. Depending on the patch, this knob occasionally transforms and renames itself into a SENSITIVITY control, giving a slight pitch shift in Marshmellow Bass and Womp Womp.
The EXPRESSION slider gives a visual, manipulatable control to a volume expression pedal. I imagine it’ll automatically sync to a physical pedal, or map it into another physical knob if your MIDI keyboard lacks, what they call in the business, an ‘expression hole’.
Heading southward, with a momentary nod to Robert Moog’s envelope innovations, we’ve got the standard array of envelope controls – on top of the Attack, Sustain, Decay and Release knobs there’s the Hold knob to give that extra little piece of control over the peak, making this an AHSDR envelope. Feel the need to tweak? Here’s your chance!
All controls can be easily mapped to MIDI CC by right-clicking and assigning, making tweaking settings even more pleasurable when you can do it with a physical knob. They can even all be mapped to the same parameter for some extra heavy manipulation.
Teletone’s Ondine provides a wide range of calm, sweet, subtle, or subversive, brash soft-synth tones with a minimal amount of tweaking of these mono and polyphonics patches.
Bass, chords, leads, and textures are all covered by this thing, so it’s relatively simple to find yourself in the creative composition zone without the distraction of wrenching at filter banks and LFOs for hours on end; Teletone has consolidated that hard work for you.