Arturia’s colourful soft synth goes from strength to strength.
Pigments is Arturia’s entry into the imaginary category of sound designers’ soft synths. When launched in 2018 it comprised two underlying sound engines — wavetable and virtual analogue — but these were later joined by a sample/granular synthesis engine in version 2 and then harmonic synthesis and a utility (sub‑oscillator and noise) engine in version 3. Each release also added facilities such as additional filter models and effects, and expanded the factory sound library. With five types of sound generation and a large choice of filters, modulators and other facilities, you might have thought that Pigments had gone as far as it could, but Arturia then released Pigments 3.5 which, in my view, deserved to be called Pigments 4, and now the latest version, which IS called Pigments 4. This adds new wavetables, new sounds for the sample/granular engine, more noise types in the utility engine, yet more filter types, more effects, and numerous other enhancements to existing features. There are also improvements to the GUI plus a host of new factory patches and three new sound libraries that are free to new owners.
My first tests of Pigments 4 were confined to the initial sound generators because this is where many of the changes have taken place. I began with the wavetable engine, which has a wealth of tables from which to sculpt your sounds, and numerous transforms, modulators and wave folders that let you create everything from crystalline tones to (more often than not) aggressive noises and glitches. It takes a while to get to grips with this engine, especially with the addition of its new ring modulation and pulse‑width phase transforms but, once you’ve done so, you’ll find that it offers a huge range of sound design capabilities.
I then selected the virtual analogue engine, which is based loosely upon the Minimoog’s oscillator architecture. Unfortunately, Pigments still uses the method of assigning a pitch offset to an oscillator when you first play it and then holding it at a consistent value until you release the note. This system can make each multi‑oscillator note (or each chord constructed from single‑oscillator notes) sound different from the previous, but it can also generate the dreaded doo‑doo‑dee‑daa‑doo‑dee artefact as a quasi‑random but fixed amount of phase cancellation occurs. Furthermore, with larger offsets, Pigments starts to sound like a GX‑1 that hasn’t been allowed to warm up for 30 minutes, which, despite what you might think, is not a good thing. Arturia’s engineers have done some great work on oscillator emulations in recent years so I hope that they will incorporate these within Pigments as soon as possible because the rest of the synth deserves them.
The next engine uses samples as the underlying sound generators and adds granular synthesis tools to slice and dice them in many complex ways. A sample library is provided, but it’s easy to load your own samples and build new sounds from them. It isn’t designed to replace a conventional sampler because only six samples can be loaded at a time, and key mapping can only be carried out in octaves. Furthermore, editing isn’t up to the standard of dedicated samplers, not least because there’s no zooming. Nevertheless, the engine works and adds another flavour to Pigments.
Finally, there’s the...
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