Rating: ***** 4/5 Stars
I reviewed Folio Bass from indie virtual instrument developer Channel Robot back in the November 2018 issue of SOS. Their latest offering is KeyTone and, like Folio Bass, this is a two-voice ROMpler-based instrument for Kontakt (it requires the full version of Kontakt 5.8 or later). As the title suggests, the underlying source samples — which run to just shy of 6GB — are derived from various piano, electric piano and other keyboard sources. And, as with Folio Bass, there are a few interesting — and creative — surprises tucked away under the hood.
KeyTone's front-end and mode of operation will feel pretty familiar to Folio Bass users. Things start with the Designer page and this has both Overview and Detail options, with the former giving a sort of macro-level (simplified) sound editing experience, while the latter provides more detailed control. In both cases the basic building blocks of a KeyTone preset are built from a pair of sounds from the underlying sample set. Each voice has independent control of volume, pitch, volume envelope, tremolo and vibrato options. You also get independent filter options with various filter types, and a filter LFO and envelope. There are also sends for four master-level effects, while at the top of the page, Randomise options are provided for some easy experimentation.
If you are seeking some classic keyboard sounds with a bit of a twist and have a tight budget, KeyTone is well worth a look.
Given the modest price, this might all be enough, but the Arp, Gates, Sends and Effects tabs all provide further sound-shaping and performance possibilities. As well as the four send effects that can be configured on the Sends page, the Effects page provides a further set of four insert effects for each of the two voices. The range of insert effects covers the usual sorts of options and, while there is nothing too off-the-wall here, they are solid and very usable.However, things get a little quirkier on the Gates and Arp. The former presents two step-based pattern grids per voice that you can use to modulate various synth parameters. The latter presents Channel Robots' unique take on an arpeggiator featuring individual pattern lanes for up to eight notes and with note assignment changing depending upon how many notes are being triggered at any one time. As each lane can have a different step count (between one and 16 steps), some interesting polyrhythmic arpeggio effects can be created.
With the raw samples drawn from some fairly classic-sounding pianos and keyboards, and present in both vanilla and processed forms, plus the various sound-shaping options described above, KeyTone can conjure up some useful sounds ranging from the conventional to the quirky. If you sign up for a free account on the Channel Robot website, you can download a free demo to try before you buy. No, it's not the prettiest UI I've ever used but, if you are seeking some classic keyboard sounds with a bit of a twist and have a tight budget, KeyTone is well worth a look.