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Native Instruments Massive X

Software Synthesizer
By Simon Sherbourne

Modulation is king in Massive X. The new Exciter Envelope is great combined with the Comb filter for physical modelled sounds.Modulation is king in Massive X. The new Exciter Envelope is great combined with the Comb filter for physical modelled sounds.

NI's Massive X isn't just an update, it's a whole new synth!

Massive is one of the best-known and best-loved soft synths of the last decade. It's super-versatile, although it's often associated with dubstep and its offshoots thanks to its ability to generate huge snarling and throbbing sounds. As well as being influential in bass music, it's inspired a generation of modern soft synths like the equally ubiquitous Serum and Pigments, both of which borrow heavily from Massive's wavetable synth concept and modulation system.

Rather than rebooting the original Massive, NI have produced a sequel: Massive X. Massive (no X) lives on, maintaining compatibility with old songs and providing a tasty synth for NI to bundle with hardware and mid-level Komplete packages.

A blank canvas has advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, NI have been able to completely re-think the architecture and UI. While the original plug-in pushed 2007's CPUs to the edge, it no longer sounds or looks as modern as it once did. X is sonically on another level and benefits from modern UI niceties like high-density, scalable graphics.

Starting from scratch is a lot of work though, and even after a lengthy delay Massive X appears to have been rushed out with a number of things left on the developers' backlog. NI have promised to fill some of these gaps in updates.

Massive Changes

Massive X looks like a completely different synth. It takes design cues from Reaktor Blocks, appearing like two rows of rack modules. The original midnight blue panel is replaced with a flat, warm grey that lets the coloured modulation rings pop out. The upper half always shows the synth controls, while the lower switches between different tabs for modulation, routing and voice setup.

NI are still calling Massive X 'semi-modular', but it is in essence fully modular. The original Massive combined crossfader points and a partially interactive signal flow view to set up the synth's internal patching. X replaces these with a freely editable, Reaktor-style routing page. This may be daunting for casual users, but gives sound designers great scope for patch creation.

The starter palette of synth modules has actually been simplified, with two primary wavetable oscillators instead of three and a single filter instead of two. One of the keys to Massive's aggressive sounds was oscillator phase mod courtesy of a dedicated modulation oscillator. Massive X has two such oscillators,...

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Published November 2019