This powerful ROMpler aims to be all things to all synthesists.
Finding a versatile synth plug‑in that caters for all musical styles can feel like quite a challenge. However HoriZEN, from The Synth Factory, makes every effort to seamlessly bridge the gap from EDM to atmospheric, with plenty of unique variations along the way. Housed within its own software interface, HoriZEN is a new ROMpler‑style plug‑in which, from its opening sonic salvo, dispenses a colour reminiscent of a CS‑80, through the patch called ‘Look to the HoriZEN’. This speaks for itself!
HoriZEN is heavily laden with impressive functionality. At the core is a ROMpler engine that allows the layering of up to four samples. Synth Factory provide some fine examples here, with over 500 sample sources ranging from vintage to contemporary, and stylistic highlights suitable for most genres of music. The samples are loaded via the centrally located X/Y pad, which also serves as a convenient way of blending the sources. Moreover, a macro‑record function allows a path to be drawn across the X/Y pad, raising the prospect of meandering tones that can unravel beautifully.
The sample content is organised by category. These initial building blocks are impressive enough, ranging from fully stacked basses and leads, to drones, effects and atmospheres. Some of these samples could be regarded as one‑shot wonders, but are perfect for bolstering the front end of a percussive synthetic onslaught. Meanwhile, the voice category feels almost Germanic, with a pitch accuracy that is perfect Mensch‑Machine material.
The atmosphere samples are also really endearing; intrinsically electronic, but with an earthiness of organic form. While they can feel relatively full‑on in their raw state, HoriZEN’s sculpting capabilities allow for total control. For example, when creating an evolving patch, you may feel the need to bolster the tonal centre with some form of conventional oscillator. Helpfully, there are three available for this purpose, providing all the usual subtractive‑style waveforms, and a few interesting shapes which switch up the harmonic content, such as trapezoid.
It’s a magnificent‑sounding bargain that offers vast programming possibilities.
HoriZEN’s terminology can appear a tad confusing at first sight; there is speak of voices, which actually relates to what some might call a part or partial. But regardless, a single note can comprise of four samples, described as voices one to four, with three synth engines, described as voices five to seven.
Most impressively, each of these ‘voices’ can be routed to either or both of the onboard filters, with amplitude envelope control also being available at the voice/partial level. This promotes the capacity for creating some intensely interesting patches, which can unwind over time, especially when linked with the X/Y movement control.
The two filters offer a comprehensive collection of nine filter types, from the more common low‑ and high‑pass variety, to some unique and distressing elements. The Resistor filter type is a case in point, exuding ring‑mod coloration which can elevate resonant points to extreme. It’s a great collection of the usual, with some nice curios.
Since the term ROMpler has become so embedded in the music technology vernacular, it’s easy to dismiss HoriZEN as another product from that crowd. That could be a very costly mistake! The interface is totally agreeable, supporting a host of exceptionally flexible modulatory and control possibilities. Back this up with a comprehensive effects section, sequencer and arpeggiator, and HoriZEN is an impressive performer, by any measure. If you then factor in its very reasonable pricing, it’s a magnificent‑sounding bargain that offers vast programming possibilities.
While the allure of the included patches is plenty to get going with, there is also the promise of future expansion packs to follow. With an interface as useful as this, it’s difficult to resist looking to your own HoriZENs.
HoriZEN is a highly capable and extremely programmable synth, with an endearing sonic identity that should appeal to all.