impOscar – a Synth with a Soul

A couple of months back, I claimed I was not a very technically oriented musician; and I guess if I look back ten years, compared to that I’m not. But I guess there is a degree of geekery that just sticks to you when you start working with synths and music gear.

The last big studio I ran about ten years ago had over 20 different hardware synths, not to mention the plugins. So lots of stuff to fiddle with. These days, I like to keep things simple. I think getting the right gear is important, but it’s even more important getting rid of the wrong gear. Music is in the person, not in the gear – and surrounding yourself with all the latest toys can, at least in my experience, even distract you from the actual music itself.

That being said, there are a few little widgets which I would not like to do without. One of them, the Valhalla Shimmer reverb I wrote about a while ago. The other is the Yamaha SY99 (the only hardware synth I have left), which I’ll maybe write more about later. The third is this amazing synth plugin from GForce, called the impOscar.

The impOscar has been, after a fashion, modelled after the classic monophonic Oscar synth. But GForce have done a tremendous job with enhancing the classic. First of all, the impOscar is polyphonic. Secondly, this little thingy has such amazing range of expression that it’s boggling. You really don’t need much more than this one plugin for a huge range of analog sound beauties, ranging from basses to leads, from sound effects to lush pads.

While it is not quite as versatile, its sound quality brings to mind when I got my first Access Virus: it just blows everything else straight out of the water. (And I got rid of the Virus eventually, because it was *too* good: you really didn’t have to do much with it to make it sound great.)

The impOscar is challenging enough to have you do some intriguing tweaking, yet intuitive enough not to frustrate you to death. It sounds great enough straight out of the box to even slap some great presets on songs, but also invites you to do some tweaking to really take it off the ground. If there is one synth plugin out there that I think stands above all the rest, this is it. So go check it out on GForce’s website; they just released a new version of it.

Valhalla Shimmer

These days, I am terribly un-technoogy-oriented. I used to be a real tech geek back in the day, checking in at GearSlutz several times a day, dropping in at the music store twice a week. But at some point I realized it’s not the gear that makes the music – it’s the human being.

Anyway, lots of tech or not lots of tech, its usually not the tech that makes the difference. Except when it does. I try to make do with a handful of plugins I know really well, and having narrowed down the set, there are a few ones I would not really feel comfortable working without. One of them is this outstanding reverb plugin called Valhalla Shimmer.

I used to have a selection of top notch reverb units from Lexicon, TC Electronic and the likes, but nothing has ever come close to Valhalla Shimmer. It’s nowhere near in fidelity to its more successful siblings, but for what music I write, it’s a perfect fit. No, you can’t tweak a great snare room out of it. But boy what can this little piece of genius do to a piano lead or a synth pad.

There are a lot of synths and sample sets out there that promise a spacey timey-wimey ethereal sound – synths and sets that have been programmed by some of the best sound designers out there. But I think none of these capture the straight simplicity and elegance of Valhalla Shimmer: you can run pretty much any hand-picked synth line through its frequency modulated reverbs and they come to life unlike really anything much out there.

It’s also not terribly expensive. So if you like your music ethereal, be sure to give it a go.