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XILS-lab XILS 3 v2.0 [Review]

XILS 3 v2.0, by XILS-lab brings the EMS VCS3 look back to life in an extensive multi-platform virtual instrument, keeping some of its best features while creating a whole new synth that pleases the ear and will leave you with tons of creative options to manipulate your sound.

Although quite different in sound from the VCS3, XILS 3 and VCS3 do have a lot of similarities on first sight – which is quite exciting, since the VCS3 was capable of creating interesting and different sounds from other synths of the time, although it was cumbersome to work with and dropped off in popularity as other companies released more stable synths.

The XILS 3.2 left panel has three oscillators, the first one with a sine and sawtooth wave, and a square and triangle wave for the second and third. A noise generator with color control can also be included in a sound if desired. More tonal control comes from the filter, with a selectable 12, 18 or 24db slope. The envelope section is based on two designs, the standard ADSR and the trapezoid envelope, which was a quirky setup in the VCS3 that made it quite unique. A ring modulator and reverb are also available to be routed in, and a output static filter includes a high and low pass filter.

The right panel consists of more options for sound design that are routed within the extended matrix. This includes a sample and hold effect with tempo sync and an LFO with tempo sync. Beside those lie two additional ADSR or Trapezoidal envelopes and a voltage processor. A few other tabs in the right panel allow for even more options, including an impressive 256-step sequencer with multiple output options via the sequencer pin matrix. Other tabs include an effects tab with a chorus, delay, and phaser, as well as an Input tab, where audio can be fed in and modified with a transient follower, envelop follower, gate, and pitch tracker.

A big part of using XILS 3.2 is understanding the pin matrix. Since this is a modular synth that needs to be patched, it can be a bit daunting for those who haven’t had as much work with sound design, but once understood, the virtually limitless power is nothing short of amazing. Version 3.2 adds different color pins based on how much input is being sent in each patch, which allows for very precise control.

Something worth mentioning is the extensive preset collection. It’s obvious that lots of time was devoted to making these sounds pristine and very useable. Presets go from nice pads to strong and punchy leads, and even odd effect sounds. A “On The Run” preset is also included, mimicking the famous Pink Floyd tune.

XILS 3.2 is a beast to conquer but boasts loads of control with an intuitive interface. Learning to be creative with the pin matrix makes creating unique sounds easy and exciting. At such an affordable price with so many plug-in formats available, there’s no reason not to pick up such a powerful tool.

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