Introducing Astra: A Revolutionary Software Synth
When we embarked on the journey to develop Astra in 2018, our goal was to create a versatile software synth capable of producing a wide range of unique tones. We wanted to push the boundaries of what was technically possible while ensuring that the instrument remained user-friendly and intuitive. We firmly believe that the true magic happens when the creative process is simplified, rather than overwhelmed with a multitude of options and menus.
A Seamless User Experience
With Astra, we prioritize the user experience above all else. We understand that the ability to generate high-quality sounds quickly is paramount. That’s why Astra boasts lightning-fast preset load times and a streamlined interface. You can view almost all of Astra’s features simultaneously in its open-ended interface without the need for complex menus or multiple tabs. Plus, you have the freedom to resize the interface to your liking by simply dragging the bottom right corner.
Explore Astra’s Oscillators
Astra features two primary oscillators, each offering a wealth of possibilities for virtual analog, FM, granular, sampler, and wavetable-based synthesis. Additionally, there’s a sub oscillator, a noise generator, a multi-mode filter, two envelope generators, two LFOs, a sample & hold section, and a comprehensive effects engine. Let’s delve into these features and more.
A Closer Look at the Oscillators
Analog Oscillator: The virtual analog oscillator in Astra includes saw, square, triangle, and sine wave generators with controls for level, shape, coarse, and fine tuning. By synchronizing it with the sub oscillator, you can create classic lead or bass sounds.
FM Oscillator: The FM oscillator offers four carrier waveforms, with the ability to load your own main modulator waveform. You can also switch between linear and exponential FM to achieve a wide range of sound design possibilities.
Granular Oscillator: The granular oscillator allows you to loop small sections of an audio file, creating unique oscillators. We provide a rich selection of factory samples, and you can also add your own sounds to further customize your sonic palette.
Sampler Oscillator: Astra’s sampler oscillator features a basic sampler that lets you map any sound up to 60 seconds in length across the keys. You can loop or reverse the samples, and the pitch can be fixed to its native note for creating layered drum hits or beats.
Wavetable Oscillator: The wavetable oscillator generates single-cycle waveshapes using our factory library or custom waveforms. Our extensive library includes samples from various hardware synths, ensuring a rich and diverse sonic palette.
In addition to these oscillators, Astra offers a range of other features worth exploring:
- Sub Oscillator: With five waveforms and a wide tuning range, the sub oscillator adds depth and richness to your sounds.
- Filters: Astra provides various filter options, each with its own unique sonic characteristics and configurable order configurations.
- LFOs: Astra’s twin LFOs offer up to 27 different rates, syncable to your DAW’s tempo or independently adjustable. You can even load your own waveforms and assign their depth values to a macro or a mod wheel.
Unleash Your Creativity with Macros
Almost every parameter in Astra can be assigned to one of the four versatile macros. To assign a parameter, simply click and drag its name onto one of the macro knobs. The assigned parameter will be underlined in the macro’s native color. You can assign multiple controls to a single macro, and customize its name by double-clicking on it.
You have full control over the assignable range of each parameter by clicking the line below it and dragging left or right. This feature becomes particularly useful when you have multiple parameters assigned to a single macro.
Experience the Macro Sequencer
Astra’s Macro Sequencer is one of its standout features. Each macro can be automated within its own 32-step sequencer lane, offering a range of modifiers. You can set unique rates, ranges, and step counts for each lane. By dragging the locators above each lane, you can easily modify the step range.
The Macro Sequencer allows you to randomize lane sequences, load and save patterns, and control the transition between parameter values with smoothing options. You can also fine-tune the swing control for added groove. Plus, by clicking the horizontal dots, you gain access to a menu for flipping and incrementally adjusting lane data.
Note Sequencer: Compose with Ease
Astra’s Note Sequencer operates similarly to the Macro Sequencer. It comprises individual lanes for pitch (P), velocity (V), and gate (G). Step mutes are linked, and you can limit note data to popular scale types using the SCALE menu. Right-clicking in a lane gives you access to a line tool for writing fades and uniform patterns. All sequencers share linked swing values for consistent rhythm.
Harness the Power of the Modulation Matrix
Last but not least, let’s explore the Modulation Matrix. It can be accessed via the Mod Matrix tab, allowing you to drag parameters into any of the ten available slots. You can configure envelope generators, LFOs, sample & hold, note (key follow), velocity, pitch bend, modulation wheel, and aftertouch values by double-clicking them. Any parameter assignment can be cleared by clicking the ‘x’ at the end of each lane. The Modulation Matrix offers endless possibilities for shaping your sound.
Embrace Astra: Unlock Limitless Creativity
While this article provides an overview of Astra’s incredible capabilities, the true journey begins when you immerse yourself in the synth. We encourage you to explore its features and parameters as starting points for your sonic exploration. For a deeper dive, check out our dedicated video lessons for Astra on Splice Skills.
Ready to take your music production to new heights? Explore Astra alongside a collection of other plugins and features through the Splice Creator plan.
June 7, 2021