Phosphor 2 by Audio Damage Review
Today we’ll be having a look at a unique synthesizer plug-in for experimental and lo-fi sounds – Phosphor 2 by Audio Damage.
Audio Damage has been producing VST plug-ins for quite some time, covering creative effects like reverb, delay, and distortion, as well as some synthesizer plug-ins that are affordable and high quality. Audio Damage did send a review copy with no strings attached.
Phosphor 2 is a recreation of the “alphaSyntauri”, a digital additive synth from the 80’s. The synth has simple controls – 2 additive oscillators, 4 waveforms, tempo-synced LFOs and a pair of delays among others – but with these simple option, a wide range of gritty, lo-fi, retro and experimental sounds can be produced quickly and with ease.
Installation is simple too – download the relatively small .zip and run the installer contained within. Choose where you want the plug-in and its VST files to go and you’re done.
The sound is something you’ll either immediately love or feel indifferent about, depending on what kind of music you produce – and I so happened to immediately love it. While you can get some smooth leads and dotting plucks from this synthesizer, its real potential surfaces with an experimental application. The more you push this synth, the quirkier it sounds, and its quirkiness is genuine and playful, rather than cheesy and brash. It has a sheen to it that makes even the most extreme settings still sound musical in a way. It gets noisy, it gets gritty, it gets dreamy and it gets bold, all the while managing to sound pristine and focused.
The presets do a good job of showcasing the different sides of this synth – pulsing blips with a touch of white noise, soft unassuming basses, shimmering pads and strange oscillating tones that sound chiptune-like. But the presets are just a starting point, as the simple presentation of this plug-in makes creating custom synths easy for even newcomers.
User interface & Usability
The interface gives you only what you need to shape the sound in a way that’s logical and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of synthesizers. Pick a waveform for either or both of the oscillators, drag the attack and release shaping around, choose how much lo-fi noise you want and how strong you want the LFOs to be, then play and tweak until it’s to your liking. You can do all this by feel and by just listening as you change the dials. On top of that, you can choose a polyphonic mode, mono legato mode or mono retrigger mode, then mess around with the dual delay to create some dream-like echoes.
If you’d like to control some chaos with the modwheel, there’s a section just for choosing how much the modwheel effects delay, pan, pitch, noise and others so you can really mess with the sound without much effort.
It really is simple when compared to so many other synths, and you may expect this one to offer less due to its lack of complexity – but the sounds Phosphor 2 makes are just so charming, musical and perfectly flawed (in the best way possible) you may find yourself entranced and inspired by how playable and curious this instrument is. It’s perfect for cinematic use, for game soundtracks, sci-fi scoring, industrial exploration and for whenever you need a peculiar synth that doesn’t sound the same as the others. It has a childlike yet precocious quality to it that I personally adore, and I can’t say that about most synths. Phosphor 2 easily belongs in my “essential synths” collection.
Rating: Four out of five stars
Phosphor 2 ships at around half the price of most great synths, so it’s a no-brainer to buy it. Of course, the presets that come with this plug-in are great – but there aren’t many. If Audio Damage were willing to dive in and build a much more comprehensive set of default presets for users to explore and get lost in at first glance, I’d be more than happy to give this wonderful little gem 5 stars.