BUYING MY SOUNDS / PATCHES:
€ 26 (Euro) to this paypal address: [wcologarb at tlen.pl]
writing "argon8 sounds" in the title.
I get notified about your payment, I will send the sounds to your paypal email. You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube videos
and audio files plus more (180 original sounds + 20 variations = 200 sounds in total).
Apart from the video demo, here's an additional mp3 demo of
some more (traditional / basic / musical) of my sounds:
I did not use
additional FX in the demo, all the delays, reverbs, flangers,
stereo spread &
sound deformations are part of the
Argon8 engine / mod matrix.
Argon 8 number 1
(the buggy one):
This synth tested my patience
like no other.
I order my
Argon in April 2020. When it arrives, I fiddle around with it for 3 or 4 days and...
for the first time in my life decide to use my right to return the product
after the purchase. The synth seems half-baked and I'm not sure if it has a
technical fault or whether it's a matter of flawed design. It is incredibly quiet, but in a weird way.
When I make a starting patch, it sounds ok, but once I start to detune the oscillators, or add the
onboard chorus or reverb, the sound literally vanishes with each increment of
the knobs to become almost inaudible at high settings. The envelopes and sample
& hold LFOs are poppy (create clicks / pops in the sounds).
Next: I discover quite a number of things in the
Argon engine that make no sense and irritate me somewhat. Some of those
things I do not understand because I had not read the manual. Some I understand
after reading it, but they are still irritating or at least disappointing:
The synth has an onboard limiter. When it's active
(=when I set the patch volume over the value of 100, and many times I must
do that to be able to hear anything), the limiter kicks in. It's the same feeling like when I'm riding an
electirc scooter that has an electronic chip which artificially limits the
speed to the "legally safe level" when it senses that I have reached 15 mph.
I can feel the scooter wobble. So
when I play one note on the Argon 8, it's loud, but when I hit more, Argon is
reducing the overall volume. This creates a kind of unexpected dynamic. I've
read somewehere that this is for better quality of the audio. OK, I will take
Modal's word for it and try to get accustomed to it, although I can only wonder
whether anyone but nerds with oscilloscopes would notice the difference in the
"audio quality";) The synth sounds pristine, so maybe there's truth in that.
Next: Argon does not memorize (save) settings like
volume boost (off / normal / saturated) and tempo
tempo setting is not included in the saved patch). Also, it does not memorize the
sequence - I have to save it separately as a sequence file in the sequence bank.
But that's not the end of it. Because the sequence also needs to be "linked"
to the patch before saving the patch. Otherwise the patch will play a different
sequence after restarting the synth - the one which randomly pops out after
powering it up. I remember that Waldorf Q had a similar way of storing patches
and sequences. I have no idea what is the benefit of that:( I mean, I think I
know - to make the sequences freely available for other sounds. But hey - the
ancient "copy & paste" feature would solve everything.
Also, Argon turns out to have a very clumsy sequencer control. It
is impossible to edit one bad note out of a sequence, so if I make a mistake,
I have to record the sequence all over again. Plus the most irritating bug: sending MIDI from my DAW
causes my Argon to randomly start its sequencer and wreck (randomize) my patch.
Next: the synth has no way of exporting the sounds.
No button, no nothing. The only way to do that is via the Modal app that runs on...
Windows 8 and above. I have Windows 7. I think, WTF. Social exclusion. Lives
of Windows 7 users matter! The illuminati use their dirty sneaky ways to
manufacture my 'voluntary consent' but I won't give in.
Last but not least, another disappointment comes when
I discover that some of the modulation combinations that seem obvious turn
out to be impossible (or hard to predict). Some of the FX settings can be
modulated, some cannot. If I want to route [note] to [lfo 1 speed] I get an
error message that it is an invalid mod assigment. But doing it with [lfo 2] is
okie-dokie! Go figure. I know, one of the LFOs is global. Maybe I got too
pampered and spoilt by Hydrasynth which didn't have such limitations. But this
is not a reason for me to return the synth. My biggest gripe is the volume
thing and bugs.
Argon 8 number 2
(the broken one):
Some time in August 2020 I learn that Modal has
released a firmware update (v 2.0) and they boast that they have improved this
and that, removed some bugs and what not. They said the volume thing was
improved, the sequencer was overhauled. So I decide to give it another try and
order my second Argon, but this time I do it in a big European shop and decide to choose "B-stock".
I am kinda in two minds about it, but the shop
says on their webpage that they "meticulously check" the B-stock items before
resending them to customers. The box comes and it looks fine, so I don't hold
the courier up. But when I open the
box in the treacherous privacy of my home, out of it comes a completely massacred Argon. Half of the
keyboard is broken, the metal corner is eaten away as if by asphalt during a heavy fall. So
it had to happen before the synth was shipped to me. I think to myself "Christ, this
synth is cursed" and I return it for the second time. The shop says something
that really pisses me off: that I should wait for the shipping company
employee and if they don't come, I should call the shipping company and schedule
a meeting with them to do the paperwork. I am mad at everybody - the shop or
the shipping company, at Modal. I feel like an idiot in this modern world, where
instead of doing my thing I have to be a helper of shipping companies and a
beta-tester for synth manufacturers that for some reason nowadays seem unable to
release a fully finished product. Lesson learned: wait one year before buying a
"brand-new" synth so that it gets proper firmware. Or learn to accept the price of cheap. What you
save in cash money you then have to give away in the immaterial currency of
nerves and time. But the lord has given me so much patience that here I am, with my
third Argon and...
Argon 8 number 3
(the good - or great one):
Some of the issues / bugs that I mentioned in the
rant above have been fixed by the firmware update (v 2.2), some not, so I don't know
what to say. My judgment is blocked. I don't know if they are fixable and if
they will be fixed in the next OS releases. Anyways, I spend enough time with
the Argon to finally overcome or forget all the minor hurdles and I have to say
I do like it, to say the least. I mean, I have a kind of love-hate relationship with it. At the
beginning there's hate. The bare waves sound like crap. The synth seems stiff
and uncooperative. But patience brings
lovable results and some remarkable sounds. I find Argon
wonderful for ambient drones, textured pads and atonal soundtrack effects. I also find it very interesting for
acoustic-like plucks, jazz organs & keys, percussive, metallic and - let me put it this way:...
or beautiful digital sounds. Like choirs or glassy bells or ethereal
synthy pianos. That's quite a set, and some of the sounds bring genuine
amazement. Maybe the volume "bug" (design)
actually boosted the synth audio to another level. It's full in all spectrums.
I've seen 3 or 4 people return their new Argons
because it sounded "characterless". On the one hand, I disagree. I can come up with many
adjectives describing the Argon sound. Most of the time it's glassy (this is the
starting tone). But it can also get raw, rubbery,
sparkling & squelchy. To my ears it's a "dirty clean"
sound. It's either digi-dirty or laboratory-clean, or somewhere in-between, but it has some ingredient that makes it... listenable. A kind of organicness (and orgasmicness). I can
put a sequence or a pad on repeat (sorry, I mean "sustain") and
just stand by the audio monitors for several minutes and listen to
this shimmering, ultra-smooth tone. This is the only "clean" sounding synth that I like
and would never call "soulless".
On the other hand, I can agree with the "characterlessness"
argument. There's not much going on with the basic sound. There is no "vintage"
knob to randomize settings for you;P But this characterlessness is actually an asset. If the synth does not
have a character of its own, it's because it can mimic a Waldorf, a Kawai K3 /
Korg DW-8000, Ensoniq ESQ,
a vintage Akai, an old EMU sampler, and Rolands of the Alpha / JX family. You have to push it in this
or that direction for it to pick up a given character. It means it won't get
boring too quickly. A simple chorused
sine wave is enough to give you a strong & pretty timbre. But your pretty sine
wave can sound like a cheesy '70s organ if you add an untreated digital wave
from the second oscillator. It's tricky. If you do not have a bit more
patience than with your Prophet, it's easier to get discouraged.
We have to remember this is the way such (wavetable) synths work. It's
not an OB-6 or a Nord Lead - a you-get-what-you-see, one-sweet-spot, ready-to-consume synth. You have to spend
more time to find its more numerous sweet spots, or rather "modifiers" (like
wave re-shapers for example) to modify your sound into something nice or
interesting. Once you start reshaping this and modulating that the Argon will yield some
curious and outstanding textures that sound straight like out of a pro-album.
there is a saboteur in the engine and I'm not sure who it is: the filter or the
FX. I've heard that the FX is not of the best quality and that people skip it. I
don't know. I've heard this argument so many times with almost every synth out
there that it's beginning to sound asinine to me. I've managed to make some routings of the FX that not only satisfy
my ears, but also transform the timbre into something totally new, so I wouldn't
"skip" this section.
Argon8 has one of the
nicest designs and simply looking at it pleases my eye. The keyboard is well-built, the knobs
and buttons are comfortable and precise, so don't worry if someone calls
them "cheap". There are many "cheaper" synths out there for that price. Just be warned of one thing: there's a pushable knob :P I
myself hate pushable knobs and I think
it's always a bad decision to implement them. FUN FACT: I've just bought a brand-new
electric oven to bake me some chicken and it also has this pushable data entry knob,
and I would find those
modern gadgets funny had they not been irritating. So to maneuver around in your
Argon and to find / edit even the basic settings, I have to take part in this
interplay of turning and pushing one or two knobs. Turn the left one, then push
the right one, then turn the left one and once again push it. Sometimes clickology gets in the way. It's not a grudge, because that's the way many deeper synths operate.
However, not all. Ironically, I find the Hydrasynth more transparent and convenient to
use than the Argon which seemingly has everything on the surface while the Hydra
has things "buried". But Hydra is a different kind of instrument - an
instrument where thought comes first and the sound comes second. In Argon
creation & experimentation is much easier. Anyways, after 2 weeks of tweaking the synth
inside out and remembering all the shortcuts the editing feels almost effortless
and it's hard to stop once I dive into the wavetables.
Let me continue the comparison thread: I don't know why but I have always made an
association in my mind between Argon 8 and the Korg Minilogue XD. People rather
compare the Argon with the Hydrasynth, since both are "8-voice wavetable synths".
I guess the feature that I thought to be the link
between A8 and XD was the sequencer animation. However, the XD is a bestseller while Argon is not, and I can
understand that when I look at the genius UI of the Korg XD and the sometimes convoluted interface of Argon. Programming the Argon sequencer is
not as easy. Sometimes it's even impossible (when you first record in realtime
and then want to edit the steps of the sequence - Argon won't allow it). Also,
the Argon sequencer won't allow "steppy" values like in the XD. That's
either because of low resolution of the animation lanes, or Modal's decision
to implement "parameter
slewing". Or maybe because the Argon has encoders instead of pots. Anyways,
the "animated" performance that is played back sounds a little bit different than your
Hydra is a much deeper synth, so let me just say two
words about the timbre. In Hydra it's thinner but more versatile. It's more laid
back, less "obvious" (not so easy to guess with your eyes closed). In Argon it's a deeper tone, more warm &
rich, more "in your face" (intense),
but harder to bend & control. The synth is not as big a chameleon as the Hydra.
It has too few filters and not enough mod matrix slots, EQing, etc (Argon has 8
mod matrix slots, alas, count it as 6, since 2 of the slots will be taken up if you decide yo use the Y+/Y- joystick).
But believe me, it's still enough to make this synth impress you with its wide
palette of patches, whose nature & quality make it more of a soundtrack /
background textures machine than a traditional bass / lead synth.
Anyways, forget the Hydra and forget the Minilogue. I
think the only synth the Argon should be compared with is the
still-in-production Waldorf Blofeld. They sound really similar. If you need a better interface
and a more hi-fi, refined sound - go with
the Argon. If you need a deeper engine for more fun and more vintage sound - take Blofeld. Had the price of Argon been
200 Euro more, I would say
the decision is a no-brainer in the favor of the Blofeld. But the Argon costs about 550 Euro, and for this price I think it's a
great deal and a nice addition for the shelves of today's synth shops and music
There are not many full-sized knobby synths out there for that price, and
the range and quality of the sounds you can get out of it make it worthwhile.
One of the Modal synths is called "skulpt". That would be a good moniker, because if you hang around with Modals, you become a sculptor. You
start with a chunk of stone and use your tools to carve an angel out of it. It
takes a little bit more time, but eventually bears very sweet & exotic fruit.