Rob Papen RAW Software Synthesizer
By Russ Loeffler |
Expert Review: Rob Papen – RAW
By Russ Loeffler
I was recently looking to add new soundware to my home studio DAW (digital audio workstation) to increase the pallet of sounds for my home recording projects and had heard about the high quality soundware and effects products from Ron Papen. So, during the 2015 NAMM show I stopped by to meet Rob and he gave me a very impressive demo of his latest soundware, RAW. After the NAMM show, I download his latest, full product suite, Explorer III (eXplorer II reviewed by HC in 2013) with intention to review it for personal use. RAW is included in this powerful suite of synthesizers and effects.
Let’s start with some background on why Rob designed RAW. At the Dutch Dancefair 2014, a group of DJ’s approached Rob Papen with the idea of a synthesizer that focused more on 'distorted' sounds with an easy to use layout. Rob invited the DJs to his studio for a brainstorming session resulting in a list of 'must have' features and tools for a brand new synth. Armed with this list and several more brainstorming sessions later, Rob Papen and his development team created a powerful new virtual synth - RAW.
So, here are my confessions before beginning my review of RAW. I am not a DJ. My interest in synthesizers and sound modules began with 70’s prog rock and jazz fusion. Sounds from Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros are closer to my world of electronic music. My main instrument is guitar and I tend to think that the guitar player should “own” the overdriven and distorted sounds. Also, I was skeptical that I would be able to jump in and use this synthesizer in the way that Rob (the guy who designed the instrument) demo’d RAW.
Downloading RAW and opening it in my DAW (Presonus Pro) went without issue, I was up and running in no time at all. This synthesizer is much more than a distorted sound generator. There are great synthesizer sounds that are not distorted and the heart of the sound generators are top shelf. RAW has proven to be a very versatile and powerful tool for studio and composition. I could go into detail with all of the functions, but it would not be long before I was writing a technical manual. I suggest going to You Tube to find demos and tutorials of RAW. My review will focus on the applications for home studio use.
I have been working with RAW for about 20 hours and I still have not found the need to open the manual (but I will). I started with the 27 banks of sounds which yield hundreds of preset sounds. Many were DJ oriented, but there were also great sounds that could be used stock or tweaked for DAW composition projects. I broke the synthesizer grid down to these grids: Oscillotors (2), filter, amp, EQ, tone generator (wave shaper, distortion, and low-fi), arpegiator, wave shape, modulution, and two FX modules. I could spend hours learning about more each grid, but was able to drill down to sounds that I liked very quickly. Each of these “grids” has extensive controls and the sound quality is very high.
I found the arpeggiator very easy to use and a great rhythm tool. I was able to create some very cool rhythm patterns by using the ½ and 1/4 time modes along with the octave functions. Layering the some of the arpeggiated percussive sounds in RAW led to some impressive rhythm tracks. Layer some bass synths and other synth sounds and you will have a full backdrop for playing some distorted leads over the top.
Ultimately, the challenge for me was whether I would actually produce good distorted sounds from this synthesizer. This is a challenge for a guitar player who uses Guitar Rig on a limited basis leans heavily towards tube amps. I spent some time focusing on the waver shaper, distortion, and low-fi controls. My goal was to play some power chords with the distorted sounds and see if I could get the sound of an overdriven guitar. I kept tweaking until the sounds were good, but not what I would consider realistic guitar tones. Then I tried backing real guitar power chords with the RAW power chords and I came up with some big, stacked tones.
Overall, I was impressed enough that RAW has found its way as a preset track on my DAW. There are a lot interesting sound effects with RAW to supplement intros, endings, and breaks in songs. The distorted sounds are better than I have heard from other synthesizers without using an amp to achieve a full sound. The ability to effectively layer distorted sounds with overdriven guitar tracks earns a place in my recording tool bag.