Review: Massive

Massive from Native Instruments is a powerful subtractive synthesizer with several wavetable oscillators, filters and advanced modulation. The drag-and-drop modulation make this synth very easy to use and one of my personal favorites for sound design.




Browser

The preset browser allows you to easily search for specific presets.

You can search for a specific preset name or use the browser to filter specific types and subtypes, e.g. "SynthPad - Long/Evolving" 

You can also mark presets as favorites to easily find them again.

Oscillators

Massive has 3 oscillators with an impressive list of wave forms to choose from:

  • 2 Virtual Analog wave forms
  • 25 Basic wave forms
  • 24 Analog/Electric
  • 29 Digital/Hybrid
  • 6 FX/Chords

There is also a noise generator with 12 different kind of noises.

Filters

Massive has to filters that can be used in either parallel or serial mode.

Beside the traditional lowpass/highpass filters there are several other useful filters:

  • Lowpass 4
  • Lowpass 2
  • Highpass 4
  • Highpass 2
  • Allpass
  • Double Notch
  • Bandpass
  • Bandreject
  • Scream
  • Daft
  • Comb
  • Acid

Modulation

Massive is one of my favorite synths when it comes to modulation - there are plenty of modulation source and nearly every parameter can be modulated. And best of all: It is very easy to use and understand! Modulation source and amount is displayed next to the buttons and sliders which gives you a visually clue about what is going on - I very much prefer this to the traditional modulation matrix of other synths!

Did you notice the yellow and green numbers below the Cutoff Frequency buttons in the image of the filter section - and also the green and yellow semi-circles around the buttons? These numbers and colors tell you that these buttons are being modulated by LFO number 5  also by macro control number 3, the semi-circles displays the amount of modulation from each source. 

The oscillators can be modulated using the Modulation Osc settings, that include Ring Modulation, Phase Modulation, Wavetable Position and Filter FM.

The oscillators can also be modulated using the LFO's, Stepper and Performer found on the OSC tab - and so can filters, effects, inserts etc.

The Stepper works kind of like a step sequencer - the Performer is similar but allow you to define your own curves instead of just steps.

Each LFO/Performer/Stepper contains two shapes - you can use the xFade Curve to fade from one shape to the other for added variation - this can be modulated by another modulation source or macro control.

Each LFO/Performer/Stepper can be synced i.e. the shape resets when pressing a new key on the keyboard or free running. Using a free running slow LFO for e.g. modulating a filter sweep can provide some very interesting dynamic and evolving sounds.

Massive uses a very intuitive drag-and-drop feature for assigning modulation: Every modulation source have a symbol which is a cross with arrow heads - click on this symbol and drag the mouse to the slider or button you want to modulate and release the mouse button. This will display the modulation source as a next to the modulation target. Click on this number and drag the mouse up or down to modify the amount of modulation. Massive will display the amount of modulation with a colored semi-circle around the button (or colored line next to a slider).

Effects

The effect section contains two effects and an EQ. There are 17 effects to chose from including reverbs, chorus, flanger, phaser, delay and tubes.

Inserts

Besides the effect section there are also two inserts that can be used for further effects or filtering:

  • Simple Delay
  • Sample & Hold
  • Bitcrusher
  • Frequency Shifter
  • HP LP Filter
  • Sine Shaper
  • Parabolic Shaper
  • Hardclipper

Routing

Using the Routing tab you can modify the inner workings of the synth engine

Voicing

Using the Voicing tab you turn Massive into a mono synth for thick lead or bass sounds or go polyphonic for beautiful pads or strings.

The Unisono Spread not only allow you to detune the unison voices but also use different wavetable position and spread them in stereo pan. Cool!

And everything here can of course be modulated  - just like anything else in Massive!

Verdict

I really love using Massive! It is one of the most user friendly synthesizers I have ever used - the interface is very intuitive and all the basic stuff are directly accessible while more advanced settings like the internal routing is just a tab page away. The browser makes it very easy to search for a specific preset and the macro controls are great for live performance.

I also like being able to use Massive as a standalone synthesizer - sometimes I do not want to load the entire DAW just to fool around with some fun sound design.

Most of the presets are quite good, some are really amazing.

There are so many ways to modulate the sound and so many wave forms to choose from that you can make almost any sound with this synthesizer. And the drag-and-drop feature makes it very fast and intuitive to modulate parameters!

I love that the LFO's can be synced or free-running - and be modulated by another LFO/Performer/Stepper

The only thing I really miss is a full blown step sequencer - the Stepper and Performer are quite powerful and can to some extent be used similar to a step sequencer, but I feel they are less user-friendly and lack some of the features I love in some other step sequencers.

All in all this is a synthesizer I can highly recommend - I use it myself for most of the songs I have been working on. I would however recommend buying it as part of the Komplete bundle as this will add a lot of other nice synthesizers and effects to your collection.

Price

If you buy certain Native Instruments hardware products e.g Komplete Kontrol S-series keyboards or Machine products, you will get Massive for free as part of the Komplete 11 Select bundle. Otherwise the price is currently 149€ (but consider buying Komplete 11 Select bundle for 199€ instead!). If money is not an issue I would recommend buying the Komplete 11 (599€) or Komplete 11 Ultimate (1199€) bundle instead as you get lots of high quality VST instruments and effects.

 

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