The Master Mixer window also allows compression and FX (reverb, delay and chorus) to be applied to the individual layers, still from within the plugin. Although it’s nice to have the option, the majority of users might well prefer to do this within their DAW, especially since LuSH-101 does not work as a standalone application.
The plugin comes with a huge number of presets, ranging from the more traditional-sounding synth strings, drum hits and simple arpeggiator patterns to huge split-zone, multi-layered pads and effects. Whether you’re a fan of presets or not, the potential to mix and match up to 8 of them at once means they certainly shouldn’t be seen as cheating or lacking in creativity.
The following audio clip demonstrates a short soundscape made using a custom of four individual presets (or ‘Timbres’ as D16 call them) spread across the entire keyboard:
Layered 2 is a multi-zone preset containing a number of layers across various keyboard splits:
The vast capabilities and huge sound of LuSH-101 do, however, come at a price: a fairly unforgiving use of CPU. While some of this could be overcome by bouncing or freezing regions while you work, more modestly equipped systems will certainly struggle to cope with multi-layered patches and increased voicings, which unfortunately are the main areas in which LuSH-101 really excels.
As well as visual waveform analysis, a variety of audio demos and helpful tutorial videos to get you started using the plugin, D16’s product page also contains a timeline detailing intended future improvements and updates. Pro Tools users will be glad to see a forthcoming RTAS version (the synth’s currently only available as a VST or AU), while further updates are set to include additions to effects inserts, further LFO options and improved visual aesthetics.
Overall, LuSH-101 sounds fantastic. Although D16’s bold assertion that it’s “the only synthesiser you need” may be a slight exaggeration, it’s impossible to deny the huge sonic potential and versatility on offer here. Being so heavily inspired by the SH-101, it obviously caters well for all the classic 101 staples: rubbery techno basslines, acidic arps and mono leads, among others. But the polyphony, voicings, effects and layers make it hugely capable of creating evolving soundscapes and otherworldly FX and pads.
There aren’t many weaknesses, but one notable omission is the sequencer found on the original keyboard. Sequencers are very rarely integrated into synth emulations, but occasional exceptions like Arturia’s Oberheim SEM-V show that it can be done. The 101’s step sequencer is such an integral part of the synth’s appeal, and the ability to program a pattern of notes in step time then retrigger them with the LFO or an external trigger input is one of my favourite features of the 101. It’d be great to see something similar in software form, with sync options to match the tempo of your project or even to trigger from an audio signal via a sidechain input.
Perhaps most importantly, as well as sounding excellent, LuSH-101 really is a lot of fun to play with. So much so, in fact, that choosing which audio examples to use and then keeping them below half a minute long was often a genuine struggle. It’s great that we finally have a good SH-101 emulation on the market, and even better that it adds so many excellent features to make the sound even more versatile.
The Final Word
The SH-101 emulation we've been waiting for, plus plenty of added features to keep things interesting.