XILS-lab Breathes Life Into Prototyped EMS VCS4 Analog Matrix Modular Synthesizer

Music software company XILS-lab is proud to announce availability of XILS 4 — an authentic software emulation of the legendary VCS4, a ‘dual VCS3′ analogue matrix modular synthesizer prototyped by EMS back in 1969, but never commercially released.

EMS (Electronic Music Studios), a British company founded by the pioneering Peter Zinovieff, made musical history in 1969 with its introduction of the VCS3, the first portable synthesizer commercially available anywhere in the world.

Its innovative modular matrix-based patch-board dispensed with the telephone exchange-like cabling of other (much larger) modular systems in favor of making connections with (removable) colored pins, so it could be comfortably housed in a small wooden (solid afrormosia) cabinet.

The history of the EMS VCS3 is well documented with XILS-lab later playing its part in resurrecting its still-sought-after sound with its cost-conscious and award-winning XILS 3 software emulation for Mac (OS X 10.4 and above) and PC (Windows 7, Vista, and XP) proving popular with both first-time buyers and also seasoned synth explorers including Richard Devine, Tim Blake (Hawkwind), and even Peter Zinovieff.

The 1969-vintage VCS4 was EMS designer David Cockerell’s so-called ‘Live Performance Module’, comprising two VCS3s side by side, together with a five-octave keyboard, a mixer, and a signal-processing unit, all housed in a single wooden cabinet. Only one prototype was ever produced.

By being based on two intricate and interacting VCS3 (‘Synthi’) cores — XILS-lab’s XILS 4 favourably emulates EMS’ VCS4. Indeed, those two cores can be set to work side by side or operate in serial (with one feeding the other).

Each and every module on one side can be used to modulate or feed anything on the other side with stunning sound possibilities plus weird and wonderful effects readily available in abundance as a direct result.

That said, XILS 4 shows its true 21st Century colors by also allowing amount settings to be individually applied to each patch ‘pin’. Providing patch-board power par excellence to an already special soft synth shows that there is clearly so much more to XILS 4 than solely emulating vintage hardware — rare as the vintage hardware in question clearly is.

Little wonder, then, that XILS 4 is billed by its creator as being the ultimate analog matrix modular synthesizer.

XILS-lab has sought to take things several steps further still by coupling those cores with the SEQUENCER 256 module, inspired by EMS’ trailblazing Synthi Sequencer 256 namesake.

Needless to say, this three-layer sequencer with analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters to enable digital processing of control voltages to drive multiple analogue synthesizers or multiple parameters with storage of up to 256 ‘events’ was well ahead of its time when released in 1971.

Here in the virtual world, XILS-lab has well and truly transported it to the present day with three independent layers, slew rates, and recording modes, together with added abilities like sequencer layers acting as modulation sources in a dedicated SEQ MATRIX — matchless, even by today’s most sophisticated DAW standards!

The addition of a second ‘pin matrix’, two additional envelopes, an LFO, comprehensive SAMPLE AND HOLD module, and VOLTAGE PROCESSOR, plus several new input modules — including GATE, ENVELOPE FOLLOWER, and PITCH TRACKER — means that there are hundreds of additional connections available to the discerning synthesist set on exploring XILS 4 to the full.

The fact that there are over 1,140 possible connections per patch makes for a literal lifetime of programming possibilities that will surely far outlast the host computer concerned, though those in need of a helping hand have easy access to almost 700 professionally-programmed presets from world-renowned sound designers, including the complete XILS 3 factory library and over 350 presets specifically designed for XILS 4.

A selection of tutorial-style patches are also available to help users seeking to take their first tentative steps towards scaling the heady heights of this mountainous modular monster of a soft synth.

Simply put, with a whole host of modules and associated far-reaching functionality — for starters, 12 aliasing-free oscillators, grouped in six pairs with wave-shaping and hard sync — yesteryear’s impossibilities have become today’s possibilities with XILS 4… a great step forward for modular synthesis software.

XILS 4 is available to purchase as an eLicenser or iLok copy-protected virtual instrument and effects plug-in for an introductory discounted price of €149.00 EUR (rising to €179.00 EUR on June 17, 2014) from the XILS-lab web store. Note that this time-limited offer also includes the XILISTICS sound bank with 160-plus presets worth €25.00 EUR, plus a free USB-eLicenser copy-protection dongle.

XILS 3 owners can upgrade to XILS 4 for an introductory price of €29.00 EUR (rising to €49.00 EUR on June 17, 2014).

XILS 4 can be directly downloaded as a 32- and 64-bit-compatible virtual instrument and effects plug-in for Mac (AAX, AU, RTAS, VST) and Windows (AAX, RTAS, VST) from here: http://www.xils-lab.com/pages/XILS4_Download.html

Check out several informative XILS 4 tutorial videos at http://www.xils-lab.com/pages/XILS4_Videos.html.

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