Neural DSP has unveiled its latest – and quite possibly its most versatile – Archetype signature plugin suite yet.
Developed with Rabea Massaad, the Archetype: Rabea plugin not only features a typically comprehensive range of guitar amps, effects and EQ options – everything Massaad needs for his multifarious musical projects – but it has a fully functional world-class synth, too.
That’s right. Not a synth pedal, such as the Keeley Synth-1 that Massaad had typically stocks on his pedalboard, but an actual subtractive dual-oscillator monosynth that is operated by your electric guitar’s signal.
“As a fan and user of synthesizers, I have always dreamt about being able to play a synth with my guitar,” said Francisco Cresp, Neural DSP’s co-founder and CPO. “Before, you needed a guitar that was specially built for that purpose, a special pickup, or some other special hardware. For Archetype: Rabea, the challenge was to make a synth that works with any guitar.
“Your guitar signal becomes your ADSR, which triggers real oscillators. After that, your signal is a synthesizer with all the controls and flexibility one would expect from it. It’s transformative.”
It surely is. Massaad assures us that you could also attach a MIDI keyboard to your computer and control the synth that way, but who wants to go back to that once we are through the looking glass, right?
This is wholly unchartered territory for guitar players, and indeed for synth. The Archetype: Rabea allows us to apply our phrasing that comes from playing the guitar to synth, opening up a huge array of musical possibilities.
For many guitar players – Massaad included – synth held a fascination but one that could not quite be exploited fully while using a keyboard to activate it. With the manual dexterity that comes with playing guitar, all bets are off. Furthermore, there is a pre and post switch that allows you to send the synth through the various onboard effects.
There is a lot going on but, at first blush, the user experience looks intuitive enough that even the most analog of players can get to grips with it.
The synth’s sections are color-coded with the arpeggiator (it has an arpeggiator!) in red, the synth amp in purple, oscillators in teal and the filters laid out in green. And like the others in the series, there’s a three-dimensionality to the Archetype: Rabea’s design that makes it look very welcoming.
Elsewhere, there’s a lot going on. There are nine pedals in total, two of which have been designed just for the plugin. Massaad is a self-confessed reverb nut and so there is plenty to occupy yourself with here, with a sort of plate-esque reverb pedal with modulation that can freeze a sound – say a note, a chord or a drone – into an ambient pad that you can play over.
“You can even transpose it to create chord progressions or a bass line for improvisation or soloing,” says Cresp. “The delay is an analog delay emulation with cross-feed and icicles functions that give you all the dreamy delay sounds.”
But there are all kinds of tones to be had here. Other effects include overdrive, octaver, dual compressor, and fuzz pedals – some equipped with toggle switches for vintage/modern modes.
There are Clean, Rhythm and Lead amplifiers, with the latter two offering a toggle switch to swap between EL34 and 6L6 power tubes. Sure, you can do that with a tube amp too – but there’s no biasing or messing around here.
Between the three amps and the effects, you have a range of sounds that will pair well with all kinds of guitars. “While I wanted a plugin that was great for contemporary guitar sounds, I also wanted to be able to just plug in my Fender Strat and just chill and play the John Mayer-type stuff,” says Massaad.
There are also extensive CabSim and virtual mic options, a transposer and doubler, onboard metronome, and a four-band semi-parametric EQ for each of the three amps.
The Archetype: Rabea can be run inside your DAW or as a standalone application. It is priced €139 and is available now. See Neural DSP for more details.