Review: Tone2 Electra2

We’ve reviewed quite a few of Tone2’s products, (link to reviews for Nemesis, and Saurus,) and for the most part, they are great tools. Each bring their own flavor to the table and fit right into almost any style of music. So when we were given the chance to peek under the hood and kick the tires of Electra2, we jumped at the opportunity.
Electra2 is the second incarnation of Tone2’s ElectraX, a multi-layer software synthesizer with countless features. It comes in VST and AU varieties but is still leaving out the Pro Tools crowd. Installation is a breeze and authorizing comes to you via a t2k file that Tone2 generates. Simply open the t2k file from the plugin window upon opening for the first time, and you’re ready to go. It is worth noting that Electra2 is backwards compatible with its successor and overwrites ElectraX upon installation. This is great for loading old patches from sessions into the new versions but it would be nice to be allowed to run both sessions. Although only a few people online complained about a difference in sounds between old presets, this could just be isolated cases but if this is of any concern, make sure and print the tracks before upgrading for comparison.
The interface is very sleek and laid out to accommodate the sometimes daunting task of sound design in a manner that is much more user friendly than most soft synths of this caliber. Each section flows into another, allowing you to quickly make changes where you see fit. If you’re just into browsing the 1200 professional quality presets, the interface can be scaled down to a smaller “rack view” to save precious monitor real estate. The browser is extremely easy to use and divided up into sections for quick reference.  While in rack view, you are also given a few other controls such as volume, mod wheel, 3 band EQ, and Master effects. You can also shop for new sound banks and browse the help menu from the 3 tabs just above the EQ. These controls are great if you are looking to “set and forget” but the real magic happens when you expand Electra2 into editor view.
The editor view gives you a choice of 4 different tabs of “layers” that you can either edit individually or globally by using the Multilayer Edit Mode. Each layer has its own multi-timbral synthesizer and can incorporate many of their 14 different types of synthesis, including Tone2’s own Fractal Synthesis. On top of being able to choose multiple forms of synthesis across the 4 layers, Electra2 allows you to choose from different play modes per layer such as monophonic, polyphonic, glide, and legato. Arpeggiators can be set per layer as well for all out melodic bliss. Layers can then be saved as presets and combined to form global presets for all 4 layers as well. It’s like inception for synthesis. As an added visual bonus, Electra2’s individual layers are 4 different colors, making it easy to determine just which layer you are editing. All of this is tied together with an onscreen keyboard for quick testing of your presets.
If the multiple layers isn’t enough for you, Electra2 is packed with effects galore. You have an arsenal of 10 reverbs, 4 delay types, 12 mod effects, vocoder, EQ, amp simulator, and compression; giving you up to 32 different types of effects that are worthy to be inserts on your DAW. Don’t believe me? Go pick up a trial of Tone2’s UltraSpace. On top of the effects, you also have different single and multimode distortions and up to 37 different types of filters, most of which can self-oscillate. A great deal of them you can only find with Tone2. Stack all 14 of the different synthesis types, with a smart and easy to use arpeggiator with autochords, pitch slides, legato, swing-shuffle and matrix integration and you have limitless possibilities with sound design. Even your modulations can be set to BPM for more movement to your already evolving patches. You can even set up use Electra2 as a vocoder and sample based synthesizer.
Sampling can be a bit of a pain at times with synthesizers but Tone2 has a great wizard that pretty much does all of the work for you. Electra2 will import, tune your samples, as well as suggest loop points. Add in the effects for sampling and you can mangle your own voice to the point where it is unrecognizable. The Quick Import Vocoder can also guide you painlessly through setting up Electra2 as a vocoder. Once your samples are tweaked to the point of your liking, they are saved as FXPs so that you’re not having to hunt down your greatest creation. The sky is the limit with Electra2.
In operation, I found Electra2 to be very stable and was able to use many instances of the soft synth without any repercussions on my DSP. The interface is very inviting and even though I am not the best with sound design, I was able to create some pretty nice patches. One of the great things about all Tone2 products is the sheer quality of the presets they make in house, many of them needing little to no processing in your tracks. They just fit to the point that you don’t feel the need to make your own.
I did find myself wanting more effects per layer and a few times found patches to sound different upon opening them again. I did a couple of tests with the same patch on two separate tracks but could not repeat this phenomenon every time. Usually just closing the session in my DAW fixed it. Other than that, I’ve found that Electra2 has become one of the synths that has helped my tracks stand out and took my productions up a level. It truly is a one stop shop for synthesis if you’re looking to sound ahead of the game. Bravo to Tone2 for another desert island soft-synth.
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