Rob Papen is a well known synth guru, and propably someone who has greatly influenced the sound preset market. There are tons of preset packs for all kinds of synthesizers out there that have been designed by him. Several years ago, he started developing software synthesisers and effects, and today we have a look to his latest synthesiser, RAW. The concept for RAW was born around 2014, when two DJs approached Rob with the idea of an easy-to-use synthesiser that focused more on distorted & gritty sounds.
Download and Installation
After purchase, you need to log in to the user section of the Rob Papen website, where you will find the installer and serial for RAW. After installation and your first usage of the plugin, you will be asked for the serial number and receive a computer ID, which you need to register again on the user section of Rob Papen website manually. You will then be given an activation code to paste in to the RAW installer. It sounds a little more complicated than it actually is, although I have to say that other developers have made this process more comfortable. Following activation, RAW is ready to use.
- Two oscillators, each with an X/Y field for modulation
- Sine, Saw, Square, Triangle, White Noise, and Pink Noise waveforms
- Two free drawable custom waveforms that can be used as LFOs or oscillator waveforms
- 28 filter types, two 3 band eq, waveshaper, 13 distortion algorithms, and lowfi effects are available to shape the sound per voice
- Chorus/Ensemble/Phaser/Flanger, stereo delay, gater, and reverb effect bus
- Customizable 16 step arpeggiator
- Easy page for easy editing
- Price Tag: $179
Usability & Sound
If you’re familiar with Rob Papen‘s other synthesisers, you might know that he has a predilection for high definition and fancy looking user interfaces, and this philosophy certainly carries over to RAW. However, I personally find the knobs and switches too small, and the interface is not scalable. In 2015, a time of large 27″ screens, I think that realism on knobs and sliders has passed now, and I urge Rob to rethink his user interface concept – or at least provide us with the possibility of scaling it.
Visual design aside, the signal flow is straight forward. From the oscillators to the filter, from there to the FX, and then to the output. If you are used to how synthesisers work, you will find nothing unknown on RAW. Having checked the enormous amount of presets, I loaded a default preset to try it out from scratch. The default sound is a normal sine wave, and with only OSC1 switched on, I dialed up the RAW knob, intended as phase distortion. And yes, you hear some very smooth harmonics come into play, and the boring sine wave turns into a nice nasty sawtooth-ish sounding wave. Moving unto the x/y field: a great feature is the ability to record the mouse movement on the field to modulate the phase distortion. After pressing “rec”, RAW will record each movement on the x/y pad, and after pressing “play”, it will play this back exactly, as you can see in this little video:
Another welcome feature is that you can draw your own waveform for each oscillator. This waveform can be used either as soundsource or as an LFO waveform:
Although you can’t really hear it in the videos, the sound of the waveforms is really high-end but also gritty, and this always depends on your settings. You can obtain a sharp razor tone out of RAW as simply as you can a smooth, smart, saturated sound. And while the available filter variations sound very smooth, I sometimes wish they could sound a bit more aggressive or act with more impact. I also get the feeling that in the lows and highs, the filter needs time to react. You would have to apply plenty of movement until you hear something:
The sound can be further shaped with two 3-band EQs. The first EQ (Pre) is placed before the distortion section, while the second EQ (Post) operates after it. Both EQs can work at the same time, with their own independent settings. The distortion section offers 13 different distortion algorithms, offering a wide variety of distortion possibilities. The waveshaper and lowfi section complete the soundshaping tools, enough to get some really nasty distorted sounds out of RAW.
RAW sounds like its name: dirty, distorted, raw. RAW is a specialist when it comes to these sounds, as you have at your fingertips all the tools you need for these kinds of sounds. I enjoy that the sound of RAW is equally dirty and high quality. Aside from that, my issue, as mentioned above, is the small size and non-scalability of the interface, something I hope Rob Papen can look further into.