Rhythmic Robot Jennings Review

This month, our new software reviewer Bobby Cole, got a chance to try out the latest VST from Rhythmic Robot called “Jennings“.

From their website:

Jennings is a meticulously faithful recreation of one of the very first synthesisers, the valve-based Jennings Univox. The Univox was designed in 1946 by Derek Underdown and Tom Jennings, who went on to create Vox amplifiers and define the guitar sound of a generation. It was manufactured in the 50s and 60s along the same lines as its contemporary, the Clavioline, as a gigging keyboard for bands to use to supplement the basic acoustic piano that most pubs and clubs offered. To this end it was designed with portability in mind: it had its own onboard amplification, and packed into its own suitcase for transport, while the keyboard portion of the synth was detachable and designed to fit just under and in front of a piano keyboard.

Installation

Jennings is not really an instrument that you install as such. Getting it up and running in Cubase was a matter of minutes. Simply unzip the folder, and drag it to wherever you keep your samples and VST instruments. Once all of the zip folders contents are in there you are pretty much ready to rock. Simply open up your sequencer of choice, create a new instrument channel set to Kontakt, navigate to the folder and your done! I found Installation extremely easy. If you don’t have the Kontakt sampler then a free version can be found on the Native Instruments website. The folder is not too big (1.4gb in total) so won’t take up too much space!

Patches

The initial patches that you get are seperated into Bass, Keys, Lead, Pad and synth. A quick play through each patch and I found that the volume jumped around a little bit. Not a major problem really, but its always nice to have each patch levelled out, or at least set to the same level.

I personally would have loved more patches. Whilst its nice to spend time crafting a unique and original sound, in my line of work I like to work fast. Once I have an idea for a song, I usually wrap it up within a few hours, so don’t like to spend time shaping and crafting each sound. It would have been great to have maybe twice as many patches as the initial list.

Having said that, there are a good selection. Not loads, but enough to get you started, and enough for you to experience the sound of the Jennings. Personal favourites include –

Keys – Retro EP
This sounds like a weird blend between a Wurlitzer 200A Electric piano, and a Hohner D6 Clavinet. It has the playability of a keyboard style instrument, but also with a little bit of bight. Running through songs like ‘Superstition’ on it worked perfectly, but then also playing some Beatles style songs on it also worked really well. I’m sure this preset is going to make it into my compositions. It has a lovely raw edge. Its dirtier than some of the other keyboard sounds on the market, and really feels like your playing an old instrument.

Keys – Thick Organ
A great preset that does justice to its name! A very thick sounding organ. Again, very warm and vintage sound. This is certainly the one to go to for that 50s / 60’s style organ sound. I also write a lot of Horror music, so a lovely dirty organ sound like this is going to work wonders on some of my scary songs!

All of the bass patches are very playable. I don’t make a lot of dance music, but this synth could work wonders in all forms of electronic music, from hard house to dubstep. The bass patches have a powerful raw feel about them, and could really give your tracks a dirtier edge in the low frequencies!

Jennings can faithfully recreate the sounds of long ago, but is also very much at home when contributing to electronic music. I like the versatility of this instrument, and I know that it will find a home in various genres of music.

Interface

The interface is separated into 3 clear sections. I won’t bore you with what each function does, but here is a brief overview –

Front panel includes all your main envelopes, filters, tab rocker switches, oscillator controls. This is the main place to shape your instruments sound, and you can have a lot of fun creating your own patches by modifying the oscillators and filters.

Effects is fairly obvious! This includes chorus, phaser, delay and rotary. The rotary is my favourite. The sound is lovely and ‘wide’, and really makes you feel the leslie rotating around! The last effect is cabinet emulation, and helps shape your sound through a range of 60s and 70s amp cabinets.

The best part here was assigning my modulation wheel to the fast/slow switch of the leslie rotary speaker. When you play through an original Hammond B3 organ hooked up to a Leslie speaker, you can control the rotary speaker (which is a horn connected to a motor that spins it around) with a fast / slow switch. This is what gives the sound a lovely warm vibrato style feel. On an original Leslie speaker, the horn takes a little while to ‘ramp’ up to full speed, and this is what I love about this particular effect on the Jennings. Other leslie emulations I have used let the speed of the rotary ramp up way too quickly, whilst in reality, it takes a little while for the horn to get up to full speed. This is something that this instrument has got spot on. It was lovely to play an organ emulation where the Leslie part took time to ramp up to full speed!

Rear Panel includes some master controls for the attack curve, the speed of the tremolo, the stereo width, and a master switch for the modulation control.

What I really loved about the interface is that when you hover over any control, a short description pops up at the bottom. If you just like clicking everything and listening to the results then go ahead. But if you like to know exactly what you are doing, and what it is doing to the patch, then a very clear overview of what each button does is available.

Sound

Having owned vintage and rare equipment over the years (1965 Vox AC30, Hohner Pianet T, Hammond Organ, e.t.c.), I feel I have a good idea about what a vintage instrument should sound like. The sound quality for this instrument is excellent. A real raw and warm sound, with many of the patches having a ‘thick’ feel that will give your compositions an edge.

One thing that I instantly LOVED about the synth is the RR button that is in the middle of the interface. This button disables any controls that are not original features on the machine. This makes it perfect to authentically re create the sound, so don’t be put off by all of the extras that have been added. If your looking for that original Jennings sound then it is also available at the press of a button.

 

Conclusion

When the email came in from Emmett to review a piece of ‘retro vintage’ synth based software I was over the moon. I LOVE anything that is retro and smells like my Grandma’s house, so I was intrigued with this piece of software, and whether the company were able to create a truly ‘vintage’ sound that is warm and slightly ‘dirty’.

I found the Jennings instrument very easy to use, with a great initial set of patches. Each preset was crafted with care and attention, and there is plenty of sounds that will work well in a range of genres, including retro 50s and 60s style music, all varieties of electronic music, and horror / thriller music.

Written by: Bobby Cole

Bobby Cole is a professional music composer from the UK. He blends orchestral and electronic elements creating evocative, epic and dramatic music. He composes for film & TV,and has composed music for MTV, DC Comics, Hell's Kitchen, History Network, National Geographic Channel, Cartoon Network and many more.

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