How to use Softube’s Parallels

Parallels is Softube’s software synthesizer that merges great sounds with an intuitive user interface.

It embraces a novel “source waveform” synthesis approach, allowing the user to manipulate and combine high quality pre-recorded waveforms (captured from an array of vintage and unreleased hardware synths) via a simple but robust single-window GUI. In this blog post, let’s explore the main features of Parallels so that you can get the most out of this powerful synth.

Don’t have Parallels? Follow along with a free trial of the synth.

An overview of Parallels

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While other sophisticated synthesizers might contain endless menus, layers, and tabs, with Parallels, you’re able to see everything you need in one single window. There are four main sections to the plugin – the Source Section (the large Color knobs in the center and the parameters located to their left), the Mod Pod (the leftmost module), the Shaper Section (the two waveforms to the right of the Source Section), and the Effects Section (the rightmost module). Below, let’s take a look at each of these sections in some more detail.

The Source Section

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The Source Section is the heart of the instrument – expand the drop-down menu located next to the power button icons to select from nearly one hundred unique sounds, categorized by sonic character.

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The Color knob will update to reflect the waveform of the source you selected. When you hold down a note on your keyboard, you’ll see the dial on this knob begin to rotate along the waveform. Most of the sources will sonically evolve in interesting ways over time, shifting in their timbre, spectral balance, etc. Though many of these sources sound great as they are, there are multiple ways for you to customize them, even right within the Source Section. For example, you can change the COLOR, or the dial’s starting position along the waveform, by clicking and dragging the dial to a point of your choosing.

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You can also change the envelope, speed, and direction of the dial’s movement by adjusting the AMPLITUDE display and the ATTACK, DECAY, and AMOUNT meters to your liking.

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Once you have a source sound that you like, you can either run with it or blend it with a second source by using the second Color knob and the central MIX knob.

The Mod Pod

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The Modulation Pod, or Mod Pod for short, contains four different modulation slots that allow for one of five different modulator types: LFO (low frequency oscillator), RND (random modulation generator), EUD (Euclidean sequence generator), ENV (modulation envelope generator), and SEQ (Modulation sequence generator).

While LFOs, envelopes, and sequence generators are modulator types that are commonly found across soft synths, the random modulation generator and Euclidean sequence generator are unique to Parallels. The random modulation generator outputs bursts of random pulses at a defined rate, using a beautiful ‘rain’ visualization. The metaphor is extended by the STORM function, which uses a white noise source to create denser and more randomized bursts.

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The Euclidean sequence generator can be used to create a user-specified number of evenly distributed gates, represented as points along a circular visualization. The STEPS parameter determines the number of evenly distributed gates per bar (a value between 1 – 32), while the FILL parameter determines what percentage of the steps will be occupied by gates. For example, a 16 step sequence with a 25% fill will result in four evenly distributed gates.

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The Euclidean sequencer is always synced to the DAW’s tempo, allowing you to manipulate and layer them to create some interesting polyrhythms.

Once you have a modulator set to your liking, you can assign it to almost any parameter by clicking on it and specifying a modulation source – you can even create a blend between two modulation sources.

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The Shaper Section

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The Shaper Section uses Softube’s renowned filtering technology to allow you to get some really smooth, warm sounds. There are three shaper types you can choose from: an LPG (low pass gate), SVF (state variable filter), and RES (resonant peaks filter). Each filter type has its own set of associated controls – the low pass gate has SLEW, RESONANCE, and FREQUENCY parameters, the state variable filter has TYPE, RESONANCE, and FREQUENCY parameters, and the resonant peaks filter has TILT, SPREAD, and FREQUENCY parameters.

Things start to get interesting when any of these parameters are modulated by the Mod Pod – experiment to create some dynamic and evolving filters.

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The Effects Section

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Last but not least, we have the Effects Section. This module consists of five versatile effects: DISTORTION, CHORUS, FLANGER, DELAY, and REVERB. Each effect has two parameters in addition to a MIX knob that allows for parallel processing.

This section is fairly straightforward since it consists solely of staple effects, but its power cannot be emphasized enough – each module capitalizes on Softube’s long history of creating analog-sounding effects, and the simplified controls empower you to quickly arrive to some pretty neat sounds. And of course, each parameter can be modulated to create additional movement, too.

This concludes our introductory tour of Softube’s Parallels – hopefully this guide gives you the knowledge you need to embark on your own sonic exploration with the synth. If you have a question, leave it in the comments below.

Interested in giving Parallels a try? Rent-to-Own the synth on Splice for $9.99/mo.

June 11, 2019

Harrison Shimazu Harrison Shimazu is an editor of the Splice blog and a composer for video games and film.