Illustration: Ronin Wood
Xfer Records’ Serum is a wavetable synthesizer with a visual and creative workflow that allows you to design a wide array of sounds.
That said, its versatility can be expanded even further by combining it with powerful FX plugins that introduce unique possibilities.
All of the Serum presets only use the oscillators and envelopes / LFOs – none of the Serum FX modules are used. You can check out how all of the presets sound here:
Serum arp with Toraverb 2 (reverb)
This preset uses two saw-based waveforms, set one octave apart. The volume envelope has very short attack and decay times to create a staccato sound. The other crucial part of this preset is the LFO (with the rate set to one bar) that slowly morphs the waveforms using the ASYM – Warp Mode.
Here’s the Serum arp without Toraverb 2:
Toraverb 2 has a ton of lush sounding presets that will instantly add atmosphere to your sounds. With tight control over early / late reflections and left-right / mid-side controls, Toraverb 2 allows you to sculpt the reverb tail with meticulous detail. In this specific preset, the Ducking feature came in handy to attenuate the reverb when the original signal is present.
Here’s the Serum arp with Toraverb 2:
Serum pluck with Tekturon (delay)
Serum has an amazing unison engine (supporting up to 16 unison voices per oscillator) that sets it apart from other software synths. In this preset, the volume envelope again has low attack and decay times to produce the short staccato sound of a string pluck. The main characteristic of this sound is the harmonically rich wavetable, MMDResonantChord5Hi, paired with the brighter wavetable, PWM Juno. By using Unison on both oscillators, the pluck instantly sounds bigger.
Here’s the Serum pluck without Tekutron:
Tekturon features 16 delay lines that are arranged in sequence, with each delay line containing individual parameters for Volume, Delay, Feedback, Panning, Spread, Filter Type, Cutoff, and Resonance. This allows for tons of delay variations and some creative applications not found in most delays (especially by changing the Filter Type on different steps). Another great feature is the Time Grid, which allows tempo-synced or time-based delays. In this preset, Tekturon’s the parameter is set to 1/64, creating a really fast bubbly sound, almost like a stutter effect.
Here’s the Serum pluck with Tekutron:
Serum saw chords with Devastator 2 (distortion)
This is the simplest preset in this post, using just one oscillator with a saw wavetable and the Unison set to 5. The envelope has a slightly longer decay time, and the most characteristic part is the release time. With a short attack and decay but longer release, the synth becomes ‘pointed’ while sustaining a full sound.
Here’s the Serum saw chords without Devastator 2:
Devastor 2 is a multiband distortion effect, meaning it can apply different amounts of distortion to three independent frequency bands. This is very useful because in many cases, distortion will sound best when it isn’t applied equally to all frequencies. Devastor 2 also has a handy Signal Routing parameter that will quickly toggle between different signal routing setups. By toggling through these different routings, one can achieve a wide variety of distortion timbres. In this preset, we’ve dialed in the distortion to be louder in the mids, and the highest band has the lightest distortion. This allows the saw chords to have a strong body without offending our ears too much in the higher frequencies.
Here’s the Serum saw chords with Devastator 2:
Serum 808 with Decimort 2 (bitcrusher)
Sine-based waveforms are great for sub bass, but a pure sine wave can be underwhelming and may not provide enough support in different parts of the frequency spectrum. In this preset, we used the FFT_Add_2nds wavetable, which starts with a pure sine wave but also adds in every odd harmonic (1, 3, 5, 7 etc…). By modulating the wavetable ever so slightly, we can add a little of the third harmonic to create a beefy sub bass.
Here’s the Serum 808 without Decimort 2:
Decimort 2 is a high quality bitcrusher that will add the perfect amount of grit to your tracks. It has a main Resampler knob which controls the frequency of the discretization (the bitcrushed signal) as well as a separate multi-mode filter that can be applied pre / post signal. Since we’re bitcrushing a low frequency 808, a high pass filter can be used to cut off the lowest frequencies and keep the bass clean. Decimort 2’s Dry / Wet knob is a great way to add different amounts of distortion – in this case, the signal is mostly dry to avoid a super-distorted sound.
Here’s the Serum 808 with Decimort 2:
Serum pad with Antresol (flanger)
When creating textured pads, it can be good to use contrasting wavetables. In this preset, we’re using one wavetable from the Vowel category and one wavetable from the Basic Shapes category. By mapping an envelope to the wavetable position and enabling the Mirror warp mode, we’re able to add a little motion to the onset of the pad sound.
Here’s the Serum pad without Antresol:
Antresol is a stereo flanger that emulates the classic stomp box from the Mistress series. It uses a BBD (Bucket Brigade Device) time delay line to create the classic flanger sound. The heart of Antresol is the True BBD module, which allows control over the buffer size, frequency, and BBD algorithm. There are also options to unlink the L/R channels for the offset, rate, and depth parameters. In this preset, we’ve unlinked the left and right Offset parameters to create contrast between our two channels. This gives the pad a unique shimmer and tremolo-like effect.
Here’s the Serum Pad with Antresol:
We hope you found this exploration of Serum and D16 plugins’ combinational possibilities useful! If you don’t have the D16 FX Bundle yet, grab the powerful collection of plugins for $7.99/mo.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
April 6, 2018