Should I Buy It? – Kilohearts Phase Plant Review
In this edition of ‘Should I Buy It?’ Yeuda takes on the behemoth plugin Phase Plant made by Kilohearts. Phase Plant is a modular synth that includes a huge variety of sound generators, effects, and modulation flexibility. It’s almost too much to describe with words, which is why we made a video covering it. Watch below, and read the breakdown below that.
The interface initializes empty as you have to add your own modules in the provided three sections. Overall it’s a clean look, easy to navigate and strongly serves the signal flow it was designed for. We love that it is scalable vertically and horizontally, it’s 2019 and that should be a standard in plugins by now.
Functionally, it actually seems similar to Ableton instrument racks in that you can stack sound generators, assign macros to multiple parameters at a time, and blend their outputs together. That makes it even more comfortable to work in if you are using Live as your DAW. However, Phase Plant goes above and beyond with the ability to create groups that contain sound generators within the generator section. You can even route the sound generators into each other before sending them to the effects lanes.
Let’s go over the different sections, their strengths, and their weaknesses (if any). The image above shows what an average patch may look like. Refer to the numbers on the image above for the descriptions below:
1. Patch Browser
Up top is where you can select, save, and load patches. Click the current patch name and you’ll be able to switch using the preset browser. The preset browser operates using a folder structure which is easy to follow and find what you may be looking for. it can be a bit laggy which is not a huge deal.
There are also individual buttons for undo, redo, and a button that will clear the current patch back to default (empty). The clear button has no warning box so be careful of your mouse placement and clicking habits. That seems like an easy fix for something that has the potential to really ruin your day.
These eight knobs are the macro knobs. You can assign these to any of the parameters in Phase Plant, and they can be assigned to multiple parameters at a time. Each additional parameter will add another orange circle to the outside of the Macro knob.
The large section below the macros and to the left is the generator area. There is no built-in limit to the number of modules you can add here, only the processing limitations on your CPU. The developers did a great job on making these modules lean, Yeuda just kept adding and adding them in and they worked.
The Wavetable Synth module has its own Wavetable editor. The editor is very visual and pretty flexible. You get a mini-preview of the wavetable, it’s frequency spectrum and the harmonics.
4. Effects Lanes
The next large section to the right contains your three effect lanes. These lanes can hold a huge number of effects (again only limited by your CPU). Each Lane has independent output routing so you could route then into each other sequentially, or send them to the master. One setting worth your attention is the Poly button. Activating this will enable the effects in the lane to be applied to each voice in your plugin. That will draw loads of CPU because it’s an insanely powerful feature. Woah.
Look below to the wide section where you’ll find your modulation section. Add LFOs, Envelopes, and some MIDI effects as well. There seems to be no end to the amount of modulation you can perform in this plugin, so buckle up for a sound design space journey. You can draw custom shapes in the Envelope modulators, that makes for some extra special sauce.
6. Piano Roll
The piano at the bottom is a nice feature, it will highlight the incoming MIDI notes. You can also click on the keyboard to play notes, we guess that’s useful in some way.
We almost gave this the highest rating we could, but there were a few things we wish were present. Don’t get it twisted though, everything we wish it had would simply be the icing on the cake. Phase Plant is without question one of the most insanely powerful and capable synthesizers on the market, and easily worth every penny.