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XILS-Lab Oxium 1.0
By Jason D. Buchwald


  WIHO Award - Wish I Had One!  
             
 

Features  Usability  Sound  Documentation & Product Support  Price
Contact Info  Overall Rating—Product Summary
Other Comments

 

 
             
             
    XILS-Lab Oxium Soft-Synth


   
   

XILS-Lab may not be a household name yet among synth lovers, but founder Xavier Oudin previously worked for Digigram and Arturia, so we were intrigued by the first soft synth his company sent us to review, Oxium. We’re happy to report that this soft synth delivers music to our ears.

Oxium runs as a plugin within most DAWs (no standalone version yet), is easy to use, and sounds great. Based on analog modeling, it has a small disk space footprint, is CPU friendly, and offers a wide palette of sounds ranging from bread and butter timbres to funky, 32-step sequences. Many of the sounds were great starting points for getting our creative juices flowing. In some respects, Oxium is like a hybrid of Digidesign’s Xpand2 and Arturia’s Analog Experience. But make no mistake: these sounds are not “me too.” There’s a lot of new sonic real estate here, all under user control. But if you still need vintage synth sounds, you can dial those in, too.

We think Oxium is a winner.


Features


4 Stars

First things first: The startup default skin of the synth is orange. While that was fine with us, it might be much for some. If that’s you, there is an alternate skin you can use which turns the synth grey (with similar white/black labeling).

Some of the included features, as per the XILS-Labs website, are:

  • Two analog modeled oscillators per voice. PWM for all waveforms (Saw, Triangle, Pulse and Square). You can mix up to eight waveforms together per voice in a single patch, and a unison mode may contain up to six voices. One patch can ultimately contain up to twelve oscillators, resulting in some complex sound design. There’s also a Glide/Portamento mode for each oscillator, and Hard Sync and Ring modulation between oscillators.
  • Filters with self-resonance for all modes (LP 24/12, BP6/12, HP), additional second filter to choose between Formant Filter, LP , BP, HP with emphasis or articulation parameter.
  • Three freely assignable DsyncADSR envelopes.
  • Three Multiwaveforms LFOs with Mono/Poly mode, MIDI syncable, Delay, Fade in, and note re-trig parameters.
  • A “Le Masque” controller modulator, with 16 freely drawable zones (masks). Each mask has two Level parameters, can trigger envelopes, or be envelope controlled, the grid has vertical and horizontal snap modes.
  • Central Modulation Environment: Six freely assignable pairs of source/target parameters, three additional pre-wired pairs for common musical gestures (Vibrato, Tremolo, Autowah), six hardwired slots for real-time controllers (Mod Wheel, Pitch Bend, Aftertouch, Breath Controller). All parameters are MIDI Controllable.
  • PolyMono Arpeggiator, with fully configurable note order, Gate, and Swing parameters.
  • Stereo Delay with CrossFeedback and Damp feedback, Vintage Chorus, Phaser, and Double EQ.

The controls are separated into three sections, as shown in Figure 1 [have main screen labeled fig 1]. The left side of the control panel is where the oscillators and filters are located; this is where you choose, for example, a saw wave or a square wave. Below this are settings for your filters, and there are three LFO’s to choose from. Below this are graphical representations of sliders for the analog filter and formant filter. One neat setting is a “drift” knob: anyone who has tried to use, for example, an old Oberheim OB-xa synth knows that drift is part of the sound, so it’s kind of cool you can purposely add some imperfections to your sound, adding some realism to a modeled analog synth.

The top right section has three labels that toggle between LFO and Envelope (containing ADSR settings for your envelopes), Grid (a graphical sequencer grid for arpeggiator settings), and Modulation (which has controls for your three LFOs).

The bottom section toggles between Keyboard (showing a graphic of a keyboard to audition sounds with a mouse), Effects (including controls for chorus, delay, phaser, and equalizer), and Information (which provides information about the sound creation path for the sound you are currently using). As mentioned earlier, the value of the knobs are shown in black and white; parameters can be changed with a mouse and/or keyboard.

Finally, Oxium comes with 250 presets, and the top of the screen is where the preset selection is made (as well as where patches can be saved). The presets are organized by type (arpeggio, bass, pad, lead, etc.), Style (club, feeling, project, author, etc.), and Preset Name. Switching patches was smooth and seamless, probably due to the fact there are no large sample libraries to load.

One last thing to note: Oxium is currently only available as a plugin (VST, RTAS, AU) in both 32- and 64-bit formats. Unfortunately, it is not available (yet) as a standalone synth.


Usability

3_5 Stars


We used Oxium on our Apple Mac Pro eight-core, Pro Tools LE 8.0.5 system. Installation and registering was easy and without any problems. Many will be happy to know that there is no iLok or dongle needed: just a serial code to authorize and you’re done.

One of Oxium’s strengths is that you can tweak the sounds as little or as much as you want. The presets are actually quite good, and you can easily find use for many of them in your tracks. For those who want to get down and dirty, there are plenty of knobs and sliders to keep you busy and happy. While there is a small learning curve to figure out where all the controls are located, once you’re used to the layout it is pretty easy to navigate around.

There’s also, as mentioned earlier, a wide variety of presets, and they are easy to navigate. As there is the ability to import and export banks of sounds, it is possible to swap banks of sound with your fellow musicians, and it wouldn’t surprise us if XILS-Labs themselves create additional banks of sounds in the future.


Sound

3_5 Stars


We didn’t know what to expect, as we hadn’t heard much about Oxium until its arrival. However, Oxium is not likely to stay a secret for long. The sounds themselves are thick and very usable in many applications. Overall, the sound engine seems to be well designed, and we never experienced any hiccups while using Oxium.

We wanted to check out the arpeggiator right away. Starting with the presets, we selected the “arpeggio” and “club” categories, and were given a list to choose from. We tried “Mainframe Reply KF” and got sucked right in. This percolating, rhythmic pattern was one we liked so much, it ended up making it onto a track we were in the mist of producing for a popular artist. This sound would work well on upbeat tracks needing some driving texture to them.

Remember the classic Oberheim “Jump” sound? Well, if you must have it, try the preset, “80’s Brass T.” It has a little too much delay on it to be true to EVH, but one click on the effects section turns the delay effect Off (or you can just change the dry/wet ratio). This sound also works well for Van Halen’s “Love Comes Walking In.” Another cool patch is “Pro One Sweep T.” Great vintage synth sound.

But enough about how old our editors are. Moving back to the present, the effects and synth categories are truly great, and fun just to cycle through to try out. Big synths, hits, sweeps, percolating pad textures, and even ambient movie tracks sounds are all there. You will find classic sounds alongside newer material, and many of the categories even include Dub Step as a style choice.

Overall, the sounds were warm and big (unless you purposely make them otherwise).

Most of all, many of the sounds are inspiring and had us recording with Oxium right away. That is perhaps one of the biggest compliments we can bestow.


Documentation and Product Support


3.5 Stars


We did not get a paper manual, as we downloaded the product from the XILS-Labs website. However, the manual is available for download in PDF format, and it was highly useful. As always, we encourage reading product documentation since some things may not be obvious enough to figure out at first glance.


Price

3.5 Stars


The RTAS/AU/VST version sells direct for $129. It is a versatile analog-modeled synth that can sound as classic or modern as you need. With great presets, easy editing (with a little practice), and a useful arpeggiator, Oxium should find a happy place in many studios. And once there’s a standalone version, it may see even greater use on stage in live performance!


Contact Information

XILS-Lab
www.xils-lab.com

Overall Rating - Product Summary
   
   
Category Value Rating
Features 20% 4 Stars
Usability 25% 3_5 Stars
Sound 25% 3_5 Stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 Stars
Price 20% 3_5 Stars

OVERALL RATING = 3.6, which earns it a WIHO award!

3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
 
  Evaluation Short-List
 
  • Arturia Analog Experience
  • AAS Ultra Analog VA-1
   
   

 

   
             
             
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