Tracktion F.’em, A Quad-Timbral Jump Into FM Synthesis With 11 Operators

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Tracktion today released its long-awaited monster FM Synthesizer plugin F,’em, a powerful hybrid quad-timbral instrument with 11 fully-editable operators

FM synthesizers made their comeback in 2020. Whether hardware or software, there have been a lot of new FM-based releases. It is noticeable that the developers are trying to break the curse of classic FM synthesizers by making them simpler but also much more flexible. Away from the classic DX-7 design to new concepts with new waveforms, filters, etc.

A nice example is the Korg opsix that I reviewed. I takes FM synthesis to the next level by making it more user-friendly but also more versatile. With a little delay, Tracktion is now getting on board as well. F.’em, a multi-timbral FM Synthesizer plugin, was already teased at NAMM 2020. Now it’s there and yes the name is a little off, to be honest. And it’s not just Google’s view.

Tracktion F em

Tracktion F.’em Synthesizer

The developer of the plugin is not unknown to many. Wolfgram Franke, ex Waldorf developer, and designer of the Stroke Machine Groovebox (iPad) is responsible for this new monster FM synth. F.’em, yes a strange name, is a hybrid quad-timbral Synthesizer that can act as an FM, VA, and sample-based instrument. They are going the same way as Korg. Not only classic FM sounds but also VA etc. The synthesis engine consists of four layers, each powered by a massive FM matrix and four effects slots.

The FM matrix is the heart of the plugin. Here you can craft your own algorithms using up to 11 operators with no fixed algorithms. Thus you can feed any wave operator into any other wave operator forward and backward. There are three types of operators available: waveforms (sine, VA, or other specific waveforms), multi-sampled operators, or noise.

Each operator can be frequency modulated in their own way. In the waveform operator, you also get hard-sync which means in the case of no operator relationship, the plugin can also act as a VA synth. So pure FM, VA, or sample-based patches are possible, or a colorful mix, which is much more exciting.

Of course, each operator has its own pitch and level LFO and its own pitch and level envelope. Without this flexibility, it wouldn’t be an FM synth. Then, it incorporates two filters with an overdrive stage, freely routable in series, parallel, or anything in-between. Filters in FM are now common and are nice tools that make FM synthesis even more flexible.

Deep Modulation

In addition to the usual modulations in the operators, F.’em also has modulators for the entire engine. 2 flow LFOs with freely editable shapes, multiple tempo-synced, loopable envelopes with up to 32 stages, randomizers, X/Y pads… give you enough space for complex movements. All of these are directed and managed by a modulation matrix with up to 32 200 entries and a modifier matrix up to 32 mod algorithms. Further, you have keyboard level scaling for each operator.

Numerous patches from well-known sound designers are available for direct play fun, all neatly sorted in a patch browser. Here a little appetizer.

The interface follows the design language of the last Tracktion plugins. Personally, I really like them, including this one. Everything is very easy to read, not over stylish.

From the first few videos, it’s hard to say how deep F.’em goes into FM synthesis. But the feature set promises a lot. The possibility to combine FM, VA, and sample-based content sounds very exciting. It is definitely not a DX-7 emulation, it is a synthesizer that advances FM synthesis.

Tracktion F.’em is available now for an introductory price of $107,40 USD instead of $179 USD. It runs as a 64-bit only plugin on macOS, Windows & Linux. A free trial version is available to download from the official website.

More information here: Tracktion 

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