Modal ARGON8 firmware 3.0: new filters, effects, and more, first look review

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Modal Electronics ARGON8 firmware 3.0 is out now: it adds new filters, tons of effects… here is a first look review of the new features

With the Argon8 series, Modal Electronics has been offering affordable polyphonic wavetable synthesizers since 2020. Equipped with 32 oscillators divided into 4 per voice and operable with two easy-to-use oscillator blocks. Followed by a multi-mode filter, three envelopes, two audio rate LFOs, a 3-slot effects engine, and a versatile polyphonic step sequencer.

In the last two years, there have been many small and also larger impressive updates. The highlight was the firmware update 2.0 in 2020 with MPE support, a poly-step sequencer, and more. The Argon8 wavetable journey continues today with firmware 3.0, another free major update for all three versions. I took a closer look at the update.

Modal Argon8 firmware 3.0 review

Modal ARGON8 Firmware 3.0

Let’s start with the core of the ARGON8 Synthesizer, the two wavetable oscillators. According to official information, no further wavetables have been added. Also, not the long-request wavetable import function. It remains with the fixed wavetables that can be morphed through.

However, the oscillators now come with a free run mode. This emulates the behavior of analog oscillators by letting them run freely. So basically the oscillators will not restart the waveform every time the synth receives a note-on event. It makes both oscillators sound a little less accurate and more organic.

The developers have also given the 32 oscillator voice architecture a vintage parameter. A currently very popular feature among synth developers. It emulates the slight fluctuations and differences in the response times and frequencies of the VCOs, filters, envelopes, and amps from voice to voice found in the vintage unit. Perfect for adding lovely old-school randomness for a more warm, organic, and alive character.

At minimum settings, you hardly notice the effect. From 50% and more, the effect becomes clearer and more present. You hear that something moves and that the frequencies are no longer digitally fixed. A nice addon for the Argon8 with which you can go more in the direction of virtual analog. But Modal didn’t stop there.

Modal Electronics Argon8

New Filters

Four new filter modes are added in firmware 3.0 to the previously available four modes of the 2-pole state variable filter. The first mode is a 4-pole resonant ladder filter with a pre-filter drive for extra juice. It can go from lowpass to bandpass to highpass. The exciting, as with the first, is the in-between results using morphing, which creates very special filter effects.

In practice, it behaves like a classic ladder filter. The level also drops at high resonance settings as you know it. A level boost would have been good here. This mode brings a nice soft sound to the ARGON8 which enables solid VA sounds. And with the additional pre-drive, adjustable via the distortion knob, you can tweak in a good portion of juice and character.

Modal Argon8 Firmware 3.0 filters

Then we can welcome a ladder hybrid mode consisting of an interesting 1-pole resonant lowpass filter with pre-drive. This time we travel from LP + notch to notch to HP+ notch. Here you meet some unusual filter effect that merges the smoothness of a ladder with phasing characteristics. Sounds very unique to me.

Did I say something about phasers? The third mode brings the whole thing, even more, to bear with a new ladder phaser mode. It’s another resonant ladder filter with pre-drive that morphs from notch to phaser.

A nice filter with which you can design special keys for example. Put an LFO with a medium-high rate and a high mod amount on the cutoff, and you get unique, swirling sound effects. Its strengths are definitely not in dampening the sound but in twisting the frequencies for a bunch of phasing filtering effects.

The fourth and last new filter mode is the Sallen Key (Korg MS-20, PWM Malevolent…). Here it’s a digital emulation but with the same characteristics. It is a 2-pole resonant filter with pre-drive and morphing from lowpass to bandpass. It can sound soft but also more aggressive by feeding it with a lot of volume. Then it starts to overdrive and shows his character. Another welcome expansion for the ARGON8 sound spectrum, this time with more dirty timbres. The filters enable many new sounds, especially with morphing you can dive deep into sound design.

15 New Effects

Modal has also given the Argon8 multi-fx section a major makeover. In numbers, this means 15 new effects algorithms, with 3 effects being completely renewed. It comes with monophonic as well as stereo effects. One of the most popular effects in synths are reverbs. The current Argon reverb was criticized by many users, myself included. The Modal developers followed up on this criticism and installed a new reverb v2 processor.

Argon8 firmware 3.0 reverb

I like the sound much better now. It has more assertiveness and sounds richer. It envelops the sound much more cloud-like than the first reverb. A downer is that it takes up two effects slots, so you can only use the reverb plus another effect. Could be a DSP limitation but not sure. Also new are new versions of the phaser and chorus. These v2 effects also sound much more solid and rounder. I wonder if the chorus is based on the Cobalt8 code. He sounds a lot like it in a good way.

If you like it more aggressively and wild, you can now work with 4 new drive algorithms available in mono and stereo: hard clip, soft clip, rectify and fold. Yes, the effects go really well with the ARGON8. They’re a lot of fun. Combine a sound with the new Sallen Key filter and the drive rectify and you get a sound from hell.

Argon8 firmware 3.0 effects overdrive distortions

The drive based on wave folding also harmonizes beautifully with the wavetables. This can send any existing sound in a new direction. Not the softest but those full of harmonics. You will love it. The soft clip algorithm is a bit gentler, where you can give your patch a nice warmth with moderate values.

The same downer (reverb), however, applies to the stereo drive algos. These take two FX slots, which means you are a bit more limited when building the sounds. But okay, they sound fuller and richer in stereo.

Unisioniser and Finalizer Effects

Further, you get a unisoniser effect that emulates the sonic characteristics of a unison sound. Perfect for adding depth and width to your sounds without applying unison to your oscillator.

 Argon8 firmware 3.0 compressor

There are also new finalizer effects consisting of a compressor, a three-band EQ, and a utility block. The latter gives you additional gain, pan, and width options, a bass enhancer, and a low-cut filter. In summary, the effects section of the ARGON8 has grown massively. The quality of the effects has developed positively. I really like the new overdrives/distortions that unlock new sonic doors for the Modal wavetable synth.

New Arpeggiator Modes

Last but not least, the Modal Electronics developers have given the ARGON8 in the firmware 3.0 seven new arpeggiator directions, including chord and six new pendulum modes. These are also a lot of fun and expand the arpeggiator that lives in the shadow of the poly-step sequencer to shine in new splendor.

A sound demo of the new features will be coming very soon.



The new firmware 3.0 is a major update for the ARGON8. It improves some weaknesses (reverb, output volume…) and significantly expands its engine of it. It’s an impressive update with which Modal gives its customers a great gift. A bit of pity that there is still no option to import/export wavetables. But hope dies last, let’s see what the ARGON8 future will bring.

Modal ARGON8 firmware update 3.0 is available now as a free update for existing customers. It is compatible with all three versions.

More information here: Modal Electronics

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1 Comment

  1. Bought an argon8x after seeing this release and hearing the vintage option, and seeing how many patches are already available for free (1283 at time of writing). So many good sounds, and if you make your own it is hard to get a bad sound out of this box. VA sounds are also convincing, dial a small amount of distortion and this thing roars with punchy notes. Even some of the Rhodes patches are well prepared, but in 40+ years of playing with synths I have never come across such an assertive machine. Really it does a lot and it sounds great, yet easy to use. The ModalApp if well designed too, and perfect companion for immediate visual overview. At this price point it is unbeatable

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