Hexeract, a software synth for filmmakers as much as for musicians

Auddict’s €200 Hexeract was built using HISE, the open source framework for sample based instruments. Hexeract is available as a VST/AU/AAX plug-in and is also a standalone application for Windows or Mac. It has full support for MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) with full modulation capabilities and triggers. This allowed me to put an Artiphon Instrument 1 to full use, but you can also use a ROLI or Expressive-E controller or keyboard and assign Hexeract parameters to various MPE gestures, such as slides, glides, aftertouch, etc, complete with curves of how deep the gesture will affect the parameter.

The synth itself is fully equipped and, although it doesn’t offer the mind-blowing number of controls and options Alchemy has, the sounds you can create with it are at least as rich, fat, aggressive or delicate. Hexeract is built around three oscillators and a set of about 120 sampled instruments. It also offers the standard oscillator waveforms to create your sound. It has three filter modules — 6dB LP, 6dB HP, 12dB LP, 12dB HP, 24dB LP, notch, 12dB BP, comb and ring-modulation — that include a resolution control.

The synth has three LFO’s that you can use for Frequency Modulation (FM), Amplitude Modulation (AM) and cutoff FM by connecting them with the corresponding controls in a Matrix or (the most often used ones) directly in the Oscillators UI. In addition, it has three sequencers that can be step sequencers or custom curves, three extra envelopes, midi CC, velocity and a random settings control.

You can set up Hexeract as a mono or polyphonic synthesiser or as an arpeggiator and each oscillator can have up to eight unison voices that can be spread in a stereo field and that you can detune. To use all modules with eight voices and multiple effects turned on and up, you must be prepared to use quite a bit of CPU power. However, on my 2017 Retina 5K, 27in iMac with 40GB of RAM, I only started experiencing audible distortion from six voices per module with all effects activated and several modules interconnected. In other words, Hexeract is well-behaved and instantly usable on lower-end Macs, with high-end Macs, of course, benefiting from the extra power but not dramatically.

Effects that I tried include FM synthesis with each oscillator, the modulated wave shape turned on and at least two FX modules active per oscillator — whether that be Chorus, Degrader, Delay, EQ, Overdrive, Phaser, Reverb, Saturator, or Stereo Enhancer. I didn’t turn on master dynamics — there’s a compressor and limiter, a parametric EQ and convolution reverb — nor master FX, because, by then, it was clear to me that this synth can easily compete with the Alchemys and Falcons of this world.

As another example, the Arpeggiator has up to 32 steps, with “wait” function, octave shift, six modes of order-reshuffle, per-step transposing capability, division select, tempo select with sync and gate as well as velocity sliders, and finally swing. In addition, you can use MIDI Routing on the arpeggiator, so that it applies to individual oscillators instead of all of them together.

Hexeract also has a modulation-capable wave-shaping module that allows you to turn otherwise dull or smooth audio bits into highly energetic or downright frantic sounds. The module includes an oversampling capability to avoid distortion as well.

On its website, Auddict states it’s very difficult to get a software synth to sound like something real and natural. The idea with Hexeract certainly has been to take the “synthetic” out of the resulting sound while still enabling you to create that unique rich, “fat” sound synths are typically capable of. For example, the reverb module that’s available in the Master module, uses a pre-recorded audio sample of the impulse response of a physical space — in other words, it’s a convolution reverb just like Apple’s Space Designer is.

I would say Auddict’s aim at creating a synth that can produce realistic sounds — even when they’re other-worldly or Sci-Fi — has largely been met and has been combined with great user-friendliness. Hexeract invites to experiment and makes that a joy to do.