Review: Xfer Records Serum
Wavetable synthesis isn’t a new concept: In the ’70s, synthesizers such as Wolfgang Palm’s PPG used digitally stored waveforms as lookup tables. With the capability of sweeping through the tables to produce animated sounds, you could create timbres that went beyond what most analog synthesizers of the time were capable of.
There have been numerous wavetable synthesizers in the software domain, most notably Steinberg’s version of the PPG, Arturia Prophet V, Native Instruments Massive, and MOTU MX4. Xfer Records’ entry into wavetable synthesis is Serum, which manages to combine great depth in programmability while maintaining an intuitive user interface. Serum is available as a download that includes AU, AAX, and VST plug-ins, and I tested it on my 2.93GHz, 8-core Mac Pro using OS X 10.9.5 with 14 GB of RAM.
Serum has four main windows: Osc, FX, Matrix, and Global. Osc tops off with sections for each of Serum’s four oscillators (two main oscillators, plus Sub and Noise). The Sub Oscillator serves up basic analog-style periodic waveforms, which you can transpose up or down by four octaves, so you are not restricted to sub-oscillator functions. You can send the oscillator directly to the output (bypassing filter and effects settings), set pan and level positions, or use it as a modulator for AM, FM, ring modulation, or sync functions.