VSM v3: Instrument Overview

October 15, 2019
by GForce Software

In much the same way that we played a big part in the rediscovery of the mellotron sound, in 2007 we had a similar role in resurrecting the tones of a range of iconic string machines, including the Freeman String Symphonizer, Eminent 310 and Solina String Ensemble, and bringing them back into vogue with release of VSM. In 2014 the addition of the VSM Expansion Pack further expanded the range of available instruments and tones helping confirm VSM as the go-to instrument for this wonderful family of instruments.

While the likes of Sound On Sound magazine were signing the praises of VSM (“It sounds absolutely gorgeous.”) we felt it lacked one crucial component found on some of our favourite string ensembles, that being stereo playback.

Instruments such as the Solina String Ensemble and Roland’s wonderful 505 offered stereo outputs allowing their sublime, moving ensemble textures to sit perfectly within a wide stereo field. This one feature set such instruments apart highlighting just how stunning these, now ancient, analogue machines could sound.

VSM Version 3.0 rectifies this anomaly by providing stereo playback of a range of previously unreleased, carefully crafted stereo sounds-sets, two new interfaces sizes in two designs along with an additional LFO destination.

The modern, polyphonic string synthesizer was invented in 1970 by Ken Freeman, a British keyboard player and engineer who discovered that if you layered a note with another detuned and slightly modulated version of itself, a pleasant ‘chorused’ sound resulted.

Even though Ken’s invention wasn’t the first instrument of this genre to be commercially released (That honor fell to the Eminent organ company with their 310 Unique organ) there’s little doubt that Ken’s vision contributed immeasurably to electronic music over the next few decades in the guise of over 100+ different models that followed from a huge variety of manufacturers.

The VSM is an intuitive but highly powerful Virtual String Machine which affords the user many of the sounds from this genre of instrument, and contains a wealth of sounds from a small mountain of classic and rare string machines. These range from the first commercial string ensembles (Eminent 310 & Freeman String Symphonizer) through to the highly lauded Solina, Elka Rhapsody, Logan String Melody, Korg PE2000 and many more.

With the sheer amount of instruments captured within the VSM, it’s simplicity itself to recreate those golden string machine tones from yesteryear. However, with the VSM’s comprehensive, yet intuitive feature-set, plus a two-layer option it’s now possible to create your own hybrid instruments taking these sublime vintage tones into hitherto unchartered territory.

Inside Info

Despite Ken Freeman inventing the entire String Machine instrument genre, the first commercial String Ensemble was the Eminent 310. This was a effectively a String Ensemble section housed within an organ and while Jean Michel Jarre made great use of this on his landmark Oxygene album, let’s face it, lugging around an organ – even in the super-kitch 70s – didn’t exactly do much for a musicians’ credibility rating.

And Finally

Nonetheless, everyone wanted ‘that’ sound so enter the Solina String Ensemble, a dedicated String Machine made by none other than the aforementioned Eminent and shortly after release, re-badged as the ARP Solina.