What is it? It's a hardware controller for Arturia's Analog Factory plugin, which emulates 7 classic vintage synths (Arp 2600, Mini Moog, Moog Modular, Prophet 5, Prophet VS, Jupiter 8, CS 80). £229 / $349. LINK
What's good? I love the idea - a piece of software made real.It's a great looking, great feeling little keyboard made in China by CME. The design ticks all the Music Thing boxes - it's (off) white, it has real wood end cheeks, a nice semi-weighted keyboard, really solid, heavy, all-metal chassis, 11 continuous knobs, 4 ADSR sliders (NICE TOUCH!) and a snapshot system pinched from the Nord G2. I like the idea of a tweakable preset machine, like a modern day Matrix 1000, but with 3,500 patches. On each preset, you can change the volume envelope (slightly frustrating if the filter envelope is fixed), the filter cutoff & resonance, LFO rate & amount, and four other pre-selected parameters. Arturia's emulations sound fantastic, though I'm not qualified enough to judge how accurate they are. The Arp sounds raw and clunky with a boingy spring reverb. The Prophet VS sounds gritty and digital. The Moog Modular sounds huge, etc. If you want to know about the software, Create Digital Music and Sound on Sound can help.
What's bad? Aaaaagh! It's software. Installing it had me typing a 32 digit number four or five times until it took. I installed it on my laptop, and it's now impossible to move to another PC, without (at least) contacting customer support and buying a Syncrosoft key for €14. Yes, if I'd paid £229 for it, rather than borrowing one to review, I'd have thought harder about where I installed it. But why should I have to? It's lame. For £250 you can buy a new XioSynth, MicroKorg, or Alesis Micron or a used Juno 6 or JP8000.
If you're a professional musician, or you're trying to get great sounds in a hurry, or you enjoy tidiness and efficiency, then Analog Factory is perfect. It's quick to use, far better sounding than those cheap hardware synths, and all your settings are saved automatically. If, like me, you're a no-talent tinkerer, who enjoys fiddling with gear and recording bits of music, then the Analog Factory Experience might be a disappointment. But that's just me. If you enjoy software synths, then there are a few relatively minor niggles. The keyboard will output midi, but the controller numbers are all fixed, so you'll have to teach other synths to understand it, rather than vice versa. And there's very audible stepping when you're tweaking some knobs, i.e when tweaking the cutoff frequency on a resonant filter.
So... If you get on with software synths, and you want a fantastically sexy little controller for a huge collection of great synth sounds, buy this now. If you want a sexy little synth, don't.