P/Nes 8-Bit Monster is a powerful virtual chiptune instrument in VSTi plugin format, inspired by the Nintendo Entertainment System gaming console and designed for synthesizing a wide palette of 8-bit style arcade sounds.
Unlike most chiptune virtual instruments out there, the P/Nes 8-Bit Monster by JMT Musical Tools is a monster subtractive synthesizer in disguise. It features four oscillators, four modulation envelopes, a sequencer and an arpeggiator, three filter modules, frequency modulation, five different effect modules, and that’s just scratching the surface. Each of these sections comes with additional controls and modulation options which make P/Nes 8-Bit Lo-Fi Monster surprisingly versatile for a chiptune style synthesizer.
One of the drawbacks of having so many parameters on a single panel is the fact that P/Nes 8-Bit Monster comes with an absolutely HUGE user interface which actually couldn’t fit on my laptop screen (it’s wider than 1366 pixels, which is my screen’s maximum width). And even with such a huge interface, some of the GUI elements are almost too small to read. Still, I have to admit that I don’t mind this at all. This interface puts the entire synthesis engine at your fingertips and it’s easy to spend hours messing about with different parameters and coming up with new quirky sounds and 8-bit arcade noises. Also, the interface design is really beautiful (at least for pixel art lovers such as myself) and it comes with two different skins – classic grey skin and a darker one which is a bit easier on the eyes.
See also: Free Bitcrusher VST/AU Plugin Round-Up!
The second drawback of having such a large feature list is the fact that P/Nes 8-Bit Monster eats up quite a bit of CPU. The CPU hit with a single instance of the synthesizer was 24% on my Intel Core i3 3217U. It’s not too drastic (and you might be using a more powerful processor to power your DAW), but its definitely something to keep in mind before using P/Nes 8-Bit Monster is serious music projects. Perhaps the performance of a potential future version of the plugin could be optimized by disabling the modules which are not currently in use?
The actual sounds coming out of P/Nes 8-Bit Monster are surprisingly authentic. Of course, the NES sound chip (the chip is called Ricoh 2A03) didn’t have built-in delay and reverb effects, however the oscillators sound exactly like something you’d expect to hear in an old Nintendo game soundtrack. This is largely due to the built-in sampling rate reduction and bitcrushing controls available for each of the four oscillators, which are doing a fantastic job at making the waveforms sound wonderfully and authentically 8-bit.
The real beauty of P/Nes though, is the amount of modulation options and the freedom of choice given to the user. Almost every element of the synthesis engine can be modulated by the envelopes and controlled by note pitch, so you can go incredibly crazy with sound design if you wish to do so. The developer describes P/Nes as his “dream circuit-bent NES” and I have to agree that it’s the best possible description of this unique chiptune virtual instrument.
So what’s the bottom line here? Should you download this monster chiptune synth?
Well, if you’re going for simple Nintendo Entertainment System style sounds, then the legendary Magical 8bit Plug by YMCK is still the undisputed king of freeware 8-bit instruments. But if you don’t mind the high CPU hit and if you’re looking for power and versatility instead of simplicity, then P/Nes 8-Bit Lo-Fi Monster is absolutely worth checking out. I would also recommend it to all synth lovers out there who enjoy using complex virtual instruments and don’t mind spending some time with a plugin in order to learn the controls and fully grasp its workflow (by the way, the developer has provided a well-written user manual in PDF format which will definitely help if you can’t figure out how the synth works right away).
JMT Musical Tools has also released an incredibly complex freeware bitcrusher called IntelliCrusher. Apart from a wide variety of built-in effects, it also features a MIDI input which can be used to trigger the built-in modulation envelopes. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a powerful multi-effects unit to process your samples and virtual instruments.
Before you hit that download link, it’s also worth pointing out that P/Nes was made with SynthEdit, which means that it’s only available for 32-bit host applications running on Windows. It might work with jBridge or a similar application, but I haven’t tested that personally.
A special thank you goes out to BPB reader Ivano who sent me the link to this great freebie. I probably wouldn’t find out about it otherwise. Thanks for the support!
P/Nes 8-Bit Monster is available for free download via JMT Musical Tools (12.8 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit).