After falling head-over-heels in love with D16 Group’s incredible Sigmund delay, I thought I would jump at the opportunity to curl up with another amazing plugin from the same developer. LuSH-101 made a pretty big splash back in 2012, especially within the EDM community. There are some big names I could drop who’ve made use of it within the last three years, but this is a review not a popularity contest, so I’ll just give you the facts. I’ll begin with the most unavoidable one…

LuSH-101 is an unabashed CPU glut – but don’t despair – Multi-core support is available in the Settings menu, which will lighten the load substantially. However, Multi-core support isn’t going to perform miracles, but on my outdated notebook, I’ve found that it frees up at least twenty percent of my overall processing capacity, which makes a noticeable difference… not huge, but noticeable. This is a special kind of monster. It’s not something you’ll be using in large projects with tons of instruments and effects scattered throughout your mixing console. LuSH-101 will not play nice with the other kids. It wants a hundred percent of your undivided attention. The good news is that it’s very deserving of it.

The Review

Based on the Roland SH-101 released in 1982, LuSH-101 is actually eight synths in one, with a dedicated channel strip for each layer and three global effects with their own channel strips in the Master Mixer view. Considering how broad in scope it is, you might become more forgiving of its high demand on your system resources. An entire track can be made with just a few presets, and the multi-out functionality gives you the ability to route each layer to a separate mixer channel within your host application when it’s time for those finishing touches before rendering to audio.

Within the Source Mixer section, there are four volume faders for the Saw, Square and Sub oscillators, and a Noise generator with three basic colors: white, pink and brown. The Sawtooth oscillator has a built-in Supersaw engine with “Detune” and “Amount” faders. I’m not entirely certain how many stacked voices are under the hood, but there are some pros and cons in regard to using Supersaw mode in place of unison. The good news is that Supersaw mode is much easier on CPU. The not-so-good news is that Supersaw mode has no panning displacement for each voice in the stereo field, but you can use two unison voices and pan them apart with the “Pan Spread” knob in the Unison section to feign the desired effect, or maybe use a second layer in Supersaw mode, then pan the two layers apart to get that big, wide sound we all know and love. In some ways, I actually prefer this method to regular unison.

However, if you want to create some really aggressive bass and lead sounds, up to sixteen unison voices are available in the Voices section, but you must also take into account that unison is reliant on polyphony. For instance, if you have two unison voices, then polyphony can be no greater than sixteen voices, having used up all thirty-two notes. If you exceed the maximum polyphony, the red LED display will start blinking, which means you should either reduce the number of unison or polyphonic voices.

I ran LuSH-101’s output through a signal analyzer just to see what’s going on with the oscillators. I noticed that the Saw Wave oscillator begins its cycle at zero phase and travels upward to positive one, then to negative one and back to zero. Modern saw waves are usually just the opposite, beginning their cycle at positive one, etc. There’s a slight logarithmic curvature in the upward moving slope, which is also true with the Pulse Wave oscillator’s cycle from peak phase. I’ve never seen waveforms quite like these; although, something tells me that if I had owned the original SH-101 back in 1982, I probably would have.

In the Filter section, we have the usual suspects: lowpass, bandpass and highpass, with fader switches for both envelopes and LFOs, applying their output as a modulation source to the filter frequency cutoff. Also, there’s a keytracking fader that will attenuate the frequency cutoff in accordance with MIDI note pitch, and a separate frequency cutoff fader specific to the highpass filter. But the real magic happens when you switch from “Normal” to “SH-101” mode, being a more faithful emulation of vintage analogue circuitry, which is especially evident when the filter is self-oscillating.

The envelopes and LFOs don’t feature anything we haven’t seen before in virtual analogue synths of “emu” variety, but that’s the beauty of LuSH-101’s intuitive control surface. Everything is pretty much where you expect it to be. However, I was surprised by the preset browsers in the Arpeggio/Gater, Reverb and Delay modules, and also within the Timbre section, which is where you can save presets for each individual layer, unlike the preset browser in the top bar, which will save presets applied to all eight layers. Each layer will be represented by a color key with a corresponding keyzone of the same color in the keyboard display within the Global Preset Browser, and the “Learn” button within the Layer Settings will let you map a keyzone by simply pressing the keys manually.

Not only do we have three global effects at our disposal (Reverb, Chorus and Delay) within the Master Mixer section, but we also have eight Insert Effects available in the Synthesis section for each layer, those being Chorus, Flanger, Ensemble, Phaser, Vowel Filter, Distortion, Decimator, and Tremolo. The (formant) Vowel Filter is especially cool, with a “Vowel Position” fader that will morph between vowels (AEIOU).

The virtual Pitch Bender and Mod Wheel are a nice touch, especially for people without a proper MIDI controller. Also, the Pitch Bender can be used as a bipolar mod wheel (in this instance for the filter) if you turn down the “VCO” fader in the “Bender” section, set the filter frequency to wherever you think the zero-position should be, and then turn the “VCF” fader all the way up. If you’re not totally satisfied with the Mod Wheel settings available in the Synthesis section, you can program more specific settings in the Modulation Matrix, wherein you can route several MIDI control signals to a handsome variety of targets. It would be nice to be able to route native modulation sources to these targets, although considering how true to the original SH-101 both the interface and the internal architecture is, I can just imagine how complicated that would make things, not just for the developers, but for the user as well.

The Verdict

This is no toy. LuSH-101 was made by qualified engineers for professional musicians. Of course, you don’t need to be a “professional” to use it, but the CPU hit is no laughing matter, so I definitely recommend it for use on a capable system with a dual-socket motherboard or perhaps an external audio processor. I can just imagine what this thing would sound like when firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, this budget PC user doesn’t have that luxury, so I must use it sparingly. That being said, pleasant results are achievable within just one of its eight layers. It’s similar to owning a Ferrari. You’re not going to drive to work at two-hundred-twenty miles per hour. It’s just nice to know that you could… if you had to.

The sound quality is quite possibly the closest to analog I’ve ever heard. I might even boast that LuSH-101 is “more analog than analog”. The oscillators are crisp and clear, the filter has a special character I’m sure Roland SH-101 purists are looking for, and the unison engine is a savage beast. You could easily produce entire albums with nothing but LuSH-101, as I’m sure a good number of talented producers already have. It’s perfect for composing Goa Trance and Deep House, although I’m certain you can use it for anything your little heart desires, and even though it might punch your CPU in the gut, it’s still totally worth the hit.

More info: LuSH-101 (€149)

LuSH-101 Review


The sound quality is quite possibly the closest to analog I’ve ever heard. I might even boast that LuSH-101 is “more analog than analog”. The oscillators are crisp and clear, the filter has a special character I’m sure Roland SH-101 purists are looking for, and the unison engine is a savage beast.

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About Author

Bryan Lake is a sound designer and a musician. He publishes sound design tutorials and sound libraries on his website Sound Author.

1 Comment

  1. I have the LuSH 101 myself. Havent really tried out its full capabilities yet, but after this review i’ll certainly do that. :)

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