Strobe has been a permanent fixture in my VST collection for several years, and the sequel expands on it in a number of ways and also changes some of the architecture.

At its core, Strobe was a single oscillator synthesizer with extensive modulation and unison capabilities. Its “Transmod” system allowed almost arbitrary modulation set-ups, with a vast interconnected series of dependencies which could, among other things, create complex unison sounds by altering each individual voice or modulation amount based on its number. It was groundbreaking when it came out, with a visual editing and assignment style which has caught on and influenced the design of many VST instruments. Coupled with a level of analog modelling that was very realistic, it was and still is a must-have synth.

Morphing With The Times

So what does the sequel, Strobe2, bring to the table? The most notable and marketable addition this time is the ability to hold and morph between eight patches within one instance of the plugin. This was the feature that had me reading the pre-release thread at KVR with baited breath, because frequently I find myself building synthesizer parts from multiple synths to give different notes different expressions and possibilities. This is a common trend in electronic music these days – to give an ubiquitous example, dubstep basslines often have different LFO rates for their filter or FM amounts on different notes, and switch in different waveforms and filters, etc. This was usually done by sampling a synth while tweaking it, and then cutting out the interesting modulations and sequencing the samples, or by using more than one instance of the synth with different settings, or by the use of clever effects chains and/or automation.

See also: Dmitry Sches Tantra Review

Just as the original Strobe was on the leading edge of synths offering assignable, visual and arbitrary modulations based on any parameter including unison depth, Strobe2 is among the first wave of synths offering extensive and arbitrary patch morphing. One can make a morphing sound by applying the modulation wheel to many parameters in a regular synth, but this method is limited, and only goes from A to B and back. Similarly, some morphing synths, such as the excellent freeware synth MassTurboTar (yes, that’s really what it’s called!) offered clever ways to linearly morph between 5 or so patches, but they were confined to linear morphing. You couldn’t skip from C to A, then from A to E.

Morphing in Strobe2 can go from any of the eight patch snapshots to any other one, interpolating all parameters over the desired duration in real-time, including the modulation settings and any complexities that may arise with their interactions.

The morphing is not 100% continuous. If you listen carefully to a very slow morph designed to highlight the issue, you can hear it takes place over lots of tiny steps. Not a big deal in normal usage, but worth mentioning perhaps. In fact, I’d like to see a feature to enhance this steppiness to create more “computery” morphs with a quantized, chiptune aesthetic – perhaps in time with the beat.

Once a patch has been morphed to, you can scrub back and fourth between the patches, or move onto a new morph with a new morph time. Some care is best taken in designing patches to morph – changing effects and filter types will create discontinuities on parameters that are choices and not values. No real way around that for now, so something to bear in mind. Thankfully, copying and generally managing the eight snapshots is made easy by dedicated tools in the GUI.

New Inside, New Outside

All of this talk and we haven’t even touched on sound architecture yet! It just goes to show that sometimes, all the desirable sound generators in the world mean very little without innovative modulation!

Architecture-wise, it is similar to its predecessor, with a few new features and changes. The sub-oscillators in Strobe were based on a divide-down, phase-locked architecture, allowing layering of many octave and wave-shape configurations to create new, stable complex waveforms. The sub-oscillators in Strobe2 are their own thing, so the phases of the “sub” and “main” groups of oscillators can drift from note to note; although the “link” parameter counteracts this somewhat. “Link” can also decide if you’d like to include the sub-oscillator array (which consists of a sine, triangle, variable pulse and sawtooth waveform at any volume and sub-octave) in the in-oscillator unison. Excluding the subs from unison spread allows them to create a firm, steady bass response without the beating and phase cancellation – a smart option.

Another noteworthy feature in the oscillator section is the waveshaper, which pushes the result of the added sub-oscillator waveforms through a wavefolder, sometimes known as fold-back distortion… plus tone controls on both sets of oscillators for removing bass or treble gently before mixing them both together.

Further Renovations

Also revamped is the LFO, which now has its own sub-LFO, too, which is phase locked to it and can put out any waveform at any ratio compared to the main LFO. Coupled with the symmetry and swing options, this allows countless LFO shapes to be conjured and mixed around, which is great for “novelty” sounds, strange vibratos, soundscapes and special FX. It’s also what we Brits would have once termed “jolly good fun!”. The Transmod system is very specific, allowing you to tap either the main or sub-LFO, or mixtures of both. This detailed level of choice extends through the entire synth’s modulation vocabulary.

The single filter is, just as its predecessor, very flexible with lots of different combined filter modes, allowing many different colours of sound. I believe it’s been re-written, along with the oscillators, to provide better analog emulation at a lower CPU cost. That said, it can be easy to punish the computer when all of these tempting goodies are employed at once and in large quantity!

The GUI has also been revamped, but I’m not crazy about it. I preferred the old style, but in its defence, it’s plainer, better laid out, and is re-sizeable. It’s just a bit flat and grey for my tastes.


Strobe2 is a huge synth, built upon another huge synth, and its extensive features such as the patch randomiser, the amazing tricks you can do with the Transmod system, the Euclid XY pads that let you modulate based on coordinates and angles, the all-new suite of effects… Obviously it’s too much for this review.

What makes Strobe2 relevant today is its potential for endless morphing and patch switching within one instance. If you create music with complicated synthesizer parts that change around a lot, in other words, modern dance music in general, you need to check it out!

More info: Strobe2 ($179)

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FXpansion Strobe2 Review


What makes Strobe2 relevant today is its potential for endless morphing and patch switching within one instance. If you create music with complicated synthesizer parts that change around a lot, in other words, modern dance music in general, you need to check it out!

  • Features
  • Workflow
  • Stability
  • Design
  • Sound
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About Author

Sendy has been making music in her bedroom since she was 14 using computers, synthesizers, samplers, and whatever else was at hand. She does not subscribe to any one genre but enjoys energetic, constantly changing rhythms, disorienting synthesizer manipulations, and heroic chiptune melodics.

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