Presto has released Acolyte, a freeware monophonic virtual synthesizer in 32-bit VST plugin format for Windows, modeled after the Yamaha CS-01 hardware synth.
Acolyte copies most of Yamaha CS01’s functionality, including its VCO section with oscillator shape, PWM speed, glide, and pitch controls, the VCF section with cutoff, resonance, and modulation controls, as well as the EG and LFO sections. Much like its hardware counterpart, Acolyte is an extremely streamlined synthesizer that can serve as a great learning tool for users interested in understanding the basics of subtractive synthesis. It comes with all the features required for programming basic bass, lead, and SFX patches, yet doesn’t confuse newcomers with any of the advanced stuff.
One thing that sets the hardware CS01 apart from Acolyte, though, is the fact that it’s an analog synthesizer with a surprisingly nice sounding filter and oscillator. Presto’s freeware emulation doesn’t attempt to emulate CS01’s sound character in high detail, delivering a pretty bland VA sound we get from most SynthMaker or SynthEdit creations. On the other hand, purchasing the Yamaha CS-01 online can set you back a few hundred bucks nowadays, so grabbing Acolyte instead is an infinitely cheaper option. And to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the way Acolyte sounds – it’s a fun little virtual instrument and it definitely captures some of the charm of the real thing. I’d love to see a dark grey GUI instead of the bright red one that the developer opted for in this case, but that’s just a matter of personal taste.
If, however, you want a simple freeware synthesizer with a more interesting sound character, I’d highly recommend checking out the excellent (and still one of my favorite freeware plugins ever) Charlatan by Blaukraut Engineering. It’s a simple virtual synth done right, delivering an easy to use interface and some great sounding oscillators and filters on the side. One step further in the complexity department would be Tyrell N6, the undisputed champion of the freeware virtual analog synth world.
Acolyte is available for free download via Presto (54.6 KB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VST plugin format for Windows).