Tyrell N6 is a legendary freeware plugin by u-he. Is it still one of the best FREE synths available?
I’m a big u-he fan; the Berlin-based company has delivered some of the best freeware and commercial synth and effects plugins for over 20 years.
Right off the back of discussing Beatzille, the Beat magazine exclusive freebie, we’re looking at another u-he gem, Tyrell N6.
Tyrell N6 is a longtime addition to our best free synth VST list, so in this blast from the past, we’ll look at some of the things that helped it earn its place.
A little Tyrell N6 history
I’ll keep this short, as many of you will know the Tyrell N6 origin story well. Tyrell N6 is exclusively available via the German magazine Amazona. It began as a concept for an affordable hardware synth drawing on ideas from a reader survey and community forum.
The intended design was very similar to Roland’s Juno 60, making it quite an exciting prospect.
While the dream of building the dream hardware synth didn’t materialize, u-he stepped in to develop the concept into the epic freeware softsynth we have today.
Besides being free, another thing that makes the Tyrell N6 ideal for users of all levels is that it’s straightforward to use and understand.
It starts with two continuously variable oscillators, the first offering Sine, Triangle, Sawtooth, and Pulse waveforms, the second offering just Sine and Pulse.
As the oscillators are continuously variable, we can morph smoothly from one shape to another or set ourselves anywhere in between. Oscillator 2 has Tune and Fine-tune controls, allowing you to create subtle pitch variation between oscillators for that classic analog sound (or be drastic; no one’s stopping you).
You can really fatten things up by using the Mixer to introduce a Sub oscillator set an octave below oscillator 1.
The Mixer also features Noise (continuously variable between white and red), Ring Modulation, and Feedback.
If you get on the Init patch and listen to the basic Sin/Saw etc., I think they sound incredible, especially for a free synth. It’s also a good way for beginners to get used to identifying familiar synth tones and learn how to build complex soundscapes from scratch.
Additionally, you will find the Oscillator Mod section to the left of the interface.
The filter and Tyrell N6 features
Tyrell N6 has a self-oscillating, multi-mode filter (HP, LP, BP) with three slopes: 12 dB/24 dB/36 dB per octave. The filter has Cutoff, Resonance, Mix-spread (between HP and LP), Keyfollow sliders, two modulation sources, and corresponding modulation amount knobs.
With both oscillators down, the self-oscillating filter can produce ghostly drones with some help from the VCA Envelope and perhaps some Noise and Ring modulation.
Despite being labelled a “compact, sporty synth” by u-he, Tyrell N6 provides much to discuss. However, since this is a relatively short-form post, I will apply the 80s montage rule to most remaining features:
- Two host-syncable LFOs with eight waveforms.
- Unison up to eight voices (near here, you’ll find the Drift On/Off button that I love because it mimics analog inconsistency).
- Two analog-type, loopable/LFO-triggered ADSR envelopes.
- Modulation matrix
- Juno-style Chorus effect with three modes
All of this comes in a skinnable, resizable GUI (70-200%) with almost 600 presets. Presets are easily found in the clever preset browser.
Anyone who reads my posts will know that I reference 80s movies without invitation (or legitimate reason). But, this time, I have an excuse because the name Tyrell comes from the iconic 80s sci-fi movie Blade Runner.
To most soundtrack buffs, Vangelis’ Blade Runner score is a masterpiece. Much of that score came from the Yamaha CS-80, but the Tyrell name still indicates what this Juno-inspired plugin does best. Of course, you’ll also need a reverb plugin to recreate the Blade Runner sound.
Tyrell N6 verdict
Tyrell N6 does synth-wave, 80s Pop, and most other things well, but it’s a monster for epic, spacious, cinematic, ethereal soundscapes à la Vangelis.
It might be getting old, but Tyrell N6 is still there with the best of them.
It’s available in 32/64-bit AU, VST2, and AAX formats for macOS (10.7 up), Windows (7 up), and Linux (beta).
Download: Tyrell N6
Tyrell N6 Review
Tyrell N6 does synth-wave, 80s Pop, and most other things well, but it's a monster for epic, spacious, cinematic, ethereal soundscapes à la Vangelis. It might be getting old, but Tyrell N6 is still there with the best of them.