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Massive X - what's your review?

Discussion in 'MASSIVE' started by Luca80, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. Luca80

    Luca80 NI Product Owner

    Please follow this thread politely, don't raise arguments!
    Remember: reviews containing only negative or only positive aspects really don't matter.

    This is my opinion about Massive X. If some aspects are technically wrong, (kindly) correct me

    +Positive Aspects
    The opportunity to modulate other modulator’s rates. This is very useful because when modulating the modulators need often to be adapted to the pitch

    The opportunity to have a set of fixed sync rates for LFOs is very powerful together with the point mentioned above

    The routing offers three advantages:
    • feedbacks can receive/send signal to multiple source/destinations
    • envelope modulators and LFOs can be assigned also from routing
    • modulator’s section have a mint new aux in feedback
    The interface is intuitive: I learned the most important features in less than an hour.

    Oscillators in insert are a very good solutions, because they have an input and they can become very useful when creating reeses.

    Insert Effects have more options than Massive

    -Negative Aspects
    Absence of Program Change, this new Massive will be not the best friend for live-sets. It has been years before NI released a new stand-alone synth, and it happened losing some features. To me it is a clear change of direction for their products

    Massive had a mono bypass and a stereo VCA, it is more flexible when using external FXs. In Massive X in fact the Amp section seems to be post FX (panning affects everything). In Massive the VCA was pre (panning was not affecting the bypass)

    No opportunity to import user’s waves like Serum

    No opportunity to use external noises and samples like Serum and AbSynth

    No additive synthesis like Serum and Absynth

    The wave scope is graphically not advanced like Serum and Ableton Wavetable: it doesn’t show the actual state of the wave during modulations and morphing

    Modulators lost the graphical aid they had with the old Massive. The Exciter Envelopes –which now are necessary to modulate the former “sustain loop”- really need more visual references. There is a Fixed Rubrik below showing %s, but the user have to estimate by him/herself the percentage of the knob

    The routing causes a dis-advantage: the balance between parallel and serial to the filters can’t be regulated anymore. Overall the new routing is changing the nature of the synth in a different direction. Also the cross fader when sending a source to filters is missing, this was very useful for Feedback. Is it maybe a cross-fade module missing in Massive X?

    There was a bunch of time of time to write a manual, which is essential when releasing such products. For example I would like to know what the new oscillators’ modes effectively do

    The quantity of inserts is very little: because they also host the second filter and extra oscillators, if I re-create my average patch I usually do with Massive patch, I would say 4 is the minimum quantity, but 6 inserts would be much better.

    Monophonic Area Effects doesn't have Tube Effects anymore

    Massive X is a big project, it haqs a modular routing and changes the approach to the typical Wavetable synth. It is better for producing, not suitable to be used in live-set without bouncing the track.
    Producers who use layering and multi-band effects will continue doing the same with Massive X: this kind of users would need to trigger their samples in the sound's attack, use their own distortions, Stereo FX on high frequencies only and Dynamics in some other frequencies. Trying to multi-effect with Massive X's routing would use way much more modules than it has.
    For sure it offers more possibilities but takes out a little simplicity and speed to use.
    Although it’s wider positioning it can’t fully cover the spectrum of FM8 on FM and AbSynth.
    As the interest for modular and semi-modular systems is growing again, Massive X is probably trying to cover that range.
    So we need time to see if the new features are really fulfilling the consumer's need, opening to new trends and styles, or they will go far away to the usual wave-table synth usage.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Smapti

    Smapti New Member

    I would add another excellent related aspect about the modulators: the fact that you can easily route a modulator to the depth of another modulator on a specific parameter is REALLY nice.

    I've used MX a lot over the past few days and I have two thoughts: 1) there are some obvious unfinished aspects (eg lack of visual feedback in modulation and envelopes, as has been widely mentioned; or the lack of a manual) but 2) the positive aspects outweigh those negatives.

    Most importantly, MX just sounds really good, and it's full of sweet spots: frequently I'll be messing with parameters and hit lots of interesting sounds just by happenstance.
    Just one example: the oscillator modes are really sick -- NI has made a big deal about the Gorilla modes but actually I'm super into the last two modes that add pitch jitter (or something? I'm not 100% clear on what they're doing). Those modes are incredible for wildly screwing with the sound.

    Also, I think it's deceptively easy to underrate how much work was clearly put into creating the UX design here. There is a LOT of wild stuff going on under the hood, but the screen doesn't feel cluttered and I'm never lost in menu diving. That's a huge deal!

    I don't agree that the quality of the inserts is low. I much prefer the implementation of inserts here to the original Massive because the routing options are a lot deeper. The quality of the effects is also higher: eg Anima, which is really amazing. I also don't care about the lack of additive features; this isn't something I need in a subtractive wavetable synth. If I want additive synthesis I'll just use Razor or Loom 2.

    Having said all of those positive things... in the interest of balance, here's what I see as the biggest issues in MX (although, as I mentioned above, overall I love this synth):
    -- This was advertised as a combination of modular and wavetable, but the modular aspect was overhyped: in MX the routing is limited to audio inputs and outputs, with just two exceptions (the FM). That isn't what I think of when I think "modular."
    -- Audio levels are wildly variant! I'll be tweaking knobs and the sound gets very quiet, leading me to crank up the output... but then a moment later I'm way into the red. Similarly, the gain staging for the physical modeling (routing things into the comb filter) needs improvement. I have to first route the noise or the exciter envelope through a utility module before routing it to the comb filter if I want optimal results. This is cumbersome.
    -- I miss having 2 filters. Yes, there are insert filters, but they're basic. I would love to be able to route the comb into eg the Asimov filter. I really hope this is implemented in the future.
    -- This one is nitpicky: I love that the LFOs go into the audio rate but it's hard to tune them -- if I want to tune them to oscillators I have to do it by ear, with a lot of right-click fine-tuning.
    -- The lack of visual feedback is kind of a pain. It would be great to see what all of the knobs in the envelope section are actually doing!
    -- I do NOT see the lack of a manual as a big deal. There are some things I don't yet understand but they're minor. The UX is very well designed -- the important things you need to do are easy to figure out.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 30, 2019
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  3. Big Gnome

    Big Gnome NI Product Owner

    I’m a really big fan inasmuch as I’ve had time to dig into it (stupid day job, doesn’t let me just play with synthesizers all the time...) My positive impressions are pretty prosaic—the sound is there in spades, and it is extremely flexible without being overbearing. Just a really super well designed instrument. Extremely high marks from me.

    So with that out of the way, I’ll mention my complaints, which are mostly minor ones. (I’m happy to be corrected if I’m just overlooking something or generally being dense with some of these.)

    - Manual. ‘Nuff said. I know it’s forthcoming, and I find the interface quite intuitive enough to get around in general, but such a complex instrument screams for reference material.

    - I don’t see a way to midi learn controls—this is absolutely lousy.

    - I would really appreciate a way of disabling specific modulation destinations. A modulator can be removed from a parameter, or it’s depth set to zero, and as I recall (away from my computer at the moment) be disabled globally or it’s amplitude reduced, but I don’t see a way of momentarily disabling a specific routing. OG Massive could do this, and I kind of miss it.

    - An EG’s Peak and Amplitude controls seem redundant. Unless I’m missing something, I’d rather see Peak implemented as an arbitrary breakpoint much as it was in OG Massive—or at least something that serves a distinct function.

    - Patch changes are quite sluggish.

    - While I like the graphical style and generally don’t mind the low contrast thing, the white-on-light-grey modulation targets are a little much. Something like a darker 1px border around them or a little gradient to offset them from the BG would probably go a long way without looking out of place.

    - Minor thing, but on the subject of UI, a few elements feel a little cramped—e.g., Osc 2’s pitch modulation slots are way up against the border of the module with a fair amount of blank space to the left.

    - I’d appreciate being able to drag wires in the routing pane from an input to and output and not only the other way around.

    - I agree with the interest in having envelope settings reflected graphically because that is useful information to have at a glance, although I confess I am mystified at some of the outrage I’ve seen on the internet over this pretty minor point.

    - It would be nice if, say, double clicking a menu item from the wavetable or noise menus would collapse a menu rather than having to collapse them manually.

    Stuff I’m indifferent to:

    - More filters. I understand this and I’m not opposed, but between the dual SVF modes, the insert filters, and the arbitrary feedback loop, that covers about 95% of the practical uses I’d have for a dual filter arrangement while remaining really compact and elegant (in fact I think the resonant characteristic of feeding back a Utility HP1 filter sounds rad as hell!) I mean, the more the merrier, but, meh, I’m pleased with this as is.

    - User wavetables. I’m not against the idea in principle, but this seems like a lot of extra development for very little practical benefit. Does MX really not have enough to cover your bases?

    - Semi obscure appointments like micro tuning or MPE. I don’t use them and don’t care one way or the other, but I can understand how it could be important to others. Meh.

    - Explicit parameter values and visual feedback for modulation. I see the utility of both, and I think either could be integrated into the design without looking like a spreadsheet or a 90’s Geocities page, but I was comfortable with the lack in the original Massive and I’m comfortable with it here. It’s a “use your dang ears” proposition for me.

    - A comprehensive, tagged patch browser. The existing drop down menu is suitable for the way I work, but I appreciate the usefulness of a proper browser, and moreover this aspect does feel like a big step backwards from the original and other NI software of that vintage. While it doesn’t affect me too much either way personally, I would actually like to see this be addressed.

    Stuff I don’t want:

    - Eye candy. Oscilloscopes, spectrometers, a bunch of obnoxious animation splattered all over the place. Just...ugh. Barf.

    - More for the sake of more. I think MX strikes a really good balance between being powerful and flexible as well as streamlined as it is. I'm of the opinion it doesn't need more oscillators, filters, effects, etc., and while I'm not exactly holding my breath for such additions to begin with, if they were to, I'd want to see the design err on the side of its current elegance.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
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  4. Nikal Might

    Nikal Might NI Product Owner

    Having extra filters in the Inserts section is OK, but I could really use another fully-fledged filter module. I was trying to recreate an old Massive patch, but was really feeling the lack of the extra filter and the band reject filter specifically.

    You can use the SVF Parallel filter to do the same thing as the band reject filter, but I want the comb filter as well. Not possible without wasting more insert slots trying to replicate functionality that should have been there from the start. I need 2 insert slots in parallel to replicate a band reject filter which means that I'm actually 1 insert slot short to replicate the same Massive functionality and I don't have any resonance or control over the level of the signal path without wasting yet another insert slot with another utility module which means I can't do any clipping or anything else which requires an insert. Some kind of crossfade module or 2 and a couple of simple amp modules on the router(or a pre/post-filter gain knob) would be good.

    It would also be great to have more control over panning each WT or noise oscillator to increase width, create more impressive FX and prevent frequency masking.

    Basic LP/HP filters without separate resonance controls in the utility module don't really cut it, although they're fine for basic correction duties. Serum can get away with only having 2 filter modules because both the modules contain all the filters, some of which have double filters(with resonance) or can morph between different slopes and the EQ can switch between shelf and HP/LP, which MX can't(but has potentially 3 HP/LP filters instead which is a waste of an insert slot).

    It would be very easy for NI to add another full filter module, wouldn't take up much more resources and could be easily switched off when not needed. I think it could be incorporated into the GUI quite easily too with a couple of tabs added to the interface.

    It's also quite annoying to not be able to disable modules from anywhere other than the routing section. It would be handy to be able to rearrange the order of the FX section which you don't seem to be able to do currently. I'm finding I often add a Reverb at the end of the chain, and then I need to filter out the mud with an EQ, but I can't without a lot of pain.

    The GUI needs to display parameter values. I know the original Massive didn't have them, but there was no excuse for that either. It makes it easy to be precise about things. If you have a complex routing(which is extremely likely, considering MX has more modulation slots than Serum which is limited to 32 slots), a small change might have a big impact and is a headache to track down if there are any negative consequences. If I have a problem and I don't know where it is, having parameter values displayed makes it much easier to track down the culprit and not randomly tweak knobs and making things even worse. You could have an option in the menu to switch parameter values on/off

    The Basic page of the Performer needs re-working so that it's more elegant. Instead of wasting space with all the triplet notes, you could have a set of boxes with different note lengths(whole, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32) and another set of boxes with note length modifiers(dotted, double-dotted, triplets, n-tuplets).

    Despite being able to create some great sounds, some of the sounds that the original Massive had are out of reach in Massive X. I'm also hoping that more of old Massive's WTs are ported into X. The more popular ones already have been.

    My conclusion is that Massive X is a great-sounding synth with bags of character, but it's let down by a premature release, and in some ways is inferior to its predecessor(only 2 WT oscillators, only one fully-featured filter module, lack of ability to save envelope, FX and performer presets, no randomizer), although is much better in a lot of other respects ie the different oscillator modes, more modulation options, more and different insert FX, double the macros. NI should concentrate on making sure it at least competes with Massive in terms of filter routing if nothing else which would eliminate my biggest concern and also the workarounds.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
    • Like Like x 3
  5. Luca80

    Luca80 NI Product Owner

    I agree about the quality, I was concerned about the quantity: I want more insert modules:)
  6. Paule

    Paule NI Product Owner

    or Surge?
  7. Smapti

    Smapti New Member

    Apparently the wavetables are high-quality (they take up a lot of the download size) so maybe that's why user wavetable import currently isn't available. IMO it's not a big deal since the wavetables in MX are really good, and definitely a lot better than my own wavetables that I've imported into other synths.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. Fred Davis

    Fred Davis New Member

    Ok, after so many months of anticipation I finally have gone through all of Massive X's presets in detail. I am blown away by some of them but my general impression is that they are not as good as I was expecting. I think that a lot more presets need to be released as part of the core product. I admit my expectations were sky high and that is a factor in my criticism.

    First off, the synth itself is awesome! Whoever is hearing aliasing must have a lousy audio setup. This is a beast and it has tremendous potential. The features and spec are world-class.

    My problem with the initial presets is that they seem like they were created to demonstrate the features and technical capabilities of Massive X but fell short in terms of musicality. I was hoping to have the same sense of being blown away as I did when I first plugged in my Korg Wavestation many years ago. But compared to the Wavestation in 1990 the almost thirty year older Massive X was a letdown from my perspective as a musician and a producer.

    I understand that Massive X was massively massive and massively late. But based on its first fruits I don't think it has really had time to fully ripen on the vine. NI first promised it in February (apologizing that it wasn't already part of Komplete 12 (I have the Ultimate version). Pushing ot back to June must have been painful and put huge internal pressure on NI, the company really felt like they had to ship it in June... even if it meant the very end of June... even if it meant the product was obviously missing elements like a manual or stand-alone version.

    So, I hope we wind up with closer to 1,000 presets before too long, and have ones that are very musical. The current crop would be great for scoring a film or video... but we need to be able to create real music, too. I know what you were up against when it was time to ship so I still have high hopes once the product is actually finished in a fuller sense of the word.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
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  9. Luca80

    Luca80 NI Product Owner

    Wavetables are a combination or two or more morphing waves, sometimes having user's wave a producer can have a different order or combination of waves.
    Some plugins allow to import the wave directly from wave files, than they can render the morph and manipulate again.
    Sometimes this option offers opportunities for experimentation
  10. arachnaut

    arachnaut NI Product Owner

    As to user wavetables, depending on how it is implemented and how many intermediate wavetable frames are supportable, the wavetable could be turned into a half-decent sampler. That is probably the only feature I, personally, would encourage adding.

    It looks to me that this version of Massive X is still unfinished, so maybe we can call this a beta version. Hopefully after some real-world feedback we will see some nice changes and additions.

    Preset management needs a lot of work, but that is not a sonic issue, and it is probably easy to add stuff there. Even a 'sound category' parameter to the save menu would be helpful.

    I have not noticed any aliasing issues, but my hearing is not all that great.

    I find the CPU performance to be perfectly fine and core-to-core load balancing seems to work well in Windows.

    I have not seen any graphics GPU load issues or increased GPU thermals, Some Mac people have expressed issues there, but I don't see anything at all out of the ordinary. (I use 150% graphic view size).
  11. Stormchild

    Stormchild NI Product Owner

    Make sure to (also) post these comments in the Massive X feedback forum. NI is monitoring that one a lot more closely.
  12. Paule

    Paule NI Product Owner

  13. arachnaut

    arachnaut NI Product Owner

  14. Paule

    Paule NI Product Owner

    So is the issue in Image Line's FL?
  15. Luca80

    Luca80 NI Product Owner

    had a similar issue with another plugin, but I set the GPU to manage the plugin and everything is fine. It depends from the GPU manager
  16. telecode101

    telecode101 NI Product Owner

    I think its good and obviously an imporvement on previous Massive. I think more good times to come as new updates get released for it.
  17. Lucas Wende

    Lucas Wende New Member

    1+ great feedback I agree with all of your suggestions
    • Like Like x 1
  18. loachm

    loachm NI Product Owner


    - it's definitely Massive - in terms of lineage and sound (it sounds just awesome!!)
    - it's more flexible than Massive - the routing options are so cool
    - the Performer is very powerful and having key switches for different settings is really great
    - generally it sort of enhanced everything I always thought with original Massive "having this would be great"
    - the unison & harmonisation section is a lot of fun
    - CPU load is way better than expected - ten instances even on my seven year old computer - no problem
    - it's intentionally not Serum, which is really great (actually I'm pretty fed up with people praising this synth - sorry)
    - a good & clear layout and a good UI aspect ratio
    - it has a resizeable GUI


    - it's definitely not finished currently
    - you can't temporarily mute a modulation without potentially losing a sweetspot setting - that's very annoying
    - the Performer needs a preset management
    - as powerful as the new Performer is, I miss the simplicity of the old one
    - no dual filters - all filters from the filter module should be available as inserts. so that we can have parallel filtering
    - no audio input
    - no granular sampler (I'd actually prefer this to a wavetable import)
    - no sample import for the noise module
    - only the 16 macros are available for host automation - I'd love to have every parameter incl. wavetable, noise & module selection available via host automation (NKS)
    - no progam change
    - the GUI layout must have been a really difficult task and is has been done really, really well, but still the upper half is crammed with stuff, while in the lower half it seems a bit artificially inflated in some areas.
    - the GUI design is a bit boring - I think along with the good layout, it would have been possible to make it a bit more exciting

    Nevertheless this is already my new go-to synth.
    • Like Like x 2
  19. bytechop

    bytechop New Member

    For now it sounds really good and the UI is very clean and easy to use. It feels like a close to production beta, but yeah will see what the updates brings. A sampler oscillator & multi oscillator like in Absynth would be cool.
  20. Nagato

    Nagato New Member

    Many great ideas and discussion here. As others have listed excellent specific pros and cons of Massive X, I will be more general in my "review". My thoughts are that Massive X, in its present state, is focused on certain dance genres, being very assertive sounding. I don't see how anyone could ever say that Massive X lacks character! Just perusing the "Best of" listing, the patches are mainly slanted toward the more aggressive dance genres, etc. There are very few pads and melodic-leaning patches that show off the capabilities of Massive X. The present patches do fire up some creative ideas, but...

    For poops and laughs, I recently spent a number of hours comparing Massive X to demos of Serum, Hive 2, and Blue2. As it stands, right now, the preset library of Massive X is sorely lacking compared to the competition. Yeah, Massive X was just released, but NI has significant resources and the competition are excellent products with robust libraries. If this means anything, I purchased Hive 2 and will be likely purchasing Blue2 down the road. I am hoping Absynth 6 is in process of development. At present, I see Massive X as a characterful supplemental synth for me. I don't see myself diving into the synth as I have been able to quickly find and create patches more to my taste and needs with Hive (and Absynth) than I can with Massive X. I hope NI addresses my concerns and I need to reprise this assessment soon.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019