ES2 | Exploring Logic's E-Synths
Written by Maya Wagner and Matt Ho
Now it’s time for the moment you have ALL been waiting for… the biggest and badest of the E-Synths is here and ready to blow your minds and transport you into the elite world of synthesis...
Before Apple purchased Logic and rebranded it into what we know and love today, a company known as Emagic owned the license to the software. This is where the namesake “ES” or “E-synth” comes from. Since the rebrand, Logic has kept six of the original instruments from Emagic’s version of the Software. These synths have been kept intact without many updates or interface changes, honoring Logic’s sound design roots.
Logic’s developers have an interesting way of maintaining the interface aesthetics of old plugins and synths while adding new “modern” ones to create an interesting blend of old school and fresh synth engines for us to play around with. The smorgasbord of synth designs and capabilities is part of Logic’s character. There have been so many different updates and changes, but some of these synths remain the same. Let’s talk about the E-synths, where Logic all started!
Wavetable synth with 3 oscillators and 1 sub-oscillator. Combines elements of FM and wavetable synthesis to create the ultimate digital synthesis machine. Well… maybe that is an exaggeration, but it is a great engine to use both for educational purposes and for all your basic sound-design needs.
One cool element in ES2 is the X-Y-Z pad which provides a visual representation of the multi-waveform blends available in the engine. The ES2 is great for all of your synthesis needs and is unique because it is actually a model based on some of the first wavetable synths. Although it may not have the fancy wavetable visuals we get in engines like Ableton’s Wavetable and Serum, we still get that wavetable sound and a really fun way of implementing wavetable synthesis.
Allows users to select three different waveforms and use the X-Y-Z pad to morph between them. Oscillator 1 is modulated by oscillator 2 to create an FM synthesis effect while still maintaining the additive effect between 1, 2, and 3.
Course frequency knobs - use these knobs to tune the oscillators up or down. These course tuning knobs provide a great way to create a bigger sound by layering oscillators in different octaves.
Fine frequency values - allows users to slightly detune individual waveforms by cents.
The small selection of parameters lining the top of the synth’s interface is global parameters that affect the entire synth engine. There are also global parameters lining the far left of the interface. These parameters are:
Keyboard mode - select the keyboard behavior to be either legato, polyphonic, or monophonic.
Unison Button - toggle unison mode on or off
Voices field - set the number of voices that can be played simultaneously
Bend Range Fields - set the range that notes can be pitch-bent up or down
Tune field - set the overall instruments detuning in cents
Analog Knob - turn this up to randomize the pitch and filter cutoff of each note slightly
CBD (Constant Beat De-tuning) Dropdown - Detune oscillators periodically against one another based on a beating frequency.
Oscillator Start Dropdown - choose “free,” “soft,” or “hard” from the menu to change the waveform start position (can add life and grit to the sound).
Volume - set overall instrument volume
The circular set of filter parameters in the center of the engine includes two filters with the following settings:
Filter button - turn the entire filter section on or off
Filter blend - blend between filters 1 and 2
Filter 1 type - choose between low pass, high pass, peak, band-pass, and band-reject filter types
Filter 2 slope - filter 2 is a low pass filter; choose filter slope here
Series/Parallel - choose parallel or series filter configuration
Filter Resonances - choose the resonance/gain of the cutoff frequency
Filter 1 drive knob - turn to add drive to filter 1
Filter 2 FM knob - set the amount that oscillator 1 modulates filter 1
The top right of the engine features an array of effects that can be edited and blended using the X-Y pad shown in the image on the left.
The top of the section includes distortion effect options including an option to select between hard and soft distortion and an option to change the distortion's tone from bright to dark.
The bottom of the section includes an option to select between chorus, flanger, and phaser effects. The intensity and modulation speed of these effects can also be adjusted!
The X-Y pad in this section is not automatically assigned to anything. Select "vector" in the routing parameter to assign the X and Y axes to different parameters!
The bottom of the synth includes a set of macro knobs which are set to control various synth parameters to make automation and real-time control more efficient! The bottom also includes a “MIDI View” which can be toggled on and off. This section allows users to assign midi parameters to modulation routings.
Modulation Sources and Routing
This section of the synth allows you to select different generators, such as oscillators, LFOs, and envelopes, to modulate, or control, different synth parameters.
Any modulation source can be connected to any modulation target. The modulation amount is set with the set of sliders to the right of each mod routing selection box. The amount of modulation can even be modulated by choosing a second source under the “via” dropdown in a given routing selection box.
There are a whopping TEN different modulation routing boxes; any source or target can be used as many times as needed and will be run in parallel to its other instances.
The engine includes two LFOs as well as three envelopes that can each be used as modulation sources for modulation in the routing area.
ES2 is the most powerful of the E-Synths in Logic, but it is also one of the oldest synthesizers in Logic. Although it might seem easier to go to Alchemy or RetroSynth, ES2 is a great synth with a variety of presets and tons of awesome applications! Something cool about ES2 is that, unlike Alchemy or Drik Kit Designer, ES2 doesn't provide a simplified mode. This means that using it will challenge your synthesis chops! Have fun and let's get experimenting!