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Interview & Plugin Reveal: Cherry Audio Lead Developer Dan Goldstein On Their New Virtual Synth Quadra

Cherry Audio's Quadra synth drops today and we get the scoop!
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Cherry Audio Quadra Synthesizer is an emulation and enhancement on the ARP Quadra Synthesizer from the late '70s, early '80s.

Cherry Audio Quadra

This is subjective, but I kinda think Cherry Audio has the most enthusiastic fans of any plugin developer out there. I get it. What’s not to love? Their products sound incredible — rich, detailed, expressive — and their prices are some of the most affordable anywhere, making Cherry Audio one of the most valued soft-synth developers on the planet.

I use plenty of virtual synths, hardware too, and in my many years of producing I never thought I’d be this impressed by a virtual synthesizer, but I really am. The new Quadra is perfect. As I’ve mentioned, it’s the plug-in space race and Cherry Audio just fired a rocket.

Cherry Audio Quadra Synthesizer is an emulation and enhancement on the ARP Quadra Synthesizer from the late '70s, early '80s (arguably the best era in music). It’s design is the embodiment of the Cherry Audio ethos. The original Quadra was quirky to say the least, and now exceedingly rare, but thanks to Cherry Audio virtual synth fans can tinker to their heart’s delight, and the Quadra puts out an incredible range of sound. Some of this is intrinsic to the original hardware design, especially with Quadra’s coveted signature phaser section beautifully emulated, and some of this is due in part to an expanded effects section where Cherry Audio takes the Quadra to new heights. More on this below.

I jotted down some first impressions, noted here, and then reached out to Dan Goldstein, Cherry Audio’s Chief Technical Officer and the lead developer of Cherry Audio’s line of instruments and effects, for a deeper dive into Quadra’s development, below. Check it out:

First impressions:

  • The type of synth I’d like to make an entire album with. I might.
  • So much vibe, so much character.
  • Distinctly rich and analog sounding, more than most.
  • Multi-out is a true gift.
  • Expanded effects section is 🔥, very musical
  • Big, detailed, commanding.
  • Endless fun with automation.
  • I love this synth.

Dan, thank you for this. Can you please tell us about the plug-in development ethos for Cherry Audio in general?

Dan Goldstein: The task of modeling a beloved classic synthesizer is a major responsibility. Not only does it have to sound right, but it has to feel right too. There's a massive temptation to start tacking on additional features. After all, wouldn't a Juno-106 be better with more oscillators, more envelopes, more modulation options? We've found that it’s easy to quickly turn a vintage synthesizer into something unrecognizable by piling on features, but often what's so attractive about these vintage instruments is their simplicity, their ease of use, and their limitations. The quirks and oddities of these instruments are what make them feel right.

Our approach is simple: we begin with the essential elements of a classic, improve some of the more glaring design shortcomings, add a few modern features (such as velocity and complimentary effects), and leave it at that. We try our best to avoid the temptation to tack on more and more features and clutter up the interface. We want Cherry Audio products to sound, look, and feel like hardware, so we avoid hidden features and menus as much as possible.

MM: Most recently you released the Mercury 4 (Jupiter-4 emulation) and now the Quadra Synthesizer. What is it about a certain piece of hardware that inspires the Cherry Audio team to pay homage to it? Is it the synth itself? Certain, prolific songs or records? Some combination of both?

DG: Cherry Audio is made up of major vintage synth fanatics. Between us, we have an insane collection of vintage instruments that we've hunted down, restored, repaired, maintained, and collected over the course of several decades. Like many of our customers, we're passionate about these instruments and we each have our favorites. So, we're generally drawn to emulate the instruments that we’re personally attached to.

I've always been a huge fan of Oberheim polysynths, and we became excited about the challenge of recreating the vintage Oberheim Eight Voice in software. Nailing the sound was essential, but the design challenge of creating a software interface for controlling eight separate synthesizer modules was particularly intriguing. The Cherry Audio Eight Voice remains one of my favorite creations both because of its fantastic sound, and because of its incredibly flexible and powerful interface.

Our lead designer, Mitchell Sigman, loves the Jupiter-4, which is featured all over early MTV tracks that were hugely influential for him. Between us at Cherry Audio, we own three of these beasts, and they're all a bit different. Despite its relatively simple architecture, there is something raw and powerful about the Jupiter-4 that we all found intriguing. Not only can it overdrive like crazy, but its quirky arpeggiator is unlike anything found in other vintage synthesizers. Mitchell's idea to pair a Jupiter-4 emulation with a built-in emulation of the Roland Space Echo was particularly inspired, and once we nailed the tape echo sound, the instrument just sprang to life.

As for the Quadra, about a year ago we realized that none of us had ever been in the same room with a working ARP Quadra, and we'd all wondered what they were like. It's both a very rare and very fragile synthesizer, and fully working examples can be hard to come by. We started searching and we managed to purchase a fully functioning ARP Quadra for over $7,000. It's a deeply intriguing instrument, full of bizarre design decisions, odd limitations, and features that feel somehow incomplete. It also sounds wonderful, like a big charming box of 1970s sonic warmth. Emulating the Quadra meant emulating four distinct instruments, plus a rather unusual 14-stage phaser, and this was no small task. With a few design improvements, such as added waveforms and the ability to set the range of each section, I feel Cherry Audio's version really lets the Quadra’s original concept shine through. I still can’t get over how lush Quadra can sound!

MM: I find the effects section of the Quadra to be particularly interesting and musical, especially compared to many other software synthesizers. Leaning into this is a real home-run. Can you tell readers about the thinking on the FX side of things?

DG: The ARP Quadra features a unique and great-sounding 14-stage phaser, which can be engaged independently for each of the four sections - bass, strings, poly synthesizer, and lead synthesizer. This clever design inspired the layout of the other effects we added to Quadra. The Chorus/Flanger, Echo, and Reverberator effects can each be turned on and off independently for all four sections, allowing all sorts of gorgeous processing options for each section. Imagine strings bathed in reverb, a poly synth slowly phasing and flanging, and a lead synth with a slapback delay, all layered on top of each other. The sound design possibilities are pretty fantastic!

MM: It sounds incredible. The presets are really power packed and show off lots of what this synth is capable of. Can you provide a peek inside the process of getting all the preset sound design done?

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DG: When we set out to build the Quadra, I was a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to offer a large variety of preset sounds, due to the original’s somewhat limited architecture. However, the little tweaks we've added to the design greatly increase the sonic potential of the instrument, and we found ourselves blown away by the sonic scope of Quadra. We assembled a team of six sound designers to work on this project. Led by our lead sound designer James Terris, we enlisted the help of Katharine Fountain, Huston Singletary, Julie Kathryn, Dave Polich, and Brendan Dreaper, and we've produced well over 400 stunning Quadra presets. Each sound designer brings their own style and character to the process, and the results speak for themselves.

MM: They definitely do, and this synth is a must-have. I know your new tech is top-secret, but can readers get a hint of what else is on deck at Cherry Audio?

DG: We have some incredible products planned for 2022. I wish I could tell you more about them, but they include super-rare and highly desirable vintage synthesizers, plus quite a few surprises. We're having a blast designing and creating these instruments. I hope our customers love playing them as much as we love building them.

Cherry Audio Quadra Synthesizer Description By Company

Vintage Synthesis, To The Fourth Power

The Cherry Audio Quadra is a super-accurate and immensely improved emulation of the ARP Quadra synthesizer, originally released in 1978 - a rare and coveted “unicorn” instrument in the synthesizer world, reproduced for the first time as a virtual instrument.

Cherry Audio has addressed the original Quadra's shortcomings and wildly expanded it for an experience that blows away the real thing in every conceivable way. Each of its four sections is independently assignable to any region of the keyboard for endless splitting and layering flexibility. The awkward patch storage has been replaced with Cherry Audio’s extensive, unlimited patch browsing system. The overall sound quality has been improved for a richer and fatter tone. And not only did we make a killer emulation of the aforementioned onboard phaser effect, we added a stereo chorus/flanger, a syncable echo, and studio-quality reverb - all individually routable for unprecedented effects flexibility.

All About That Bass

A fat, monophonic bass section for punchy low end, plus "Strings Bass" for string machine-style orchestral richness.

Classic String Synthesizer

A rich string section that beautifully reproduces the classic string ensemble instruments of '70s, including a dedicated two-band EQ.

Flexible Poly Synthesizer

A super-improved version of the original, including saw, variable pulse, "spike," and "hollow" waveforms, expanded range, and a drift button for organic tone.

Screaming Lead Synth

A powerful, feature-packed, dual-oscillator lead synth, including ramp, pulse, sine, triangle, and noise waves, LFO- or envelope-controlled pulse-width modulation, two-voice split mode, independent oscillator portamento controls and more.

Features:

  • Over 400 presets, programmed by industry veterans
  • All four sections superbly recreated
  • Poly Synthesizer includes Drift control for increased analog realism
  • Independent key range assignment for all four instrument sections
  • Precisely replicated phase shifter with multiple mod sources
  • Tempo-syncable LFO
  • Multi-out version allows separate processing of each instrument section
  • Improved arpeggiator section w/tempo sync
  • Accurately emulated "Touch Sensor" aftertouch section
  • Highly optimized coding for high performance with ultra-low CPU load
  • User-adjustable oversampling control
  • Advanced one-click UI magnification
  • Full MIDI control and DAW automation for all controls
  • Quadra is available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats.

A free 30-day demo of Quadra is available. This demo will play white noise periodically, but is otherwise unlimited.

Check out Cherry Audio’s Quadra Synthesizer. It just dropped today. And, while you’re at it, their other synths are incredible, too. Obviously YMMV, but Cherry Audio is absolutely mooning!

Price: $59 Introductory: $39 at www.cherryaudio.com

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