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RIFFS plug-ins...

SRP: $80.00 LIcense Version $40.00 Pre-Registered Reaper Users Contact: Stillwell Audio

The world is abundantly full of classic and classy sounding plug-ins, some accurately sample real instruments whilst others faithfully recreate the sounds of vintage Synths. However, every now and then you can be hit by the feeling that these days, maybe everything is just a little too perfect; and you wish for something to come out from leftfield to satisfy your less than perfect musical urges. Enter Stillwell Plugins Schwa OLGA plug in synthesizer.

Enter OLGA… OLGA was designed from the ground up to be different and distinctive and you are duly advised to ‘imagine a handmade experiment from an unlikely place’! Schwa insists that it haven’t just rehashed a load of old program code, stating that OLGA uses two new technologies: Bezier Antialiased Dynamic Analog Synthesis System and Gaussian Reactive Oscillator Overdrive Virtual Engine. I’m am sure that any technology acronyms that spell ‘Badass’ and ‘Groove’ can only be a good thing, however tongue in cheek! Still whatever the Schwa production team are on, I think I probably want some too! So, despite all the fun, does OLGA sound as distinctive as Schwa claim or is the sound so... ahem... unique to only be usable as some kind of Cold War audio torture?

Download only…

OLGA itself is a download only item, and is compatible with PC/Mac using the VST and Audio Unit format. A free demo is available for download and should you decide to keep the software, a licence fee is payable of $80. Good news for users of Cockos Reaper is that registered users of Reaper get the same licence for only $40 with similar discounts being available throughout the Stillwell/ Schwa range. The program itself takes up a negligible amount of hard drive space and (on my PC at least) puts a low to medium burden on processor overhead (depending on the complexity of the sounds used).

42  Once fired up you are

greeted with OLGA’s graphical user interface (GUI) and from the onset you know this is not going to be the usual synth experience. You are greeted with a cool but crusty looking old synth, like something from the set of a 1970’s BBC Sci-Fi show. You then notice that all the words above the controls are in Russian! At least that’s what I think it is; the synth is called ‘OLGA’, after all! OLGA’s primitive appearance seems to support the realisation that you only have at best half an idea of what any of these controls do! Still, it does encourage experimentation and some might argue that this is the pure art of suck it, seeing as one isn’t constrained by any preconceived notions of programming but I’m not so convinced. However, I then found out that OLGA has a secret button that translates all the legending to English...which immediately made a big difference. In OLGA’s style the translation are virtual bits of paper stuck over the Russian, but it does the trick. The controls available still feel slightly different from the norm, with the most prominent being the ‘Schwa OLGA’ control which gives you increasing amounts of smooth sounding overdrive with a progressively brighter red glow around the knob as you increase the gain. After a while you realise that all the usual synth parameter controls are present, although the layout forces the user to adopt a slightly different mind-set compared to programming a conventional synth.

So onto the sounds themselves which are,

quite simply, seriously unique! More importantly, they are also seriously useful; occasionally unstable but in a good way: seemingly evolving in an organic way rather than just sounding like they drifting out of tune. My personal favourites where the Lead type sounds where you can almost smell the individual parts of this virtual old machine being driven into varying states of saturation and distortion. Many of OLGAs tones are difficult to describe, but any project where


This download-only synth plug-in takes no prisoners with a powerful range of powerful sounds shot through with a vintage Cold War vibe…

Words: D.P. Wilson SCHWA OLGA – Plug-In Synth

Cold war cool: OLGA’s Soviet inspired graphic interface

I utilised OLGA generally rewarded me with something genuinely interesting that pushed the song into a whole new direction. Can OLGA do normal? Yes, kind of, you can still get pad sounds and whopping bass sounds as you can from most other Synths but OLGA’s sounds scream to want to be heard; which is probably OLGA’s only major fault. The sounds have so much presence that they tend to dictate that they are in the foreground. If you are looking for gentle sounds simply to fill a gap, you are probably better off looking elsewhere. If, on the other hand you want your synth to wave its flag and scream from the rooftops then this Old Russian girl could be just what you need! PM

SHOULD I BUY ONE? Stillwell’s Schwa OLGA certainly lives up to the hype. Whilst possibly not completely mad, OLGA would still probably drink too much Vodka and embarrass you at your sister’s wedding whilst singing Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii! So, should OLGA be your only synth? Almost certainly not. But if you’re asking if you should you download the free demo and see if you can tame it? Most defi nitely!

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