Cherry Audio Dreamsynth Review (Worth The Price Tag?)

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Cherry Audio Dreamsynth
VERDICT
Dreamsynth is an impressive first from Cherry Audio after a few years of making emulations almost exclusively. Dreamsynth feels entirely original and unique despite having some clear influences. It's lush, dreamy, surprisingly versatile, and is excellent for both beginners and experienced synth nuts.
Features
8.5
Sound
9.5
Value For Money
9
PROS
Authentic analog charm (and then some)
Surprisingly versatile
Loads of great presets
Easy to use
Very affordable
CONS
Only one filter
Limited strings section
9
OUR SCORE

Dreamsynth by Cherry Audio does not exist. Let me elaborate…

Dreamsynth is a VST synthesizer plugin by Cherry Audio, and though it looks and feels like an emulation, CA actually designed Dreamsynth from the ground up as a ‘what if’. Therefore Dreamsynth does not exist (although Cherry Audio hinted at a hardware version in an April 1st Instagram post).

Dreamsynth is an emulation of a synth that could have been, and feels like a hybrid of a few familiar synths from the 80s. It’s firmly retro-futuristic however, with a number of modern touches to free it from the technological constraints of the era.

Before knowing anything about Dreamsynth, I thought it could be a ‘do-everything’ swiss army knife of a synth to rival Serum and Vital. I’m very happy to say that I was wrong about this, because Dreamsynth very proudly does its own thing…and I already own Serum and Vital anyway!

Features (8.5/10)

First of all, Dreamsynth DS-1 is a virtual analog / digital ‘hybrid’ subtractive synthesizer that demonstrates Cherry Audio’s analog emulation prowess after years of making quality software recreations of classic and obscure hardware synthesizers.

Dreamsynth is heavily inspired by ‘hybrid’ analog / digital synths from the 80s that have digital oscillators based on samples combined with analog filters. However Dreamsynth does away with many of the limitations of that era (most notably it doesn’t weigh a ton and take up half a room).

Despite its vintage leanings, it comes loaded with high quality samples, effects, and over a thousand presets by a vast crew of sound designers.

If you want to make your own presets, you get:

  • 3 oscillators with two ‘waves’ each (effectively giving you 6 oscillators)
  • 430+ oscillator waveforms and samples
  • String synth emulation (“Strings” section)
  • A single state-variable filter
  • 3 LFOs with 8 different shapes
  • 2 ADSR envelopes
  • Arpeggiator
  • MPE support
  • Polyphonic aftertouch
  • Audio rate modulation for FM and ringmod effects
  • Several effects (distortion, phaser, flange / chorus / rotary, delay, and reverb)

On paper it may not seem dramatically different to other synths in your collection, but the approach taken to each component and the synth overall really helps give this synth a unique charm of its own.

When you look at Dreamsynth, pretty much every single parameter is right there in front of you, and the only menu diving is reserved for the waveforms, modulation, presets, and effect types.

It’s a very easy synth to use and navigate. Everything is laid out in a familiar way and if you’ve used other synths before you’ll quickly figure out the signal flow.

If you’re somewhat new to synthesis, don’t be intimidated by what’s on offer here. If you can get your head around a relatively simple subtractive synth like a Moog or Cherry Audio’s DCO-106 then Dreamsynth is a great next step to take.

Some of the features will be familiar and are self-explanatory, so for now I’ll focus on the ones that make Dreamsynth stand out.

Oscillators and Samples

The oscillator section is where you’ll find the most variety. Each ‘Wave’ menu offers over 400 shapes to choose from. The vast majority of these are sampled PCM waveforms, but you also get 7 analog wave shapes that are not sample-based.

Each oscillator can also have up to two waveforms that can be tuned independently. This means Dreamsynth leans towards lush, layered textures made from up to 6 waves per voice. There’s also a (mono) unison mode for even bigger oscillator stacks.

In terms of the samples, Dreamsynth does a good job steering clear of anything too dry and trite.

ROMpler type synths from the 80s and 90s tried too hard to sound like real instruments and included too many guitar, sax, brass, and other samples that were not very convincing when played with a keyboard. But Dreamsynth is inspired more by early-mid 80s samplers and hybrid digital synths that are less offensive to the ear.

The waveforms that are included work really well and suit the ‘dreamy’ aesthetic. You’ll find plenty of sampled pads, FM synths, tones, noises, sweeps, and other ingredients for great atmospheric patches.

The analog oscillator shapes are also supurb and give Dreamsynth the ability to recreate basically any classic subtrative synth sound you can think of. You can combine them with sampled transients and hits for classic D50 style ‘linear synthesis’ or focus exclusively on ravey saws and PWM sounds instead.

Cherry Audio Dreamsynth VST/AU Synthesizer Plugin

Dreamsynth is a tribute to the celebrated hybrid analog/digital synthesizers of the mid-to-late 1980s. Dreamsynth is available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats.

Check Price On PluginBoutique Check Price On Cherry Audio

Drift Away

This synthesizer leans heavily into all the things we love about analog synths – warmth, flux, movement, and an overall richness in the final sound.

There are several unique features that push Dreamsynth in this direction. Most notably, there’s a touch of randomness injected into the oscillators and filters so that nothing ever sounds too static and boring.

You can regulate this flux with the ‘Analog Drift’ control to take you all the way from ‘barely there’ to ‘busted tape’. When it’s pushed to the max you can expect the tuning to get wonky, and any notes you play will be up to 25 cents sharp or flat.

I noticed that thankfully the oscillators slowly drift towards the correct note, so if a note starts a little sharp, it will correct itself over time rather than drift further out of tune. It’s little touches like this that make Dreamsynth so musical and fun to play with.

Presets

Dreamsynth comes with over 1100 presets from a variety of different sound designers. You’ll find lots of useful patches here, ranging from retro throwback presets to ones with a more modern edge.

The preset browser is easy enough to use and sits at the top of the plugin window. It will be very familiar to you if you’ve used other Cherry Audio synths as it looks and feels just like the browser in Polymode and DCO-106.

The sheer number and variety of presets means you can comfortably use Dreamsynth as a ‘preset-box’ if you so choose. This is an excellent collection of patches catering to a variety of styles that really shows off the versatility of the synthesis engine.

I had a lot of fun making my own patches with this synth too. It can be tempting to get lost in the waveform dropdown menu but I actually encourage it so you can build familiarity with the samples and know what to reach for when you need it.

I decided to collect my patches and give them away with this review, and you can download all 57 presets for free here. There are a variety of patches categorized by bass, pads, leads, keys, SFX, and more. You can hear these patches in the demo clips below.

Effects And Other Features

Effects in synthesizers are often clean-sounding and ‘vanilla’ with good reason. However here I can see the risk CA take if the effects are too clean or digital. Thankfully the included effects are very well tuned to the overall aesthetic of Dreamsynth.

For me the standout inclusions here are the psychedelic rotary emulator and the ‘galactic’ reverb type.

Thanks to the fact that virtually every effect parameter can be modulated by a number of monophonic sources, the sound design potential of this synth is expanded significantly.

There’s also a very fun ‘Chord Memory’ mode that can save a chord into a patch. The chord shape is transposed as you play the patch, invoking classic 90s house and rave synth sounds.

Sound (9.5/10)

This is where Dreamsynth really shines. I’ve played around with a lot of analog synths and emulations, and I am truly impressed with how Dreamsynth performs in this area.

It has such a beautiful and lush sonic character that never feels stale or lifeless. There’s an underlying sense of movement and subtle ‘flux’ that is very gentle and organic, and the ‘Analog Drift’ dial makes it very easy to tame or accelerate this movement.

But I think more concisely, the filters and oscillators just sound fantastic, and they respond really well to modulation and movement.

The ‘OB-style’ filter is a key component to this synth’s luscious, dreamy character. It sounds incredibly warm, and absolutely fizzes when opened up, especially with a touch of resonance. It also reminds me of the filter on Roland’s JP8000, which is another very ‘dreamy’ sounding synth famous for pioneering the beloved supersaw oscillator.

The resonance characteristic can really make or break a filter for me, but here it just feels so natural and right. It has a fat and bitey character that screams when really pushed, but things never get too out of control.

This is a multimode filter letting you mix between lowpass, notch, and highpass filter types. There’s also a switch that bypasses all of this and uses a bandpass filter instead.

I find notch more useful with lower resonance settings, as you can create cool phaser effects by taking advantage of the cutoff’s extra modulation slots.

I also made some sound clips for this review so you can hear Dreamsynth in action:

If you want to hear these sounds without lossy Soundcloud compression, I’ve also included the lossless demo clips with my presets.

Value For Money (9/10)

Dreamsynth’s full price is $59.99 however you will frequently catch it on sale for less. Right now, you can grab it for $39 at PluginBoutique and Cherry Audio’s website (be quick as it ends April 29 2022).

Cherry Audio plugins are very reasonably priced, especially if you keep track of their sales. Depending on your needs as a producer, it could even be a 10/10 for you in this area.

If you already have heaps of synth and effect plugins, or plenty of ways to make things sound ‘dreamy’ and lofi, then you might be a bit hesitant to try Dreamsynth.

As someone who fits this profile, I can still recommend Dreamsynth to those who think they have heard it all. It may not blow your mind, but there’s plenty to like here all the same, and the price is more than fair. You can always check out the free demo to see what you think anyway (it lasts for 30 days and plays white noise every now and then).

If you’re new to producing or just don’t have many synth plugins, then Dreamsynth could easily become your new favorite synthesizer. If you like synth pop, shoegaze, lofi, ambient, synthwave, vaporwave, classic techno, house, or any retro music with an 80s vibe, Dreamsynth can be your ‘go-to synth’ for pretty much anything.

If you’re a beginner, there are a lot of excellent presets that will likely give you access to a ton of sounds you were trying to find in other synths with no luck.

It’s also a great synth for learning synthesis despite its somewhat unconventional nature. Everything you need to get started is here, and there are so many wave types and modulation options that you won’t ever really outgrow it.

If you’re an experienced producer, Dreamsynth still has plenty to offer. Though it may not be for everyone, there are certain producers who are going to absolutely fall in love with it, so you should check it out in case that’s you.

What Didn’t I Like? (Petty Complaints)

I really have no major issues with Dreamsynth, it’s a very impressive product with a number of nice little touches. I only have a few petty gripes and there’s a chance they’ll get fixed with future updates anyway as this is a brand new synth. So let me rattle them off…

Maybe it’s just me, but the ‘strings’ section on the synth takes up too much space considering it is kind of limited. It sounds great and I appreciate the dedication taken with the accurate tri-chorus so I don’t think it’s a total waste, but I wish the strings did a bit more. For example, they can’t be routed into the filter which is disappointing.

With the LFOs, 8 beats seems too quick for the slowest synced LFO speed, especially considering the potential for slow evolving patches with Dreamsynth. I could only use unsynced mode to get this sort of really slow modulation out of the LFOs.

My final petty complaint is that the New and Save buttons are dangerously close to each other, and I did once accidentally hit New when I went to save a patch. Then much later I spotted the Undo button and felt like an idiot, so I tested it and found Undo actually resets whenever you start a new patch anyway, so I would have lost it regardless.

As I said it’s still very early days for Dreamsynth, and I’m only using version 1.0.7 for this review. You should not let any of these minor complaints stop you from checking it out.

Wrapping Up

Cherry Audio Dreamsynth VST/AU Synthesizer Plugin

Dreamsynth is a tribute to the celebrated hybrid analog/digital synthesizers of the mid-to-late 1980s. Dreamsynth is available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats.

Check Price On PluginBoutique Check Price On Cherry Audio

Calling a plugin Dreamsynth is a risky move but this excellent synthesizer gracefully lives up to its name.

Cherry Audio’s entirely original, ‘non-emulation’ synth plugin is an extremely well executed retro / vintage style synth that can still sound very fresh and modern when needed.

The actual sound of Dreamsynth is its biggest asset, and this is high praise for a synth with so much to offer. I think the filter in particular is exceptional and works so well with the different oscillator shapes and samples.

You get a huge number of waveforms and presets to play with so if you’re a sound designer or just after a preset-box, Dreamsynth has plenty to keep you happy. It’s very good value, especially if you consider how much a hardware version of this synth would cost.

Overall, it’s a very worthy addition to anyone’s plugin library. If you’re into retro sounding music and don’t have many synths already, then Dreamsynth is practically essential in my opinion.

If you already own Dreamsynth or are planning on getting it, don’t forget to check out the 50+ free presets I’ve included with this review.