Surge XT: an excellent, free, open-source, MPE synth

And the official LinnStrument synth


Surge XT is my new favorite synth and the new official synth for LinnStrument. Unless I need samples, it's my new go-to synth. Why?

* Extremely versatile, enabling highly complex and beautiful sounds
* MPE compatible
* FREE and open source
* Runs on Mac, Windows and Linux, both as a plug-in and as a standalone app.
* 2 "scenes" (voice partials), each containing 3 oscillators and 2 multi-mode filters
* Highly versatile oscillators: classic, wavetable, FM, a unique variant of wavetable called "window", Karplus Strong string synthesis, additive, and more, all with a wide variety of ways to modulate the timbre, ideal for LinnStrument's Y-axis control.
* Just about everything can be modulated by just about everything, and in a simple and intuitive way.
* Lots of effects: delay, reverb, chorus, distortion, rotary speaker, EQ, compressor/limiter/expander, frequency shifter, vocoder
* The Distortion effect has pre- and post-EQ, good for guitar amp simulation.
* The manual is easily accessible from the panel's "menu" button. Why doesn't everyone do this?

Surge is maintained by a group of talented coders, but was originally created by Claes Johansen, the principal creator of Bitwig Studio and one of my favorite music software creators. So the fundamental architecture is well-designed and extremely capable.

To download and set up Surge: 

1) Download Surge XT from here and install it.

2) The default appearance of Surge XT doesn't look so pretty to my eyes. To change it to look like the picture above, click Surge XT's "Menu" button in the lower-right corner of its panel, then select "Skin Library...". Then download the "Royal Surge XT" skin. Now click the MENU button again and select "Skins", then select the new "Royal Surge XT" skin.

To play some sounds:


1) Set your LinnStrument for MPE play: In Per-Split Settings > MIDI Mode column, hold "ChPerNote" for 1 second to change all needed settings for MPE play.

2) Start up Surge, then turn on the "MPE" button in the top middle of its panel. Now all of Surge XT's built-in sounds are MPE-compatible, permitting polyphonic pitch slides and performed vibrato. However, they are optimized for MIDI piano keyboards so they won't respond to pressure or Y-axis.

3) I've created a collection of LinnStrument-optimized sounds for Surge XT, most of which respond well to all three of LinnStrument's dimensions. Download it from here. Then click Surge XT's "Menu" button select "Data Folders > Open User Data Folder...". In the file browser window that opens, locate the "Patches" folder and place the downloaded "LinnStrument MPE [date]" folder inside this Patches folder. Then quit Surge and restart it. In the Patch Browser's "User Patches" section, you'll now see a new folder of sounds called "LinnStrument MPE [date]".

Note: Among Surge XT's built-in sounds is a folder of sounds called "Roger Linn (MPE)". These are merely early versions of a few of the same sounds that in the "LinnStrumert MPE [date]" sounds file you've just downloaded, but the new sounds are much better.

Check here periodically as I'll occasionally be adding new sounds for Surge XT. If you're skilled at creating good MPE sounds, please email any good ones to me for possible inclusion in the "LinnStrument MPE" library.