Synthesound, by T. Dachsel and D. Hassinger, turns your Vic 20 into an exciting music synthesizer. Like the other two programs, it helps if you know something about music, but it is not necessary. Even a novice can create many different sounds and special effects by fooling around with this program.
Synthesound uses three voices within a four and one-half octave range. Using attack, decay, sustain, and release controls over the three-voice oscillators, you can create a variety of sounds, from bagpipes to a piano to a police siren.
There are two parts to the program: player mode and programmer mode. In player mode, your Vic keyboard becomes a musical keyboard. By pressing certain keys, you produce notes of the scale, songs, or some pretty wild sound effects, all depending on what controls you have set in programmer mode.
Programmer mode is the part of the program in which you control the ADSR envelopes (attack, decay, sustain, release) of the three voltage controlled oscillators, your three voices. Basically, the way you set the ADSR of the three voices determines whether your tone will sound like a violin or like a trumpet. While there are other factors involved in the production of a sound (such as low frequency oscillators), and while it does require quite a bit of musical knowledge to understand music synthesis fully, most people can have a great deal of fun creating a wide variety of different sounds with this program.
Other features of Synthesound include an optional illuminated keyboard in player mode and a four-voice sequencer for repeating musical or rhythmic patterns. The only really disturbing drawback of Synthesound is the inability to save the sounds you create. Once you turn off the machine, that's it. This can be very frustrating if you have spent hours finding just the right kind of sound and there is no way to recall it during future sessions.
When questioned about this missing feature, a representative of HES explained that it would have required twice as much memory to incorporate this feature, and the retail price would then have doubled as well. One wonders if it wouldn't be worth the extra money, and also if there isn't a way to incorporate that feature without using so much extra memory.
At any rate, Synthesound is an excellent program. It, along with Piper and Vic Music Composer, now offers a variety of ways with which to create music on your Vic computer. If you haven't tried any of them, you are really in for a treat.