The Vintage Ultima: Super-Versatile Freeware VST Organ/Synth Plugin

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 8 May 2020 |

PlanetBotch Vintage Ultima freeware organ VTSi

Inspired by some of the most sophisticated analogue combo organs and synth-organs of the 1970s, The Vintage Ultima is a freeware VSTi packed with powerful features and almost endless sound possibilities. This instrument replaces the old Rawgan, and is a dramatic upgrade on the original spec. You will bin your Rawgan when you hear The Vintage Ultima. The download link is at the bottom of the post, but if you go straight down there you’ll probably want to come back for the user guide, which comprises the rest of this page…

Like the recently-released Undercult ska/soul/indie organ, The Vintage Ultima’s high quality tone architecture is all-synthesized and uses no samples. The Vintage Ultima’s features include…

  • Two virtual manuals plus bass pedal sounds, splittable across a single keyboard.
  • Individually selectable waveforms for each voice fader, so you can mix flute, reed, horn and string sounds within the same tone stack.
  • Envelope options (including wind/pipe envelope) and… wait for it… vintage susverb! Ohhhhh yeah!
  • Comprehensive vibrato/chorus section with two very different chorus types.
  • 1970s type tremolo channel for Peter Fenn style rotary sounds.
  • Comprehensive percussive attack section offering variable perc voices and slow attack "swells".

The Vintage Ultima is so much more than just a digitised combo organ. It can mimic a church organ, a harmonium, a classic jazz organ, string synths and other 1980s type pad sounds, a 1960s combo, and the kind of exciting animations you might get out of something like a Yamaha YC45D. Everything is on the front panel and there’s no messing about with numbers. But there is A LOT to this beast, so let’s not delay any further…

UNDERSTANDING THE VINTAGE ULTIMA


There are two virtual manuals (or keyboards) plus virtual bass pedals – with everything splittable into two sections across a 61-note input keyboard. You can select any split point you like by clicking on the KEY SPLIT window near the top of the console.

When in use, the virtual bass pedals will always track the lowest note you play in a chord to the left of the split point. The Lower manual settings will apply to the left of the split point, and the Upper manual settings will apply to the right of the split point.

MANUAL FOOTAGES


The Upper and Lower Manual Footages are where the main organ or synth sounds are assembled. You’ll see a series of faders with coloured tips, and beneath them, little LCD boxes with letters in them.

If you click on the little LCD boxes beneath the faders, you’ll be able to choose from four letters: F, R, H and S. These letters are initials for each individual fader’s voice type…

  • F = Flute
  • R = Reed
  • H = Horn
  • S = Strings

The colours of the fader tips will change according to the voicing you select. Flute is white, Reed is green, Horn is red, and Strings is yellow. This makes it clearer at a glance which voicings you’re using. The beauty of The Vintage Ultima is that you have total freedom on which type of voicing you use per footage. You can mix the voicings as you see fit. This enables you to simulate the mixes that were available on expensive analogue organs, and shift the personality into more synthy territory.

The footages are shown above each fader, and they correspond to a typical organ pitch-stacking system. Note, though, that THE FADERS ARE NOT DRAWBARS. You increase their volume by pushing them upward, not pulling them downward.

THE BASS


There’s no on or off switch for the bass sounds, but if you keep both Bass faders all the way down, the Bass will be disengaged and effectively off. Pushing up the Bass faders increases the volume. The fader on the left introduces 32’ deep bass, whilst the fader on the right introduces a 16’ lighter bass which adds substance. You can change the tones of the bass voices in the same way you can change the Upper and Lower manual tones.

The Bass will only ever play monophonically, and will only sound in the low register of the Lower virtual manual – to the left of your key split point. If you’ve split your keys at the lowest note on your input keyboard, you will not hear any Lower manual sounds, and thus there will be no Bass.

THE PRESET SELECTOR


There aren’t a massive amount of presets on The Vintage Ultima. The presets are really just to give examples of what the VSTi can do. But you can select the presets by clicking on the Preset window just below the Key Split window near the top of the instrument fa├žade.

WHAT IS SUSVERB?


‘Susverb’ is a wonderful, but long lost analogue-era feature, which appeared on some old organs with variable electronic sustain (or long decay). Sometimes, the sustain function would have a volume control, which reduced the level of the sustain. And when you turned the sus volume down to its minimum, you just got a type of analogue synthesized reverb halo. It wasn’t like ordinary reverb. It was sweeter, and more musical. The Vintage Ultima accurately simulates this special halo effect, so finally, analogue organ ‘susverb’ is back! You can select Susverb separately for the Upper and Lower manuals.

WHAT DOES THE “POLY 8” SWITCH DO?


The Vintage Ultima can be quite heavy on CPU consumption in older computer systems, as it’s creating its sounds the way old analogue organs did, with individual tonal layering and a voice for each individual sound component. If you have the Susverb deployed, your CPU usage can really start to mount up, because each group of voices is sustaining whilst the next group are played. The Poly 8 switch addresses this by limiting the sustaining voices to a maximum polyphony of 8 notes. When new notes are played, they’ll rob voices from the Susverb. You shouldn’t hear much difference. If your CPU is struggling, switch on the Poly 8. If you have no CPU issues, leave the Poly 8 switched off.

WHAT DOES THE “FOLD” SWITCH DO?


This is the pitch foldback regulator. Most vintage organs would have an upper limit to the pitch they could produce. On the high-pitched footages, the highest pitch didn’t actually reach to the top of the keyboard. So what the organ would do was “fold back” the pitch so that when it reached its upper limit, it would drop back down by an octave to fill in the remaining space. Tonewheel organs famously had a fairly low upper limit, and so would “fold back” their high pitches lower down the keyboard than later models. To the listener, this would mean a smoother and less bright sound at the top of the keyboard when the high-pitched footages were used. On The Vintage Ultima, the default foldback simulates that on an analogue type organ. But when you hit the “Fold” switch, the foldback will drop down to the classic tonewheel limit.

WHAT DOES THE “SHIFT” SWITCH DO?


The Shift switch moves the pitch of the Lower manual up by one octave. This is so you can choose between more effective key splits. Generally, if you play bass lines to the left of your key split, you’ll probably want to leave the Shift switch off. If you play chords to the left of your key split, you may want to switch the Shift on.

THE UPPER ATTACK SECTION


The Upper Attack section takes care of what a tonewheel organ would decribe as “percussion” – the percussive transient that occurs as the note is depressed. But the Vintage Ultima’s Attack is a lot more versatile. You can control the volume of the attack, the tone and character of the attack, the decay of the attack, and also the rise speed of the attack. By pushing up the RISE fader, you can get the highly distinctive slow attack “swell” sound which was often used to great effect on some of the sophisticated combo organs of the 1970s.

HOW DO I CHANGE THE TONE CHARACTER OF THE UPPER ATTACK?


You’ll notice that the 2nd and 3rd harmonic faders which control the volume of the two attack voices, are colour coded. But they don’t have any LCD box beneath them to select a F/R/H/S tonal characteristic. That’s because the tonal characteristics for the attack voices are set via the Upper manual’s footage faders.

The “2nd” fader takes its voicing from the Upper manual’s 4’ footage, and the “3rd” fader takes its voicing from the 2.66’ footage. Change the voices on the Upper manual’s 4’ and 2.66’ faders and you’ll see the colours of the 2nd and 3rd attack fader tips change to match.

THE ENVELOPE SWITCHES


The default envelope for the Vintage Ultima gives instant attack and zero sustain, like on a tonewheel or typical combo organ. But you can alter the default envelope with the Envelope switches. The SUST switch creates a long decay, which you might use when simulating a string machine. And the WIND switch flips the attack into a soft mode, which simulates a wind-driven instrument. The obvious application for the WIND switch is recreating pipe or church organ sounds, or harmonium sounds.

THE TREMOLO


This is basically a two-component rotary speaker, but it was normally described as a “tremolo channel” on old analogue organs. The ON switch routes the output to the “tremolo channel”, and the FAST switch speeds up the rotation.

THE VIBRATO CHORUS SECTION


This section has three faders. VIB controls the depth of the vibrato, RATE controls the speed of the vibrato, and CHOR offers two separate types of chorus effect. With the CHOR fader fully down, the VIB fader will just give you ordinary vibrato. With the CHOR fader set halfway up, you get a classic vintage organ chorus when you increase the VIB. With VIB all the way down, the middle CHOR setting will not have any effect at all.

Setting CHOR fully up will give you a standard late 1970s analogue chorus effect, which acts completely independently of the vibrato. With CHOR fully up and VIB fully down, you get a synthy richness which is quite “early ‘80s”. Keep the CHOR fully up and increase the VIB, and you’ll get an early ‘80s type gospel organ sound. Works particularly well with the VIB at half and the RATE fully up.

Note that the Vibrato Chorus section is disengaged when you activate the “tremolo channel”.

TUNING


Self-explanatory. Use this knob to tune your Vintage Ultima to the track.

BALANCE


The Balance knob adjusts the comparative volumes of the two manuals – like a see-saw control. This was common on two-manual analogue organs.

TONE


Tone is a straightforward brighteness control which affects the entire organ’s output.

VOLUME


Volume affects the entire organ’s output.

SPECIAL ADVICE


As I advised with the Undercult, when you use the rotary speaker on a track you're going to mix down in anything other than real time, operate the rotary slow/fast transitions via the FAST button on the VSTi console. This will hard record the transition rate to the track so that the speeding up and slowing down sound correct regardless of the mixdown speed. If you're mixing down in real time, you should be fine using your mod wheel to control the rotary transitions.

So, those are the basics of how The Vintage Ultima works. Have fun with it. I certainly do. Now all you need is the warning/disclaimer and the direct download link.

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER


The instrument has 32-bit architecture and was designed to operate at a sampling rate of 44.1K. It may not function correctly when used outside of its intended environment.

The VSTi was created with care, but it is home made, it has not been tested across a wide array of systems, it comes with no guarantee whatsoever, and it is used entirely at your own risk. In downloading and/or using this VSTi, you agree that you, and only you, will be responsible for any negative issues the VSTi should cause.

To use the Vintage Ultima VSTi, simply download the DLL file and place it into your VST plugins folder. Your host should then recognise it and add it automatically.

Please note that this is a DIRECT download link, and that hitting the link will actually start the download…

The Vintage Ultima - Direct Download Link

Keep an eye on the VST organs page or the VST feed for other freeware releases.