First Look at Massive X – Synth Spotlight


I was graced by the gods (by whom I mean Native Instruments) with an early release of Massive X and I was able to play around with it to create this comprehensive video review.


Massive X, this is a big overhaul of Massive. It’s a totally new synth from the ground up, but it still has some elements from Massive so, it feels like Massive and a brand new synth at the same time. It’s really nice.

So, this is Synth Spotlight, I’ll be focused on the usual thing which is what makes this synth interesting. Why it stands out from other synths, why you should care. But I’ll also touch upon, you know how things have changed from Massive, what they brought along and how they’ve changed it. S

o, the centerpiece of this thing is the Routing panel. If you remember, old Massive, original Massive, it had a Routing panel as well. And this allowed you to do a few things like these instant effects down here, you could determine where they were in the signal path. So, if I click there, it’s position between Oscillator and Filter. Or I could put it after the filter, a few things like that. It was limited, but it was pretty cool.

However, Massive X has taken that idea and ran with it creating pretty much a total modular architecture. Right here, we’ve got how everything is connected. So, right now we’ve got Oscillator one and two, Noise one and Noise two down here. And then it goes through a chain, we’ve got A, B and C insert effects, that’s A, B, and C. We have the filter F, that’s represented down here. And so you can see the chain.

The oscillator is going into insert effect A, which then goes into the filter, which then goes into insert B, insert C, and then out into our effects and eventually out the end. So, just there was basic example. Let’s say, I set up insert effect B, as a you know, maybe distortion. Or let’s do a Bitcrusher actually. So don’t- right now because the filter is before it. As I change this frequency, the cutoff of our low pass filter doesn’t make it rounder, it just changes the sound going in our Bitcrusher, which then kind of brightens it again in various ways.

So, maybe I’m thinking, well, you know, I want the Bitcrusher before that. I wanna filter the Bitcrusher sound. Easy. All we have to do is disconnect our filter, and our Bitcrusher, and reconnect things in a different order. Then now, we get our crush sound, that is then is then filtered. So, that’s just a basic example of how to use this. It’s the tip of the iceberg. There’s a million things you can do with this Routing panel.

I’m gonna go through all the different modules up here. And you’ll find that I keep coming back to the Routing panel. It’s such an integrative part of it. And it creates so much flexibility in this synth.

Alright, so let’s jump in and start with our Oscillators up here. So, two Wavetable Oscillators, a lot of Wavetables here. Way more than the original Massive. And they actually brought some of the original Massive ones along under remastered, which is a nice touch. Each of these Oscillators also has a bunch of modes, I call them like, “Morph modes.”

If you remember, the original Massive had that as well. We had the spectrum bends and format, allowed you to kinda morph the waveforms in various ways. Well, now that we’ve got even more of those, and each of them has their own sort of subset as well. One new one they created was called Gorilla, which I really like. Which let me initialize our sound. Before I show you that. Okay. Go to Gorilla. Now listen to this. It’s like a really aggressive sync. But this itself has a few different versions. So this is King, changed to Kang. So, not only do we have all these wavetables to work with, we’ve had a lot of ways we can mess with them, and morph them.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with the original Massive, you may be asking, well they got rid of an oscillator… And that’s true, we got two wavetable oscillators instead of three. However, instead of having three of these, they threw in an additional three subtractive oscillators. If you go over to the, Insert effects, you’ll see oscillator. This is a subtractive oscillator.

So, what I’m going to do is, break this, break off all these. Send B and bring this over here and connect it to the beginning of our chain, and now, I have a additional oscillator to work with. One, you know, common use that comes to mind is a sub oscillator. And you got a few different options here. Standard, Subtractive waveforms.

Another use for this. Let’s say you wanna add in, a sine wave, layer that in to create some fatness in your sound. And thanks to our Routing panel, you know, let’s say we have a bunch of effects going on. Our sound’s really going crazy. But we want a pure sine wave, you know to layer in, give it some body, we don’t want it affected by everything. No problem, so move it directly to the output. And now, we can do whatever we want to our main sound, our sine wave will be untouched. Or maybe we wanted to go through just one of the effects. Okay, fine, we can do that. So again, you see how great this Routing panel is. It really lets you wire up this synth any way you want.

Alright, one more thing about these oscillators is along with our two wavetable oscillators and our three insert oscillators. We have two dedicated phase modulation oscillators. So, phase modulation PM creates a sound that’s pretty much identical to frequency modulation. FM synths, soft synths, usually are using PM instead of actual FM. But you get an FM sound. So these are basically, two oscillators dedicated to giving us FM sound.

All you gotta do is enable PM one, set this to a sine wave. And now this knob will increase the amount of phase modulation that supplied to Oscillator one. And what I really like, a nice touch here is this pitch control is done in ratio. So one means it’s the same pitch as Oscillator one, two means it’s octave higher. We could go half, octave lower. This is how FM synths do it. So if you’re familiar with FM synth programming, you really like this. If you don’t like that, no problem, turn on key track and it’s good old semitones.

Now, we’ve got two of these, and we can route them in various ways. I could have them both modulating Oscillator one, or, you know, one to one, two to two. And on top of that, we had this auxiliary phase modulation source, where we can wire up anything we want to this and it becomes our phase modulation source. One example would be, over here in our Inserts. We have A Phase Modulation Oscillator. That’s the guy right here. To use it, all we gotta do is wire it to this box, PM auxiliary. Whatever is connected into here, then becomes our auxiliary phase modulation source. So, enable auxiliary. you turn this one down.

So, in reality, we have five different Phase Modulation Oscillators and we can wire them to one and two in various ways. So it gives us kind of a mini FM synth inside of this big wave table synth. Very nice touch. And because of the Routing panel, we can do some strange things here, like, I could change C to Bitcrusher, and I do have to connect the input to get it to work. But, let’s turn this off. So it’s kind of bizarre. But this just as an example, we can use anything as our phase modulation source. Or, another example, we could do FM feedback where the oscillator that’s being modulated is also the modulation source.

It’s actually a great way to get kind of like a saw-like sound. So, tons of options with the oscillators. And lastly, there is a unison section, set the number of voices, the width, the spread, you can create chords, all sorts of options here.

Alright, before I move on to these next sections, I just wanna briefly mention that this video is brought to you by, us Audible Genius, the creators of Syntorial. Syntorial is videogame-like training software, that’ll teach you how to program synth patches by ear. Whole goal of this training App is to get you to the point where you can take the sounds you hear. Whether they’re in your head, or music you’re listening to and be able to create them on a synth.

Briefly, here’s how it works. I’m gonna grab a random lesson. Starts with a video. So, in this video, I demonstrate something. Maybe I talk about filters, maybe I talk about waveforms. And I go through, demonstrate them, explain them. You then go to a challenge. In this challenge, you’re given a hidden patch. I can hear it, but I can’t see it, I have to go over to my patch, which is a plain saw, and I have to recreate it all by ear. So it’s all about ear training.

That’s what synthesis is all about. You have to train your ear. Otherwise, you’re just guessing. You got to be able to take the sounds you hear and make them. Now, I’m not gonna make any changes here. I’m gonna submit this to see how I did. Obviously I did terrible because I didn’t make any changes. But here’s what happens, any controls that are correct, are green, and the ones that are wrong are red, and I can make the changes and hear the difference.

You start showing your ear the difference. Now, it starts incredibly simple. The first lesson is about, Saw and Pulse Waveforms. Saw and Pulse, I just talk about those two waveforms, I demonstrate them. And the challenge, all it is the waveform, you’re recreating patches with just one control. It gradually adds one control at a time until you get to the very end. In which you’re doing the whole synth.

Starts out simple, gets complex, trains your ear. Try it out, free demo, first 22 lessons link in the description. Okay, shut up, Joe. Back to Massive X.

All right, moving on, noise. Pretty simple here, but there’s two of them. And you might be wondering, why would you need two noises. Well, like the original Massive, this is more than just your typical white or pink noise. Let’s turn down this. Turn you on. You’ve got all sorts of stuff. So it’s more like a sampler in a way. Adds a whole new texture. I personally like the grizzly. So, if you’ve been thinking, “Man, I need a synth That creates some grizzly bear sounds”, look no further.

Right, so you got two of those nice. Filter. All right, we got a lot of filter options. And each one of them has a subset. So like this monarch, which I think is kind of like a Moogy analog filter, it’s got you know, a few different pulse settings or slope settings for the low pass, bandpass, peak, and each one of these has its own sort of sub settings.

So there’s this one called Creek which is really more like a distortion, few different types of sub distortions, and which I’m really happy about as they added this Gain knob , so we can Push the filter, get some warmth out of it. I find that’s very important in synths nowadays to get that nice, warm, analog-y sound. And you also might be thinking, well look, the old Massive had two filters, And you can route them various ways. This only has one. So isn’t that a downgrade? No.

First off, they substituted that with two sort of pre-made dual filters in typical ways. So like this is a parallel, you can choose two filters to combine in parallel. So low pass, high pass. Your sounds will run into a low pass, also a high pass, and that’s combined at the end. And so there’s just some common combinations for that. Or you can do serial, which is just a high pass, running into a low pass.

These are real common ways to use dual filters. So rather than have that complexity of having to manage those two filters, they did this instead. I like it, it just makes it more user friendly, while still giving you a lot of capability. I never really use dual filters that much anyway, personally. Okay, now along with this gain knob, we also have feedback, which again was in the old Massive, so if I. This takes the output of the filter, sticks it back into the input, so you create this rill, saturated sound. However, thanks to our Routing panel, we can apply a feedback loop to anything.

Example. I’m gonna take B, and put Anima. It’s kinda like a flanger. Alright, I want this thing to feedback, how can I do that? Well, our feedback route is determined down here. This is the beginning of our feedback loop, this is the end. So, our filter’s currently connected to it. The end goes into the feedback loop, and then that feedback loop comes back into the beginning of the filter. That’s why we get the sound we get when we increase our feedback.

You can do that to anything. I’m gonna create a feedback loop around Anima. Oops. A lot of experimentation here. What can I do with a feedback loop? What I like even better though. This reconnecting this. So, the output of Anima goes back into the filter and get this two module feedback loop.

Another thing I love about this Routing panel, feedback whatever you want to feed back. All right, so let’s go on to our Effects section. We got three of them X, Y and Z. A nice robust set of Effects, Reverbs, Delays, kind of standard stuff. Each of these has its own subset, though. So by going to reverb, tons of reverb types, you got a lot to work with here, very nice. One I wanna talk about in particular is this Nonlinear Lab.

On the surface, it just seems like a kind of a standard distortion, few different types. But what I love about this, is down here, this is an amp simulator. Toss it through a big reverb. Epic guitar sound. Love that effect. And, we can route these in various ways. So you can connect various modules into either X, Y or Z. And go here, here here. And we can route the actual effects in different ways. X, this is a pure serial Routing, X into Y into Z. We could do X and Y parallel. So, modules go into them separately, it’s summed, and then everything’s run through Z, or they’re all parallel, separate, and then summed at the end.

So more flexibility there with how our effects are routed. Alright, so that’s all of our modules up here. Let’s talk about our Modulation sources. We’ve got an envelope, right? Good old standard modulation envelope ADSR, with an extra hold period and a delay period, the beginning. A lot of options here, nothing super special. What I like is this exciter envelope. We turn off our effects here. Exciter envelope is basically an attack transient designer. It’s just for creating attack transients. Makes sense because that’s what we use envelopes a lot for. So this is just dedicated to that.

So I’m gonna route this to our pitch and change a couple settings here, I’ll explain what these are doing in a second. A ratio is basically the length of it. This is a really fast decay, creating a little attack transient with our pitch. But we can do various things with this. Like if I put center in the middle, we get both an attack and a decay. That is by the way, that’s as slow as it’s gonna go. This is just for short envelope transients. They go all the way this way. I squashed the attack, it’s all decay. Or this way, it’s all attack sloping up, and I can even hold it at the top. So it’s purely a little attack transient designer. It’s a nice touch since that’s we use envelopes for a lot.

Okay, next let’s talk about some LFO’s. Switch your LFO, let’s route it to cutoff. And by the way how we route things is the same just like the original Massive, just drag and then set the amount like this. So we have some standard waveforms here, square, sine triangle. But then we have all these interesting ones.

And I have to admit I really like this knob, there’s something really satisfying about it. And I mean a bunch of other standard controls here. What I like though, this nice touch is over here, I’m gonna increase our amp envelope, release, loop GTE. This is only gonna apply when my note is held down. When I let go it’ll go straight. Or the opposite loop release. When I’m holding the key, it’s a long note, when I let go, the LFO kicks in.

Interesting, one shot treats this like a envelope just goes through once. One shot release, only when we release the key. So it’s kind of interesting. I don’t know how I’d use that. But it’s different enough that I want to use it. Random LFO. So, this is like a sample and hold that you can tweak and control. By default, all it is a triangle wave. If I increase the Amp jitter, it’s gonna randomize the LFO amount. Frequency jitter will randomize the rate. So you can dial these in exactly how you want them.

Instead of a triangle wave, we can do a square wave and that’ll jump between values instead of smoothly bending between them. That’s like a standard sample and hold. So tweakable random LFO. Last, is our performer. Well, there’s a couple others, they’re kind of boring. This is a key tracking like no pitch velocity, really in depth though. So if you use key tracking a lot or use velocity a lot, and you’re obsessed with how it responds across the whole scale of the keyboard, or all the velocities you could Really dial this in specifically.

And this is voice routing. This allows you to randomly change the destination with every key press. Interesting. However, what I find way more interesting is this performer. This thing allows you to draw in, whatever modulation shapes you want in terms of song structure, song length, loops, rhythmic values, all sorts of edit modes. It’s basically like a little tiny DAW inside of the synth. And rather than me kind of dialing and show this to you,

I’m gonna bring up an example. Where is that one? Here it is. So, using all three of these performers, each one just has a different shape drawn in. You see this, you couldn’t do this with an LFO. Every single use is changing as it goes along. Look at all that, and it’s all routed to various aspects of our wave table, volume, filter… Sort of being used, three different shapes for three different things creates the sound of all these different voices playing. And on top of that, just to show you how this is being used as like a song maker in a sense, we’ve got different versions of it.

So, they created scat one which are these three patterns. Then scat two, three different patterns. Scat three, yet another set of patterns and meditation which is just nothing. Oops, meditation which is just holding the note. And, what’s interesting is that they won’t trigger until I play a new note. So, watch this. Okay. Now I’m gonna hit two but it’s not playing it. It won’t until I play a new note right here. Now three, oh, hold on. And three. And end it with four.

So this really is, it’s like a little mini composer inside of the synth. Again, kinda like the Routing panel, there’s like a million things you could do here. Lastly, I’m gonna show you one more preset as a cool example of what you can do with this Routing panel. And that is… cause I’m obsessed with this Routing panel, Caps Lock.

All right, it sounds like three different synths. That’s thanks to this Routing panels. Let me spread it out a little bit so you can see what’s going on. All right, Oscillator one, going into distortion, and then out. Oscillator two, going into Utility Insert Effect, which is basically like a simple filter that’s going to do a different effect, Delay and then out.

Noise, going into a Comb filter, which is then going out to yet another effect, Reverb. But also, this Comb filter is going out into a Delay Insert Effect. And then a feedback loop is created with the end of that delay going, back into the comb filter. But, on top of all that, our second noise oscillator running through Utility insert effect again, is then being used as our Auxiliary Phase Modulation source, which in turn is modulating oscillator one and our auxiliary sources also being modulated by LFO three.

The reason I like this is there are other synths that have this kind of modular architecture. But, there’s something about this that is easy to see, for me. It’s incredibly complex, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. I can literally just see where everything is. And I can move things around that make it a little more easier for me to see and understand. I don’t know, it’s just that perfect marriage of complexity and ease that I just love in a good synth.

All right, that’s Massive X. I this is know this is kinda long video but, lots of good stuff in this synth. So, I encourage you to try it out. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel If you need any help with patches, specific patches on any synth, really, head on over to our forum and put in a patch request. And again, don’t forget to try out Syntorial.