It’s hard to believe that Artruria has anything left to add to Pigments at this point, but here we are. NAMM 2024 is just about ready to kick off, and Arturia is rolling out version five of its home-grown super synth. In the grand scheme of Pigments updates, this is a relatively minor one. But that’s not to say there aren’t new features worth getting excited about.
Perhaps the most important new feature is also the most invisible. Pigments finally supports multi-core processing, dramatically improving performance. It was never the biggest resource hog in the virtual synth space (the current champion in my experience is Moog’s Mariana), but it could be demanding depending on the patch. Now CPU usage in the standalone version sits at about 4 percent when idle on my M1 MacBook Pro. And I rarely see it climb above 20 percent.
There are also changes to the stripped down Play view. It’s more consistent and a bit prettier now, with a new spectral visualizer. It doesn’t really change things in any practical way, and while I’ll admit that the main UI can seem a little busy to a newcomer, I never found it particularly difficult to navigate. Play view might be a welcome improvement for those who use Pigments in performance settings and rarely do deep sound design, but its not something I ever find myself switching over to.
If you’re not one for sound design and rely more on presets you’ll probably appreciate the 150 new ones that are included, not to mention the three new sound banks of 150 patches each, all of which are designed with MPE in mind. Pigments is one of a handful of high-profile soft synths out there with extensive MPE support, but its presets often don’t take full advantage. But now that MPE controllers are becoming more common, Arturia is making an effort to remedy that. Heck, maybe Arturia will announce an MPE controller of its own in the not too distant future.
One of the more exciting upgrades is a new option in the utility engine (only on the second source) for audio input. That means you can process other instruments, or even your voice using Pigments’ effects. Chances are you already have access to a rich suite of effects in your DAW, but being able to seamlessly combine external audio with Pigments’ synth engines and process them through the same effects to help them meld together more seamlessly is a nice new source of timbres. I tested it out by running an Elektron Digitone through Pigments and was pretty happy with the results, but I definitely have a lot more exploring to do. If you’d rather stick to the built-in engines, there’s a selection of new samples and wavetables for you to explore as well.
The sequencer has also gotten some pretty significant upgrades. There’s a new dice icon for generating a random sequence which can be locked to a specific scale. And sequences can now be saved separately as their own presets, which you can lock to try the same sequence with multiple different sound presets. You can even feed the MIDI from the Pigments’ sequencer to other instruments. So if your DAW or synth of choice lacks generative features you can now just let Pigments do the work.
As usual, Pigments 5 is available as a free upgrade for current owners. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is a pretty good time to do so. For a limited time you can get Pigments, plus the three new sound banks for $99. That’s quite a steal since Pigments is normally $199, and each of the sound banks (Beats Exploration, Expressive Explorations and Liquid Explorations) will be $30 at full price.