‘The Ultimate Matrix Synthesizer’, XILS 4, Now Available


French soft synth developer XILS-lab today released XILS 4, a software emulation of the legendary EMS VCS4.

The XILS 4 emulates a prototype that was never released, the EMS VCS4, based on two integrated, interlinked and interacting VCS 3 ( Synthi) cores. With XILS 4, they are coupled them the classic 256 analog polysequencer.

XILS 4 Key Modules:

  • 12 Aliasing free Oscillators, grouped in 6 pairs, with WaveShaping, 3*2 Hard synchronization modes, + 2 additional Noise oscillators
  • 2 Analog Multimode Filters, Non Linear and zero delay Behaviors, with 3 Modes (12/18/24 dB)
  • 4 Trapezoidal, looping, Envelope Generators. ( Switchable to standard ADSR )
  • 5 Polyphonic LFOs ( including 4 Oscillator acting as LFO at audio rate )
  • Polyphonic Ring Modulator and VCA engine
  • Cascade Mode : Synthesizer 1 can feed Synth 2 engine inputs
  • 4 independent outputs feeding the Stereo Bus, each with one analog Lp/Hp filter
  • 2 Programmable Joystick Vector Controllers ( up to 32+32 modulation targets )
  • Polyphonic Sequencer with 3 independent lines, Slew rates, 3 recording modes.
  • Sequencer can behave as modulation source.
  • Pitch Tracker, Enveloppe Follower, Transient, Gate, Sample & Hold Modules
  • Chorus, Delay, Phaser, Spring Reverb
  • 6 Play modes (including Unison 2/4/6 ), Polyphonic and mono Portamento/Glissando/Legato, 2 different Keyboard Scaling, Polyphonic Aftertouch and VCA handling.
  • Nearly 700 presets made by worldwide famous Sound Designers
  • Preset Database Engine ( Find the right patch in a flash, create your own tags )
  • Comprehensive manual with a getting started and tutorial sections
  • More than 100 parameters mappable to midi controllers
  • More than 1100 possible connections per patch


Here’s what XILS-Lab has to say about XILS 4 and the VCS4:

The VCS4, a ‘dual VCS3’ analogue matrix modular synthesizer, was prototyped by Electronic Music Studios (EMS) back in 1969, but was never commercially released.

At its introduction in 1969, the VCS3 was the first portable synthesizer commercially available anywhere in the world. Its innovative modular matrix-based patch board bypassed the “telephone exchange” cabling of other existing (and much larger) modular systems, in favor of connections made with colored pins. That patch method allowed the VCS3 to be housed in a small wooden cabinet. XILS-lab resurrected the VCS3 sound with its XILS 3 software emulation for Mac and PC.

The 1969-vintage VCS4, though, was EMS designer David Cockerell’s so-called ‘Live Performance Module’, comprising two VCS3s placed side by side, together with a five-octave keyboard, a mixer, and a signal-processing unit, all housed in a single wooden cabinet. Only one prototype was ever produced, its sounds lost in the sands of time… until now, that is!

By being based on two intricate and interacting VCS3 (‘Synthi’) cores — following in the fanciful footsteps of its one-off analogue ancestor to a tee, XILS-lab’s XILS 4 favourably emulates EMS’ VCS4. Indeed, those two cores can be set to work side by side or operate in serial (with one feeding the other). Each and every module on one side can be used to modulate or feed anything on the other side with stunning sound possibilities plus weird and wonderful effects readily available in abundance as a direct result. That said, XILS 4 shows its true 21st Century colours by also allowing amount settings to be individually applied to each patch ‘pin’. Providing patchboard power par excellence to an already special soft synth shows that there is clearly so much more to XILS 4 than solely emulating vintage hardware — rare as the vintage hardware in question clearly is. Little wonder, then, that XILS 4 is billed by its creator as being the Ultimate Analog Matrix Modular Synthesizer!

XILS-lab has sought to take things severals steps further still by coupling those cores with the SEQUENCER 256 module, inspired by EMS’ trailblazing Synthi Sequencer 256 namesake. Needless to say, this three-layer sequencer with analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue converters to enable digital processing of control voltages to drive multiple analogue synthesizers or multiple parameters with storage of up to 256 ‘events’ was well ahead of its time when released in 1971. Here in the virtual world, XILS-lab has well and truly transported it to the present day with three independent layers, slew rates, and recording modes, together with added abilities like sequencer layers acting as modulation sources in a dedicated SEQ MATRIX — matchless, even by today’s most sophisticated DAW standards!

So is that all? No, not at all! Adding a second ‘pin matrix’, two additional envelopes, an LFO, comprehensive SAMPLE AND HOLD module, and VOLTAGE PROCESSOR, plus several new input modules — including GATE, ENVELOPE FOLLOWER, and PITCH TRACKER — means that there are hundreds of additional connections available to the discerning synthesist set on exploring XILS 4 to the full as a superlative soft synth or as a powerful effects processor plug-in in its own right. The fact that there are over 1,140 possible connections per patch makes for a literal lifetime of programming possibilities that will surely far outlast the host computer concerned, though those in need of a helping hand have easy access to almost 700 professionally-programmed presets from world-renowned sound designers, including the complete XILS 3 factory library and over 350 presets specifically designed for XILS 4. A selection of tutorial-style patches are also available to help users seeking to take their first tentative steps towards scaling the heady heights of this mountainous modular monster of a soft synth!

Simply put, with a whole host of modules and associated far-reaching functionality — for starters, 12 aliasing-free oscillators, grouped in six pairs with wave-shaping and hard sync — yesteryear’s impossibilities have become today’s possibilities with XILS 4… a great step forward, indeed! A giant leap for modular synthesis software, some might say.

XILS 4 is available to purchase as an eLicenser or iLok copy-protected virtual instrument and effects plug-in for an introductory price of 149.00 EUR (rising to 179.00 EUR on June 17, 2014) from the XILS-lab web store.

XILS 3 owners can upgrade to XILS 4 for an introductory price of 29.00 EUR (rising to 49.00 EUR on June 17, 2014). XILS 4 can be directly downloaded as a 32- and 64-bit-compatible virtual instrument and effects plug-in for Mac (AAX, AU, RTAS, VST) and Windows (AAX, RTAS, VST).

Audio and video demos are available at the XILS Lab site.

5 thoughts on “‘The Ultimate Matrix Synthesizer’, XILS 4, Now Available

    1. A hardware controller for this synth would almost defeat the purpose. You’d have to make some compromises that would end up pleasing only a few users and a VCS3 is so esoteric, there would BE only a relative few. Not cost-effective, I’d wager. New or used, the hardware costs the moon, with fair reason, so I’d encourage people to meet this thing halfway and simply assign the basics to the knobs n’ sliders of a good controller. I understand the Gear Lust. I’ve owned a few analogs and still cream over the idea of a healthy E-Mu Morpheus. I also remember the maddening hassles of assigning a pile of hardware, so a software synth is usually a big step towards more fun-work and less hair-pulling. As hardware, this would be a Zimmer-level-only special. You can rub your hands together and cackle over this version as easily as you could with the real deal, IMO.

  1. You can search on youtube the xils-lab channel and listen to the two Xils 3 v2.0 preset tours, because Xils 4 also include nearly 450 presets from the Xils 3v2 factory library.

    Then on Xils site you can listen to plethora of Xils 3 audio demos/ New demos for the specific Xils 4 presets are on the way. Will be published on xils site or youtube channel as soon as the come/

    You cant use SOFT Elicencer for the Xils 4 : Standard Elicencer or ilok1/2 dongles are required, but the good news still is : Xils will offer you the Elicencer Dongle ( including worldwide p&p ) + Xilistics soundset + additional 30€ discount with the intro offer ( so 149 instead of 220€ ) if you order Xils 4 before Jnue 17th (irrc for the date )

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