Access Virus TI Classic Synth Review – ‘One Of The Greatest Synths Of All Time’

In this video, synthesist and producer Joey Blush, aka Blush Response, takes a look at the classic Access Virus TI.

The Access Virus TI is a DSP-based virtual analog synthesizer, with three oscillators per voice, dual multi-mode filters, expansive modulation options and a deep effects section. But the TI also goes beyond virtual analog, with supersaw, wavetable, granular & formant oscillators.

The Virus TI has been described as “the pinnacle of DSP-based digital synthesis” for its day. If its synthesis capabilities aren’t enough to impress you, the 80-voice polyphony and 16-part multi-timbral operation might do it.

Blush argues that the Access Virus TI, even close to two decades later, is “one of the greatest synths of all time”. How many synths today offer great build quality, 80-voice polyphony, deep synthesis capabilities and 16-part multi-timbrality?

Does the Access Virus TI make most of today’s DSP-based synth look wimpy? Check out the video, and then share your thoughts on the Access Virus TI in the comments!

33 thoughts on “Access Virus TI Classic Synth Review – ‘One Of The Greatest Synths Of All Time’

  1. I had a TI 61 and got rid of it almost as quickly as I acquired it. It was a great synth, and I don’t dispute anything in the video. The problem is that the support from the company was non-existent. I couldn’t get even basic questions answered. Ultimately, the place in my rig that was (for a brief moment in time) occupied by the Virus is now occupied by an Iridium Keyboard. There is really no comparing the synths in terms of their capabilities and Waldorf is still actually interested in synthesizers and continues to provide updates and support.

  2. I find it fascinating that they can keep selling the same models year in year out. But I also do wonder if the company will survive once the DSP they’re using is no longer available.

    1. “The company” has been focused on guitars for a very long time and seem to be quite successful. They don’t really care about synths anymore, though, supposedly, they recently dangled a “some day” about getting back to them.

      “The company” also makes Kemper.

      I would never buy a hardware TI at this point, especially since there’s a software version with just as much support. Heck, probably more support.

        1. Rumor has it there’s a Motorola DSP emulator that uses the actual Virus ROM. You’d have to hunt around for it I imagine, or someone else my post a link here. It’s not licensed or sanctioned by Access as far as I know.

            1. Right now, that only a Virus B & C is available, is correct (however when the ROMs from other versions hit the street, especially the Polar, nothing will stop the recreation of them either now that the DSP has been successfully emulated).

              Actually, the word “emulates” as you have used it here may be a little misleading. The thing that is emulated is the Motorola DSP device that most of the Viri use as their CPU engine. What isn’t emulated is the software that drives the DSP and makes, say, a Virus-C a Virus-C. So, what you end up with is a REAL Virus-C that exists in your generalized computer as opposed to the metal box that Access puts the DSP chip(s) and the ROM chip(s) in that turn the output of the DSP into a Virus. To the extent that the emulation of the DSP is flawless, so will be the voice of the Virus in your computer.

              As I report in another reply in this thread, the Virus-C you get when you load the DSP emulator and the Virus-C ROM programs in something as lowly as a (circa 2013) Windows 7 box running a i7-2600 processor is quite phenomenal. I no longer have a hardware Virus to compare it to, but there are several comparison videos available on YouTube. The main point of all of this is that, for FREE you can have the actual sound engine of a Virus-B or -C. Of course, the analog components of your system (e.g., how the D/A converters work in your system may be different than the hardware Virus) may impart a different sonic character than what you get out of a hardware Virus when you plug it into your amplifier, but those superficial things can be tweaked to taste in outboard processing, if necessary. The main point is that neither me, not anybody else, is suggesting that the “software” Virus is either better or worse than the hardware Virus, just that hardware Viri are not cheap and the “software” one (that is fundamentally identical) is FREE.

  3. Since 4 years they don’t provide any support for the virus, the software is outdated and not compatible anymore with moderns OS. It’s a shame.

    1. I just found the DSP emulator synth. It’s called Osirus. I downloaded it along with the Virus C ROM tonight and installed it on two PCs as both a VST2 and VST3, and on a Mac Mini M1 as an AU and VST3. It runs flawlessly on both Win 10 and Win 7 in as many hosts as I’ve tried it on and in Live (as and AU and VST3) and Logic (as an AU) on the Mac. Since the heart of the CPU for the synth is a true emulation of the 56300, and the ROM program that it is executing is the Access Virus “C” ROMs, the VST is an exact emulation of a Virus C. It accepts third party libraries, and I’ve successfully loaded every library I have that wasn’t specifically a TI library, and they all function incredibly well. The download instructions claim that it is a CPU hog (they give you a test routine that calculates the mips the computer is capable of). I have found, however, that it runs fine on my Win 7 system which is rather ancient i7-2600 I think that the CPU warnings are a little outdated for most people to worry about (i.e., the test program says that the Virus C requires a CPU capable of 180mips, and the 2600, according to the test app, clocked that CPU out at 360-373 mips.

      So, you can’t argue too much about a free Access Virus-C (yes, it is an Access Virus-C, albeit running in software inside a computer and not software running inside a steel cabinet). According to the developer, a Virus TI ROM set is available somewhere (I haven’t found it yet). If the ROMs do, indeed, exist, I see no reason outside of CPU capability why that wouldn’t work as well as the B and C emulations. Kind of glad I kept copies of all of my Virus patch libraries (>150) when I sold my TI-61 🙂

  4. No support for the VST plug in does NOT MATTER at all! This is a hardware synth, not a VST. If you bought it for that, you are doing it wrong. That said, it still does work under most systems, which says a lot given how old it is and how little support it’s gotten over the years. And the hardware is well built, so you don’t really need “support” like you do on cheap import crap. Also, if this “no support” reasoning was that important, you could take the entire hit list of classic synths off your list of things to love and use… no ms20, no Model D, no Juno, etc. And all that said, if you still really need software integration, use this… it’s better anyway.

    A Virus Ti is still a superior synth to almost anything that is released new today. So many things it can do that people never discover because they don’t learn anything on a synth other than where the filter knob is. And the polyphony! Bragging about 8 voices on a mono-tambral synth in 2022 is pretty weak compared to a 10+ year old multi-tambral beast that can do way north of 100 voices on 16 different tracks at once.

    Seriously folks, this synth is a freakin gem! VST software be damned, and don’t believe the rumors that it is “cold”.

    1. Actually, I never got the Mystery Island editor to work with my Ti-61, and that was one of the main reasons I didn’t keep it (not that the MI editor didn’t work but that since the TI inclusion was pretty much good for nothing, there wasn’t a convenient way to edit programs for the thing). Also, when I tried to get support from the people at Mystery Island, I received none!

  5. Very lame synths, pretty much all of the access ones. Instead of “fixing” the basic dsp blocks, oscillators, filters, etc they would waste all the dsp in a gazillion fx per part and a trillion voices of polyphony. Once you took off the fx you were better of with an archaic vst (soundwise). Compare it to the waldorfs of the time, with the complex modulation and the nords (especially the Modular ones) and it was a complete joke. For me they were in the Novation league then (Novation has vastly improved since).

    1. Novation made great synths back then. Supernova 2 was pretty deep.

      And the virus modulation isn’t complex? Thats what it seems you’re saying. You can link lterally anything to anything. you can pretty much link things to themselves. Link your envelope decay time to the envelope decay for instance for different shapes. I’m not sure there’s a single parameter you cant put on the matrix. It sounds like you never really knew how to use it to it’s full. Or you just don’t like how it sounds. Which is fine. Can’t please everyone.
      What needed “fixing” about the basic DSP blocks? And you say “they” would waste dsp on effects….. only if you use them. I’m not even sure you know what you’re talking about really.

  6. Access hit the ball out of the park with this one. Not many synthesizers can say the same. Sold my Ti Keyboard but later got the Ti2 Dark Star. A wonderful instrument that impresses each time. Lacking software related support is real but you get what you see/hear and it’s great!

  7. It´s still a great synth, very fun to use. You can use it with regular MIDI instead of Total Integration, no problem.

  8. I love it! Its sounds, possibilities, types of synthesis, modulations, 16 parts, a lot of polyphony, it does great a lot of things!! It’s true about the lack of support but….It’s so well built that I’ve never had the need to contact support. Also, I don’t use TI, don’t see the need, I can do almost everything in the synths itself (sometimes I upload patches, using TI, but that’s the most I use it) I use it with MIDI, sequencers, etc as a standalone synth, and it’s great.

  9. Interesting seeing the slander. I had a Virus Ti2 for roughly a decade. To me, it is the holy grail, a somewhat flawed holy grail but still, it was freaking amazing. No Synth is perfect, but I’ve yet to find a synth that i love as much. You don’t need the plugin integration at all. And making sounds from scratch was quite a bit of fun. Loved the mod matrix and the effects had plenty of mileage (reverb aside lol). I may buy another in the future but my journey has taken me elsewhere, to another enigmatic masterpiece – the Electron A4 LMAO. My next synth will be a UDO super 6…peace.

  10. Aways wanted a TI Polar after trying one in Turnkey, London back many years ago – a shame it was so expensive then – and still way too expensive given its age.

    1. Given the Polar’s single DSP-unit engine, I’m sure there will be a FREE one available as soon as its ROMs hit the street!

  11. I think the people that dismiss the Virus as plasticy, cold, digital and such things completely miss the point that to some of us, these are exactly the sonic characteristics we are after. If I want warm and fat, there are plenty of analog synths to chose from. Virus on the other hand has a very specific, artificial timbre that works great for certain types of music and moods. That’s why it’s so popular, not because it actually emulates an analogue synth, which it doesn’t.

    1. True, people complain it’s cold when they hear someone using it for icy strings/pads or pluckyt bell sounds. But if you make analog style basses with it, with all the filter options, and EQ options, and saturation options, it really doesn’t sound cold if you know what you’re doing. Lets face it, whether something sounds “cold” or not, is all in the EQ curve and saturation, as well as the actual sound you’ve made. If it sounds cold, dial it in differently. It’s really not a slow process either, having so many knobs and minimum menu diving. People used to say the nord sounded fat and warm, these days it gets slammed for being cold. People love to hate

    2. While I agree that there can be an easily found “virus sound”, if a person can’t get warm fat analog sounds out of a Virus they need to learn a bit more about programming synths. Not a snub, seriously… but this synth can do so many different things. It’s not “cold” at all unless you make it so.

  12. I got a VirusB 20 years ago, many years ITB…recently I bought hw synths and TI2 Polar and I’m thinking of selling my Novation Peak and buy another Virus, probably TI desktop. Support doesn’t matter. No USB connections at all (with all of my hardware synths, new and old, just to update OS, midi forever with a good midi interface).
    Virus, you can make any kind of sound easy, funny and fast (Nord synths even faster).
    This is the most important thing.

  13. What a nice review. I really enjoyed it. At the end, I put in an order for a brand new Virus TI2 Polar and it just arrived now. It is a marvelous synth that will sit well with my clunky old analogues.

  14. I love my virus. Yes, no support and all that. But that’s enough of a worry for me to get rid of it. It inspires me to make music which is all I care about. It’s also a lot more flexible than people give it credit for. I think the animosity that people seem to feel towards this synth is proportional to how revered and ubiquitous this thing is. Also, the keybed on my ti is frickng incredible. It may not be to everyone’s taste but in what world is this not a good synth?

  15. I had my TI Polar for close to 20 years, and sold it 2 years ago when I moved to a different state. I’ve missed it ever since. It’s true it’s lacking support, and certain functions never really worked in Digital Performer, my choice of DAW. Timing was sometimes a bit shaky, but as many have said above, it sounds killer. It’s also solidly-built, very compact and light, and looks great with all its ivory-ness and flashing virus logo. I’m slightly nervous about future OS upgrades and things, but I’m about to buy another one…

  16. I almost cried tears of joy when I found this article and the recommendation of the DSP5630 emulator. I have been in love with the Virus ever since I first got the Powercore version in plugin format something like 20 years ago. I went on to purchase a TI Snow, which I still have, and now am considering selling, since we now have this!! AND….

    IT WORKS ON APPLE SILICON AND VST3!!!!!!!!! ohhhh man.

    And a big MIDDLE FINGER to Access Music for abandoning us.

      1. There is no “firmware”. Read my post above from Aug 11, 2022 (1:51). All of the information you need is there.

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