discoDSP Discovery Pro R5.2 Review

Since years discoDSP Discovery has been many producers’ favorite softsynth. Initially thought to be kind of a Nordlead-inspired product it can nowadays be found in manifold music genres, proving its versatility once more. People love the low cpu-consumption, the fact that it’s a synth with no need for effects to make it sound good, and the possibility to use third party effects: who doubts a production gets its magic touch by applying a separate high-end reverb like ArtsAcoustic or Lexicon? Despite all the features the plugin already had, discoDSP intended to advance – Discovery Pro was born. We”ll give you an impression of the latest Discovery plugin so far – what it can do, what you can expect, what kinds of creativity you can persue with it, pros and contras and quite some more…

At your fingertips…

Loading Discovery Pro for the first time you will find a nice, clean and simple gui – pretty much a herald of the synth: the basic architecture is simple but excellent as regards sound: up to 4 layers offer each 2 oscillators, which have been improved since Discovery v1 came out (alias-free). Osc1 offers typical VA-waveforms plus “parabolic”, which adds warm and smooth sound to pads (aren’t we all bored of a simple sine?). Osc1 can do frequency modulation, while Osc2 offers white and pink noise instead and can be detuned. The amount both oscillators contribute to the final sound can be adjusted, and finally you may taste ring modulation or sync on it. Taking into account the sound quality and the 4-layer-feature this is already a powerful sound machine.

The amplitude of sound offers a one-button limiter function that can do wonders from time to time, but it can also be better to not touch it – just try it. A great feature here and for many other parameters is the possibility to link a knob’s setting to a source, allowing for (extreme) real-time sound modulation (“morph” function), so basically kind of a modulation matrix. You choose e. g. keyboard velocity and aim at e. g. the gain and thereby add dynamics to your patch. Depending on the velocity you play that patch with, loudness changes. Great deal!

Let’s go over to another important part: the filter section. With the latest R5.2 release of Discovery Pro, loads of filter types are available, ranging from classical high-/band-/lowpass filters to newer moog-modeled “X”/”Y” filters. All of them sound great, you should just try some of them to get a cool patch. We really like the X/Y filters as they are really unique. After you decided for your filter, you may link it to your keyboard velocity and, interestingly, distort it using asymmetric 1, 2 or symmetric distortion types. Since we’re talking about filter distortion here, it’s a more subtile effect you add to the sound, not as obvious as a separate distortion plugin. In many cases this is just the right way to give your patch a bit more edge, while in others it’s not enough and you will need a separate distortion effect.

Effective movement…

Talking about the effects Discovery Pro offers, there’s quite something more to say. First, you can add a phaser and/or chorus. Sadly, you cannot adjust their settings – but as a relief: they sound pretty good on any patch. A delay offers basic functions, fully accessible, and helps widening the sound or adding some rhythm to it. Looking for a touch of craziness or extra movement, you can modulate different sources (Osc2, pulsewidth, frequence modulation, filter) by drawing a 32-step envelope. Finally you may add an effect which became famous in trance music, a 32-step (“trance-”) gate. For each of these effects you can adjust the amount so your sound gets just the right dose.

Finally, to make your creation vivid once more, you may automate an lfo-like panning and use the 2 “real” lfos Discovery offers. One of them has an arpeggiator function – so you really don’t miss anything here. The modulation envelope can also be directed to different aims like frequency modulation or pulsewidth.

To end this part, let’s just mention some more general aspects. A total pitch range up to 96 semitones is a lovely feature for uplifters, downlifters or any other effects that create tension. Using Discovery Pro has become once more convenient as you can save individual presets for amplitude, filter, oscillator and more, which makes it easy to add a great setting to any other patch by one click. Really cool is also that you can copy&paste whole layers or patches.

Finetuning ahead…

Despite all features, the cpu consumption of discovery is quite low. However, you can push this by using all 4 layers – and the 2x oversampling or high-quality distortion mode. Again you should test for the effect of these settings – there are sounds where they do wonders, and others where they don’t change much but eat your cpu. Especially the high-quality distortion mode renders many patches a very nice and crisp way.

Taking care to use all these possibilities carefully you will recognize that Discovery is one a a few synths that sound very good without loads of external effects. If you compare other softsynths like LennarDigital or Rob Papen those clearly loose their magic from the moment you turn off their reverb or else… Not meaning they’re bad synths, but effects are most likely needed there.

Feed me…

Honestly, what makes Discovery Pro so attractive nowadays is the possibility to load own samples, turning the synth into a sample- or waveform-supported monster (there is a free expansion available by CFA-Sound.com using this feature to full extend). This is a great way to use waveforms like the supersaw in your tracks accompanied by low cpu consumption – and it’s very easy to integrate whatever sample you have. Get experimental!

A feature we have mixed feelings about is the PADsynth function discoDSP seems to be very proud of. It’s thought to be applied on own waveforms you loaded – and expected to perfectly loop it, calculate a whole set of new waveforms whatsoever, and thereby add creative, unique, moving textures to a pad-like patch. To our experience, this is trial and error: the first calculation when pressing “pad” takes quite some time, even on a multi-core computer – and you have to see what the result is like. We got really nice ones on the one, and very strange, more or less useless ones on the other hand… Still, this is a feature no other plugin offers, just don’t expect it to do wonders on every sound.

Listen to me…

The time has come: experience the pure sound of Discovery – without any external processing except a smooth limiter. Please note that any melody used here is for demo purposes only and may be copyrighted!

Discovery Pro Sounds

Whatever you like…

Following this review so far, you might already be aware that Discovery is suitable for any part of a song – be it bass, leadsound, pad or else. Listen to a short sample below – all synths (bass, sequence, lead, pad) are untouched Discovery Pro sound. Please note that any melody used here is for demo purposes only and may be copyrighted!

Discovery Pro DemoTrack


There are quite some synths out there offering great sound. Still, switching off all effects often takes away the glory – something totally not true for Discovery Pro. Since the user can now load own wave-samples and, together with the PADsynth feature, has a powerful tool to create neverheard sounds, Discovery Pro is one of the best softsynths out there. As an experienced producer you often add reverb separately as this is a point where quality counts a lot – so it’s definitely no drawback Discovery has no built-in reverb. Some other effects like tube distortion, frequency shifter or bitcrusher would be a nice addition though – but again, there are high quality products available from u-he, d16 and other companies, and those plugins are a must-have anyway. We prefer a well-developed product like Discovery Pro alongside with constant updates – much more than having a synth that offers everything in principle, but the price to pay is a loss in sound quality. Together with a reasonable price you cannot be wrong – discover Discovery!

More information: discodsp.com (149.00 €)

Sound Quality - 95%
Features - 90%
Performance - 90%
Value for Money - 100%

Summary: We prefer a well-developed product like Discovery Pro alongside with constant updates – much more than having a synth that offers everything in principle, but the price to pay is a loss in sound quality. Together with a reasonable price you cannot be wrong – discover Discovery!


Nordlead on steroids!

Published on December 14th, 2012

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