Sunday, February 3, 2013

XenFont | Microtonal SoundFont & Subtractive Synthesis VSTi

New VSTi Announcement
By Xen-Arts 

XenFont is a two oscillator, hybrid SF2 SoundFont & Subtractive Synthesis VSTi that features full-controller MIDI Pitch Microtuning using the MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard) format, where any MIDI Note Number can be freely microtuned to any desired pitch across the MIDI range, enabling computer musicians and composers to explore the vast expressive possibilities of composing music with alternative intonation systems.

XenFont is a microtonal sound-designer's SF2 sample-based synthesizer, with a carefully designed ergonomic workflow for quickly creating powerful sounding and musical useful timbres. The instrument enables users to load their own SF2 SoundFont files and thereby any special timbres required of the music at hand, from classical acoustic instruments, to synthesized ones. Routing the SF2 SoundFont Oscillators through the internal synthesis functions of the VSTi, provides a way to radically transform the original sounds and create new synthesized timbres.

 XenFont is also an educational tool for learning about computer music sound-design, sampling and subtractive sound synthesis, as well as musical instrument intonation (aka microtuning and xenharmonics).

XenFont embodies a design philosophy of simplicity for microtonal music sound-design…
  • Enables computer musicians and composers to freely load their own SF2 SoundFonts into a fully microtonal, hybrid sampling & subtractive synthesis based VSTi.
  • A ‘knob-less’ design featuring slider controls only, which enables intuitive direct control with a computer mouse.
  • A dedicated control signal system mapped to the most important synthesis functions.
  • Settings are made by typing values into fields, dropdown lists, left-and-right arrows, switches and sliders.
  • Enables musicians to specify precise microtonal pitch-bend settings.
  • Features arbitrary microtonal oscillator transposition settings.
  • Velocity modulation of harmonics enables dynamically playing harmonics of the fundamental pitch.
  • Envelope generators with per-stage ADSR keyboard tracking.
Detailed Features...
Oscillator Section
  • Two Soundfont Oscillators that enable users to load their own SF2 files.
  • Microtonal, Harmonic Series and Subharmonic Series Oscillator Transposition.
  • Pitch Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking and Polarity Switching.
  • Host Synchronized LFO (with Rate Sequencer) for Cross-Fade Modulation between Oscillators.
  • Analog Pitch Drift Emulator with both Unipolar and Bipolar Modulation
  • Velocity-to-Harmonics Modulation enables oscillators to dynamically sound harmonics of the fundamental pitch
  • Ring Modulation
  • Oscillator and Ring Modulator Mixer with Six Cross-Fade Modes.
Filter Section
  • Pre-Filter Saturation Stage with 20 Saturation Types.
  • Two Independent Filters with Six Filter Types: LP4, LP2, HPF, BPF, BRF, APF.
  • One and Two Stage Filter Cascade.
  • Host Synchronized LFO (with Rate Sequencer) and Envelope Generator for Filter Cutoff Frequency Modulation.
  • Filter Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking and Polarity Switching.
  • LFO and Envelope Generator enables both Unipolar and Bipolar Filter Modulation.
VCA Section
  • Dedicated Envelope Generator.
  • VCA Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking.
  • Switchable Velocity Sensitivity and Fixed Volume Control.
Performance Control
  • MIDI Pitch Microtuning with MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard).
  • MTS Support for both Single Note and Bulk Dump.
  • Loads MTS Microtuning Format Files Internally and Receives MTS Externally.
  • Local (Per-Patch) and Global Microtuning (Static Microtuning for All Patches).
  • Microtunings can be loaded from any directory on hard drives or storage devices connected to the computer.
  • Ten Note Polyphonic.
  • Monophonic Legato Mode.
  • Polyphonic Portamento with Three Glide Modes.
  • Microtonal Pitch Bend.
  • Vibrato.
  • Effects include Chorus, Flanger, Phasers, Warm Filter and Stereo Ensemble.

XenFont is a freeware 32-bit VSTi for Windows XP or higher and includes
a detailed instruction manual, 75 factory patches and 54 microtonal tunings. 

[33 MB]

Some Background Information
Sometime after the release of the Xen-Arts IVOR VSTi, it was requested to consider producing a microtonal SF2 SoundFont instrument. At first it was my impression that the SF2 format was generally dead; superseded by the newer SFZ format used in many current popular VSTi.

This turned out to be not entirely accurate, and it appears rather that the SF2 format is alive and well, and is used in quite a number of popular music software applications; in particular on the Mac OS, where there is a full featured microtonal SoundFont instrument available. But on the Windows side of the OS universe, there have been far less options for serious microtonal and xenharmonic composition using SF2 SoundFonts.

With the ability to freely load any ‘historical’ SoundFont files one may have in their sample archive, or tapping into the vast numbers of free ones available around the web, this VSTi provides a way to dust off those old SF2 and give them a new sonic life, in a no-compromise, fully microtonal, hybrid sampler-synthesizer instrument.

Please note that Xen-Arts software never has been, and never will be, infected with computer viruses; this we promise. If your virus software ever indicates that our microtonal music software has a virus, this is what is known as a False Positive. Contacting the developer of your virus software to make them aware of the false positive is the best solution.

SF2 SoundFont Resources
While there are vast numbers of freeware SF2, and in many cases, tragically orphaned ones, available around the web, below are a few links to get started with:

Personal Copy SoundFonts
A website containing numerous relatively high-quality GM SF2

 Creator of the GM SF2 used in the XenFont default factory patches:
GeneralUser GS SoftSynth v1.44.sf2

Old Soundcard Emulation
 Contains a number of old soundcard SF2.

Soundfonts for chipmusic, chiptune and retro games.

If there are other useful SF2 SoundFonts and sites that visitors would like make us aware of, please feel free to post your links in the comments of this announcement.

We hope that you will enjoy this fun new microtonal instrument. Let us know what you think.

VST Planet has been kind enough to create the below video demo of some of the single SF2 patches 1-32.

From page 5 of the XenFont manual:

1. Patches 1-32 use only SF2 Oscillator A, and have all of the synthesis functions of the instrument disabled. These simple patches are a great way to explore microtunings using only a single SF2 source without any of the synthesis and signal processing features being activated. They can also be used as basic initialization patches and starting points for creating one’s own custom timbres.

2. Patches 33 and above use both SF2 Oscillators A & B in conjunction with the synthesis functions; many of which showcase the various unique features of the instrument, such as the Per-Stage ASDR Keyboard Tracking, Velocity-to-Harmonics Modulation, Microtonal Oscillator Transposition, LFO Controlled Oscillator Cross-Fading and Rate Sequencing. These patches also provide great starting points for one’s own custom, although more complex, sound-designs.


  1. Replies
    1. Say, isn't this new one wonderful? I just installed Jacky's latest vehicle created to carry us into the microtonal, and I can't get the smile off of my face. And they said font players were boring machines.

    2. ...font players are boring machines in the hands of boring people , give one to an open and creative mind and there it is : XENFONT...many thanks for this wonderfull and free instrument

  2. Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback and it's great to have you all drop by.

    I think part of the sonic allure of SF2 is their sometimes idiosyncratic behavior and sound character; the imperfections if you will. For these reasons, as synthesis oscillator sources, they can sound pretty incredible.

    As always, please feel free to make me aware of any music you make with these instruments.

  3. some bass soundfonts

  4. ok on ubuntustudio 12.10
    installed muse2 and wine
    xenfont(.dll and xenfont folder) copied to home/vst

    tuned to bp
    samplenetbass.sf2 loaded
    and listening to sequenced bp slap bass


  5. Hi Billy,

    I tried your dijispacebass SF2 and they sound great. They're banks of sounds too - nice.

    Thanks for the report about running XenFont on Linux. That's really amazing and encouraging that you can do that. Had no idea it was even possible.


  6. I want to try using my own SF2 build for HGF-SYNTHESIZER.COM, like Abient/Avantgarde!
    Paule Amca

  7. Hi there Paule and welcome.

    That's really awesome that you've done some collaboration with HGF. I've long been aware of their work and am in awe of their UI design.

    Please feel free to make me aware when you have some tunes to share. Would love to check them out. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. when i downloaded it i can't find a way to run it :/

  9. Hi there Anonymous and welcome.

    Running it will involve loading an instance of the plugin within a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that supports VSTi plugins. It's a good idea to have a MIDI keyboard controller connected to your computer too.

    As a very inexpensive way to explore this, you could try Reaper, which has a non-expiring, non-crippled shareware demo. It's a great program and I've been a registered user for many years now.

    If you are new to making music with computers, there are many forums around the web that can help, such as the Getting Started forum on KVR Audio.

    Good luck in your journey, and when you have these technical details sorted, feel free to drop back in here and share your music.

  10. Jacky - thank you so much!!! You are an awesome guy for writing and setting free top notch software like this - and your music as well!

    Chris V.

  11. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for dropping by and you are most certainly welcome. It's been a lot of fun developing the Xen-Arts VSTi line and I've learned quite a lot along the way - particularly about UI design - and XenFont has probably the most refined one of the three. There are design features on this synth that will be applied to future updates to the existing instruments.

    While I've made significant progress on the Ivor 2 VSTi, which will add a number of exciting new features to this popular instrument, I've had to take some time off to focus on music projects, one of which was the recent release of the Between Moments EP. While both of these tracks feature Xen-Arts VSTi, it is the second piece - A Deeper Blue - that features XenFont.

    It is my tentative plan and hope to return to development projects at the end of summer. Xen-FMTS is also due a major update and I've got a nice design ready to implement for that synth too. All of these things, as one might imagine, take an enormous amount of time; designing the instrument, UI, patch-bank and documentation. There are also several other projects that I hope to get around to in the future, and one in particular deals more deeply with Sethares style timbre design (spectral microtuning as I call it), of which I've had a working prototype of for many years now. Suffice it to say that this is a very exciting tool for xentimbre sound-designs. Once I get the latter completed, it will no doubt become the centerpiece of what is on offer here.

    It's great to hear from you.

  12. This vsti seems to play all SF2-files in mono,is there a setting I need to adjust?
    Tested this in EnergyXT and FLstudio

  13. Hi Anonymous,

    Yes - you are correct about that.

    During the development phase of XenFont, I seriously considered maintaining a stereo signal path all the way through, but realized this would make the CPU be very high; taking into consideration that it would mean stereo filters, VCA and effects - and - that the instrument is 10 note polyphonic. In the end, recognizing that lots of the SF2 I found were in mono, I decided to go with a mono path.

    For what it may be worth, I would not be opposed to making a more bare-bones SF2 VSTi with a true stereo signal path, but it might mean and instrument without filters etc. Let's discuss it through private email sometime if you like.

    1. Thanks for replying :-)
      As long as the microtuning capabilities remain intact but with stereo all the way through,
      I think such a version would be interesting to some ...