Access Virus TI2

Posted by Scott

Pictured above are some shots of the various models in Access Music’s Virus TI2 line. Of all the musical equipment manufacturers out there, I’d have to say that the Recklinghausen, Germany based outfit are making some of the most innovative and powerful sound synthesis tools available today. But aside from that, they’re incredibly beautiful and well-crafted machines. I’ve owned several and have to say I’ve always been amazed at the build quality and attention to detail they put into their equipment. I love how they take subtle cues from the past — the perfectly measured application of wood is a perfect example — while still pushing the design forward. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t get any better than stainless steel and wood, and the TI2 KB features a stainless steel/wood sandwich on the endcaps. Sort of like the amazing Jupiter 6 caps, but with wood (I sold a Jupiter 6 once. Worst mistake ever). But none of this comes cheap, these are also some of the most expensive synthesizers out there (probably the most expensive VA’s). I’d have to say they’re well worth the money though, the sound is unmatched and they’re built to last.

What I really admire about what Access is doing is that they’re doing it all from within the festering pit of mediocrity that is the music technology industry, an industry dominated by bad taste and terrible interface design. I don’t know what it is that drives industrial design in music technology, but you’d swear every new keyboard was designed by the backup drummer from Ratt. So I really admire it when a company steps up and chooses quality design over gimmicky superfluousness and nonsensical hyperbole (Tubes? Really? I bet they’re not even in the signal path). Roland is the saddest example of a once great company committing egregious latter day design sins. This is the company that brought us the iconic 808, 909, MSQ-700, SH-5, and Jupiter 8. Music machines with incredibly well thought out interfaces which were also durable and aesthetically pleasing. The best they can muster now are bloated, plastic, messes that look like a cross between a dvd player and a karaoke machine. And they don’t sound any better than they look. Oh yeah, once in a while try to reclaim their former glory with a cheap knockoff of their own product (to be fair, Korg is just as guilty of this as Roland).

But I digress… If you’ve caught some of my posts on the studio or seen the live show you may have noticed that I’m quite fond of my Virus C synthesizers. Of all the VA (virtual analog) synthesizers out there, I’d say the Virus has the most warm and unique sound. When it comes to VA’s, I think it’s all about the converters. The modeling can be dead-on but if you’re running through some space-age, 24-bit converters, the sound is going to be cold and rigid. That’s the thing that (used to) set the Virus line apart from the rest, the converters. They were warm and gritty, you could really feel the sound, it was authentic. First came the Virus A, which many still consider the best sounding of the Virus line (I wouldn’t know, I’ve only used the C line and on). Then came the B, which I heard had a little cleaner converters (read: worse). And right around the time I became aware of the Virus they came out with the C line. I was sold the first time I played one. They come shipped with the bucket full of useless euro-trance trash patches that are apparently legally required to preload on a new synth, but once you get past those and start digging in and programming, you can make them sing.

A couple years later they came out with the TI line and I got a TI Polar. To tell the truth, I was pretty disappointed by the sound. It was just too sterile, too pristine. They had apparently implemented the new 24-bit converters and you could hear it. I ended up selling the Polar and sticking with my C KB and Indigo Redback. Which was unfortunate, because the TI’s are just so beautiful. And also because Access no longer makes the mainboards for the C models. One bad power setup at a show and my Indigo is toast, for good.

Images Source: Access Music

22 Comments Leave A Comment


Kim says:

October 14, 2010 at 5:51 am

So many synth manufacturers today have lost their character. Roland is the saddest example, Korg too. It seems as if they’ve calculated by marketing analysis that it’s more profitable to target entry-level bedroom musicians who want to take a casual crack at a dubstep tune and less those who know and love synthesizers.

I don’t know why we don’t have more manufacturers doing a Dave Smith and making real analogue instruments. Why bother making some crap ROMpler like the Juno D when you have the heritage and knowledge to create a modern day Juno/Jupiter?!

Incidentally re: design, the Nords are also pretty lovely instruments too


Keith Rondinelli says:

October 14, 2010 at 6:20 am

I had a Virus B for about 5 years. 75% of the sounds in my music at the time came out of it, and the range was startling, especially the low end. Some beautiful, buttery, well-rounded bass came out of that machine. I’ve found a few soft synths that I use nowadays, but not a virtual knob-twiddle goes by that doesn’t make me yearn for my Virus B. These knew ones look beautiful. Thanks for the post, Scott.


Jason F. says:

October 14, 2010 at 9:01 am

I get gear lust when I see Access synths. I loved my Redback. I really wish I hadn’t sold it. Hands down the best VA synth I’ve laid my hands on. If you wouldn’t mind, and find the time, I’d love to see a picture of yours.


shawn avery says:

October 14, 2010 at 9:43 am

i’m so glad someone else mentioned the horrible interfaces coming out from roland lately. their new gaia synth takes this interface craziness even further.

scott is so right about the importance of a great interface and superior materials.


Jeremy says:

October 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

Its nice to hear some detailed review of these machines from someone who’s taste I already have respect for. They do certainly have some of the design right.

Having worked my way backwards through music gear and now being the owner of quite a large number of pre-1983 analog mono and poly synths I have become increasingly shocked by how awful modern equipment is.

Its all full of terrible interfaces with god-awful industrial design. I get that it became cheap and sort of innovative to be able to start including things like menus into synths around 1984-ish. I guess it must have made some manufacturing cheaper, having say only 1 potentiometer and a menu, but SURELY we are over this now! Every step in a menu removes you exponentially from having a relationship with your instrument or effects unit. GIVE US DIRECT INTERACTION PLEASE! At least Access is listening/thinking in the right direction.

Its frustrating with how far we’ve come in technology that so few companies will put a button slider or knob that could allow you to feel like you are actually interacting with your technology. Maybe it also has something to do with how many features are crammed in, but it’s clearly an issue that needs some attention…

OK, rant over… Thanks for your post, I will have to get my hands on one of these and try it out next to some “gritty” analog keys.


Austin says:

October 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

How do you guys find this style interface when using presets? I had a DSI monoevolver keyboard for awhile and just couldn’t get along with the encoders. Sure there was one for each function, but when changing presets, you have no way of knowing at a glance what your settings are.

I think the led rings on the nords/littlephatty or graphic representation of knobs like on elektron gear is more intuitive.

I guess it depends on the way you use it too. If you only recall a preset and don’t build off it or change it much, these things don’t matter.


Scott says:

October 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

Good call, Nord makes great machines too. I’m just not very familiar with them. I had a Lead 2 for a while and a Stage very briefly. They were very well built (especially that stone mod wheel and wooden pitch bender) but I just wasn’t a big fan of the sound.

I hate infinite rotary encoders, absolutely hate them. The Virus uses normal potentiometers with limits at around 5 and 7 o’clock.

I took a similar path through synths. my first was a roland Jp8000, which I have to say, I miss. after that was a string of VA’s, most notably the Novation KS4, which I still have and enjoy, mostly for nostalgic reasons (it’s all over Past is Prologue). But around that time I really grasped the importance and unique quality of true analog synths. After that point I pretty much only bought analog as a rule. The Virus has been the one exception but because it’s that good. I’m not going to say it sounds like an analog synth, for me that’s not really the point. It just sounds great and always seems to find a spot in the mix.


uiworx says:

October 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

Fully agree with your views Scott.
In the age of the laptop studio the fate of the electronic musician seems to be more and more dominated by cheap (or not so cheap) plastic boxes overloaded with features. Good to see that some people still build proper hardware.

However when it comes to multipurpose controllers there doesn’t seem to be anything that can hold upt with devices like the Virus, in terms of materials etc.. (monome aside, its only sort of multipurpose).

The modular Flexiknobs are one of a few recent approaches, definitely interesting.. let’s see where this will lead us, here’s the link:

There’s also a research publication from the last Conference on Tangible and Embodied Interaction that goes a bit more into depth:
(has some fresh images too!)


jonne says:

October 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Credit to Roland for the JD-800 which, when it was released, was the first of many knob/slider filled synths. Mid 80’s to early 90’s were the dark ages of synthesizers. Black monoliths with small LCD displays. I blame the Yamaha DX7. Ensoniq SQ-1+ was my mistake.

Still kept my Roland SH-5, MC-202, Juno-106 and a nice original Nord Modular.


Jim H says:

October 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

The Virus C is my favorite HW synth in the room. So unique and vibey.

I think you’re right, Scott… It must be the converters.

It’s totally inspiring and it doesn’t fatigue. SoundDiver GUI/librarian helps keep projects organized too.

I built two 500 series Lunchbox preamps – which were designed to capture transients of acoustic and perc instruments – going into a Lynx Aurora > Pro Tools. But put putting a Virus C in front of that is like magic. A lot going on in that synth.


Scott says:

October 15, 2010 at 2:23 am

definitely. I run mine into a set of chameleon 7602 pres, a Great River EQ2NV, and then a couple EL8 Distressors. Incredible the sounds you can coax from that thing with some agressive EQ’ing.


cmh says:

October 16, 2010 at 8:15 am

Scott I had the same response to the TI line as well. I wanted to love it, the polar is one of the most beautiful modern synths I’ve ever laid eyes on and it feels just as wonderful. The sound was disappointing. I bought a virus B not long ago and even then I’m not having the joy out of it that I initially had the first time I played the virus c redback (the most attractive of the pre TI’s imo)

I’m afraid I’ve been ruined by some of my boutique modern gear and vintage purchases. Worse things could happen. And yes on roland and korg stuff as well. I am looking forward to the Radikal Accelerator however.


Andre Obin says:

October 25, 2010 at 9:08 am

Thanks for the great post Scott. Have you seen the Moog Slimphatty?
Very curious about it…

Regarding Nord, I have to say I love their sound from the mid to higher frequencies. I actually used this VA rack for about 70% of the sounds I generated when I opened for you at LPR in NYC.

In my experience, Nord can’t compete with Access gear when it comes to bass frequencies.


Luca says:

October 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

I own a TI mrk1 and I’m loving it: not quite as sleek as the mrk2.
I also own an Elektron Machine Drum: Elktron people also make amazing gear with a killer look and design (including user interface).
On Korg I have to sayy: not all bad designs. The M1 was a design staple, and some kaoss products (KP3) looks dope! I own one of those as well…
I guess for me music gear MUST look and sound good ;)


Graham says:

October 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Sorry to disagree, but my Korg M3-88 is probably the best synth I have ever owned or played on. Definitely NOT mediocre either in interface, layout, playability or shear sonic power. I have played on MANY analog synths over the years (starting in 1977) so I’m not just speaking from recent experience. I do love the design aesthetic of the Virus synths, but am equally impressed by the design and build quality of Moog and Dave Smith. Equally impressive (but a bit more opaques from a user perspective) are the Eigenharp instruments as well as some of the classic Buchla controllers.

I’m sure broad inflammatory statements increase site visitors, but it doesn’t legitimize your overall design sense.


scott says:

October 27, 2010 at 12:16 am

I haven’t been a virus user but this makes want to try one out. Been using a Nord Lead 2 (no rotary encoders) for years and while I wouldn’t call it an analog sounding synth it does have a nice warm quality of it’s own. Great for bass, tight percussion, and almost acoustic sounding horn/bell tones. But it’s not for everybody. Some notable users are Underworld and Juana Molina.


@H0U5T0N says:

November 8, 2010 at 10:03 am

I’ve owned the ti desktop for about 5 years and have a <3/H8 relationship w/it. i've always had multichannel issues in Logic but i've also spent hours discovering amazing sounds!!!


Free Internet Security says:

March 3, 2011 at 11:26 am

I haven’t been a virus somebody but this makes necessity to try one out. Been using a Nord Direct 2 (no cyclic encoders) for geezerhood and patch I wouldn’t order it an similarity superficial synth it does person a squeamish warmed lineament of it’s own. Eager for part, clenched percussion, and virtually acoustic sounding horn/bell tones. But it’s not for everybody. Whatsoever worthy users are Underworld and Juana Molina.