The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Software Synths VS. Digital Hardware Synths.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Software Synths VS. Digital Hardware Synths.

Software Synths VS. Digital Hardware Synths.
I'm planning to buy a polysynth in the future and before making a decision or making a post asking for recommendations I would like to gather information to clear my mind of doubts.

I'm not a live performer, I make music mainly at my home studio so I would like to know what are the advantages of having a DIGITAL hardware synthesizer over a software one and viceversa (especially in terms of sound). Logic tells me that they would sound similar because they are digital, but I don't know, never tried a digital hardware synth before, I'm a novice when it comes to hardware synthesizers.

Thanks.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
the_soulcatcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TinoFiumara View Post
Software Synths VS. Digital Hardware Synths.
I'm planning to buy a polysynth in the future and before making a decision or making a post asking for recommendations I would like to gather information to clear my mind of doubts.

I'm not a live performer, I make music mainly at my home studio so I would like to know what are the advantages of having a DIGITAL hardware synthesizer over a software one and viceversa (especially in terms of sound). Logic tells me that they would sound similar because they are digital, but I don't know, never tried a digital hardware synth before, I'm a novice when it comes to hardware synthesizers.

Thanks.
my 5 cents on this topic:
The main disadvantage usually is that with increasing polyphony software synths can be very cpu intensive, so a digital hw synth saves you CPU resources. The sound differences are indeed a minor thing in this case.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
tjontheroad's Avatar
The biggest advantage of hardware, digital or otherwise, is the hands on user interface and the ability to use it without a computer. Also, some softsynths require a very powerful computer to run many voices at a time without max’ing the CPU.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
R7P
Gear Maniac
 
R7P's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_soulcatcher View Post
my 5 cents on this topic:
The main disadvantage usually is that with increasing polyphony software synths can be very cpu intensive, so a digital hw synth saves you CPU resources. The sound differences are indeed a minor thing in this case.
Although the voice limits on some hardware synths can be just as much of a limitation.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
PES
Lives for gear
 
PES's Avatar
And easy to plug through analog effects, guitar pedals etc if you want to do some real physical alteration to the signal before recording.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
the_soulcatcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by R7P View Post
Although the voice limits on some hardware synths can be just as much of a limitation.
agreed, depending on what device you'd choose ofc
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
No hard disk on synths can be a slight advantage as all samples are on rom = no loading times ever
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 
MarcB's Avatar
Love hardware. Keep forgetting I have hardware and use VSTs the moment I start sequencing.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
There are a large number of hardware digital synths that have unique characteristics that have yet to be modelled with software and likely never will be. And that also holds true the other way around.
So the obvious solution is to use both. And on Gearslutz both is always the right answer.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Addict
 

It's a very subjective thing but hardware seems to always have little bit more bottom end, detail and body/weight even when it's a digital synth. That said emulations are getting really close.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Rezisehtnys's Avatar
It depends, but from what little I've used software(recently with same headphones) it's always lacking in mid-bass even against hardware digital synths(albeit older ones). Of course EQ would sort that mostly, and lots of mid-bass makes mixing harder anyway(but its it's great for live band settings). Being you're recording at home I'd lean towards good software synths, BUT only if you have a computer with the power to process everything at once without causing bad latency.

It'd also help to know the kinds of sounds you're wanting to make and use.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
Here’s my take on all of it. Don’t buy any synth based on the technology that makes it, buy it based on the sound it makes. Demos of all synths are pretty easy to come by. What this has led to for me is a studio full of analog and hybrid (digital oscillators into analog filters and VCAs, though there are some synths that have both digital and analog oscillators, like the Korg Prologue or DSI Evolver) and no digital synthesizers. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to buy an all digital hardware synth... I have, I just didn’t find them sonically superior to their plugin cousins. Sometimes worse. For instance, I used to have a Virus C. I really liked that synth a lot, but when I discovered Zebra 2, I found it pretty easy to sell. People kept praising the TI line, so I finally thought I’d try one, and after a month of having one in my studio, I found I really didn’t like the sound of the filters that much and that software like Dune 2 (at the time) was more to my liking, and since then they went to Dune 3, which has excellent analog modeled filters, and frankly sounds way better than any Virus, to me.

People also talk about the superiority of their DX7 over software, but I can’t hear any appreciable difference between DX7 V and the real deal, and DX7 V is a dream to program in comparison to the hardware. The truth of the matter is that a lot of the all digital synths have historically been not much fun to program. Look at the Blofeld vs it’s software cousin Largo. There’s a small feature set difference, but if you ignore that, the sound is extremely close, and I’d dare say that the Largo sounds a bit better and definitely has better sounding effects.

Anyway, like others have said, if you need something to take the heat off your CPU, a good digital hardware synth can be just the thing. I may end up with one soon, as the synth I was using as a controller is acting up and the only local tech has had it for 6 weeks and hasn’t even looked at it. (He said he’d look at it in 3 weeks and when I sent him an email I got a snarky response asking for help.) I may try and buy an Osmose for its MPE+ abilities, but I might also just get a Hydrasynth for its polyphonic aftertouch keyboard and touch strip. Both sound great to me, but their use as a controller is more interesting. If either of them had released a 61 key version, they’d be no-brainers. The other all digital I’d consider is a Solaris, but frankly I think they’re a bit too expensive for what they offer. Sounds lovely, though. Another one I may one day get is the Modor NF-1m. It has a really interesting sound to it.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TinoFiumara View Post
Logic tells me that they would sound similar because they are digital
But is that really logical? Not all digital synthesizers are created equal. Both a DX7 and an M1 are digital synthesizers. They sound very different. Even the M1 and the M1 software version, or the DX7 and Arturia's version (DX7V) sound different.

The word "digital" is not really useful in this context.

So basically, you're looking for equivalents - and not everything has an equivalent.

There are limits to your room, your wallet and your attention span. Every thing you have should have to earn its keep.

Quote:
but I don't know, never tried a digital hardware synth before, I'm a novice when it comes to hardware synthesizers.
Start telling us what kind of sounds you're looking for.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 

They sound the same, except when the hardware synth has an inferior (which might sound superior) output (DA/amp) stage - which usually can be emulated in software too.
Software synths have better interfaces:
You don't even need to let go of the mouse to change parameters !
You can always see where the parameter is even after loading a new preset.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
Gear Head
 

Question is too open ended. If it is a digital synth which has an editor that tells you that the hardware UI is not capable enough - and if you are working with a DAW anyway, best off with the software.

Hardware is less productive, having to bonce audio is a pain and a workflow killer where are you can have as many instances of the software as you like. Don't fret about the PC not being able to handle it all, usually you are just experimenting anyway, and having to bounce just to experiment is dire. Unless the digital synth has a ton of voices and is multi timbral..... like I said Q is too open ended.

Do you have a synth in mind? A type of synth? Some software synths can be handled well with a controller, some are too bespoke.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
But is that really logical? Not all digital synthesizers are created equal. Both a DX7 and an M1 are digital synthesizers. They sound very different. Even the M1 and the M1 software version, or the DX7 and Arturia's version (DX7V) sound different.

The word "digital" is not really useful in this context.

So basically, you're looking for equivalents - and not everything has an equivalent.

There are limits to your room, your wallet and your attention span. Every thing you have should have to earn its keep.



Start telling us what kind of sounds you're looking for.
I read that sentence as meaning, “all things equal, a digital hardware synth doesn’t have an advantage over a digital plugin.” I think that’s true, but you’re right, there are differences, but are they significant? I personally think that there are Virus like plugins that sound better than the Virus. Is there a plugin that sounds exactly like a Virus? No. If you need that sound you should buy that synth. That’s always true with everything.

As for the difference between DX7 and DX7 V, I’d say the difference is tiny, and I’d be surprised if anyone could consistently tell the difference in blind test. I don’t know the M1 plugin, but I actually liked the sound of Korg’s Wavestation plugin more than my Wavestation, due to it’s higher bit depth waves, but I could definitely hear a difference. Which one you prefer is up to you.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
It wasn't until U-he and their Diva and Repro that I thought software synths sounded good enough. While my Virus B hardware sounded great, the work flow was much more cumbersome in terms of reliable automation and recall.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjontheroad View Post
The biggest advantage of hardware, digital or otherwise, is the hands on user interface and the ability to use it without a computer. Also, some softsynths require a very powerful computer to run many voices at a time without max’ing the CPU.
Ding ding ding! This is it.

The advantage is the hands on/tactile experience of using it.

Hell even digital vs analog isn't really all purely about the sound these days IMO because we've gotten to the point where virtual analog is so good that some VSTs are almost perfect matches to the original analog hardware they're meant to emulate.

But no matter how much I like the sound of synths like Serum or Sylenth, or TAL U-NO or Bassline, what I don't like is turning onscreen knobs with a mouse. Nor do I like trying to map 40-50+ controls to MIDI controllers not knowing what the hell anything is mapped to and having to constantly go back and forth.

Even if you made your own DIY controller, you'd find there's that one thing in the interface of the synth you still have to reach for the mouse for.

Maybe I'm just talking out my arse here, but I'm convinced hardware leads to making better patches too. Partly because the knob twiddling is so much more fun that I often just experiment and do weird things I wouldn't think to try with software, and end up making something interesting.

Partly because the tactile side of it in a weird way feels like it leads to a better connection and understanding of the sound you're making. Probably sounds like an utter load of rubbish, but that's how I feel.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
But is that really logical? Not all digital synthesizers are created equal. Both a DX7 and an M1 are digital synthesizers. They sound very different. Even the M1 and the M1 software version, or the DX7 and Arturia's version (DX7V) sound different.

The word "digital" is not really useful in this context.

So basically, you're looking for equivalents - and not everything has an equivalent.

There are limits to your room, your wallet and your attention span. Every thing you have should have to earn its keep.



Start telling us what kind of sounds you're looking for.
I supposse that not all digital hardware synthesizers sound the same, maybe I should've been more especific, I was referring mainly to software emulations of real synths. Software in general too, because I'm aware that there are some softsynths with a wide amount of flexibility compared to hardware ones.

I do Hip Hop instrumentals with a touch of jazz, funk, etc... But I'm not close to other music genres, I want to expand my horizons.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Dairy View Post
Do you have a synth in mind? A type of synth? Some software synths can be handled well with a controller, some are too bespoke.
I have a few in mind, some of them digital, some hybrids and some analogs:

Korg Prologue
Waldorf Blofeld
Prophet Rev2
Access Virus TI2
Modal Argon 8
Novation Peak
OB-6
Hydrasynth

I have a Novation SL MKIII which is a great controler for both hardware and software.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Gear Head
 

Sounds like you just want a hardware synth - go for it.

it's rewarding and good learning experience to use both software and hardware.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Sound: some hardware hasnt been fully emulated yet in software but mostly that is niche stuff and modern VSTs likely provide 99 or even 100 percent of the sonic palette you will need. Also note a lot of analog fanatics picked a VST as being analog in a blind test on this forum.. Go figure..

Handson controls: Something like a Novation SL MK3 will give you just as much control. You can turn off your PC’s monitor once stuff is set up and a template is made. After that it’s just boot, load daw, load template, turn off monitor and go.


CPU: In 2020 the CPU benefit of using hardware vs VSTs gets overstated imo, assuming you have a relatively modern PC this shouldnt be a consideration at all.

Space: hardware can take a lot of space. Some people love their massive music battlestation, for others it’s distracting clutter, but it takes up space. And line ins on your mixer and/or audio interface.

Production: imo VSTs are more efficient / practical when producing, although with a good setup you can integrate hardware very well.


Most important: for newcomers you are much better off trying a DAW and vsts first. You can always throw a lot of money on hardware.

Maybe get something like a reface CS to fiddle on the couch for inspiration
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinoFiumara View Post
I have a few in mind, some of them digital, some hybrids and some analogs:

Korg Prologue
Waldorf Blofeld
Prophet Rev2
Access Virus TI2
Modal Argon 8
Novation Peak
OB-6
Hydrasynth

I have a Novation SL MKIII which is a great controler for both hardware and software.
Deepmind 12 is the cheapest and easiest to learn, but one part only. Sounds fantastic. On your list prophet Rev 2 is by far the most fun. I got DM12 first, learned it (many many videos) and then bought a virus TI recently. I love it, but am still learning all the options.

If you find a used MPC1000 you don't need a computer at all. G that is soo nice.

A DAW can do alot, but inspiring to stare at screen even more and worry about update effects........not.

I use mine for Ytube and email OK photo edting too. I have Logic. It is excerable. TO me. I use big ipad for sheet music. They are fantastic for that. You can always go back to "virtual reality" but to start with hardware is just way more fun. It used to be really expensive. Now it's much less so.

If you want to do orchestral scoring for real money you would need one. Even that, for fun can easily be done with hardware. My little JV1010 has 16 parts and an orchestral expansion. The MPC 1000 can do 64 tracks, unlimted notes. Software still being updated by JJ. It is fantastic sampler. That was the last good one though. Newer MPCs are far weaker as sequencers, and for sound quality, though of course they can hold way more.

For EDM the Virus TI Polar is the gold standard even today. That's because the DAWS partially killed serious hardware development. Hydrasynth has one part??? You need good drum machine and monosynth for bass. Then you are dangerous.

The plain TI not 2 is very strong and they are a steal right now. Blofeld is awesome but more learning curve. Less power, poor effects, otherwise outstanding.

But a bread and butter poly like the DM12 or Rev2 is really the best way to learn fast. The concepts you learn are referenced by everything.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinoFiumara View Post
I have a few in mind, some of them digital, some hybrids and some analogs:

Korg Prologue
Waldorf Blofeld
Prophet Rev2
Access Virus TI2
Modal Argon 8
Novation Peak
OB-6
Hydrasynth

I have a Novation SL MKIII which is a great controler for both hardware and software.
Having this wide a list means you don't know what you're looking for.

You're looking to buy an instrument, first thing to figure out is how do you want it to feel/play in your hands. If you're not touching the thing there's little reason for it to be hardware. By far the biggest difference between dedicated hardware VS generic hardware (a.k.a. your computer and/or MIDI controller) is how you interact with them, whether it's just through their shear physical presence, or the specific nature of their interface.

They can sound different, but not strictly better. Sound is where they least differ, regardless of tech. Should always go for sounds that either inspire you anyway, or that you know will be used in your production/performances/wtv.

They can take a load of your CPU, which can be nice, at the cost of adding a chokepoint to your workflow, a physical load to your studio, and a chunk out of your wallet.

Also, you own the piece of hardware, and it can last you decades with some care/luck. Dedicated hardware is generally more stable, so you can build an intimate relationship with it over time.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToyBox View Post
Having this wide a list means you don't know what you're looking for.

You're looking to buy an instrument, first thing to figure out is how do you want it to feel/play in your hands. If you're not touching the thing there's little reason for it to be hardware. By far the biggest difference between dedicated hardware VS generic hardware (a.k.a. your computer and/or MIDI controller) is how you interact with them, whether it's just through their shear physical presence, or the specific nature of their interface.

They can sound different, but not strictly better. Sound is where they least differ, regardless of tech. Should always go for sounds that either inspire you anyway, or that you know will be used in your production/performances/wtv.

They can take a load of your CPU, which can be nice, at the cost of adding a chokepoint to your workflow, a physical load to your studio, and a chunk out of your wallet.

Also, you own the piece of hardware, and it can last you decades with some care/luck. Dedicated hardware is generally more stable, so you can build an intimate relationship with it over time.
I have that wide list because I'm trying to do my homework about polysynths, and the reason why I made this post is part of that learning process, I'm discarding brands, models and types. Where I live there are no synth stores where I can go and touch/feel those instruments, I have to order it online.

I have read a lot of replies that has clarified my doubts about sound diferences, and I think I would go hybrid or analog for my first poly.

Maybe after that I would buy a fully digital one based on what you and the rest have told about actually ''feeling'' a hardware vs. looking at a computer screen (which I'm getting tired of), but that's not going to be in a near future,

I just ordered my first hardware synth from Thomann, a Moog Grandmother, after months of reading, watching videos and listening, I guess I covered ''the good sounding semi-modular monosynth void'' pretty well with that choice, but I know that in the future I'll want a poly one, that's why little by little I'm asking questions on these blogs to read the opinions of people who are more experienced than me. Thank for yours.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
Lives for gear
 
grasspike's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TinoFiumara View Post

I do Hip Hop instrumentals with a touch of jazz, funk, etc... But I'm not close to other music genres, I want to expand my horizons.
You should get a Roland JV1080 and a few expansion cards, especially the Hip Hop, Bass and Drums, and Session Cards.

Along with the hundreds of preset sounds that are in the stock rom that would be good for Hip Hop and Jazz, you will find those cards would be a treasure trove of sound for you.

The Hip Hop card has lots of classic Hip Hop sounds on it. The Bass and Drum card has lots of acoustic drums and bass sounds sampled from famous musicians many of them in the Jazz genre.

They go for next to nothing now and there is no software that sounds like a JV1080
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Grandmother is an excellent place to start. That's about as far as you can get from "software", you'll feel it right away, and it'll tell you lots about to look for in the next bit of gear
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
Gear Head
 

Things like OB6, Prologue make less sense if you already have a Grandmother. Unashamedly digital synths like Hydrasynth, Argon 8, Wavestate etc would be the direction I'd go in, or Peak is a great compromise between digital and analogue.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by purplemartin View Post
Just like it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between analogue synths and software on some basic sounds, the same is true about digital. But I could make some musically useful sounds on hw DX7 that would be impossible to recreate accurately in the DX7V or Dexed and anyone would tell the difference easily as it would be rather glaring.

As far as synth myths go, I could also make the DX7 and TX7 sound different on the same patch, but I'm not sure the internet is ready for it.
Lay it on me. I love to be proven wrong.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasspike View Post
You should get a Roland JV1080 and a few expansion cards, especially the Hip Hop, Bass and Drums, and Session Cards.

Along with the hundreds of preset sounds that are in the stock rom that would be good for Hip Hop and Jazz, you will find those cards would be a treasure trove of sound for you.

The Hip Hop card has lots of classic Hip Hop sounds on it. The Bass and Drum card has lots of acoustic drums and bass sounds sampled from famous musicians many of them in the Jazz genre.

They go for next to nothing now and there is no software that sounds like a JV1080
Software that sounds like a JV-1080.

https://www.rolandcloud.com/Catalog/Legendary/JV-1080
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump