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Are soft-synths stepping stones to hardware? (Pt. III) Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 23rd January 2012
  #61
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[QUOTE=Yoozer;7475622]Every time you put something through an A/D and D/A converter - and that's exactly what you're doing if you're applying digital effects, recording digitally, or sending anything to a digital mixer - it becomes digital.


The same reason bands play cover songs. It's easier to sell something people already know.


And that's exactly what you should want as a fan of analog: it means fewer buyers on an already rarified market heh Singing the praises only drives up prices - the big targets like the Jupiters were already out of affordability range, and now they're simply gnawing at the lower end segment of the market, which is why SH101s and Junos and Sources get picked up like candy.

Interesting indeed~
Old 23rd January 2012
  #62
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Some good points!
Good chatting with ya Yoozer!!
Old 23rd January 2012
  #63
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I find that I can't properly remark one way or the other in these threads until I've owned a bit of the gear in question - be it hardware or software. Your ears become trained for the item in question after using it for a few months. Then you can understand a difference between one thing or another.

And that's the key - what it sounds like. For me the sound has a certain utility or application in a mix and its technological origin is inconsequential, so whether it was hardware or software is entirely meaningless. Don't get me wrong, that isn't claiming they don't sound different - quite the contrary... but to understand that you have to use a bit of gear in depth. After a while you know in advance whether to reach for analogue, or FM, or a Nord, or some bit of software, etc, etc.

For this very reason I don't buy the argument that there's no difference between digital hardware synths and software - there certainly is. Of course in theory the former can be perfectly replicated by the latter (putting aside its DA conversion and whatever analogue circuitry its signal ultimately passes through), but in practice that's beside the point - if you specifically want a Nord Lead sound, you pretty much need a Nord Lead, end of story.

Who cares whether its a bright red analogue-modelling keyboard or a digital process inside the computer, or bits of circuitry left over from the 1970s - the point is the sound that's coming out your speakers :-)
Old 23rd January 2012
  #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
I find that I can't properly remark one way or the other in these threads until I've owned a bit of the gear in question - be it hardware or software. Your ears become trained for the item in question after using it for a few months. Then you can understand a difference between one thing or another.

And that's the key - what it sounds like. For me the sound has a certain utility or application in a mix and its technological origin is inconsequential, so whether it was hardware or software is entirely meaningless. Don't get me wrong, that isn't claiming they don't sound different - quite the contrary... but to understand that you have to use a bit of gear in depth. After a while you know in advance whether to reach for analogue, or FM, or a Nord, or some bit of software, etc, etc.

For this very reason I don't buy the argument that there's no difference between digital hardware synths and software - there certainly is. Of course in theory the former can be perfectly replicated by the latter (putting aside its DA conversion and whatever analogue circuitry its signal ultimately passes through), but in practice that's beside the point - if you specifically want a Nord Lead sound, you pretty much need a Nord Lead, end of story.

Who cares whether its a bright red analogue-modelling keyboard or a digital process inside the computer, or bits of circuitry left over from the 1970s - the point is the sound that's coming out your speakers :-)
Great post and I very much agree. In fact, I did a poll not too long ago and as it turns out, most of us here are actually hybrid people and enjoy the mix, so despite the facade and assumption, there really aren't that many "analog" purists or even software purists.

And your point about the sound being the key is KEY to me as well.

I've never understood the people who say, Well, yeah, but software is so "convenient." ... I've never met a listener who's commented on how "convenient" the song sounded, but I have heard people comment on great a song sounds (even if they can't articulate what or why).

Again, nice post.

-andrews
Old 23rd January 2012
  #65
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Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
That's 5 subtractive analogs and 2 sort-of VAs. Not exactly imaginative, quite a bit of duplication except for perhaps the character of the filters. I'd expect at least an MPC or something like Geist to properly accompany it, unless you want to keep on sampling and multitracking all the time.

A modular would be a better idea. Luckily, that's getting quite a bit of traction as well.



And what exactly would make this utterly impossible?

Record the Voyager digitally. Voila, your audio interface is now spitting out the right bits and bytes to make a sound like a Voyager (if it doesn't, your audio interface is crap). There's no law against any plugin generating those similar bits and bytes - they're not impossible to generate. They don't even have to be the same all the time, because the Voyager's not doing that either. They don't even have to be the same as the Voyager's, because there are very subtle differences between all analogs, based on parts tolerances, production revisions, etc.

The "quality" of the Voyager is not in the sound alone; it's in the case, the knobs, the keyboard, the machine as a whole taking up space. You're paying for that as well, but it's impossible to disconnect that from the method it's using to generate actual sound. That's what's making this "what, $200?" incredulity a flawed comparison.
Hey there Yoozer What a difference a year makes! Remember this thread last year and the year before? It's really nice to see a much more overall balanced view from almost everyone here. Maybe I'm a dork, but I find that in itself is really fascinating.

-andrews
Old 23rd January 2012
  #66
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This may be a long reply but I hope it is of interest. Great thread by the way. Very thoughtful responses so far.

I am one of the older crowd that came of age just as hardware synths became commercially available in the early 70's. At that time there was no analog vs digital debate, PC's didn't exist, there was no internet, and music on computers was something you might read about occasionally in Popular Science magazine. So...I actually have come to software synths as a stepping stone FROM hardware.

The objects of my lust as a youth were the ARP 2600 and the Mini Moog. I used to go the Rondo Music in northern NJ constantly just to "demo" them. I didn't have any money and the guys knew it there but they let me screw around with them anyway cause I was harmless and could at least play. Lust without money is a terrible thing ;-) My substitute pathetic rig as a youth was a mini-korg and a mini matador keyboard with a ton of effects pedals and all sorts of thrown together flotsam and jetsam to make it "sound cool." Desperate but you all have been there.

One thing to keep in mind is "back in the day" you had no way of actually learning any of this stuff unless you played with it constantly yourself or were lucky enough to find someone who knew what they were doing. Or...you could wait for the once a month that semi-relevant magazines came out and HOPE that they had some info you could use. No internet. No message boards. You really were on an island with a manual and some vague notions of what you wanted to do. Important to consider given what we have now. It is far easier to use EVERYTHING now. Not just soft synths. Thank you internet!

Fast forward many years and I have accumulated a bunch of analog keyboards and gear, some digital based keyboards, and now a bunch of soft synths. If you don't understand synthesis then soft synths are a GREAT learning tool. Easy to manipulate, reproducible, and lots and lots of patches out there from people also willing to exchange advice on the internet. So...here is my main difference given my experiences:

Hardware is immediate. I turn it on and immediately interact with it. All the controls are specifically set up for that device. There is no latency. For some devices (like my devilfish modified TB-303) you cannot replicate the sound. That said, there is no way to record everything I do when I zone and twist devilfish knobs for an hour. No midi on the controls. Nothing. You get what you played recorded and that is that. Also love the sound but the thing is a pain to program! I also own an MPC 5000. I am sorry but there is no software that can substitute for the physical pads.

Software is reproducible. I can play something and record all the motions of the controls if I want. I can record the midi notes and edit them if I desire. If I do something wonderfully creative I can replicate it with ease. Some hardware bridges this gap and let's you do this also but none of the "vintage" stuff.

For me they both have their place. I appreciate the vast patch library and wealth of available resources for my soft synths. They sound great and make my life a lot easier. Ivory 2 is wonderful for piano and even though I have a Yamaha Grand I could never record it well enough to sound like that. Omnisphere is fantastic to play with and no analog gear I own can do what it can do. Which is fine by me! Nexus 2 makes it easy to create cool stuff quickly that sounds very nice. Diva is setting the bar much higher now for what is possible with software. A great time to be into music!

I do love my hardware. I may never be able to reproduce what I was playing when I just get in that zone on something but it doesn't usually matter to me. I felt great and created something that pleased me and did it in an immediate way without ANYTHING getting between my brain and the keyboards. No distortion cause that patch I just dialed up was too much for the CPU. No latency. No lack of memory. No fumbling with my midi keyboard to figure out what preset goes with the controls I want.

But the software is just so easy to use in the DAW environment these days and stuff like Diva even though it is a CPU pig really does a nice job if you want those fat analog sounds.

So...both are great for me ;-) I love sound and music and appreciate that I have these wonderful choices.

Ken
Old 23rd January 2012
  #67
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So in terms of soft synths out their these days which do you guys consider beasts?

Is their a comparison out their for me when it comes to using my Moog Voyager?

i only own Sylenth and Massive. Sylenth to me is very close indeed and does a fantastic job, massive is also good.

I often find if I do use plugs it is a layer to compliment my analog patches!

These are the only 2 plugs i kept when I got rif of all my software years back!
Old 23rd January 2012
  #68
Quote:
Originally Posted by judith priest View Post
Then once you start to hone in on the specific sounds you like making you can start to more easily understand what hardware is right for you. But be warned, this can be a long and expensive process.

Honestly, though, I really can't objectively say that it matters much what gear a musician starts out with. This is just how things worked out for me.
Worked for me the same way too. For years I bought and sold gear and software and I'm finally quite near the setup which sound and workflow I like. I haven't sold any of my synths for quite a while now. I wouldn't have ended up with a setup anywhere near like this unless I hadn't spend most of my income from the past 14 years on my gearsluttinezz while testing & hunting for that perfect setup.

Just need a small transparent sounding analog mixer and a polyphonic analog synth. Then I'm pretty much all set workflow and sound wise.
Old 23rd January 2012
  #69
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Originally Posted by Antoine8 View Post
So in terms of soft synths out their these days which do you guys consider beasts?

Is their a comparison out their for me when it comes to using my Moog Voyager?
Try uHe ACE my favourite software modular. It sounds extremely "analog" also ridiculously dirt cheap.
Old 23rd January 2012
  #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollowman9 View Post
In 2002 I lost almost all of my equipment except the sampler. I then moved to software because I could get it easily and cheaply. I made music entirely on the computer for a few years.
Funny. That was shortly after the time when I went the other way and kicked the computer entirely out of the studio for a number of years. Partly due to the demise of Opcode and partly an evolution in my musical outlook where I started to focus on recording mostly "real," as in miked tracks, rather than relying on synths, particularly emulating synths, whether sampling or physical modeling. Coincided with a lot of real progress in improving my audio recording chops.

I fired a lot of MIDI gear back then and basically kept the Juno 6, SH-09, TR-606 and two TX802s. The 802s spent a lot of the next decade in hiding, but I bring them out on occasion and the Roland stuff is always coming into play in some fashion.

These days, I do appreciate having fun iOS apps, like Jasuto, FunkBox, Animoog and Filtatron, but they complement, rather than replace the function of the hardware synths and effects.

Cheers,

Otto
Old 23rd January 2012
  #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antoine8 View Post
So in terms of soft synths out their these days which do you guys consider beasts?
My approach with software is to use instruments that cannot be easily done with hardware, so I tend to stay away from analog emulations or too many subtractive-style synths (with the exceptions of Diva and UAD). That's where hardware excells.

Beasts? I love Reaktor, Alchemy, Zebra, ElectraX, FM8 ('cause I hate programming DX's).
Old 23rd January 2012
  #72
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I came across this interview today from Stefan Schmidt which i find very interesting. This is a small part, the link is below. I mostly like the part where he answers this question "GS: What factors do you think are the most critical?".

Stefan Schmidt:
All this brings a further factor with it that cannot be ignored – analogue legends are based on antiquated technology, but in terms of their sophistication, they are still the be-all and end-all. The ‘new’ analogues can’t hold a candle to them – how could they? These legends ultimately come from a time when it was still the intention of the developer to build a musical instrument and not a “cash cow”. This is also reflected in the sound, and the term “legendary sound” is by no means just a cliché!

This of course complicates the marketing opportunities for the ‘new’ analogues. They not only have modern sound generators as competitors – “price” is the key word here – but also the ‘old’ analogues because of their good image. “Cloning” is nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on this image. It works all the better, the more one drives this image artificially high by means of marketing techniques. Innovation falls by the wayside and is perhaps not even desired.

To take the wind out of the sails of my admittedly very critical view I would like to finally note that analogue sound generators have their place and they should also keep this place in the future. They earn the label “musical instrument” particularly so because due to their errors, tolerances, lack of precision they are distinguished by a high degree of naturalness. Digital sound generators can sound as good as they like and be as inexpensive as they like, they are and will remain mere computers.

Stefan Schmidt – Creator Of The SCHMIDT Synthesizer | GreatSynthesizers
Old 23rd January 2012
  #73
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[QUOTE=audslu;7477839]I came across this interview today from Stefan Schmidt which i find very interesting. This is a small part, the link is below. I mostly like the part where he answers this question "GS: What factors do you think are the most critical?".

Stefan Schmidt:
All this brings a further factor with it that cannot be ignored – analogue legends are based on antiquated technology, but in terms of their sophistication, they are still the be-all and end-all. The ‘new’ analogues can’t hold a candle to them – how could they? These legends ultimately come from a time when it was still the intention of the developer to build a musical instrument and not a “cash cow”. This is also reflected in the sound, and the term “legendary sound” is by no means just a cliché!


Agree
I have some vintage, it is amazing, what I find I can do with this old gear is just amazing, it is never prescise, never exactly the same. I compile audio takes with this vintage stuff in Logic.
Man hitting those filters and LFO's just letting it go crazy, ha ha now that is Music!
Old 24th January 2012
  #74
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I currently have an SE Code plus a shedload of soft synths. For some sounds, the Code is better and for some sounds a VSTI is better. Its all about using different colours to 'paint' your track without being fundamentalist about which is objectively 'better'.
Old 24th January 2012
  #75
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I am starting to get the feeling that threads like this need to stop.

it is an endless debate, which sounds better so and so on.

I am slightly getting tired of saying analog sounds better to me. Plus you all have great points to make regarding software.

I think lately I have been slightly harsh to software and the programers who make them. So i think I am going to have to say I am sorry, as i need to remember that software is what got me producing in the first place, if it was not for software I may not have all this beautiful analog gear that I have today!

I think in future I may need to avoid any such threads just to keep my sanity!

My last words on this subject, is both mediums are here to stay so enjoy both and make great music!

Peace
Old 25th January 2012
  #76
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The whole debate in my view is moot. Analogue and digital sound different - there's no denying it, but as to which is better is really a matter of taste. A string orchestra sounds different to a four piece rock band, and despite what many might say which is "better" really depends on who's talking about it.

If someone knows how to manipulate the sound of their software, and they understand the nuances of it and that's the sound that they're after, they undoubtedly will be able to make good music - and of course there is plenty of precedent for exactly this. Sure, this takes experience, and perhaps sometimes benefits from an awareness of how and why software sounds different to hardware.

Of course, just as often someone might want to use an analogue device or even digital hardware because of its particular sound, which they likewise understand and are able to preempt. And for this reason some people collect hardware because they enjoy certain sounds that individual devices produce (amongst other reasons).

There's no doubt that analogue gear has characteristics which are generally not provided by digital programs even when those programs endeavour to. But that fact needn't have any bearing musically... why? Because part of any artistic discipline is to elaborate upon and break down tool usage, so that the final product is more than the sum of its parts. That is why producers using software have managed to develop new sounds and styles.
Old 25th January 2012
  #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Preston135 View Post
you're just observing from this site. "gearslutz" means GEAR! , i've never heard s/w being called gear before. there is probably a software.are.us site that will not use 1 piece of h/w
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beermaster View Post
I can see that for a newer generation that has it's first introduction into the world of synths via soft synths and VSTs that it's a complete mind **** to be able to discern between the huge diversity of available choices and the massive choice in available sounds from any one ( of the better ) soft synths.
:KVR:

Yeah, I'd go as far to say that hardware is generally a better stepping stone into the wider world of composing/working with all synths because it limits your options. Most people would be better served by less gear/software not more. At least until they get to grips withs what's going on.
Old 25th January 2012
  #78
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I do like this thread as it goes further than the usual soft/hard clash.
As electronic musicians, we all need to be “thinkers” as well as “feelers”.
“Thinkers” might be more comfortable with linear sequencing and automation while “feelers” might prefer live tweaking and on the fly recording. Those are two different approaches that lead to very different workflows… So, switching back and forth is a logical step as we constantly have to navigate between process and creativity.
Old 28th January 2012
  #79
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by NAWAX View Post
I do like this thread as it goes further than the usual soft/hard clash.
As electronic musicians, we all need to be “thinkers” as well as “feelers”.
“Thinkers” might be more comfortable with linear sequencing and automation while “feelers” might prefer live tweaking and on the fly recording. Those are two different approaches that lead to very different workflows… So, switching back and forth is a logical step as we constantly have to navigate between process and creativity.
+1

-andrews
Old 28th January 2012
  #80
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priorities can matter, and maybe what's best for us?

I have put away all my otb stuff and converted my "studio" into a reading nook for my children. The only thing I was missing was...nothing really. Decent synths and low end processing. Missing room treatment and a multi io adc for CPU to act as tape deck.

And I can safely say otb sounds amazing. Yet, itb sounds....good, these days.

So I anxiously await a good 64 bit daw for osx / ableton or apple.

I wish I was still all otb, but I have to recognize that I am no longer me. I am us. Do I sacrifice and show, that "we" matter, or do I teach that "I" alone matter? I cannot be me, it is not in my nature. We, we have to read and learn and educate and be educated.

I am not sure if there is a parallel for "pro", I just hope this experience translates into more thoughtful musical ideas.

Right now though...garage band is what I have! *shrug*
Old 2nd March 2012
  #81
Ged
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old thread i know but yeh, i'm done with soft synths - some are fantastic (Diva/Zebra) but i always end up replacing the synth parts with my good ol' microKorg - it sounds thicker and fits in my mixes better - i don't know why, but to my ears a lot of soft synths seem to sound as if the low mids have been cut???? - now i'm on the lookout for a cheap Korg poly 800!!!!!!
Old 2nd March 2012
  #82
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Thread Starter
Better value (both creatively AND financially)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ged View Post
old thread i know but yeh, i'm done with soft synths - some are fantastic (Diva/Zebra) but i always end up replacing the synth parts with my good ol' microKorg - it sounds thicker and fits in my mixes better - i don't know why, but to my ears a lot of soft synths seem to sound as if the low mids have been cut???? - now i'm on the lookout for a cheap Korg poly 800!!!!!!
First, welcome to the hardware world and I agree, I prefer when softsynths take advantage of its own medium rather than try to be something they are not... Zebra being the perfect example

But, I'm also commenting on this old thread becuase I was just cruising around eBay and was STRUCK at how many great synths and synth modules you can buy for only a few hundred bucks (at and around the same prices you buy software for)!

And THEN, when you are tired of those, you'll for sure be able to sell them for the same or more!

Seems like this is a great time to start in music with such great musical value out there... I guess the only downside is, all these great instruments don't make the music for you, which seems to be what some folks are looking for in software heh

-a
Old 2nd March 2012
  #83
Ged
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirty Halo View Post
First, welcome to the hardware world and I agree, I prefer when softsynths take advantage of its own medium rather than try to be something they are not... Zebra being the perfect example

But, I'm also commenting on this old thread becuase I was just cruising around eBay and was STRUCK at how many great synths and synth modules you can buy for only a few hundred bucks (at and around the same prices you buy software for)!

And THEN, when you are tired of those, you'll for sure be able to sell them for the same or more!

Seems like this is a great time to start in music with such great musical value out there... I guess the only downside is, all these great instruments don't make the music for you, which seems to be what some folks are looking for in software heh

-a
yeh but don't you feel that a new synth (hardware) actually has an amazing ability to inspire you to write a track!!
I never had this with soft synths - and I really like some of them

but hearing those Korg Poly 800 demos on ytube i know as soon as i get one i'll be knocking out 2-3 tracks a week! it gives me goosebumps.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ged View Post
old thread i know but yeh, i'm done with soft synths - some are fantastic (Diva/Zebra) but i always end up replacing the synth parts with my good ol' microKorg - it sounds thicker and fits in my mixes better - i don't know why, but to my ears a lot of soft synths seem to sound as if the low mids have been cut???? - now i'm on the lookout for a cheap Korg poly 800!!!!!!
Because I think it would be a rather valid juxtaposition, would you mind sharing one of your works with examples of both before and after the MK replacement?

I'm in particular wondering a few very small details, but given that it's a regular practice for you I can think of no better person to ask!
Old 2nd March 2012
  #85
Ged
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aktuator View Post
Because I think it would be a rather valid juxtaposition, would you mind sharing one of your works with examples of both before and after the MK replacement?

I'm in particular wondering a few very small details, but given that it's a regular practice for you I can think of no better person to ask!
hmmm, ok I have no "before" as I've deleted the wav's in the daw session, but if you want heres the MK version http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4988655/ind%202.wav

be warned its electro industrial!!!!!!
Old 3rd March 2012
  #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ged View Post
hmmm, ok I have no "before" as I've deleted the wav's in the daw session, but if you want heres the MK version http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4988655/ind%202.wav

be warned its electro industrial!!!!!!
Thank you, however the before is really a critical part of the equation in my curiosity.

While this is asking a bit much, if I happen to encounter a similar situation in the future (which it sounds like you may!) please keep me in mind and contact me via PM!

Again, thank you.
Old 3rd March 2012
  #87
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ged View Post
yeh but don't you feel that a new synth (hardware) actually has an amazing ability to inspire you to write a track!!
I never had this with soft synths - and I really like some of them

but hearing those Korg Poly 800 demos on ytube i know as soon as i get one i'll be knocking out 2-3 tracks a week! it gives me goosebumps.
Oh, I agree 100%, more often than not, a hardware synth will inspire a part or new track. There's something to being able to actually manipulate a synth, especially with ones like a Model D or Jupiter.

My point was that every instrument has it's place (and I fully admit, I lean heavily towards hardware) and that softsynths would be better off if they tried to push the medium of being softsynths rather than mostly trying to replicate analog synths that already achieved the perfect results decades ago.

I hope that distinction makes sense.

-a
Old 3rd March 2012
  #88
Ged
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aktuator View Post
Thank you, however the before is really a critical part of the equation in my curiosity.

While this is asking a bit much, if I happen to encounter a similar situation in the future (which it sounds like you may!) please keep me in mind and contact me via PM!

Again, thank you.
well the bass i originally did with Diva, and wow it was tight!! but, there was something missing in the mids, hence the reason i replaced with the MK

the strings i did with Diva too but they were way too thin sounding - again out came the MicroKorg - no EQ!!!
Old 3rd March 2012
  #89
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I'm so glad I never had the money to buy real hardware so I forced myself to properly sit down and learn software synthesis. Now I have been working so hard recently, saving and purchasing all sorts of hardware (Voyager, Slim Phatty, Virus Ti2 Polar) and programming it almost seems natural to me. The most difficult is so far the Virus, as it is quite a complicated machine, and so far I feel like you have to work quite hard to get it to sound good, but when you design a really nice sound on it to me it feels so rewarding.

Thank you software because the Voyager on the other hand... I have literally had this thing for a little over a week, I have designed so many patches on it already, all unique and all so incredible. It is such a lovely instrument and the sound is so instantly gratifying. I feel like I've mastered it pretty much, it took me a little over a week, but I believe I understand almost everything on it, I only had a brief look at the manual as well. It's really been a time in my life where I realised... hey, I'm pretty good at this synth programming thingy... hehe

All of this stems from me 4 years ago, a 19yr old spotty kid who was so determined to learn how to understand software synths.. haha I remember I used to think that the presets were just a "stored sound" like in the synths memory, and you couldn't get that sound by programming it, the knobs were just there to change the preset sound.... haha Now I believe there are many sounds I could recreate accurately by hearing them

I used to have a big notebook (I actually do this now with the virus) and I would download all sorts of patches, and go through all of them and write down the settings for the ones I liked in my notebook, then I would go to the initialize patch and recreate the sound by looking in the notebook haha, I would do it over and over until I somewhat memorised how to recreate the sound! man what a nerd I am.. Still doing it with the Virus, as I am finding it's the only way to come to grips with it, it is a seriously complex synth.
Old 3rd March 2012
  #90
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wow I totally read this thread wrong LOL!!!!!!!!!

I thought people were talking about how software was a stepping stone, or a learning curve towards hardware..... hahahaha

whooooops
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