Would love to see Dr. Mike dissect a Quantum/Iridium.
The Iridium is something I could do, for sure. I can promise nothing at this time, but in response to your request I have made inquiries of someone who might be able to make it happen. We shall see.
Thank you Mike!
I think I’d perk up reading that any of these modern digital synths is on a whole other level sound-wise from VSTs. Don’t know if it’s even possible these days. I’ll also throw out that IMO 8/16 voice poly on high priced (say > 2k) digital synths in 2020 is more than disappointing. I understand the reasons (ie tradeoffs) but still.
I see where you're coming from here, but the whole "better sound" thing is, in my not so humble opinion, a bit of a blind alley. They all use code on silicon. It's what the silicon is connected to that matters. A really good plug-in that is well coded to run at high sample rates, run through a really good DAC, will sound really good; a keyboard synth that is meh coded to run at a lower sample rate, run through meh-quality output circuitry, will sound meh. On the other hand, the reverse can be true! There are a whole lot of butchered-quality plug-ins being played through $30 interfaces out there...
No doubt and I should have specified the best vs. the best. Of course it's subjective but I'm really wondering if there's anything better achievable in the digital synthesizer domain - either hardware or software. Now analog emulations I can see getting much much better. Just think of a real B3 through a Leslie or acoustic piano.
I think the real key is immediacy. I have been writing about the man/machine interface since the mid-1980s; it was the topic of an article I wrote for the Computer Music Journal at MIT, the one that got me on the path to get out of science and into music/writing as a full-time gig. The single most critical part of any keyboard is the point where the human's hands and eyes touch and see the machine. The one advantage of a well made digital synth is that the keys feel good and well-integrated with the sound engine, which itself is laid out in an intuitive way. The Hydrasynth is a great example. We have plenty of examples of this being done poorly; does anyone out there genuinely LOVE programming a Korg Poly-800 or Yamaha DXanynumberatall? If the synth is fun to work with and expressive to play, it will subjectively sound better to the player.
First let's make sure we're talking studio use here as I get not wanting to gig with a pc. In discussions comparing hardware and software I always start with "aside from the interface and immediacy" knowing this to be the hardware advantage. I still challenge these hardware interfaces because while I know they're better than mousing around some of them are still not great. I mean if they were so great wouldn't everyone be programming their own sounds?
Regarding the HS at a really incredible price how many folk just want presets (nothing new here)? And of course Poly AT as opposed to messing with the oscillators parameters, and all those modulation possibilities? I still think you can't dismiss maybe the only interface advantage computer software offers- the big screen. Not saying this makes the overall experience better than hardware (it doesn't) but it helps. Btw I'm looking forward to a Wavestate review with this in mind.
Now assuming the sound quality is equal between a really good VST and a digital hardware synth then the cost of that keyboard interface/immediacy may be several thousand dollars. Plus hardware takes up real estate. This is why all my digital is in the PC (except for my PC3x controller) and I spend much effort on making the VST experience as pleasant as possible. I do realize PCs/interfaces cost money but assuming you already have them..
Slight tangent here but imagine a generic physical controller slab where through motorized positioning of real knobs, slider and buttons you could duplicate the visual interface of any VST. And store that configuration for recall. I use my controllers (combination of PC3x and Akai MPD232) to handle a lot of the VST interface. But this doesn't match up visually with whats on the screen and so while better than just mousing it doesn't eliminate the mouse all together .
As for massive polyphony, I respectfully disagree. If you're doing entire arrangements on one machine with multitimbral usage over many MIDI channels, yes, I can see the advantages. But if you're talking about a single timbre that you're playing in real time, most synths turn to muck if you play a lot of two-fisted lines and chords on them. This isn't a piano, where note ringouts and sympathetic vibrations are critical to its sound, or an organ, where tone wheel interactions are critical when playing smears and the like; this is a synthesizer, where sounds are often so complex that playing more than 16 of them at a time is actually counterproductive (ask any Polymoog player how often they play this way, even though they could). E-mu made a lot of synths and modules with up to 128-voice polyphony; I personally know exactly zero people who used them monotimbrally just to have all those voices under their hands.
Andromeda - 16 voice. Note I almost never use it in Mix (combination) mode. I sometimes create single patches that "play" but don't sound like a piano or organ and I even use a sustain pedal with them. This is where I often wish for more voices. Since they're my own patches you'll have to take my word that playing all those voices doesn't muddy things up. And this is real analog.
I have no doubt that muddiness can be a valid concern with polyphony in the hands of the wrong person. But tbh I think using this rationale spawned out of manufacturer's marketing excuses from 30+ years ago. Right up there with why we don't need a color monitor for a DAW and why mixing board jacks should be in the back
. More voices makes the design more complicated; thermal, overdriving op-amps, testing, ASIC/FPGA and/or pwb real estate etc. In other words more expensive - that's the bottom line.
Sorry - I know I'm preaching to someone with much more expertise than me and who I greatly respect. Hope I didn't get too carried away.