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Craig � A Question About Mac Softsynths

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Craig, thanks for the great review of the Korg OASYS PCI card in the April issue of EQ. It was one of the reasons I decided to buy an OASYS a couple of weeks ago when they were on sale for $499.


Ive wanted an OASYS since it was announced in the mid-nineties and I was blown away by the card at last years Winter NAMM Show. Even though it was a lot cheaper than the originally announced $10,000 price tag, it was still too expensive at that time. This new price made it worth buying the Magma PCI Expansion System Ill need in order to use my new OASYS.


Im a Mac user and I like the idea of having synths inside of my computer. However, Im picky about my sounds. In your review, you wrote, "sonically, OASYS PCI is without reproach." Thats what Ive come to expect from Korg. My question is: are there any softsynths out there that are in the same league, soundwise, as the OASYS? I should mention that I am about to upgrade to a ProTools Mix Plus, so that increases my options.


Your answers always are helpful. Thanks Craig.




P.S. In case this is helpful, I have a 500 MHz G4 with 576 MB of RAM. I mostly use Digital Performer and ProTools, although I also have Logic Audio and Cubase VST.




After getting some great advice from the posts below, Ive updated this post with some links that might be helpful to anyone else following this thread:



Access Music Virus TDM

Cycling 74 Max

Cycling 74 MSP

Bitheadz Osmosis

Bitheadz Retro AS-1

Bitheadz Unity DS-1

Bitheadz Voodoo

Emagic ES1

Emagic ES2

Emagic ESB TDM

Emagic EVOC20

Emagic EVP88

Emagic EXS24

IK Multimedia SampleTank

Koblo Studio 9000

Native Instruments Absynth

Native Instruments B4

Native Instruments Battery

Native Instruments FM7

Native Instruments Pro-52

Native Instruments Reaktor

Native Instruments Sound Forum Synth FREE!!!

Propellerheads Reason

Propellerheads Rebirth

Prosoniq Orange Vocoder

U and I Software Metasynth

Waldorf Attack

Waldorf PPG Wave


PCI Card Synths

Creamware Pulsar II

Creamware Pulsar XTC


Symbolic Sound Kyma


This message has been edited by soapbox on 06-14-2001 at 11:32 PM

Enthusiasm powers the world.


Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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Well, the OASYS uses that Korg "special sauce" synthesis, so nothing sounds quite like it (other than Korg keyboards). But there are other fine softsynths for the Mac. Right now I think it's hard to top Reason for its drum machine, sampler, and subtractive synth. I've used the Koblo synths and have been happy with them as well. Haven't worked with the BitHeadz stuff much, but they too have their fans.
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Thanks, Craig, for your input. I may be reading too much into your answer, but it sounds as if youre saying I should expect a little less from other softsynths than I would from the OASYS, but that they might do the job fine anyway.


Reason looks very cool and it seems like the best "bang for the buck" application out there. I love the rack analogy of the interface too.


I wonder though for people like me who already have a DAW, if a trio of apps such as Battery, Unity DS-1, and Reaktor ("drum machine, sampler, and...synth") wouldnt serve me better, since they are each well developed and perhaps more easily integrated into a Digital Performer or a ProTools setup. Any thoughts?


(While Id love to hear from Craig again, Ill open this one up to the field as well.)

Enthusiasm powers the world.


Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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Theres an access virus tdm plug in. That should be enough special sauce for yo' a*s, its only for pro tools tdm though.


Reaktor, Reason, Absynth,Metasynth,max/msp:


Reaktor: Because of this software my favorite electronic artists simply use laptops on tour, nuff said.


Reason: Not nearly as deep as reaktor, but its all set up there for you, easy to use for making tunes


Absynth:This was from a small developer, but has now been picked up by a larger small developer, native instruments. This thing can do some of the most gorgeous pads....oh my gosh, its beutiful.


Waldorf ppg wave: wavetable synthesis from the name we all like to love.


max/msp: Put simply, it allows you to create your own applications, such as vst plug ins. Its not a create your own lioke starting from scratch though, its for those who want control without writing all that code.


Metasynth:by u and i software, I cant really explain it totally, download the demo and see for yourself: http://www.uisoftware.com/


also native instruments cool stuff such as reaktor and absynth: www.native-instruments.de


And propellerheads, who make reason: www.propellerheads.se


theres also an app by DUY labs that allows you to craft your own tdm plug ins...geeks only...

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Don't forget the Pulsar PCI card system. It's better known and supported on the PC side but the Macintosh implementation is fairly stable. It's better known in Europe since Creamware is a German company. I own it and while the Korg "glossy" sound isn't there, it's synthesizers are exceptional and it has an optional Modular synthesizer that is DEEP if you care to do DIY synth projects.


And I don't own it because it's REALLY expensive but the Kyma Capybara system for Macintosh is getting good press.

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>>I may be reading too much into your answer, but it sounds as if youre saying I should expect a little less from other softsynths than I would from the OASYS, but that they might do the job fine anyway.<<


Yes, you are reading too much into it! OASYS is great at some things, and has a ton of effects, but the polyphony is quite limited compared to something like Reason. It doesn't do REX files either. All these programs have their own specialities.


I also realized I forgot to mention some of my favorite NI stuff, like Battery, B4, and Pro-52, because I use them on Windows and just wasn't thinking "Mac" with respect to those programs. But Native Instruments really does have the recipe down for softsynths.


It's also nice to see someone mention Pulsar, Creamware makes some really sophisticated products that are very popular in Europe. Their synths aren't really softsynths, though, because they run on the SHARC DSP (that also means they don't really stress out your CPU).


There are lots of good programs out there...I've never met a softsynth I didn't like on some level!!

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Craig, Im glad to discover I was reading too much into your first response. Also Im glad to know that you like the Native Instruments stuff, since I think thats next on my list. Thanks gchild & Craig for your recommendations of Pulsar. Once I buy my Magma PCI Expansion System, Ill have plenty of free PCI slots so I could certainly incorporate both Pulsar and Kyma into my system (if I have the extra cash). They seem very much worth looking into.


mr. rob, thanks for the advice and the links. I will certainly have to download a few demos!

Enthusiasm powers the world.


Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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Soft synths I like:


ES1 - punchy, aggressive and very analog sounding


Reason - I love Subtractor and the drum computer.


Pro-52 - Imagine a velocity sensitive Prophet 5 with effects and as many voices as your CPU can handle. Then imagine a bunch of them running on your desktop.


Orange Vocoder - warm and retro


Stuff I'd like to try:


EXS24 sampler

PPG Wave 2.V

ES2 (not yet released, but looks HOT!)

Emagic's new Vocoder plugin

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  • 3 weeks later...

I originally forgot to include the FREE Sound Forum Synth in my links above so Im bringing this thread back to the front page to let everyone know about this free softsynth!


The Sound Forum Synth is a cooperative venture between Native Instruments and Keyboard magazine. Keyboard is publishing a very good series of articles, which specifically shows how to program this softsynth, and at the same time teaches the basics of programming.


Follow this link to article one and then this link to article two .


BTW, in case nobody noticed, THIS SOFTSYNTH IS FREE!!!


Thanks Keyboard and Native Instruments!



Enthusiasm powers the world.


Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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I use a plethora of softsynths and am pretty happy with them all.


Reason - Has a very versitile softsynth in addition to the amazing

interface. I've gotten some pretty intense sounds just using that.


Retro - has a little learning curve,but, the sound quality is

very good.


Reaktor - My next purchase as soon as 3.0 is available for mac.

I've used it and it sounds like nothing else and it can be made to

emulate just about any synth.


Absynth - just got that and It's a completely different animal.

Just create patchs that evolve over time. There are tons

of patches that come with it and it will take me a while to get

through them before I start programming.


Waldorf PPG - sounds like the real deal if you liked that sound.


Pro 52 - no complaints though I find I need to pump up the volume

to compete with everything.


Attack - excellant sounds. easy to program.


Battery - not a soft synth per se but you can manipulate the envelope

and layer sounds and create some huge and/or twisted stuff.


Metasynth - weird interface and learning curve,but, you can

come up with the most amazing sounds.


that's my experience with softsynths in a nutshell



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The Keyboard series on programming that's supported by the Sound Forum Synth is by German electronic music guru Peter Gorges, who also heads up Wizoo. The guy knows his stuff, and I've had the pleasure to jam with him a few times -- he's a superb keyboard player as well. I think the whole series is a real coup for Keyboard, and is a great idea.
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Is Sample Tank available yet? I heard it at Frankfurt and it sounded really good. They have some clever way of dealing with data so it only requires half the system RAM you'd expect -- in other words, it needs 16 MB to play a 32 MB sound. IK does interesting stuff, they also have a really inexpensive MP3 DJ program, and the T-Racks system is now 24 bit.
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Yes, SampleTank is available. They have a demo download at http://www.SampletankUSA.com. It contains just a few instruments and those instruments are severely limited as far as distribution over the keyboard. It sounded Okay but I wasn't blown away. Maybe if the demo wasn't so limited. One real bad thing was their loops demo. The loops were totally lame. I guess they didn't want to give away the farm there.
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