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Which synth for pads?


Goldberg

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Well? I'm sort of looking for a synth that is best suited for sort of like atmospheric, soft, evolving pads for use in ambient music. Some of the ones I'm looking at are the NL2/NL3(don't really know which is better), Z1, Waldorf Q/maybe XTK, and more recently the more expensive Supernova2. Now I'm not really asking for you to tell me which synth to buy, I'm just searching for some general advice. I've played the NL2, but not extensively, and I'm just curious of how much potential it has in the pad department, as well as whether or not its successor would be a better buy. I've never played the Z1, but have sort of played on the Waldorf Q RACK-which I found the user interface to be sort of cumbersome and that sort of turned me down (again, this was the rack) for further playing. And, the only Novation I've played on is the A-Station, which I liked the sounds, but the 2-digit display is bloody confusing if you don't have a manual. Anyway, can you suggest any other synths that are sort of the top of the line as far as pads go? I'm looking for plenty of realtime control, too, and the occassional lead of course. Other than that, nice keys is a plus but not essential, as would a vocoder. Thanks for any advice!
"Bach is ever new"-Glenn Gould
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For pre-programmed evolving pads Korg is the top. If you want to program your own, or download patches from the net the Nord Modular is nice. You might want an outboard effects unit with the Nord.

 

Robert

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Striker,

 

There are a lot of synths that do pads nicely. The Triton is good for a warm, thick sound. The Roland JV or XV's are good for "airy" stuff, expcially pads based on vocal samples. The Rolands come with a very nice patch called "JP Strings" or something to that effect, and it's a really nice multi-purpose sound. The JV-04 Vintage expansion card adds a LOT of nice waveforms and patches to your Roland synth. The XV series has a cleaner output section than the JV series, but all of these models have a respectable sound.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Hmm... a lot of options.

 

I'm gonna recommend the Supernova.

I really like the sound of it and you have many ways of altering the sound.

The fx section is extraordinary and nothing compares to it.

You can make eight different swirling sounds with eight different fx. Every soundblock can have a unique reverb, chorus, delay etc. and then combined to one sound.

 

As usual I think you need to listen to all of them and evaluate them yourself.

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I don't use a lot of pads, but I have 2 korgs, so perhaps I should start...

 

The Z1 pads are cool, and certainly the potential for pad programming on that machine is awesome. When I do reach for a pad, however, I'm surprised by how often I turn to the QS8. The Z1 pads are meatier, more analogish, the Qs8's airier and iceier--though both are very evolving and eventful. I'd rather listen to the Z1 pads are on their own, but in most cases it seems I'd rather mix with the QS8's. Pads are never the stars in my music, you know?

 

Also great pads are to be had by stacking 10-15 (or more) tracks of yourself singing soto voce, eating the mic, and processing different tracks in different ways. I mean, really quiet, and enough tracks so that you achieve "in tune" by widening the range of correct pitch, if you know what I'm saying. A detuned army of human oscillators. Then submix and do it again.

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Three used and one new suggestion for you:

 

Peavey DPM series keyboard or module, in multi mode. Keyboard offers good hands on editing of sounds while they play.

 

Roland D-50 keyboard or D-550 module with the PG-1000 programmer so you can adjust filters, LFO's etc while the sound evolves.

 

Korg Wavestation, especially Wavestation A/D module. This the king of the ambient pads.

 

Kurzweil K2000/2500 series, especially with KDFX added.

 

With these instruments in your rig, you could easily send your listeners into orbit with your endlessly evolving space music.

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Thanks for all the advice! I did some research on the D-50 simply because some other people suggested it too. I hesitate to buy it, or the Triton, though, because I don't really want sounds that are (or will be, in the Triton's case) over-used. But anyway I'll look into some of the other options-does the Proteus 2500 come in a keyboard version? It seems I saw something like that, and I'm sort of looking for a master keyboard right now, at least for live play. Anyway, I have played on the P2500 and liked it as well. Anyway, I think I'll start up a thread about the D-50; I like the price on it and the high ratings at harmonycentral-the only bad thing about it apparently is its difficult-to-program interface.
"Bach is ever new"-Glenn Gould
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While you're checking out Spectrasonics, Distorted Reality 2 has some great pads. I second the vote for Wavestation, it's my first choice for voicey pads. But if you really want the creamy synth pads, ya gotta go analog. Andromeda, MKS-80, Jupiter-8, etc.
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Originally posted by Striker1080:

But anyway I'll look into some of the other options-does the Proteus 2500 come in a keyboard version? It seems I saw something like that, and I'm sort of looking for a master keyboard right now, at least for live play. Anyway, I have played on the P2500 and liked it as well.

I think so, it's called the Proteus Keys. Our local music shop had the Proteus 2000 on sale in January for $599, I almost got it but my Elec. Musician waiting in the mailbox had an ad for the Proteus keys, suggested street price $899. It said the sound engine was 3 times faster than the 2000, suggesting it has more in common with the 2500, but I haven't been able to find too many more details in mags or the Web. Does look like a winner, though!

By the way, I'm using my EX-5 for most of my pads, great sound but very difficult to program (which is why I'm interested in the Proteus Keys!).

Botch

"Eccentric language often is symptomatic of peculiar thinking" - George Will

www.puddlestone.net

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I was told Tuesday that the new E-mu keyboards are not shipping yet but supposidly soon. I know they have half the polyphony of the 2500, but otherwise are supposed to be the same engine. The P2500 has better D/A converters than the P2K. Though the samples are the same the programs have been redone. The keyboards will be released in stages depending on which ROM they use. Proteus and XL early, followed by an Ensoniq using Sounds of the XR and a Mo Phat version. Not sure how they will be as a master controller but they only have 61 keys.

 

Robert

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I don't think the Proteus is the place to look for pads. I have a P2k and almost never use it for that purpose. If you have a sampler you can use libraries like Symphony of Voices...that has some awesome pads, strangely enough.

 

I don't have a Triton, but did get to play it live a couple of times and used mostly its...pads. Really nice. And the new Triton LE I've read has new sounds, as in not "overused". You can always download, program, or buy new sounds for it. cheers.

Raul
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In the soft synth area I'd recommend absynth. Lots of extremely sweet lush tones possible on this synth.

 

Generally, for pads I'd be looking for the ability to layer, good envelopes and lfo's. A variety of tonal characteristics doesnt hurt.

 

The nords (1 and 2) have a defined character, as do most VA's to a lesser degree. Also it is easier (for me) to load up a cross mod sample or a piece of a noisy filter sweep, to come in and ouut of a pad on a rompler, than to program each layer painstakingly in a VA. I do like the vintage board in the Roland's because it give me access to the beefier tones, but in an easy to use (for pads) way.

 

I love VA's for other things though.

 

Cheers,

 

Jerry

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Originally posted by mr. tunes:

Spectrasonics vsti for pads is called Atmosphere, and it's not out yet but looks like what you need since all it does is pads - around $400

 

Some nice pads in Sonic Synth too

Yeah, I am surprised Sonic Synth was not mentioned by Rabid. He has it and has said that he likes using the pads over some of his other softsynths.

 

Well, the thing about Sonic Synth for pads is that it does one thing that ALL of the others mentioned here do not (apart from Atmosphere). That is, it uses LARGE sized samples as the source elements for the patches. The programmers who worked on Sonic Synth (mself included) have also programmed a lot of the major hardware keyboards, modules and expansion boards out there. Many hardware synths are GREAT for pads (JD800, JV series, Triton,Trinity, Motif). But what Sonic Synth has that is different is more room to breath because it is in software and not limited to the meg size you can fit on a rom chip. Compare over 2 gigs of virtual sound rom to about 32-64 megs on your typical hardware PCM based synth and you can imagine.

 

I am not recommending Sonic Synth OVER any of the other fine suggestions in this thread. But, I am pointing out that not only is Sonic Synth good for pads too as Mr. Tunes mentioned but it is also unique in the way I described.

 

For example, there might be a pad with a choir or string in it on the Triton. On the Triton the raw elements that make up the pad could be about 250K in size where that same type of pad in Sonic Synth could be over 10 megs. I am not saying that this always makes a difference. If it is analog type sounds with sawtooths as the source, this doesn't matter much (and the JD800 is Pad KING IMO, BTW and the Wavestation can be too). But, with sounds that have motion (and emotion) or just benefit from longer samples and a larger variety of them across the keyboard, well...something like Sonic Synth or Spectrasonic's Atmosphere are going to be able to deliver pads of a different quality than what we are used to hearing.

 

Hopefully this is useful info to know because the VSTi's I am mentioning are new to most people. If you want to hear the pads from Sonic Synth you now can here: www.sonicreality.com/sonicsynthmore.html

 

Dave Kerzner

Sonic Reality

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Striker, here's some more info on the D-50. This is from memory so I might be missing a few things.

 

Its sounds start with a "partial". A partial can be a square or triangle synth waveform, or playback of a sample from the ROM - either a short one-shot sample, typically used at the start of a sound for a complex initial transient, or a looped sound typically used for the sustain. There's no way to add new samples beyond what's in ROM, but not to worry, Eric Persing's crew literally included the kitchen sink. (He was the senior sound designer for this synth.)

 

Two partials are combined in an "algorithm", which is simply a choice of Synth or PCM sample type partials with optional ring modulation between them.

 

The algorithm gets processed as a "tone" with envelopes, low-pass filter and chorus.

 

"Upper" and "lower" tones are combined in a "patch" which also has reverb parameters.

 

So your complete patch has a manageable number of paramters to make a complex, evolving, swirling and spacious sound. Factory presets are Persing's personal sound set, and he was disappointed that other people just used the presets instead of making their own range of sounds as distinctive as his.

 

Finally two "patches" can be used at once in a split keyboard or layered live setup. The joystick can be used to crossfade tones and patches.

 

The memory card slot allows for new chorus/reverb options.

 

The keyboard is very compact and has handy patch select buttons and a nice size display, but occasionally there are reliability problems with the action of the keys. The module has exactly the same sounds and options.

 

The PG-1000 programmer is a control panel about a foot square, with zillions of sliders to allow instant access to just about everything in the synth. It connects over MIDI and is awesome for custom patch editing or for realtime tweaking. If you get a D-50 or 550 with the 1000 as a package for $550 you're doing pretty well!

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I'm surprised no one mentioned the Tonewheel Additive Synthesizer (TAS). As of late, I've been using this synth more and more for pads and such, here's why.

 

- The harmonic sliders provide the user with complete control over the harmonics of the sound. The user can dial in specific harmonics at any of eight different volume levels.

- Overall volume of the TAS is typically controlled via something called a Swell pedal, and it sure is a swell pedal. This allows the user to instantly add subtle dynamic changes.

- Movement to the pad is provided via an external speaker which moves the sound around the room in a wonderful, hypnotic fashion. There are two speeds, the faster speed can add a bit of temporary excitement to the pad.

- Finally, it's common for a bit of natural distortion to be found in the sound, adding warmth.

 

Here's an example of the use of the TAS in a tune I submitted for the Cover CD. http://www.purgatorycreek.com/mp3/dejavu.mp3

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Originally posted by BassGuy:

The module has exactly the same sounds and options.

It doesn't - no joystick, and no portamento.

 

I wrote a ton of great patches for my D-50 that used the porta function. Now I have a D-550 and there's no way to engage it. Or to do the joystick thing.

 

Major suckage.

 

I'm another Wavestation advocate, as far as the interesting and evolving pad thing goes. Wavetable synth in general are fun for that...maybe you wanna check out a Waldorf Microwave XT...

 

There does seem to be a bit of a divergence between evolving pads and lush pads, doesn't there? I suppose the ideal solution is to be able to layer an analog-ish synth with a wavetable-type synth. That'd be the best of both worlds...

 

dB

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