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Can Software Synth match sound quality of Real Synth ?


kouyang16

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I have been trying very hard to find some serious software synthesizer that will be able to match the quality of an Access Virus or Waldorf Q or my Triton Workstation. Besides the Access Virus TDM software, nothing else out there seems to have the same warm analog sound needed for modern Pop and Dance music. Native Instruments and other manufacturers seems to have products that sound too thin. You can output these synth's signals to an external Oscilator or other processing gear to get the warm tone but that defeats the purpose of having a software synth. Is there really any good software synths out there that I am missing out on ?

 

I have Waldorf Microwave XT, Triton, XV-5080, JV-1080, Orbit, GigaStudio, Access Virus B, and other synths already but would like some software synth that can replace my hardware.

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I find this works both way, depending on what I want. First you may want to do a check on the sound your computer makes. Record your hardware to your computer, then replay that recording to see if the signal path changes the characteristics of your hardware sound. Secondly, compare your hardware and software synths without effects. The hardware you mentioned has some great effects built into most patches. You may just need to do the same thing for your soft synth patches.

 

Robert

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From a technical perspective, *every* synth that's not true analog IS a software synth! It's simply software encased in a box that includes an interface.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

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Originally posted by coyote:

From a technical perspective, *every* synth that's not true analog IS a software synth! It's simply software encased in a box that includes an interface.

Precisely, and so the real question is: can software synths match the stability/reliability/portability/and latency of hardware synths, and the answer varies from OS to OS, soundcard to soundcard. When all is well with my dedicated softsynth machine, I get 2-5 ms latency, and that feels just like "the real thing." In PC land, a solid setup with ASIO drivers seems to be the key.

 

I recently downloaded the FREE Triangle II software monosynth, A/B'ed its basic sounds with my Z1 (granted many don't consider the Z1 to be a mint sounding synth, but I like it). The Triangle sounded every bit as good if not better, esp. at higher frequencies, and this is through an Audigy, not a Lynx or a MOTU or a Delta. (And in its standalone mode, the triangle had no problem with 2ms latency--but of course it is a monosynth)

 

Converter quality is obviously a big issue, but thinking in terms of dollars and cents, how much are the hardware manufacturers spending on converters in a $1000 synth? Probably not as much as the makers of your $150 stereo soundcard. They do, afterall, have a keybed to worry about, and a display, and some knobs, and some Keyboard Mag full spreads, and a profit margin.

Many of the coolest softsynths originate in some li'l genius' bedroom.

 

Consider what the streaming soft samplers (Giga, etc) have done for realism. A few years ago, the best paid pros were limited to 128 MB piano samples. Now every schmoe like me has a 1GB piano with no looping, 8 or more velocity layers, release samples, etc. Is there any doubt softsynths are positioned to surpass hardware in sound quality and power?

 

Okay, now I'll stop talking as if I know what I'm talking about. I like softsynths. They is good and much funnest.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Originally posted by kouyang16:

I have been trying very hard to find some serious software synthesizer that will be able to match the quality of an Access Virus or Waldorf Q or my Triton Workstation.

..

Native Instruments and other manufacturers seems to have products that sound too thin.

As stated in the replies above "digital hardware is software" is true. I'd like to have a look at those D/A converters built in the Triton & the rest. What possibly could be the reason why you find your hardware stuff sound better is that they try to emulate analog stuff by introducing (for example) ripples in the signal. If you ever zoomed into a true analog-generated square-wave you'd see that it actually isnt completely square. It will have small ripples in it (especially at the corners). You could generate the same ripples by adding lot's of sinewaves with different phase & frequency onto each other. Try sampling one of your favorite synthesizers square-wave with the filter completely open (or disabled). View it in Soundforge, and zoom in the corners. Any ripples?.
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Ditto to what everyone else has said. With the NI synths, upsample them. If you're at 44.1K, change the sample rate on the synth to 88.2K. You will hear that the envelope generators on the synth tighten up and the synth is more responsive. Adiitionally the high-end will improve and the aliasing in the extreme octaves will lessen. The advantage here is that with soft synths you can improve their sound by upsampling, where as with a hardware synth you're locked into the sampling rate of the box.

 

Sounds like you're on Protools TDM. Coming in the next fews months are TDM/RTAS versions of the Indigo, Waldorf Q, and a lot of other few cool things.

 

As far as warmth goes. I think the NI B4 is as warm or warmer than any of the hardware B3 clones.

 

Moving forward I've determined that the only analog synth-style hardware I'm going to add will be real analogs. If it's digital (VA), then it will be a soft synth. I see no need for hardware VAs.

 

Busch.

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I really like both, but the problem I have with soft synths is a human interface one. With a hardware synth I can turn two knobs at once, sometimes more depending on how close togeather they are in real time. I can't do that with a soft synth yet (maybe I'm just dense or something).

My other problem with soft synths is portability, when I'm sick of looking at a crt I can grab a synth and a pair of headphones and go in another room and use it away from the pc.

 

As far as sound quality goes I don't see much difference between the two.

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For me Software synth have not been easy to use since I am so use to hardware synth. On most software synths, you have to load one sound at a time and that really takes a lot of time to audition sounds. Auditioning sounds on a Hardware Synthesizer is as easy as pressing the up or down arrow key. I bought the Korg Oasys card and the raw sound sounded exactly as my Korg Triton but it took a lot of time to add effects and tweak the parameters so I returned it. I guess the bottom line for me is that software synth is more time consuming and I don't have time to fool around.

 

Right out of the box, software synth don't sound too appealing to me since I have other stuff that can do the job right away. I am in a fast pace environment so I need great sound instantly. Until software synth comes up with a product that can match the sound quality and ease of use that hardware synthesizers provides, I will not be using it much.

 

Would it be safe to say that most of the professionals use more hardware synthesizers and samplers than software synthesizers ?

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Originally posted by kouyang16:

Would it be safe to say that most of the professionals use more hardware synthesizers and samplers than software synthesizers ?

I think a better question may be "How can you best get professional results?" While there may be certain standard rack synths and samplers in most studios at this time I think the same thing will happen with soft synths. As for the budget user, it is much easier to get professional results with software. It also takes a lot more patience.

 

Robert

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I think these are valid observations. As far as "knobbiness" goes, it seems like more and more sofsynths are implementing MIDI learn. IN the case of the Triangle II, I mentioned above, it's freaking brilliant even for a moron like me. You right click on any onscreen knob, say filter cutoff, go to your controller and turn any knob, and voila, Traingle has assigned that controller to that function. No messing with CC numbers or anything. Then you can set the range. I have a Z1, which has about 18 knobs on it. 15 minutes of MIDI learn assignments, and now the Z1 controls the Triangle in exactly the way I want it to. Happy happy

 

Originally posted by Umbra:

I really like both, but the problem I have with soft synths is a human interface one. With a hardware synth I can turn two knobs at once, sometimes more depending on how close togeather they are in real time. I can't do that with a soft synth yet (maybe I'm just dense or something).

My other problem with soft synths is portability, when I'm sick of looking at a crt I can grab a synth and a pair of headphones and go in another room and use it away from the pc.

 

As far as sound quality goes I don't see much difference between the two.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Yes, I also like the auto learn feature available on some software. My E-Mu XL7 has moved from the far reaches of my setup to a position next to my computer keyboard.

 

Robert

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kouyang16,

 

If you find that it's easier and quicker to work with hardware, that's completely understandable. Others, like myself, find just the opposite to be true. I would agree that when using the PCM side of OASYS, the raw sounds don't really sound any better. And that with the Triton you can layer more sounds while the OASYS will likely run out of DSP. But it's the physical modeling of the OASYS that I find most appealing. The P5, Minimoog and plucked strings are excellent. Even with the MOSS option, the Triton can't compete. I end up using the OASYS a lot and my Triton very little.

 

Most hardware synths have FX engines that add significantly to the sound. Strip away the FX from the patches on your Triton and the instrument sounds much less impressive. But most people end up turning off most of these effects when they record. It gives them more flexibility during mixing in that they're not tied to a specific sound and better sounds FXs can be added later. In contrast, most soft synths have simple or no FX. Effects, like a good reverb, can be very CPU intensive. The basic assumption with soft synths is that they will likely be used in conjunction with a DAW which has quality FXs, so building them into the soft synth is less of a necessity. I heard people call the NordLead thin, but it is also one of the few digital synths that doesn't have FXs.

 

Many "pros" use the Access TDM plugin because it sounds good and allows them complete recall and programming from within PT. Ditto for Logic pros with their synths/samplers. Many heavies have dumped racks of hardware samplers for GigaStudio (of which there is no hardware equivalent). Etc, Etc. So coming down hard one way or the other doesn't seem accruate. I have a preference for software, partially because it fits with the way I work but also because I've found that most of the innovative stuff over the last five years has been software based.

 

Busch.

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Thanks a lot for all of the your inputs. Your inputs has really opened my mind and I will get to work on seeing if I can get more creative with software synths. Like it or not, the industry is moving towards software synths and I rather move along with the new technology rather than trailing years behind it.
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