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Will V.A.S.T. ever be available as a soft synth?

Dan South

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The short answer:


VAST stands for Variable Architecture Synthesizer Technology.


The Kurz K series synthesizers have an extraordinarily powerful and flexible DSP-based engine that allows for a whole bunch of control over what you can do to the onboard Wave ROM and/or any samples that you'd care to import. All sorts of complex routing and processing is possible - more than on just about any other synth (hardware-based, anyway).


They come with thick manuals... ;)





:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:


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VAST lets you process a signal, sampled or synthesized, with many different modifiers - filters, enhancers, equalizers, etc. The modifiers can be controlled in real time by a long list or controllers, many of them extremely esoteric. The result is a sound that can change over time in very interesting ways, ways that are not possible with any other architecture.

The Black Knight always triumphs!


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It almost sounds like an economic question... Kurz has a HUGE investment in VAST and it's application in their "hardware" synths...


Why risk cutting into the sales of these systems with products that will sell for a fraction of the hardware prices... unless you KNOW you could sell it in at least enought units to justify the losses...


I personally doubt they will provide this unless they move away from VAST in their hardware products...



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My idea was to have a 1RU or 2RU rack unit which contained the VAST engine, firewired to the computer, and then some sexy computer interface to program it. The computer's hard disk would store all the samples. This way Kurzweil could have their cake and eat it too.



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My "vast" ramblings:


VAST reminds me of FM in that you really have to get into it to take full advantage, or at least purchase sounds by programmers who are.


I see it as a sort of "virtual modular" architecture, which is pretty amazing when you consider that it was functional in the K2000 more than ten years ago. No, it ain't cabling together virtual modules on your computer screen, but there was a useful variety of algorithms, into which you could plug different modules at different stages. Compound that with the fact that nearly every parameter at every stage of the architecture can be controlled physically, via MIDI, or modulated by something else going on in the chain, then compound that with all the mathematical functions that you can use to shape how this happens... it gets very deep, very quickly.


It's a great tool for sound design and for experimentation, but it's also why Kurzweils are able to get very realistic emulations of many sounds without needing a whole lot of wave ROM to do so. I actually think the ever-increasing affordability of memory and disk storage is one reason VAST has really been under-used.


Putting the whole shebang into a software environment is theoretically possible, but as for practically, perhaps Geosync will pop into this thread and offer a prognosis. My personal, and highly speculative, opinion is that the software world already offers enough other ways to achieve many of the goals VAST was originally intended for that market realities may well weigh against it.


I haven't heard a soft synth, though, that can acheive the sheer sonic surrealism of a K2600's Triple mode in the hands of a true VAST geek. There are a handful of other tools on the planet that are this heavy - Symbolic Sound Kyma comes to mind - but not many.


I really hope VAST has a future. IMHO combining it with something that meets current quantitative expectations: lotsa sample RAM, 24/96 output, the ability to stream gigundo-samples into the VAST engine from hard disk, etc, is the ticket. Giga-like quantitative powers together with the qualitative abilities of VAST would be like giving Lance Armstrong a jet-powered bicycle.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine


Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse



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I don't think it'd be worthwile.


Reaktor can handle VAST routing options (the alogorithms) for sure. They're not that complex (even the triples). Most of the blocks could be translated. There are some proprietary ones (SHAPER for instance) that would be tough to emulate. The modulation matrix is better in Reaktor.


VAST by itself is impressive, but it's been overcome by the programmability of a wide array of softsynths. However, combine it with the hardware in the K series and to some ears (mine for instance, not Jeebus' :D ) it's still right up there with the best of them.


By the way, you can run giga samples through VAST. Use live mode. :cool:

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Originally posted by Dan South:

It might be cool to have VAST on your desktop and to be able to apply it to your sample and loop libraries.

VAST is an architecture, not an effects processor. You don't APPLY it to sounds, its the system of how you design using preset algorithms.


The raw benefits of a variable architecture in a digital synth aren't a big deal anymore to the sound designer because of programs like Reaktor. But in the world of copycat romplers, VAST still sticks out as a winner because of the sheer range you can get out of limited samples.


I disagree that 'vast' needs some kind of marketting upgrade. 'Vast' is an approach that entails elegance and refinement of design, not crude and brute force oversampling.


The latest incarnation, the K2600 has alot more to offer than just vast though. Most people think vast is the whole synth, but its really just restricted to the one-layer algorithm. The scientists at Kurzweil spent a considerable amount of time: sorting out what algorithms are most useful (1-31), and then programming them in microcode so this whole idea could fit in their hardware design. What they accomplished is an architecture that maximizes sonic potential from input material while providing a professional framework for stability and fidelity. VAST allows for the most chimeric synthesizer that is also a workhorse. There is no rompler out today that the K2600 could not thoroughly emulate.


To date, there is no synthesizer in hardware or software that is so 'out-there' sonically, but also so true to acoustic expectations.


But considering Moore's law however, all this conversation is pointless.


Making VAST available as a softsynth would only be of cosmetic significance because it would be coded using API's for a native processor. In hardware VAST is coded for the dsp chip and it is impossible to exceed processing availability while under the polyphony limit. This is a professional consideration because it tells you very consistently what the operating parameters are.


But then again the VAST concept is showing its age. For example, there is no algorithm that allows for signal recursion and the oscillators are still aliased. There are no algorithms for Physical modelling, or frequency analysis.


Thank you for this stimulating discussion.

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