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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » Soft synths
hardware obsolete?
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seraph
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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2004 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

MusicalGirevik wrote:
Interesting topic.

It's nice to see that new members go back digging old threads from the dust of time Very Happy it sounds like a success to me Exclamation

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GovernorSilver



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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2004 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It's one of those topics that will come up over and over again and can be fun to discuss. Smile

When I do get my Windows laptop, I plan to get a touchscreen for it, to help address the user interaction issue (keyboard/mouse/trackpad vs. USB controller vs. hardware synth w/ nice, tightly integrated UI).
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Tim Kleinert



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

IMO, the only way to circumvent the depressing "obsoleteness"-feeling is to regard current music equipment as a mererly transitory and ephemeral tool to express timeless musical matters.

I personally have chosen the route of dealing with sounddesign, synthesis and music in a purely conceptual way, and then just selecting the best platform current technology can provide in order to realize these concepts -hence my choice of the Clavia Modular G2.

So when technology advances and your "old box" becomes obsolete, you just take your conceptual knowledge and practical experience to the next "new box", which will enable you to implement it even better.

The "old box" will now be obsolete, but not your knowledge and experience -on the contrary: It will have grown in the meantime.

This approach is doubtlessly more time-consuming than "just getting a box which sounds good and grooving with it", as it involves persistent studying -but it is far more rewarding, and makes you less dependent on specific gear.

In general I find it important to be as independent of specific gear as possible, because the gear market is so damn transient. So far, I chose the G2 because it's the best of the lot for my applications, but I could also get along with Reaktor, Tassman, Max/MSP etc. and customize a controller.

This attitude abhors being dependent on aspects of sound which you cannot influence yourself. Well, of course, absolute independence is an illusion, but I think it's morally and artistically important to strive for a maximum. This is BTW also the key to true individuality. "Don't use the M**g filter everybody uses. Design your own filter model!"

And anyway, let's not forget that this is all about music! So Just because the tools become obsolete doesn't mean that the music should, too.

Or put differently: If your music does sound dated in a few years, then that's a sure sign that you didn't work hard enough to master the technology involved. Technology, when mastered, disappears. This is where true art begins.

Digital, analog, hardware, software -it's all just tools. Or "toys for boys", as Rob would say. Tools wear out, become obsolete, get lost or stolen -your knowlegde, experience -your MUSIC lives on.

Peace.

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play



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

i agree.

people still play the harpsichord. people still sing. to believe that an artistic tool can become obsolete is to be caught up in the idea of 'progress', the idea that time is linear. it's art. there's nowhere to get to so there's no progress aside from the personal journey. it's just a bunch of people doin stuff. twisting knobs or banging rocks together. the distinction is lost on me.
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paul e.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

nice one guys.... Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2004 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

shoshin wrote:
Or put differently: If your music does sound dated in a few years, then that's a sure sign that you didn't work hard enough to master the technology involved. Technology, when mastered, disappears. This is where true art begins.

Great point. I think this is right. Certainly, the music transcends the technology. We listen to music, not instruments.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very true! Well put! Very Happy
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Amos



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great points all.

Back to the "Furniture Factor" though, and tactile/expressive response:

I recently had a chance to set up my Jupiter-6 and a Minimoog Voyager (not mine, alas) one above the other on my keyboard rack, and the combo nearly blew my mind. "Dear God," I thought, "I have enough controls in front of me to land a space shuttle!"

Nothing can compare to total immediate access to an n-dimensional synthesis space, with visual info on all parameters... on the other hand, as previously stated it is less important what all those controls are hooked up to; be it vintage circuitry or virtual. The difference is becoming aesthetic.

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The Guvnor



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

As much as I love softsynths for their great sound, flexibility and sheer ease of use, you have to wonder how long before they themselves become obsolete or unusable because of changes in computer technology and the incompatibilities of future operating systems (who would have thought that some of the games I used to play on my PC using Windows 95 won't work now with XP???).

The immediacy of hardware synths is awesome. By the time I've powered up my PC, loaded Cubase and launched my VSTi's, I've forgotten what the hell I wanted to do with them in the first place. That bassline went straight out of my head!!! Compare that to flicking a power switch on my ARP Odyssey, CS30, or OB8 and getting instant gratification, knobs, switches, the whole physical man-machine thing!!!

What great guitarist would want to pick up a plastic Stratocaster controller, plug it into their PC with physical modelled guitar sounds... not many I would have thought.

Its like playing a PlayStation 2 driving game VS taking out the real car for a spin... well almost.

Having said that, I'm weeding out my synth collection from about 30 down to 5 or so... Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The Guvnor wrote:
Having said that, I'm weeding out my synth collection from about 30 down to 5 or so... Wink

now you talk Cool I sold my samplers just in time before obsolescence. now in music stores you find "sampler graveyards" everywhere. the once fabulous Akai samplers (like those I owned: S1100 and S2000) gather dust on the shelves. the integration between a computer and a virtual synth is unthinkable on hardware synths. I don't miss any of those I sold. the only one I am not going to sell is the Yamaha VL70m Exclamation

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good to see people are digging through older threads. Some of these topics are fantastic to hear opinions on, since each musician and synthesist comes from a different background.

As far as I can tell, better computer hardware will enable softsynths to do more things more smoothly. However, the OS issue is a good point...but maybe it won't be when the most widely used OS is not longer designed by a fascist corporate entity (ok, maybe I exagerate a little....). Granted, the original Cubase for Atari computers wouldn't run on the modern XP machine, but programs that have all the features of original Cubase can now be found for free on the widely used OS's. Survival of the fittest happens a lot faster with computers and software....so while certain platforms may be lost, you can at least be sure something better survived and maybe had some offspring that might be similar to the one you're missing.


I don't know a guitarist that would switch to a plastic guitar...however, offer them a normal wooden guitar with some special pick-ups and cables that communicate note info to a computer, you've got an interface that would be of extreme interest to guitarists. I have replicated amps I have owned in NI Guitar Rig software, to the point where I can't tell the difference contrasting recordings (then again, I'm not a tone freak.) Having an extra menu that would allow me to emulate popular guitar pick up sounds, wood resonance qualities, etc. would take it up a few levels.

In fact, all of this brings me back to the interface issue and my current stance on hardware vs. software. As microproccesors get more sophisticated, the computer provides the most powerful platform for synthesis, so much so that hardware synths made today (excluding special analog modules) are essentially small, specialized computers inside a controlling device. While virtual modeling of analog and digital synthesis technology will be most powerful and flexible on the full fledged computer, it will amount to nothing if good user interfaces aren't developed as well. Hell, I'm using a Nord G2 (my favorite synth on its own) as a control device for Reaktor...and I wouldn't dream of using Reaktor live without it.
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cybermooks



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

One thing lost in the woods here is that softsynths can cost you more than you realize. I'm not talking about computer equipment expense, but the cost of paying for constant upgrades every year. Say the package originally cost you $300. Now you've got a $150 upgrade, then another, etc. In fact you really do only have a software "license," rather than anything permanent or tangible. Now multiply this by the several packages you own and you're looking at serious money. These kind of costs put you in hardware territory. Only hardware is there; it is final, and it is yours, and if there are any upgrades they are almost always free. I own several dozen synths and would never sell any of them.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

More than half a year later, I still haven't gotten faster laptop.

In the intervening time, I joined a 2nd orchestra and formed a band with friend. I got really busy trying to balance my non-work time between practicing for the 2 orchestras and the martial arts class and still making time for the band and the surprise gig invitations. Maybe because of all this I still haven't explored my current gear enough to feel it doesn't serve my musical purposes. The band's genre is mostly free-improvised experimental music, so my gear needs have veered even further from the mainstream. Instead of getting interested in newer gear, my focus has been increasingly on better exploiting what I have now. In the hypothetical hardware-vs-software war, this puts hardware at a disadvantage. Smile The software I've been looking into more and more tend to be either free or low-cost, except for Max/MSP - which I have owned for a few years and will continue to return good value for the money. I am especially looking at software that is light on the CPU or can be easily tweaked to be light on the CPU. I'm specifically looking at software (including Max/MSP patches) that can record short audio snippets in real-time, so I can sample the bassist and violinist as they play, but not necessarily just loop them. I found some at:

http://www.ixi-software.net/content/software.html

So in summary, I see little of interest coming out of the hardware world and as far as software, the experimental stuff (which tends to be free or low-cost) is where my future lies. I am also getting into triggering the XL7 from Numerology and Max, for some integrated hardware-software improvisations.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sound great.

Say, where are you located? Maybe you are in range of some readers here. Let's hear when you have gigs...

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diskonext



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Oh I'm gonna sound so old-fashioned, I'm gonna cry after I'm done writing this.

Ever since I decided to make my humble performances mobile, or roadworthy, which definitely does not involve my 3GHz PC and 19" monitor but my old 500Mhz laptop running Win98, a drumcomputer, cheap-ass guitareffect and a Virus, I've become a lot more productive.

It's limitations, it's true... trying to make music with the limited arsenal you have, way better for me then trying to emulate music by adding more and more sounds and effects.
Letting go of "total reproducibilty" and welcoming the spur of the moment thing.

Oh well, this can be completely opposite if coming from the other side, but hey, I'm enjoying this Wink

-diskonext

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

There sure is something about performing music.. Cool
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Haha,

yes! I got started with electronic music with trackers, so I was quite used to programming everything except for channel-mutes... Quite liberating to actually produce 5 minutes of music in about, say... 5 minutes...

The only really bad thing about hardware - no try-before-buy, or paying in karma instead of cash...

-diskonext

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Sound great.

Say, where are you located? Maybe you are in range of some readers here. Let's hear when you have gigs...


Hi mosc,

I'm in the Washington DC area. We are fortunate to have some hard-working concert promoters who keep the DC avant-electronic scene alive by regularly scheduling shows such as the monthly Electric Possible series and the quarterly Open Minijax open-mic nights. We don't play regular gigs because we're still developing our repertoire. Our first show was the open-mic night and the next two were surprise gig invitations because an event organizer saw us play at an earlier show.

I'll definitely start posting shows when we're ready. Our goal is to be ready by end of March. We rehearse weekly and record all our jam sessions.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sounds great. Please keep us informed.
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Kassen
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think the hardware/software devide is just a construction of the mind and not a usefull one at that. The line isn´t that clear, just like the line between analogue and digital isn´t as absolute as people would have you believe.

After all; a computer is hardware too and your patch on a old modular could be seen as software that runs on the analogue computer the modular is. Much more interesting to me is how programable your electronic instrument is and how much of that programing is actively being done by you.

If you look at it that way then a electric piano is more like Garage band while a analogue modular is closer to Super Collider (unless of cource you use S.C. just to play some downloaded patches).

There is a mistaken notion that software is supposed to sound just like hardware and should be judged on this. I would much rather look at programable tools as opposed to non programable ones and judge them by wether I can get them to sound just like the sounds in my head.

In the end it doesn´t matter how soft something is if you´re not the one who´s trying to reshape it though admittedly exactly how hard something is is quite relevant if you keep bumping into it.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
I think the hardware/software devide is just a construction of the mind and not a usefull one at that. The line isn´t that clear, just like the line between analogue and digital isn´t as absolute as people would have you believe. ...

I kind of agree with that.

Practically everything is all of soft, hard, analogue and digital at some level. However, IMHO PCs and Macs aren't the answer to everything - I even find that they dull the musical experience, besides being so obviously not-purpose-made. My hopes (and efforts...) goes towards a new kind of self contained purpose made gear that is both 'soft' and 'hard', taking the best and droppng the worst from the two and providing good/broad connectivity.

Other than that I'm a hardware junkie at heart; it just makes me feel good - even though most of my life consists of software Very Happy

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

DrJustice wrote:

Practically everything is all of soft, hard, analogue and digital at some level. However, IMHO PCs and Macs aren't the answer to everything - I even find that they dull the musical experience, besides being so obviously not-purpose-made. My hopes (and efforts...) goes towards a new kind of self contained purpose made gear that is both 'soft' and 'hard', taking the best and droppng the worst from the two and providing good/broad connectivity.


I would be very interested in hearing some more about your efforts in this field. I think one of the advantages of conventional hardware is that it´s much easier to relate to on a personal level then the complete freedom of soft systems that can be adapted to be anything one might desire (as much as I like those). If your efforts relate to such things at all, particularly where interfaces (both to persons and to other instruments) are concerned I´d be extremely interested in hearing about them.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sorry Kasen, I can't say too much, NDAs apply... But yeah, the human interface is very important, should be both focused and flexible/powerful. Simple and cozy when you want to and deep and conforming when you fancy that.

When it comes to IO, I've found things aren't too easy. Little has happened in the way of capable standards for modern studio type control and audio plug&play interfacing. There's mostly proprietary and product centric stuff out there, and for general purposes one is pretty much left with a drizzle of IO like audio, MIDI, S/P-DIF, USB, ADAT, Firewire etc., none of which are universal or fully networked. There are things like OSC though - which is looking good, but is non-proprietary and (therefore?) largely ignored. (Why can't everybody just agree on Gigabit ethernet and OSC for everything and be done with it Smile)

Interfacing development seem have happened mostly inside the PCs, with many soft-studio engines, plugin standards and so on. Which is good in itself, but the popularity of it may have taken attention away from other possibilities. There has been little thinking oustide the box, literally. Even though the all-in-the-PC concept may seem diverse, It is also 'betting everything on one horse' in many senses.

So if one is making something to not run inside a PC and want e.g. digital multichannel audio ++, say a synth, it is possible to license somebodys proprietary potocol (e.g. MLAn, ADAT), which is limiting, or make things PC centric again by making drivers e.g. for USB or Firewire, due to the lack of anything else to connect to(!). There's something not quite right here, and a challenge at that... These are just IO ponderings, of course there's no problem making boxes with nicely useful stadard connectivity, if one accept traditional ways of wiring things up (i.e. audio/midi leads and the like)

Luckily, in the interface department there's much more freedom. And more so when moving a concept away from PCs/Macs.

Just out of interest then, what sort of concepts do you folks hope to see in the next generations of hardware instruments (synths) and studio gear?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks. I loudly second your "gigabit and OSC" opinion and share many of your concerns. I´m not sure you can call OSC "largely ignored", it´s after all suported by all the big synthesis languages, exactly because it *IS* open and free.

As for some more of my own concerns on interfaces; tonight i wrote a post that got sort of out of hand to Mosc´s topic about the G2 needing to be more expressive, you might want to have a look at that.

Obvously I don´t know who your NDA is with but if you are in the position to change anything; I feel both velocity and polyphonic aftertouch need to be at least three dimentional. I apear to be alone in this opinion though.

Personally I´m edging towards giving up all hope for comercial instruments in electronic music. A few years back when I started to grasp how it all worked I was quite enthousiastic about the promise it held for the future once processors would become faster. Sadly In my perception it´s going down, not up. Grooveboxes have become trendy since then, MIDI still infests everything creating the need to go back to 50´s techniques of cutting and pasting if you want controll and lowpass filters are still almost equivalent with "synthesis".

I´ve also given up completely on even recording anything that´s not 4/4 because nobody will care about it much less release it, at least by not playing it to anybody it won´t get affected by their disintrest in my own mind. Most records currently on my wishlist are older then I am.

I fear that even if somebody would have the courage to put something new on the market, say a hardware grain based synth, it wouldn´t sell because there´d be no "moog filter" and no "analog modeling oscialotors". There aren´t that many people that even realise *why* we need OSC.

What i´m trying to say is that the culture of electronic music has gotten stuck in a certain state instead of progressing and it´s stuck in a state I myself don´t care for.

When you talk about "moving away from pc/mac", are you talking about moving to all hardware or perhaps more in the direction of a more suitable OS such as BeOS or OS/2?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen, have you had a look at the Kyma system. It seems to me that from a synthesis perspective, it is ideal for you. The hardware is a box of DSPs with 8 channels of superb I/O. You are not restricted to any type of synthesis, and you can develop your own algorithms. Kyma still has MIDI control, but since it is a totally programable platform, you could develop your own sophisticated control protocol by overloading MIDI.
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