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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » Soft synths
hardware obsolete?
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zynthetix



Joined: Jun 12, 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 8:27 pm    Post subject: hardware obsolete? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Granted, physical control is priceless (who doesn't like to twiddle knobs? Very Happy ), but with all the midi interfaces coming out now-a-days, software synthesizers are reaching a new level. A powerful computer, combined with the right midi-controllers and the right soft-synths, allows you to build almost anything you want in terms of synthesis and interfaces. I'm young and of the "computer generation" and I think hardware synthesizers are going to become "collectors items" in 10 years or so. Computer parts will be small enough and efficient enough to adapt to almost any situation (studio or live), and I believe that software utilizing future computer hardware will be able to do it all (as if it doesn't do enough already...). Hardware synths might end up becoming a similar thing....just a small computer inside a keyboard, but such a device created by a mainstream manufacturer wouldn't be remotely as customizable as a computer/soft synth/midi-interface set-up. If you think otherwise (or even agree with some of these ideas), let's hear it.
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egw



Joined: Feb 01, 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Actually, it's software that's guaranteed to be obsolete in a few years, when the platform it runs on is no longer available and the developer has discontinued support. Personal computers are general purpose machines, they are not optimized for music. For any given task, it will always be possible to do it better, faster, cheaper in a machine designed for that purpose.
However, it's not really even a question of HW vs SW. To make music, you need an appropriate expressive device, and that is the real instrument, whether it's a keyboard, knob box, wind controller etc. Does it really matter if the chips that produce the sound are located in your pc or in the controller?
Does anyone believe that qwerty and a mouse are an optimal way to play music?
By the way, I have lots of hardware that is still worth as much or more than what I paid for it years ago. How much do you think the software I bought ten years ago is worth now?
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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 12:20 am    Post subject: obsolete Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Everything (and everyone) becomes obsolete sooner or later.
It's only a matter of time. Why bother?

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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
I have lots of hardware that is still worth as much or more than what I paid for it years ago.


I really would like to know which instruments are you talking about.
Thanks

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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Could be a pretty long list..... Cool

Might there be a Roland TR 808 in that list?
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egw



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

If you buy used equipment in new condition, or gear that goes on closeout, it tends to hold its value pretty well. Especially if you maintain it in the same condition you got it. Most of the gear I've bought used is selling on ebay for about what I paid. A few things I bought new are now worth more:
Korg MS-20
Latronic Notron
Kawai K5000
Electrix Repeater

Also, good quality acoustic instruments will appreciate in value if they are properly cared for.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I don't think zynthetix's point was not made to discount collectable instruments. There will always be value in these, both for playing and for historical interest. He also doesn't deal with the "show business" value of large arrays of equipment on stage. That said, here's some thoughts from an old designer of analog circuits for musical instruments.

My two favorite pieces of musical gear, the Capybara 320, sound engine of Kyma http://www.symbolicsound.com/brochure/index.html, and the Nord Modular http://www.clavia.se/nordmodular/index.htm, are dedicated hardware devices. But both are primarily boxes with Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chips, an interface to a computer, and some audio and MIDI I/O. The real value is in the software that makes these devices make music. Anything I could design out of electronic devices (tubes and transistors) could be realized with Kyma or the Nord Modular. I believe that for musical purposes the art of circuit design is already obsolete.

So, for me, it's a question of when am we going to be free from the need for auxiliary equipment boxes.

If a general purpose microprocessor, like the Pentium, had enough processing power, then the use of dedicated hardware with DSPs would probably be unnecessary. DSP chips are designed for signal processing algorithms which are characterized by having many sequential multiply-add operations and very few conditional branches. General purposes devices, like the P4, are specialized for conditional branches. The GP chips are getting faster and faster all the time and someday the need for DSPs to make music will be superseded. I think we are still several years away.

G2 knobs
That said, already today electronic music is certainly realizable with a bunch of human operated I/O devices, we call MIDI controllers, and a general purpose computer. Many of us would argue that such a setup lacks sufficient expressive capability. As time goes by, the "many" will become fewer and fewer.

Now, the ironic thing is that the new Nord Modular G2, a piece of dedicated synthesizer hardware, has a new type of illuminated rotary controllers that are a significant advance in the area of MIDI controllers. These are optical controls with illuminated indicators of their position. This enables one to use a small number of knobs to control a large number of functions without loosing track of the settings when switching from one set to another. Clavia seems to be the one company that really understands the hardware/software tradeoffs. I wouldn't be surprised that in the future, I'll be playing Nord Midi controllers on Nord softsynths.

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Last edited by mosc on Sun Aug 10, 2003 12:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good point.

One might imagine a future where instruments are soft but when you buy the shrinkwrap box you get a decent outboard controller ( the ultimate dongle ? ).

In theory synths as we know them can be better designed/modeled ( or whatever ) in software than in oldstyle hardware.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Some very nice and stunning new synthmodules:

http://www.synthesizers.com/q200.html

http://www.synthesizers.com/q199.html




Laughing
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, the continuous illuminated knobs of the G2 (and NL3) are the way to go.
However, this technology can't be used as a general purpose midi controller.
There's no way in midi for the device to update the knobs about the current state of a parameter. This has to happen for the LEDs to work e.g. when you switch patches. Also, midi has no way to send a message to increment or decrement a CC, it can only send the absolute value.
Perhaps the next generation of midi will address these issues, as well as being much faster.

I wonder if the continuous knobs on the G2 keyboard will work to control the G2 rack engine. They would have to use sysex, which might cause problems with density of midi information. Maybe not if the sysex only gets sent when a patch is loaded.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Obviously the next big thing will be pots and switces which are interactive.. as on the Yamaha digital mixers etc. The components will get very inexpensive pretty soon. give it 2-5 years..

Another matter is midi. Hopefully we will soon see a new midi standard which also can run on several different bus types like firewire and USB and ethernet.. and not using transport hacks like today.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
Yes, the continuous illuminated knobs of the G2 (and NL3) are the way to go.
However, this technology can't be used as a general purpose midi controller.
There's no way in midi for the device to update the knobs about the current state of a parameter. This has to happen for the LEDs to work e.g. when you switch patches. Also, midi has no way to send a message to increment or decrement a CC, it can only send the absolute value.
Perhaps the next generation of midi will address these issues, as well as being much faster.


I don't understand why the rotary encoders can't remember their settings, MIDI parameters, as you move from function to function or patch to patch. I can see how the encoder device wouldn't know of any other MIDI controls that are merged in downstream, but they should be able to keep track of setting made on the device itself. Am I missing something?

As for MIDI not having increment and decrement on CCs, that's not a problem, just send the absolute value. Incr and Decr are really not very reliable because if a few packets get lost, then you get out of sync for the rest of the session.
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It could be made to work in certain circumstances, but not in the general case.
For example, you would have to initialize the device to be sure that the state of the knobs matched the current parameter values. Also you couldn't change anything locally on the device, or from another controller. And what happens if you want 2 devices to share a midi channel. etc.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
It could be made to work in certain circumstances, but not in the general case.
For example, you would have to initialize the device to be sure that the state of the knobs matched the current parameter values. Also you couldn't change anything locally on the device, or from another controller. And what happens if you want 2 devices to share a midi channel. etc.


Wouldn't it be the same as another other conventional MIDI controller? Everytime you touch them, they just send out a locally determined value. I know of no MIDI controller that listens out for other devices to update parameters it controls.

No need to continue debating this. It will be interesting to see how the G2 handles this issue, and how they have configured their new box for controlling other devices via MIDI. There will be a G2 at the Modular 2003 conference in London. I'll give it a good looking over.
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seraph
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2003 1:18 am    Post subject: Logic/Reason Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am writing to let anybody know how cool is the combination of Emagic Logic 6 and Propellerhead Reason 2.5 ( I am neither an endorser nor a worker of any of these companies, only a happy user).
Reason’s weakness has always been its sequencer compared to sequencers like Logic. Now, thanks to Rewire 2 it’s possible to write/edit MIDI events inside Logic’s sequencer and send them to Reason’s “virtual rack of modules”.
The audio created by Reason’s modules go back to Logic’s mixer where it can be processed further.
It takes a while to use them together (trying not to confuse keyboard shortcuts of one application with those of the other, for example) trying to figure out what to do on one application and what with the other, but once that everything starts feeling confortable it’s easy to realize the power of this “combo”.
To me it sounds like the best of both worlds: the power of MIDI I have been accustomed to since the old days of hardware synths and Atari computers plus all the luxury of digital audio, virtual synths etc. in a single “package”.
This is only the tip of the iceberg (you can read more on their web sites) but I simply wanted to share the excitement of this moment with someone who can appreciate it and if in five years (or less) all this will be “obsolete” who cares?
I very much enjoy it now!
P.S.
if only Emagic SoundDiver (the editor/librarian) could run under OSX...........

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mosc
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2003 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I haven't any experience with Reason, but looking over the web pages gives me the impression that it is very powerful. Do you find that a single chip computer can keep up with everything you want to do without latency issues? I would think you'd end up spending a lot of energy dealing with resource issues. I'm I wrong?
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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Do you find that a single chip computer can keep up with everything you want to do without latency issues?

well... My "once fabulous" G4 Dual Processor 500MHz seems quite unimpressed by what I am asking it to do
Here there are two examples:
This one is called "Indialuna" and it is done only with Reason 2.5
http://akamai.www.berkleemusic.com/assets/display/627059/627058.mp3
This one, called "Tres Exotique n.1", is done with Logic Gold 6 plus Reason 2.5 (I used 8 instances of NN-XT sampler plus a piano module recorded with Logic and a few plug-ins)
http://akamai.www.berkleemusic.com/assets/display/627079/627078.mp3
You can see the same tunes (plus 3 more) on my page at
http://go.berkleemusic.com/seraph

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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 3:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

On my way to check them out!!!

Ahh... I just got a dual g4 500 myself.. secondhand.. 1.5 gig of ram. Kicks serious ass even though it is fit for the scrapyard.
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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
On my way to check them out!!!


Let me know........

elektro80 wrote:
Ahh... I just got a dual g4 500 myself.. secondhand.. 1.5 gig of ram. Kicks serious ass even though it is fit for the scrapyard.


If I may, how much did you pay it?
Do not tell me its price in your "alien" currency.
Please translate it in USD or Euro Very Happy
Thanks Shocked

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

420 Euro with 2 x 512 RAM and a dual channel 133 Sonnett ATA card. I got the Adaptec scisi card and the jbod cabinet and the 4 scsi disks separately..and 512 more ram... yeah and some extra ATA drives. Think i will put two monitors on it. Just have one now.

It is tempting to get more secondhand macs later.. for running virtual instruments.. put the mac in a flight case and add an audio interface, midi and a keyboard.. hmm.. I need some "instruments" like that. Hmm.. perhaps I would need to suspend the G4 in sorbotan or something..
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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
It is tempting to get more secondhand macs later.. for running virtual instruments.. put the mac in a flight case and add an audio interface, midi and a keyboard.. hmm.. I need some "instruments" like that.


For rackmount solutions check them out
http://www.marathoncomputer.com/
it's kind of expensive, though.
If you know of other and cheaper solutions to rackmount a G4 let me know Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wel.. in my case this is not really a matter of rack mounting the G4s. rather just build a flightcase with ventilation, shock absorption, breakoutpanels.. integrate midi and audio interfaces into it etc. When it comes to audio interface PCI cards, the PCI version of the M-Audio Firewire 410 is extremely inexpensive.. and it has a lot of very nice features. My idea is to have like dedicated secondhand high end G4 for the Arturia Moog modular.. and label the flightcase "Robbie" .. Easier to do concerts with a setup like this. Hehe.. would be cool to do the same with the NI-B4 etc.. and integrate two manuals and a midi controller surface and output for pedals.. in the same flightcase. I reckon I can get dual CPU 1 Gighz G4s for very little money next year. But the dial 500s willl do too.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Back to the start of this thread... seems that I tend to accept virtual instruments as true instruments.. and prefer having dedicated gear on stage. Hmmm.. Does that make me a bad tempered revisionist? Do I need therapy? Massage?


Fact is.. I like designs like the Octave CAT 2srm, ARP Odyssey, the Prophets, the Oberheims,the old analog Rolands and Korgs.. but I would prefer to have them running as software - and.. well.. I also need the original physical UI. The UI is not that important in the studio, but for stage use I can not be without it.

I have spent a lot of spare time testing out the Moog Voyager. Nice instrument but the most obvious modern enhancements are probably an extremely bad idea. Hey.. look. what is really the point of having presets/ user patch memories.. when the controllers do not plop back into the proper settings..? Most stupid thing I have ever seen..!!!! -Probably the reason why I have always hated similar designs.. until now.. when the softsynths in fact do have a UI that actually will show the settings when you enter a preset from a patch memory slot.

The only instrument with patch memory slots I have actually liked was the PPG Wave series .. where you could see at which value you picked the parameter of the setting up at.. when you turn the knob.. far from perfect but a lot more smarter than the Jupiter 8 UI.
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invisibl



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Been a bit absent recently.

Soft vs Hardware synths?

Where does the difference lie?
Some might say it is in the internal DSP .
Some might say it is in the ability to "hands on " them (as in twiddlification)
I would hazard the Idea that it is the D/A stage.

All of these can or will be emulateable either now or in the future.

What is the difference?

Perhaps the intangible but (personally) necessary tactile feel of individual pieces of harware?

Perhaps the stability of a dedicated box on stage?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good points. personally I think the interface is the only main problem with the vrtual synths. When it comes to stability.. well. ever tried to drag the carcass of a CS80 along for a series of gigs.. and then actually thinking that it will work.. in tune.. on stage?
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