Hardware or soft synths

Want to talk about music hardware or software that doesn't include Reason?
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SoundObjects
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Indeed an recurring question:

Why is hardware synths still selling good when many of todays computer software
synths have so good quality?
Is it because of the buttons and knobs then a computer DAW usually have a controller
of some sort, with the buttons and knobs?

Maybe I can understand pure analog synths is selling, but also many digital hardware
synths is selling good even when it's a more expensive solution.

Many of todays modern computers can host many soft synts at the same time but
factories still comes out with new hardware digital synts.

Actual most digital hardware synts is just based on a CPU with some local soft synths running. ;)
Last edited by SoundObjects on 09 Sep 2021, edited 1 time in total.
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aeox
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Post 09 Sep 2021

It's a tangible object in the real world that you can display and use hands on.

I only have a few hardware pieces, but they are very fun to use. Granted, all of mine are analog.. I don't see it being very different if some of them were digital(the effects on deepmind 12 are digital but sound okay). Over the last few years I've learned to appreciate the character that comes with digital processing and try to use it to my advantage whenever possible.

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SoundObjects
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Post 09 Sep 2021

But what differs from hands on a controller(knobs) which manage a soft synth on a computer?

(I also have some external hardware analog synths and digital synths my self) ;)
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QVprod
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Post 09 Sep 2021

I think some people just like the idea of dedicated controls. I don’t personally have interest in hardware, but I can agree it’s a bit more fun than using a mouse or a controller since a controller is never a 1 to 1 mapping

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SoundObjects
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Interesting.
Maybe it's only the "fun" factor and "hands on" factor.

Remember I saw a article long time ago, wrote someting about
soft synths would properly replace hardware synths in the future. :lol:
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dioxide
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Also, no messing around with software updates or waiting for compatibility updates. Plugin in the audio outputs and connect a MIDI 1.0 connection and you're set until the day the hardware fails.

RS should make more of the future proof aspect of REs. I understand why a lot of people who have used VSTs have moved back to hardware.

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Zac
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Post 09 Sep 2021

It was a combination of things for me.

Firstly I got sick of having to wait to use my pc stuff. Windoze updates, plugin updates etc. I also got sick of the mouse and keyboard interface.

When I got my first Groovebox I enjoyed just sitting with it on my lap and making music. Very direct and free of the billion options my RE hoarding gave me.

Finally I spent 1000's of pounds on REs with no resale value. I now have approx 2k worth of hardware that I probably spent 2.5k on. Hardware, if wisely chosen, keeps a decent resale value. So if I buy a synth and don't click with it, I resell with a small loss. It means my set up is adapting all the time as I progress.

I've had to acknowledge that I like music 'things'. I like to own them. With hardware that materialistic character defect is more pleasurable and less financially harmful.

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selig
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Some thoughts…Recently I’m interested in HydaSynth because of the Poly aftertouch plus the ribbon controller which are well integrated with the synth. I also play out live a bit, and got really frustrated with soft synths live - sometimes you just need to quickly grab a filter knob, and with hardware that knob exists always in one physical place in 3D space, which you can go to in about a second when needed (with either hand). Software OTOH, requires you to first locate that synth’s interface and then display it, and a then you can adjust the filter. Also, live hardware allows muscle memory to be used for controls. In contrast, without hardly even looking I can hold a knob and turn it a specific amount and get EXACTLY the same response every time. This is more difficulty with a mouse/pad control between you and the filter knob. None of this matters to me in the studio settings, although I still find myself reaching for hardware when I have a specific sound in mind and know how to quickly get it.
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Eprom
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Years ago I sold ALL of my hardware synth's, mixers, (MIDI)interfaces, effect-units, etc. I was just fed up with all the cables everywhere and the hassle of connecting all my gear. I was so happy to have it all in software form, but....

Two months ago I came across Behringer's Monopoly and was so happy to feels real knobs again and in the past two months I bought 5 new hardware synths, a mixer and a bigger audio/MIDI interface.

I can now pick up a synth, plug in a headphone and sit on the couch and jam a little.

I'm hooked on knobs again 🤣
:reason: Reason user since Ver. 1.01(2001) :reason:
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SoundObjects
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Post 09 Sep 2021

Through the years I have collected some old and new synths but
for the time being I mostly use the softsynths in my DAW.
I am not a big performance or keyboard player and think I can
create more varying sounds through the soft synths.

I also have an old modular synth (euro rack) but when creating a nice patch,
sampling is the only way to save the sound.

Most is connected via mixer and separated audio and midi inputs (UMC1820) to
the DAW and much is remote controlled from the DAW and controllers.
I only turning the synths on when used.

Maybe I more should try to move those knobs direct on the synths. :-)
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raymondh
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Post 09 Sep 2021

As well as all the reasons above, there is a bunch of irrational / emotional reasons as well, that probably have no value in the process of making music, but do impact the experience of making music.

- Character: I'll track a song using PG-8X and then later replace the track later with the Roland JX-8P. The sound will be pretty much the same, and in fact it might be worse because of note-stealing from the lesser JX8P polyphony. So why do it? Because I know that it's the real McCoy! Weird artifacts in the sound etc. are all welcomed in seeking the authentic experience.
- Eye candy: There is nothing like seeing a stack of keyboards, knobs and cables :) (The green lights on my System-8, not so much). It is definitely the case a lot of musicians mostly use softsynths, with their hardware performing mostly ornamental purposes!
- Being more connected, "at one" with the electronics. With the Arp Odyssey there are no stored patches. The controls are switches and potentiometers within the electronic circuits, not digital encoders abstracted from the actual guts of the machine that makes the sound. It's weird but you feel just a bit more like you're synthesizing and it does encourage experimentation a lot. I suspect this is part of the appeal with modular stuff.

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utdgrant
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Post 11 Sep 2021

The main advantages of hardware from my PoV are:

1. No dependence on internet connectivity every time you switch on. This is especially important for live use.
2. (Related to point 1) No dependence on the continued existence of the company's servers to keep using the gear.
3. The fixed 1:1 relationship between knobs / switches and functions. Particularly important when you're learning sound design from scratch, but important for performance, too.
4. Keeping the 'UI' of different devices separate.
5. Being able to use different keyboards simultaneously, rather than driving everything from a single MIDI controller.

That said, I've used synths and recording technology since the early '80s and know synth programming and physical recording inside-out. The advantages of a software approach over hardware are overwhelmingly positive to me. You'll take my all-software ITB solution when you prise my cold, dead fingers from it!
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avasopht
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Post 11 Sep 2021

Software is just less integrated with hardware controllers.

There's no reason why there aren't a few hardware controller standards for navigating VSTs.

But we don't have that, and instead, have to navigate this all with the mouse.

With a hardware synth, you might only have 4 knobs, but they are paged and there is navigation through the features of the device. This does not happen with plugins.

There are so many ways software could be 1000x more awesome, and it doesn't even take much effort from the big names. But it has to come from the big names.

And so, hardware synths provide you with a physical interface designed to serve a single or cohesive set of features. Sometimes they allow you to connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor (e.g. Mackie D8B).
---

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utdgrant
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Post 11 Sep 2021

avasopht wrote:
11 Sep 2021
Software is just less integrated with hardware controllers.

There's no reason why there aren't a few hardware controller standards for navigating VSTs.

But we don't have that, and instead, have to navigate this all with the mouse.

With a hardware synth, you might only have 4 knobs, but they are paged and there is navigation through the features of the device. This does not happen with plugins.
I'd much rather use a computer mouse and QWERTY keyboard to navigate around DEXED than try to program a hardware DX7 via its front panel.

I know that's an extreme example, but for my money, sound design inside a WIMP environment is only beaten by single-function-per-control analogue machines.

In the mean time, Nektar have made some great strides towards interacting with Reason in a deep way via their controllers and firmware.
Grant Middleton (records as "Under the Dome")

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EdGrip
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Post 11 Sep 2021

I think it's mainly about the user experience, and the dedicated and constant interface.

In a DAW I can always get distracted doing the fun bits (usually messing with FX etc), whereas hardware forces me to actually make noise.

EdGrip
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Post 11 Sep 2021

Sound is probably not the most important reason most people use hardware instruments. Most would agree soft synths sound great now, but they just aren't as satisfying, gratifying, or fun as interacting with a hardware synth.

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raymondh
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Post 11 Sep 2021

utdgrant wrote:
11 Sep 2021

sound design inside a WIMP environment is only beaten by single-function-per-control analogue machines.
I agree.

This is one of the reasons I sold my DSI Mopho x4. Never again would I buy a machine with one set of ADSR envelope controls that are shared between amp, filter and modulation. Even though it is toggled from a button (no menu diving), it still completely kills the workflow. For a start, you lose the helicopter view of where each knob and slider is at, when suddenly a knob means something different. Then secondly, you can't edit them together.

Sadly, the same is true for the Moog Sirin. But the sound is so good on the Sirin, I'll keep it, and use the software interface :)

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miyaru
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Post 11 Sep 2021

Nowadays I use softsynths mostly. I still have my Korg N1 and R3 in my studio. The R3 for synth action keybed feeling and the N1 with its 88 keys piano feel.

I still have my old trusty Yamaha RM1x sequence remixer, but it is not in use daily, but every once in a while I take it from the attick and play with it.........

And yes, I have a MIDI controller in the form of an Ableton Push 2.
Greetings from Miyaru.
Prodaw i7-7700, 16Gb Ram, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd gen, ESI M4U eX, Reason Suite 11, Live Suit 10, Push2, Presonus Eris E8, Lexicon MPX1,
Korg N1, Korg R3, NI Massive, Rob Papen's Predator 2, Sonarworks Reference 4.

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Faastwalker
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Post 13 Sep 2021

Both. Software is amazing these days, even on platforms like iOS. But nice to get away from the screen and actually touch things!

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moofi
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Post 17 Sep 2021

Actually the sound is the no. 1 reason here for hardware or a modular in specific. Up to date no softwaresystem is really being able to recreate that sound in my ears, wether it´s analog or digital hardware. Granted, software has improved quite a bit and is sounding better than it did let´s say 6 years ago, still not a true contester in that regard. When getting into modular I felt like having arrived at home soundwise. Everything sounds good by nature, no editing needed to achieve that quality of sound, while in software I often have to tweak a lot only to just get closer yet still not reaching the quality itself. I often describe the sound of the modular like being captured with high pressure inside the module and if you play it it´s like opening a valve and the sound bursts out into the air.

Direct interaction naturally is a part of the whole experience aswell, yet second to the sound I can create with the modular.
Additionally, patching the cables with your hands is much slower and therefor more conscious in the process + musclememory = improved learning. I find the only true downside to hardware in general is the not so easy recording/editing/composing as the software world contains a lot of practical quick and easy to use tools and of course it´s aswell easier to be carried along with on a laptop. :D

In the end the combination of both worlds it is here. If I go strictly soundwise, I choose the modular anytime, no question, like you may have already noticed. Then I mostly process recorded stuff and compose/arrange on the computer because it is simply easier to do that way, especially in regards to completing/finetuning more complex songs aswell as the mixing process besides me not having a fully hardware equipped studio for those purposes anyway. Even if I do use software plugins aswell to process the recordings the basis is still coming from hardware, which is similar to the inverted process of letting a softwareproduction being mastered on hardware. Not as good as if it was all hardware, yet better than if it would be all software.

I´m also creating songs completely in the virtual world, so it´s not like I wouldn´t use softwaresynths, I´m just often thinking of that special hardwaresound when doing so at least. Then it´s like software is more affordable and still sounds ok. Bascially like a McDonalds Burger which I can truely enjoy aswell, though it´s not a steakhhouse or even a homemade one.


EdGrip wrote:
11 Sep 2021
Sound is probably not the most important reason most people use hardware instruments. Most would agree soft synths sound great now, but they just aren't as satisfying, gratifying, or fun as interacting with a hardware synth.

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QVprod
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Post 17 Sep 2021

avasopht wrote:
11 Sep 2021
Software is just less integrated with hardware controllers.

There's no reason why there aren't a few hardware controller standards for navigating VSTs.

But we don't have that, and instead, have to navigate this all with the mouse.

With a hardware synth, you might only have 4 knobs, but they are paged and there is navigation through the features of the device. This does not happen with plugins.

There are so many ways software could be 1000x more awesome, and it doesn't even take much effort from the big names. But it has to come from the big names.

And so, hardware synths provide you with a physical interface designed to serve a single or cohesive set of features. Sometimes they allow you to connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor (e.g. Mackie D8B).
Nektar and Native Instruments came so close... The menu diving kills it though. The mouse ends up being quicker for anything not in the first page. Spectrasonics has the best implementation for Ominisphere, but you have to own an hardware synth to take advantage of it.


EdGrip
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Post 17 Sep 2021

Again, it's the weird nonlinear behaviours when feeding (or feeding back) audio rate signals into other places in analogue hardware that's still very difficult to find convincingly in software.

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moofi
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Post 17 Sep 2021

Here is an example of the vowel + formant mode in a digital oscillator (Braids). I can´t remember the patch exactly, yet I at least assume and most likely it has an analog filter in there. The Reverb is the Z-DSP module with the Valhalla Reverb Cartridge.

https://hearthis.at/moofi/dr-kreep/

Or an analog saw wave being sent through an analog Roland-like filter in series with an analog MS-20-like filter plus the mentioned Valhalla Reverb.

https://hearthis.at/moofi/psi-bursts/

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Faastwalker
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Post 18 Sep 2021

QVprod wrote:
17 Sep 2021
avasopht wrote:
11 Sep 2021
Software is just less integrated with hardware controllers.

There's no reason why there aren't a few hardware controller standards for navigating VSTs.

But we don't have that, and instead, have to navigate this all with the mouse.

With a hardware synth, you might only have 4 knobs, but they are paged and there is navigation through the features of the device. This does not happen with plugins.

There are so many ways software could be 1000x more awesome, and it doesn't even take much effort from the big names. But it has to come from the big names.

And so, hardware synths provide you with a physical interface designed to serve a single or cohesive set of features. Sometimes they allow you to connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor (e.g. Mackie D8B).
Nektar and Native Instruments came so close... The menu diving kills it though. The mouse ends up being quicker for anything not in the first page. Spectrasonics has the best implementation for Ominisphere, but you have to own an hardware synth to take advantage of it.
I more or less gave up on MIDI controllers. Everything was 8x8x8 (pots, sliders, buttons). And maybe multiple pages of those. You map everything then can’t remember what is mapped to what! I have 16 pots on my controller. I have this mapped manually to a Zvork SL-1 (soon to be replaced by a Combi2 patch) that lives permanently in my rack. Then I connect things to it and label. It’s a half way house between what I’d really like, which is electronic labels on the controller showing what each control is doing. But not many controllers have this and the ones that do are very pricey.

As you say, often it’s just quicker to mouse over than faff around. Which brings me to my other half way house solution - a Microsoft Surface Dial with the Elephant Software. This allows you to mouse over any parameter and adjust with the Surface Dial. It’s a stroke of genius from the guy behind the Elephant Software, who basically hacked the pretty much useless Surface Dial and made it do something useful. It works really well and is so much nice than clicking and dragging with the mouse. Highly recommend (last check it was Windows only but that may have changed by now).

https://savethehuman5.com/elephant/



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SoundObjects
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Post 18 Sep 2021

Actually I also own a copy of the old "Korg Legacy Collection V1.0" wich
have a excellent VST sound emulation of the old Korg synts.

It have this dedicated ms20 controller to manage the ms20 VST.(84% scale MS-20 replica)
Note: this was long before they made the new smaller hardware version of ms20.

Image

Sadly, I only used the controller 1 or 2 times but have then used the VSTs a lot.

Think it was a Korg experiment trying to combine the best from hardware and software synts.
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