Best Modular Synth

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Syncretia
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Best Modular Synth

Post by Syncretia » Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:15 am

I already have Reaktor. I like a lot of the user libraries that have been created. But, I've been reluctant to invest my time in to trying to understand how to build synths with this product. For starters, the user interface seems old and clunky, and the actual VST host is awful. Because I recently bought the full version of Ableton, I then thought that Max For Live might be a good path to go down. However, I've now noticed that there are so many synth platforms out there that I might be better of with something else. Here are some of the options:

SynthEdit
SynthMaker
Max
Max For Live
Studio Units
Plogue Bidule
KarmaFX Synth Modular
Reaktor

What I'm looking for in a modular synth:

-New techniques (I don't want 5000 variations on subtractive synthesis)
-Good sampling engine and ability to mix with other forms of synthesis in meaningful ways
-Granular sampling
-Spectral morphing
-Good ability to make synths. I would prefer a tool that actually creates VSTs rather than a tool that just makes patches for itself (i.e. Reaktor)
-Ability to incorporate other VSTs. As far as I can tell, Reaktor can't easily leverage external VSTs
-Programming. I would like the ability to write code in some cases as opposed to drawing boxes. Although this shouldn't be the first point of call.
-Physical modelling

Basically: I want something that will allow newer forms of synthesis. I don't just want something that will allow me to recreate all the other synths that already exist.

What are your experiences with modular synths?
Download and listen @ http://www.syncretia.com

3dot...
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by 3dot... » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:17 am

I thought you said you don't want Reaktor..

both Reaktor and M4L/MAX have a rather steep learning curve (actually all the progs mentioned..not trying to frighten you or anyhting)
so I dunno if that's your solution
answers :
-"new techniques"...I don't understand this..

-"Good sampling engine and ability to mix with other forms of synthesis in meaningful ways"
...all the 'environments' that you mentioned are 'sandboxes' .. where you can mix and match almost anything..
cpu/memory is your only limit..

- in the 'sampling'/'grain'/'spectral' fields..
I think Reaktor/Max are the best of the bunch..
with max having the advantage of being integrated into Live..
but Reaktor takes the crown for cpu usage and larger scale library..
(although synthmaker/synthedit should be capable)
in both there are already excellent and deep instruments built by other users..
so you don't really have to 'build' but rather modify or grab parts from different patches/ensembles..

- coding .. as far as I know MAX allows you to write externals in a variety of languages..(JS,Java internally ..but you can build externals in other languages..)
SynthEdit/Synthmaker have C++..

-SynthEdit/Synthmaker..also having the ability of exporting to vst.
pluggo for Max used to be able to do that..but no more.

-physical modelling is available in all of these providing you know the 'rules' you want to emulate...

hope this helps.
8)
Last edited by 3dot... on Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
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3dot...
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by 3dot... » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:25 am

'Tassman' makes physical modelling easy..
I like Reaktor pm ensembles too (such as 'steampipe')
'Kontakt' for spectral morphing..and general kick ass sampler
'Absynth'/'Max'/'Reaktor' for grain fx and sampling..
and let's not forget Ableton Lives' devices of course..
(very 'modular'..
and can be programmed using m4l/clyphx/python scripts)

all of the above make great for 'traditional' as well as 'modern' approaches to sound design...
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Syncretia
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Syncretia » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:32 am

both Reaktor and M4L/MAX have a rather steep learning curve
Granted. That's why I'm taking the time to figure out the best path to go down before I start investing my time.
-"new techniques"...I don't understand this..
Well. The problem I've had in the past is that there about a million variations of the subtractive synth that work well on the NI Reaktor user library. But, everything else either sounds like crap or is so hard to use that I give up in disgust. By new techniques, I mean tools which use granular synthesis, spectral morphing and other more interesting ways of mashing up sounds as opposed to traditional subtractive or FM synthesis.
- in the 'sampling'/'grain'/'spectral' fields..
I think Reaktor/Max are the best of the bunch..
Do you know of any specific Reaktor patches that work well and don't melt your brain when you try to use them? When you say Max - do you also mean Max For Live?
and let's not forget Ableton Lives' devices of course..
(very 'modular'..
and can be programmed using m4l/clyphx/python scripts)
Sorry, I don't quite follow. In which way are they modular? And, how would one begin to start playing with the scripting languages?
Download and listen @ http://www.syncretia.com

Mplay
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Mplay » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:52 am

U-he's ACE and Bazille might be worth looking at. Bazille is still in public beta on his kvr forum page, but is more flexible then ACE.

Also still in public beta is hourglass by xenakios (pc only) a powerful granular audio mangler.
Ableton - Reaper - Nebula - RME - ADAM

malutki
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by malutki » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:17 am

if you are on a PC,
it is well worth it checking out Usine...
I'm going home

h:nez
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by h:nez » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:07 pm

if you have a background in programming c++ or java like languages, then have a look into the Chuck audio programming language.

you can program your own audio and midi instruments (including things like fft).

no vst generation, but you can make quite easily your own midi listener, that listen on a virtual midi port to which live sends its midi data and then pass the received midi data to your audio instrument to do all sorts of crazy things ...
PC/Win7 32/RME Multiface/Midisport 2x4
APC40/Clavia Micromodular/Sherman FB2
Vermona DRM MK2/Dynacord VRS23
Minimoog Voyager AE
Live Suite/Reaktor/SomeFreePlugs/
____
draw a straight line and follow it
soundcloud

Press Enter
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Press Enter » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:40 pm

demos.

Angstrom
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Angstrom » Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:52 pm

Synthedit and Synthmaker are not "modular synths" in the same way that Max isn't.
they are better thought of as DSP (digital signal processing)playgrounds. That's not an insignificant difference. Where a 'modular synth' like Arturia's Moog and Arp products allow a user to connect oscillators to filters and amplifiers through a unified stylish GUI, these other DSP programs allow users to MAKE oscillators, filters, amplifiers and their own stylish GUI.
Synthmaker has a facility for coding in assembly, for instance.

So,If you want to knock up an idea for an instrument which you have, are comfortable with coding up the bits which you need, and encapsulating it as a Windows only VST/i then Synthedit / Synthmaker are quite good. However, their interfaces are just as idiosyncratic as Reaktor (and Max). All of these will expect you to learn about what goes on behind the scenes, audio streams, variable typing, arrays, etc. All in their own special way.

If you are expecting a much more plug-and-play experience where you simply connect blocks of stuff together, like a traditional analogue modular, I would suggest looking elsewhere. A semi modular such as Zebra perhaps?

Syncretia
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Syncretia » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:36 am

I took a look at Usine and I just @#$# my @#$#ing pants.

Thanks Malutki!

It looks similar to the other platforms but it has touch screen integration which is the future of synth / human user interfacing. This means that I can just buy a touch monitor rather than @#$#ing around with an iPad and Touchosc.

I'll have to look deeper in to the capability of this tool, but it already looks like a winner.
Download and listen @ http://www.syncretia.com

sondericker
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by sondericker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:38 am

I've been learning M4L and it is really remarkable in so far as what it is capable of. Coming from it as a programmer certainly has come in handy, and in a way it really reminds me of LabView for music. That being said, unless you're interested in sitting for weeks to learn the thing well enough, and then more weeks to complete a serious design and programming project, don't expect that you're going to get something that you don't already own. You'd have to know what you have in mind and then know how to code it from scratch. It's amazing but requires some serious commitment if you're planning on doing more than the fun and casual dicking around that I've been doing. ;)

Think of M4L as downloading the Java SDK and downloading the Java Audio SDK and then sitting down to make a great synth. Totally doable, but it takes some serious sweat to get over the learning curve and into a creative space.

Syncretia
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Syncretia » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:48 am

Synthedit and Synthmaker are not "modular synths" in the same way that Max isn't

If you are expecting a much more plug-and-play experience where you simply connect blocks of stuff together, like a traditional analogue modular, I would suggest looking elsewhere. A semi modular such as Zebra perhaps?
Well, I guess it's really hard to define the difference between a modular synth and an instrument development environment. Things like Max and Reaktor are really both. They are not development environments in the sense that you can pump out a DLL and then distribute it to anyone else who has a VST host. But, they are powerful development tools that will allow you to create complex synths from scratch. Things like KarmaFX's Synth Modular is definitely a modular synth but is really only just a subset of something like Reaktor. I'm waffling but the point is whatever you want to label these tools; what I am looking for is a powerful platform to create synthesisers on. I want to invest my time in to getting my head around the architecture of one of these platforms and spending a good deal of time on designing synths from scratch. I'm a programmer. I'm used to this stuff.

Usine also has video recognition. I.e. you can use a webcam as a midi controller. So, it really is looking like my product of choice. Unless I see something negative about this in the next couple of days, I will be buying it.
Download and listen @ http://www.syncretia.com

Syncretia
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Syncretia » Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:08 am

Could anyone compare Usine to Max For Live?

(Obviously without the obvious fact that Usine doesn't integrate in to Live as well).
Download and listen @ http://www.syncretia.com

sondericker
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by sondericker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:53 pm

Here is a decent comparison:

http://www.sensomusic.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=1656

Actually, after reading the comments from the Usine admin Senso I'm glad I own M4L. He mentions how Max's object oriented approach, with objects communicating via messages is an antiquated 80s programming technology where his USine is more like stringing guitar pedals together with cables, which he says is a "newer approach". Meh. I don't think I can agree with that statement one bit.

Press Enter
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Re: Best Modular Synth

Post by Press Enter » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:46 pm

demos ?

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