Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Tarekith
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Tarekith » Wed Jul 03, 2013 4:55 am

I think a lot of it is muscle memory too. I don't have to think at all sometimes when using the Machinedrum, it's just so easy for me to do what I want on that little box because I've used it so much.

Machinesworking
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Machinesworking » Wed Jul 03, 2013 6:27 am

Sound wise I don't think hardware has it, especially if you think of a computer as being the instrument. Old Poly analogs and modulars IMO bring something different though.

As people have mentioned there's another elephant in the closet here, user interface. The computer is not a dedicated synth, and controllers require time and effort to map to soft synths, with the possibility that you can't map everything and still have to look at the computer to tell what you're doing.

A well designed interface that is ergonomic and quickly allows you design sounds without thinking about it is worth it, but again, some interfaces are even worse than a mouse and screen. Some of the most sought after old poly analogs IMO aren't just about the sound, it's not in question that a Jupiter 8 or Oberheim OBX sounds great, but the other elephant in the room is that the interface is so nicely simple and easy to use.

filosofem
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by filosofem » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:06 am

Personally, the debate comes down to programmability, that is how accessible are the parameters and what parameters are on offer with the synthesizer. Interfacing with sound is twofold, in that sculpting sound in the first instance, creation and secondly but no less important the performance of that creation. Sound is subjective however sound needs to engage the listener. The attention of the listener needs to be moved by emotion. Question is can your synthesizer move a listener? Do you have the correct controls and knowledge to transport emotion when interfacing with sound? The sound quality matters not. Take the subject title of this thread, the quality of the spelling matters not it's the message being conveyed.
Aaron Mulqueen

BoddAH
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by BoddAH » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:26 am

Since the general consensus seems to be that software synths sound just as good (or even better) than hardware, I guess I'll stick with MIDI controllers for now.

I agree that there's compromise in terms of hands-on experience with MIDI controllers compared to dedicated hardware most of the time though. Ironically, the only exception to this rule I found so far are Ableton's instruments racks with their 8 Macro controls that map beautifully to the 8 CC knobs on my MIDI controller. Ableton's synths are probably not the best-sounding but listening to you guys most hardware synths (at least digital) are so obsolete nowadays with their rudimentary DSP that even Analog, Electric, obviously Operator and the other Ableton synths should have better sound quality than most digital hardware synths.

JuanSOLO
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by JuanSOLO » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:16 pm

Machinesworking wrote:The computer is not a dedicated synth, and controllers require time and effort to map to soft synths, with the possibility that you can't map everything and still have to look at the computer to tell what you're doing.
Image

I couldn't agree more.
If I only worked on music at home or in a studio, the computer screen as the main interface might not bother me too much.
For performing as an electronic music act the laptop feels more cliche over time rather than something I get comfortable with.
Even if there is not much difference in tweaking the cutoff with a mouse or a knob.
Iv'e been to some amazing shows where the laptop screen was and heavily abused and the crowd was moved, BUT,
has anybody else been to one of those shows where everybody stares at someone staring at a laptop, and they are talking about how awesome the next guy is, and the next guy comes out and he stares at his laptop while everyone watches?
I think about this every time I look at my laptop during a show,
I feel like I am about to put them in a coma when I really want them dancing.

Sure you can buy some DX7 waves and multisampled synth kits and control it with video by waving your hand over your iDevice's screen connected to your max patch via wi fi,
but this,
Image
just seems more interesting too me.
A guy playing buckets with drumsticks seems more interesting.

BoddAH
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by BoddAH » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:21 pm

Many electronic music fans and performers alike look down on mouse/track-pad DJs, that's why controllerism was invented!

Technically MIDI controllers aren't "hardware synths" though so would be slightly off-topic unless you're actually talking about performing exclusively with hardware synths and not using a computer at all. :mrgreen:

joefrost01
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by joefrost01 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 4:43 pm

Hardware user interfaces are great on something like a Juno 6 where there is a control for every function but, having owned a Virus for a while, I would say that when they are overloaded they become a lot less spontaneous.

I sold off a load of hardware and don't miss any of it.

I'm also not entirely convinced that I prefer analog to plugins either. I know it's DCO rather than VCO but I have a DSI Tetra and there are a load of plugins that I much prefer, admittedly in part due to the convenience but I feel they are on par sound wise.

With plugins from people like U-He, NI, PSP, Spectrasonics and Sonimus all running inside Live on an 11" MacBook Air, I can be in a top quality studio wherever I go.

It's all down to personal taste....for me I value the portability and flexibility of working ITB. That said, I did salivate when playing a Voyager as I would, I'm sure, when playing a Prophet 12.

gnurf
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by gnurf » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:09 pm

Isn't Virus TI just virtual analog? Then it's not the same as a real Moog or whatever. Not better or worse, necessarily, but I wouldn't buy a VA bundle masquerading as an analog synth over the real thing ;)

But personally I prefer software toys and a few good controllers. It's mostly a space issue - my hard drive is roomier than my living room!

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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by deva » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:04 pm

BoddAH wrote:
Tarekith wrote:Ruling out the difference in a real analog synths, I think it's been years since hardware synths sounded better than software. All things being equal, I think software synths actually sound better these days, certainly when compared to the lower end stuff like microkorg.

FWIW, years ago I sold my Virus TI2 because I thought Omnisphere and Zebra2 sounded better.
So basically this means any hardware synth that isn't explicitly analog is just a MIDI controller with an integrated soundcard and DSP unit (usually much less powerful than a modern computer), nothing else, right?

There is no analog circuit stage at any point or some advanced DSP optimization (since the synth is dedicated hardware) making it somehow sound "better/warmer/more natural". No exceptions?

If the answer is yes, I understand why hardware synths are technically obsolete. That's kind of what I thought but it's nice to have confirmation from such an expert source. I guess I can happily carry on using my software synths then (and maybe get a Sub Phatty someday). 8)
I agree with Tarekith...

The advantage for hardware is it is one integrated unit, less likely to crash, turns on faster, needs no computer and audio interface and presets are all made with the specific keyboard and controllers for that device.

I think some software synth presets can suffer a bit sometimes cause the midi controller and input devices and audio interface and sample rate used by the preset designer may be very different from that used by the end user.

Besides those things, which are mostly ergonomic, not sonic, I think soft synths are better sounding and more diverse than digital hardware synths.

Machinesworking
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Machinesworking » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:14 pm

It has to be mentioned that people who are lifelong keyboard players, who can play keys at blistering speeds, prefer hardware for the absolute zero latency in response it gives. There is no way around some amount of latency with software and computers, they're getting faster all the time of course but dedicated hardware will offer zero latency compared to buffers of 128, 64 etc.

That, and for live performance where you're playing keys in a band etc. a workstation synth is going to be a more stable choice than a laptop, sound card and USB MIDI controller, plus zero set up time. This is why they still sell them to working bands.

Tarekith
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Tarekith » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:29 pm

Be careful though, hardware synths aren't really zero latency, some are more than a good computer and soundcard.

But otherwise, agreed. The thing I will always miss the most about my Virus KC and TI-K is the keybed. I'm not a keyboard player normally, but that thing made me actually spend months and months leanring Hanon exercises so I could be. The whole thing was so solid, it FELT like $3k and then some. The keys I've ever played, and all the knobs and buttons were really solid but smooth.

The Polar was a slight step down on the keys (same as Novation SL37 and Akai MPK's btw), but still really solid. At the end of the day you can boil it down to how things sound, regardless of workflow, and on that ground either hardware or software will get you the same thing at the end of the day. Software has a convenience factor to it, hardware has the fact that what you buy FEELS like an instrument.

How important either of those are will be your deciding factor IMO.

Machinesworking
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Machinesworking » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:58 pm

^^^ in terms of Korg workstations etc. That bands backing pop singers and top 40 working bands use, the latency of those.
Sure there are VA synths that are totally comparable to software or worse latency wise.

It IMO is easier with an analog synth that has a good layout to get that sort of sound, but hardware can't touch any granular synthesis type stuff or the shear versatility of software.

I own far more soft synths than hardware synths, and in the sense of ergonomics for certain grit or cream sounds I gravitate towards the Moog and Oberheim, but I always have a Zebra, Alchemy or Absynth in the mix somewhere. Programming the Oberheim or Moog is far more satisfying for sure than menu diving on the computer screen though.

jlgrimes
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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by jlgrimes » Thu Jul 04, 2013 12:06 am

BoddAH wrote:I'm tempted to get an actual hardware synth but I'm not sure it's actually a good idea. I have the strange conception that actual hardware synths are supposed to just sound better than some boring Analog or Operator presets but maybe it's just because actual synths look cooler and it's complete bullshit.

I guess pure analog synths like Moogs actually DO sound better/different because they're truly analog and not just a software emulation, but what about synths like the MicroKorg and other DSP synths or virtual analogue synths? Do they work in the exact same way as software or do they still sound somewhat better for some reason?

If they're the same or even worse than what a computer plugin is capable of (because they typically have much less computing power than a computer), it would hardly be worth the hassle for computer musicians to rock hardware DSP synths rather than a MIDI controller and some plugins right?

Do hardware synths actually sound better than plug-ins and Ableton's integrated synths or is it just about nostalgia and the more hands-on experience? :?:
It depends on what your needs are.

Typically for simple live setups, hardware can't be beat. Everything is one unit which helps with portability.

For studio and production, I think softsynths have now reached the point where they are more convenient and definitely cheaper.

Sound wise is a mixed bag. There are some killer hardware units but at the same time there isn't much hardware that could compete with something like Omnisphere.

Most Modern virtual analog synths now sounds IMO good enough to keep for the final production. With something like Diva or Monark, you can get a very analog sound with digital.

That said even older softsynths sound great when u learn how to really work them.


I also hear you mentioning Analog and Operator like they are the only softsynths ever made. You can get wider range of sound with a new softsynth without having to go hardware.


They are good to have for inspiration and they look cool but if you are producing expect to spend more time recording your sounds to audio vs freezing softsynths. Some people like working this way though as it forces them to commit.

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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by DJTIVA » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:35 am

I use software and hardware it depends what kind of sound I am seeking. I must admit that I prefer hardware over software for several reasons. You get a real instrument that can be touched and manipulated directly. Using hardware synths makes you really get to know the instrument because mostly you spend more time wiht it before buying a new tool. Some sounds for me just sound better with hardware. I mean why are so many software companies trying to match the Moog or Oberheim sound with their programs?

If software really was better than hardware why then do so many artists in electronic music buy and use hardware synths? Just for fun?
No, because some instruments have very unique sounds.

An other thing is that analog hardware synths often have no effects on board but when you have good effects such as for example from UAD then the fun begins. Nice sounds from hardware synths together with premium effects have some flaire and just a few software synths bring nice sound with extraordinary effects in one package.

I believe the way to go is to use both worlds and not to say one is better than the other. I would still recommend every electronic musician to buy some day a hardware synth just to see what the difference is all about. Having an instrument in front of you with knobs that spits out sound created from the machine is just different then using a software synth.

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Re: Hardware synths vs sofware synhs

Post by Tarekith » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:31 am

DJTIVA wrote:I believe the way to go is to use both worlds and not to say one is better than the other. I would still recommend every electronic musician to buy some day a hardware synth just to see what the difference is all about. Having an instrument in front of you with knobs that spits out sound created from the machine is just different then using a software synth.
Well said!

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