software modular systems

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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antic604
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software modular systems

Post by antic604 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:09 am

So, like many of you probably, I'm looking with envy at the videos of people playing with modular synthesizers / racks. In my current situation I won't be able to build something like that, mainly because of lack of dedicated space and also because I'm not ready to spend few thousands of USD/EUR on something, I might not get a lot of use from (music making is a hobby for me, so very time-constrained).

However, I'd be more than willing to play with it in a software form. Based on little research I've done, I'm interested in:

- Softube's Modular, which faithfully replicates some basic Doepfer modules and comes with several utilities for 80$, but seems pretty constrained unless you're willing to buy more

- NI's Reaktor 6, which costs EUR200 but comes with much more 'blocks', seems to strike a perfect balance between simplicity and complexity, has a huge library of user-made content and also several ready-made instruments out of the box

- MaxForCat's OSCILLOT (I've Live 9 Suite), which seems like a very deep & flexible environment especially at 80EUR, but has no VST flavour so I'd limit myself to just Live

Do you have any experience with them?

Which one - or others? - would you recommend?

doghouse
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Re: software modular systems

Post by doghouse » Fri Jun 16, 2017 12:19 pm

I've used the free version of Oscillot, Madrona Lab's Aalto, uHe's Bazille and A.C.E. I have also owned hardware modulars. Before diving in, ask yourself what you hope to do with a modular (other than just having some fun exploring) that can't be done with your existing synths.

Soft modulars tend to be CPU intensive. You need to worry about aliasing when doing audio rate modulations. uHe has really got the aliasing thing licked but at the cost of very heavy CPU loading, some patches used over 50% for a single note. Expect to freeze your tracks a lot.

antic604
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Re: software modular systems

Post by antic604 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 12:46 pm

doghouse wrote:I've used the free version of Oscillot, Madrona Lab's Aalto, uHe's Bazille and A.C.E. I have also owned hardware modulars. Before diving in, ask yourself what you hope to do with a modular (other than just having some fun exploring) that can't be done with your existing synths.

Soft modulars tend to be CPU intensive. You need to worry about aliasing when doing audio rate modulations. uHe has really got the aliasing thing licked but at the cost of very heavy CPU loading, some patches used over 50% for a single note. Expect to freeze your tracks a lot.
Yeah, thanks - I'm aware of those things. What I need is obviously to play and learn with synthesis / patching / sequencing, but in practical terms it is for generating sound FX and leads, which I'd obviously freeze / flatten as soon as my CPU can't take the load. I agree lots can be achieved with other (semi)modular synths or even with creative use of Live/M4L racks and effects, but it somehow seems more fun when you need to think of your signal flow. It just seems more elegant :)

Angstrom
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Re: software modular systems

Post by Angstrom » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:10 pm

Yep. The big problem is CPU for all these synths.

Reaktor often pops up on sale for about 99€ /$ and is probably worth it just for the huge selection of user created instruments. I've mainly created synths in Reaktor's "Primary" mode over the years and find that reasonably satisfactory.

Regarding the new Blocks format - the interface looks nice, and many of the blocks are very well made (EG their Moog filter block from Monark). But the pitfalls of blocks are in its "modularity". Each block has only two mod inputs, and these are connected in edit mode (not the front panel block view) and then mod amount of A and B modulator is controlled in block mode. The A and B of each block is therefore "mystery meat" the sources are hidden on the panels of the destination - as opposed to a real modular where you can say "what the hell is this cable going to my cutoff freq... Oh it comes from the LFO!" You dont have to walk around the back, its right there in front of you. In a real modular you can patch and play synchronously. In blocks you are either patching, or tweaking the panel. Either or.
Surely a major part of modular sound discovery is that ability to quickly try routings - the Osc 2 out into Osc1 in ... and see and hear the outcome.
also... Its all monophonic . One note at a time.
Also, its very CPU intensive as soon as you start to delve into anything interesting. Making a (monophonic) 3 osc, 1 filter, 1 amp moog clone might be a tolerable 25% resource usage. But as soon as you want to cross modulatate a "complex oscillator" or use those tasty blocks ... You will be touching %60 and more. Sure you can freeze, but the point of modular is evolving experimentation. The very point at which interesting sonic fruit is budding .. Its like trying to stand up in a 5 foot room.

As for editing and creating your own (non block) synths. It can be fun. I've made a bunch of good synths over the years, and that process was easy. The old Primary system was very intuitive. Theres a great Reaktor user library ensemble called "Boland" which is a copy of a Roland modular and is made in Primary, it has a very low resource usage and is real fun to play with. Of course the sound is not the absolute best, but it is a nice synth which shows what can be done at a basic level.

But unfortunatly NI have moved Reaktors building methodoogy to Core programming to get faster CPU. Core is quite a pain to use. The old Primary system was very intuitive. Connect an Oscillator to a filter, connect it to the output. Very learnable. The new core methodology is hell. The metaphor is now event driven math. The people who enjoy it are math grads. I do not find it fun, intuitive or learnable. It is a JIT abomination championed by clever and well educated engineers for all the wrong reasons. It can solve mathematical problems more efficiently, but it is not the same kind of fun as connecting an oscillator to a filter and seeing what happens, and thats the fun I want.

Having said all that, I still think Reaktor is worth a purchase (at 99 bucks) .
I've owned Reaktor since it was called Generator, and I've made a ton of synths in it.

I have never found a soft modular which balances good sound, good patchability and good resource usage.
Good, fast, cheap, pick two ... as the saying goes.

dougdi
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Re: software modular systems

Post by dougdi » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:42 pm

Also there is Audulus. It's constantly being developed and sounds great. Runs on OSX, iOS, Windows and Linux! It started out with very basic components that are now being combined into some pretty hefty patches, some emulating hardware modules. It does require the latest OSX which I'm not running but I have it on my iPad Pro and it's very cool. The latest update allows it to interface to Expert Sleepers ES-8 module so you can totally interface Audulus with a CV modular system.

http://audulus.com/
Doug

SuburbanThug
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Re: software modular systems

Post by SuburbanThug » Sat Jun 17, 2017 9:45 pm

I'm a big fan of uHe's Bazille. It can carry a substantial CPU load when heavily patched and using multiple voices but it was a great help to me learning modular synthesis before I ever bought a module. More than that it is like a fantasy modular phase modulation synth. Building it and using it in real life would be hell but on screen it's quick, easy and fun.

Oscillot is fun too but not great to look at. I also don't think it sounds as nice as Bazille but in conjunction with my Expert Sleepers modules I've designed some nice modulations in it to send out to my hardware modular system and that's pretty cool.

antic604
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Re: software modular systems

Post by antic604 » Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:49 am

Thanks guys for the feedback and recommendations! Will check them all :)

Heiko
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Re: software modular systems

Post by Heiko » Sun Jun 18, 2017 11:18 am

@Angstrom

It seems in the video workshop on Reaktor 6 that you can have the blocks and the patching windows open at the same time.... looks awesome!
http://www.heikodijker.com
http://www.indianmusiccircle.com
Instead of thinking of Things you have to Think of Possibilities

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