Hardware vs. Soft Synths pros/cons


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I opened some of my storage crates over the holidays & rediscovered some old gems in good to excellent condition.
1.) ESQ-1 Synth (LOVE the sequencer on this one)
2.) Roland RA-95 (GM/GS) synth
3.) Alesis NanoSynth
4.) Digitech 256XL processor
5.) tc electronic M300 processor
6.) Yamaha 10/2 mixer
7.) Tascam MM100 16 ch mixer
8.) Alesis SR-18 drum machine
9.) Alesis NanoVerb, NanoCompressor,
10.) Behringer Autocom, Ultrafex Pro
11.) assorted stomp boxes, thru boxes, midi routers, trs/audio/midi cables, preamps, patch bays, etc.

Someone PLEASE remind me why soft synths & plug-ins were supposed to be so much better! They bog down my CPU and I Still prefer grabbing knobs & faders over clicking a mouse. I currently have Sonar & Logic sequencers, was using a tiny USB keyboard but managed to get my Roland DJ70 working as a controller.

Is it worthwhile setting up my old (retro) studio or is there a happy medium between the old & new stuff with minimal $$$ investment?

Oh yeah, almost forgot... I would LOVE to incorporate my 32 gig iPad into the scenario!

Ideas? Opinions? Thanks!
 
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happyrat1

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Software!!! PTUI!!!!

Soft synths are the devil's soiled underpants!!!

Hardware ROOLZ!!! :D :D :D

Gary ;)
 
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Software!!! PTUI!!!!

Soft synths are the devil's soiled underpants!!!

Hardware ROOLZ!!! :D :D :D

Gary ;)
Thanks Gary. I’m on the verge of putting all this stuff back in the racks & gettin busy! Any ideas on how to incorporate the iPad though?
 

happyrat1

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Depending on the model of iPad you'll at the very least require a camera connector kit and a few heavy duty powered USB hubs to get everything connected.

Don't ask me about software though. I'm strictly a Linux Desktop kinda guy. My studio is set up with over a dozen USB cables feeding into a Quad Core Linux I5 desktop.
You'll also be needing some kind of USB audio interface and a mixer to feed the sound into the ipad if you plan to record with it.

And for the vintage stuff with no USB connectors? You'll need a decent USB MIDI interface. Personally I use and love an M-Audio MIDISport 4x4 for the vintage stuff and it's built like a tank.

Again the specifics of the hardware you'll need will depend heavily on which ipad you own, how much memory, available ports, etc....

To paraphrase Commander Worf from ST:TNG, "It is a good day to jam!" :D

Good luck :)

Gary ;)

EDIT >>> Here's some charts I made detailing my current setup. This should give you an idea of what's involved.


studio-flowchart.jpg
studio_flowchart_MIDI_USB_routing.jpg
 

SeaGtGruff

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Personally, I think soft synths are great and they have a definite place in the music studio-- although using them for live playing is another matter. ;)
 
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My idea is to build tracks with outboard gear and import into DAW as stereo file or sync to MIDI. Then record vocals, guitar, horns, etc. directly into DAW and process with a few FX plug-ins. Less stress on CPU this way.

What % of soft synths vs hardware do you use?
 
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SeaGtGruff

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I have more soft synths than keyboards, but I normally use my keyboards more often than my soft synths.

None of my keyboards let me load new voices, so all I can do to create "new sounds" on them is tweak various sound parameters such as the attack/release times, the filter cutoff/resonance, the reverb/chorus depths, etc. And most of my keyboards are "entry-level" PSR-E models, albeit they're the "top of the line" of those models, but their voices can use only 1 element (or tone generator) apiece, so they tend to sound "thinner" than PSR-S and higher models which can play voices that use multiple elements apiece.

Consequently, soft synths and other virtual instruments give me a way to expand the sound capabilities that are available to me. But I tend to stick with their preset patches most of the time, especially with the complex soft synths that require a bit more in-depth study. I might tweak some of the settings, but I seldom create any patches "from scratch."

Anyway, I use soft synths and virtual instruments to complement the voices on my keyboards, either because they sound much better than the voices on my keyboards (for instance, acoustic piano or drawbar organ), or because they provide voices that my keyboards don't have (for instance, ethnic or "world" instruments).
 
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My ESQ1 though ancient, is very easily tweakable via EGs, LFO & such. I often come up with some interesting sounds & textures. The NanoSynth has over 500 preset sounds plus lets me create 128 more by tweaking & blending the existing sounds. The SR18 lets me easily modify drum, bass & percussion sounds via panning, velocity, reverb, eq & compression right inside the machine.

I can send any or all of these sounds to my keyboard mixer for further processing b4 it even reaches my computer. Somehow, moving patch cables, turning knobs & sliding faders seems more “real” to me than clicking a mouse.

I do like the way the plug-ins let me draw, test & save new eq curves & effect parameters though. I guess my biggest drawbacks with plug-ins is having enough memory, CPU speed and being able to see everything on the computer screen.

Matter of preference, I guess.
 

SeaGtGruff

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As far as CPU, I think it's important to run only one or two virtual instruments or soft synths at a time, rather than trying to run half a dozen or more at the same time.

Or if you absolutely must run that many at once, it would be better if you had them split between different computers or laptops or tablets instead of all running on the same machine.

Obviously that's going to present problems for live performances, because it's usually bad enough trying to use a single computer/laptop/tablet and hope it doesn't go belly-up or sideways during the show, so no one would want to double or triple or quadruple those risks.

But in a music studio making multi-track recordings with a DAW, you could have a dozen or more tracks using different virtual instruments or soft synths-- just as long as you don't try to run all of them at once. Make one MIDI track, assign it to a VI or SS, then record it to an audio track-- but don't get rid of the original MIDI track, just mute it. Repeat that process with the next MIDI track, then the next. That way you still have the original MIDI tracks to fiddle around with if you decide you want to change something about them, but you've got the audio recordings of those tracks so the computer doesn't have to strain itself trying to run all of the VIs and soft synths at the same time.
 

SeaGtGruff

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By the way, this can also apply to audio tracks which are being processed by DSP effects and plugins. Trying to send each of a dozen audio tracks to different DSP effects is going to make the computer work a lot harder and strain its CPU. It would be better to record the audio coming back from the DSP effects for each audio track, so that as you're putting your masterpiece together track by track it isn't pushing your computer to the "halt and catch fire" breaking point. :)

Obviously, this applies to studio recording, not live performances. It's easy to see why hardware synths with built-in DSP effects, or even keyboards being sent to a variety of "guitar pedals," is much more preferable for live performances than trying to use soft synths.

Then again, some performers just have a bunch of clips they've created ahead of time, which they "play" or orchestrate by pushing a bunch of pads on a controller to launch a given clip when desired. But I'm not sure I'd call that a "live performance"-- it's more like a cross between a studio recording and a live performance. ;)
 
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Personally, I find software synth only have a place in the studio, although some software can be used to assist a live performance it is not the same.

Mainstage is used a lot but it only gives you the voices/sounds that are sent to a midi controller, but you need to be a player, plus you need a mac laptop plus other things as well.

Can someone let us know looking at a costing breakdown (for top of the line gear) of say Pro Tools Ultimate or Albelton Live Suite plus all your addons plus any hardware ( Mac/Laptop) external HDD, plus cables and accessories - midi controller & stand etc and see what it costs over a 3- 5 year time frame; to play live.

And then compare that to the same top of the line gear you would buy and use for a gig like a Korg Krome 88 or what ever plus stand/ cable/ audio interfaces etc for the same time frame.


Looking at redundancy at the end of that time frame to replace your gear/ software due to wear and tear and software being updated as well.

Who wants to bet which is the better value?


Allan
 

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