Soft Synths

Discuss 808 State and related.

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Supraset
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Location: Metro Detroit, MI U.S.A.

Soft Synths

Post by Supraset »

How does everyone feel about soft synths? I think their potential is vast but it's also pretty cold sounding. Which is funny because most of the synths I own are digital (guess you still need some of the hardware). Just wondered how 808 felt too (and the board).

Like BT and Madonna's new stuff sounds like it has lost some warmth... I believe due to the overuse of soft synths and effects. Please excuse my mainstream examples... just trying to identify with the most people.
graham
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Post by graham »

I know what your saying about a lack of depth in recent productions,
some of this is also down to pro tools and use of finalisers,
I was worried about it on Outpost,though who can resist them ,great for writing with, especially soft samplers (i use kontact) ,i think we will see improvements for eg the new moog modular 5 sounds so good when
compared to the model e stienberg moog, the oddity is great too.
reactor has a charecter all of its own , though i do get pissed off with
fiddly little knobs it gets like keyhole surgery..the real things I do enjoy
I was playing my moog prodigy through a fender bassmancab last night
and just thinking foaaah how creamy is that, there is some magic in the circuits.
also im getting this feeling recently which we call chineese menu syndrome
you want a hi hat ,heres 1200 of them,you want a string sound would that be
polish string section stereo miked with an akg tube out of phase with a girl boy ratio of viola players of 10 to 1 or just the mellotron classic rick wakeman patch, its like shopping with the wife
keeping themusic as the focus is quite hard,and spontinaity even harder,
but the choices grow, soon you ll have the equivalent of personal shoppers
"i think this bass drum would go lovely with your bass line sir"
Supraset
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Location: Metro Detroit, MI U.S.A.

Post by Supraset »

w0w a reply from the master himself (excuse my worship but you have inspired me musically so much)

Yup I just don't think you can replace the hardware. All of these soft retro synths copies are based on the soundwave of the synth. This for the most part successfully reproduces the synth but they're missing all of the human interaction like the analog knobs... No matter what... the digital incremental steps involved in digital knobs just doesn't reproduce a good analog sweep of the knob (note this is true on digital synths too).

Glad to hear you guys are running equip through different hardware. Personally I don't like what is becomming known as 'laptop' style music.
But still is a great place for new ideas and such.

I feel like a lot of the current digital stuff sounds like musicians still trying to figure out their equipment.
Supraset
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Post by Supraset »

Depeche Mode's 'Exciter' used a lot of soft synths including reactor... I think it was a good balance with the vocals and some smattering of guitar. One could tell the song writing aspect was still there... and with Mark Bell at the helm the learning curve was prolly lessened.
PatFromCanada
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Post by PatFromCanada »

My feeling about softsythns is this...

The phenominal amount of ease for the user is excellent. Everything is laid out for you now. However, hooking onto wot Graham pointed out with the "chinese menu syndrom" and all the unlimited possibilites - it does take away some of the fun of working.

I have a very basic studio set up. 606 to tha 909 to tha boss 202 to tha sh 101 for the sequenced grooves. Then my juno 106, D-50 with the PG 1000 prgrammer and a Fender Rhodes Electric piano. My sampler is pathetic, the casio SK 1. (nasty, nasty, nasty...)

For effects I used old Boss guitar pedals. (Looove the DD5) I also have a couple of racks and a nice tube compressor.

My point is this, I love the frustrating creativity that comes out of me with the limitations that I face with writing and producing my personal stuff. My biggest fear is as soon as I get digital (I have used Logic, rebirth, reason, fruity loops and Recycle at a friend's pro studio...) I may become jaded with this new abyss of technology.

I guess some of us are stubborn, but the thing I love the most about early acid house records was the fact that so many discoveries were made within the limits that artists faced with thier gear. And the charm that many early recordings have in this scene are lacking these days. (well... I'm certain I'm wrong there too)

Aw hell... I'm stubborn! I like doin' it the hard way I guess. (Fookin Step-Time programming!)

There is a lack of warmth in new electronic records. Although, the more I am exposed to software wize, the more I'm also convinced that the gap is definately closing. (there's even a PPG Wave plug in now for God sakes)

It is a very exciting time for all music makers. For all the vibe creators. I think the best thing to do as an artist is remind yourself what the point of it all is before you get lost in the possibilities. Keep it simple!

(unlike Ritchie Hawtin!) Hehehe...

Have you heard the Lfo remix of Bjork's hyperballad? That's what I'm talking about! :wink:

Free your minds!

(i need to get with it mates...)

Patio
PatFromCanada
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Post by PatFromCanada »

Anyone want to sell me an Atari ST with Notator?

heh he... not funny. They are awesome sequencers tho...
Last edited by PatFromCanada on 26 Jun 2003 19:00, edited 1 time in total.
Supraset
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Post by Supraset »

Another thing with the soft synths is the live performance or lack of it. Like it wasn't bad enough that the keyboardists use to just bounce about and press the occasional key.... (lookeee mee I just played a sample.) Now you could just stare at your computer screen. Ho hum.

Mark Bell's work on Bjork's Homogenic was superb... I've heard the hyper-ballad mixes but can't recall specifically the LFO one.
PatFromCanada
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Post by PatFromCanada »

Yah... that mentioned hyperballad remix was on a special 10". Both sides featured a remix by Mark Bell. The LFO one is called "LFO Stomp Mix".

Suprisingly it got tons of club play here in Canada and it is very Acid House sounding. It's a topper.

Have you seen the Absynth? There is also a Soft version of a DX7 if you like the ol' FM synths.

Peep this one guys!

http://news.harmony-central.com/Newp/20 ... pdate.html

Virtual Roland classics that claim to be amazing. (there's a Jupiter 8!)
Supraset
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Post by Supraset »

Ohhh that looks neat and is endorsed from Roland... Rebirth really got me interested in softsynths... (Where is the 606??)

But still there are limitations...

Can you post an mp3 of the track from Bjork?
riz
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Post by riz »

Certainly there are millions of pros and cons about the topic. Each of the specific soft synths has specific features another doesn't have. There also may be a soft- vs. hardware synth comparison, but that doesn't work for too long as well.

However, most important should be the music itself. As Graham mentioned before, responsible for the lack of warmth is the way productions are made nowadays. That does not necessarily affect hard- or software synths used. The use of processing tools controlling the dynamics of sound (eq, compressors, limiters, finalizers, etc.) has evolved (and mutated) to a very own definiton of perfection for mainstream music (clean, loud and present). In our ears these recordings (Madonna as example) may sound cold because it's overproduced, especially from an innovative point of view. On the other hand, I doubt that a warmer produced Madonna album makes it's content more interesting, nor can bring warmth into cold music.

I was drifting off... Simple, I use a lot of soft synths (though I keep using my analogues too) but I don't really like operating them. Seeing and touching various knobs at once is almost luxury compared to 'the one mousepointer'. But there is the practical view pro softsynths: lower prices, less space, a little less quality (but mostly acceptable), less weight and higher chances of 100% reproduction (Example Weight: Hammond B3, 200 kilos vs. NI B4, CD-Rom).

It's not the same with software samplers: There was the akai (cold) and the Emu (warm) blabla, but regarding technical problems (SCSI-Sample transport from computer to sampler, 2 hosts on 1 chain = crash, etc.) is no longer existent since the appearance of NI Kontakt. I never heard somebody say 'hm, Kontakt sounds cold/warm...', everyone says 'thank god it's here, no more SCSI hell'.

In the end: Anything can sound cold or warm no matter it's produced with soft- or hardware synths. Softsynths can sound good, and analogue synths can sound bad. Everyone perceives music and it's appearance in his own special way.

The producer/musician is flooded with options after all.
Supraset
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Joined: 01 Jun 2003 22:36
Location: Metro Detroit, MI U.S.A.

Post by Supraset »

Excellent points Riz!!

It is the end result that counts!! That's what it all boils down to.

While I am not a Madonna fan I did quite enjoy the sounds in her William Orbit album... and I think he did another song for Pink and I did not know at the time (we hear lots of crap here on MTV) but I was listening to it and I was like hey I like the music... then I find out William Orbit did the music.
Ohhh yes it is for the Charlie's Angels soundtrack.
PatFromCanada
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Post by PatFromCanada »

Supraset, I have that LFO track only on vinyl. But I'll see what I can do for you...

Cheers. :wink:

P.F.C.
Ancodia
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Hyperballad and DX7

Post by Ancodia »

If the version of Hyperballad is on any of CDs I'll be able to sort you.
I love the old DX sound, still trying to get the DX expansion card for my CS6R with the authentic DX engine.

Have to admit I'm a bit of a hardware junkie. I use some soft synths to lay down basic ideas but then I take them to a mates studio, and use my gear, his and another mates. It usually all ends up in a huge remixing and jamming session.
John
pacific reefer
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Post by pacific reefer »

I use a heap of soft synths myself and while some of them are a bit narky on the sound reproduction, I am of the opinion that anything can be a relevant sound source for use in music. Modern mastering processes, for example, in the pop arena focus far too much on over compression and heavy finalisation. The new Ulrich Schnauss album, for instance, when examined in Cool Edit, is way too compressed. I had listened to it a few times and it started to grate on my ears. When I analysed it I realised that there is quite a bit of digital clipping going on throughout the album. The mastering process has destroyed most of the original dynamics and the result is a harsher and louder sound which ultimately results in ear fatigue when there is no need for this. Most of my own stuff is softly mastered, compressed minimally and I always make sure never to exceed the 0 db ceiling and leave a lot of highs and lows in the mix so as to cater to dynamic range. This is going to come across as blasphemous on this BB, and I do love 808 state let me be clear...but the Outpost Transmission album, the one I have anyway, is overcompressed for my ears. Not enough dynamic range and does sound rather cold at times. This is just from a listen, but not analysed in an editor. In terms of production, Don Solaris is excellent and so is Ex El. Plenty of clarity, warmth and dynamic range without being over loud or flat.

Steve
PatFromCanada
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Post by PatFromCanada »

I agree with what pacific reefer is saying on the resolution of Outpost. However, my take on it was that it was quite intentional. To have a harder sound on the record and not such the 'over polished' sound that many peeps pointed out with the Gorgeous release. (Gorgeous is an audiofile's dream... I fookin luv it!)

At the same time, to me, it's not all that overbearing to listen too. Not as crazy sounding as an afx record.

A REALLY BAD example of a terribly prduced electronic record has to be Mr Oizo's - Analog Worms album. Yuk! It had me convinced that it was almost an electronic Punk record with all that hissing and over compressed sound. - I'm surprised that record was not released in mono!

On the other side - I really miss that polished dynamic range sound. I recently picked up the remixes of Bebel Gilberto's TantTempo and THAT is where it's at baby! Oh yeah! Also "Bossa Tres Jazz" on Yellow. There's the range you want people.

'poot - tick a tick - tick - tick - tick'

Patio
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