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|The Arturia MiniMoog V Check out my review|
has been noted by many as an excellent replica of the original mono mini.
Aturia also makes the
Moog Modular V
which has up to 9 oscillators per voice and has 64
(!) voices. I don't have those yet, but soon... A long standing
soft synth is the Native Instruments
emulates the Prophet 5 by Sequential. The Prophet was a polyphonic
analog, capable and warm, and easily adaptable to rock, pop, industrial,
techno and trance. Its easy on the CPU, unlike the MiniMoog V. The
Pro53 is so tight it will actually read sysex files from the original unit.
That shows the incredible level of detail these models are capable of.
Also take a look at
ImpOSCar, a play of words off "Imposter" and OSCar, the synth it
Korg Legacy Series includes two important analog replicas--the MS20 and
the PolySix. The MS20 is a mono analog synth with strong resonant
filters capable of many forms of noise, distortion and overdrive. You
even get a controller keyboard with the package that has all the MS20 knobs,
jackfield, wheels and switches on it. I have that one. Awesome. Another analog model is
the GForce Oddity
which emulates the venerable ARP Odyssey, a monophonic 2 oscillator synth.
FM stands for Frequency Modulation.
It was the technology behind Yamaha's groundbreaking synths in the 80s, the
DX5, DX7, DX9, TX7, TX802, SY and TG series. Rather than subtract from
a big fat waveform, FM synthesis started by using several "thin" Sine Waves
(operators and carriers) at user selectable frequencies
and then "patched" them in various ways to come up with tones.
The result-- an entire
universe of sound opened up, from very pure tones to discordant atonal
chaos. FM is capable of interesting replicas of
acoustic instruments. FM sounds are precise, bright and bell-like, the
opposite of analog. FM makes very precise bass sounds with lots of
top, which makes them ideal for mixes where the bass has to be clean and
accurate. FM has a kind of cheesy ring to many sounds, like clavs and
organs. Its strings are obviously fake, but in a nice way. Its
brass is bratty, plastic. Winds are often cutting but precise.
FX that many programmers discovered on FM were usually of a wacky, sci-fi vintage but beautiful spacey textures are
possible for those that listen. I know. I've been there.
There are many softsynths that use FM synthesis too some degree, but not that do it as well as Native Instruments FM7. Check out my review. Just let me say here, the FM7 is great software and MUCH easier to program than the original FM machines. What is a bit surprising about the FM7 is how good it sounds: it sounds better than all 3 FM synths I have here. Sort of like how FM would sound if you died and went to heaven. LOL. Definite 2 thumbs up
Reaktor has some FM models among its
collection of soft synths. Reason's Subtractor, though more of an
analog synth can also do FM. MOTU's Multisynth uses FM among its
methods of generation
(LA) synthesis is a combination of a sample playback and digital waveforms. Back in the day when sample playback was just starting, memory on synths was precious and small. Developers took tiny bits of samples and spliced them together in one big wave chunk. As in sample playback synths, when you played an instrument the processor would scan over a tiny looped section where the sample was. So, you had the realism of low bit samples combined with sine and analog like waveforms. The sound of these synths was surprisingly evocative, a touch of realism, yet totally digital. The Roland D series (D50, D10, D110) is most representative of LA.
table approach took LA one step further. It would let you scan
through a series of contiguous samples in the big wave chunk at once, which gave a "morph" of one
sound to another. Right around this time developers were realizing they
could use real time controls like faders and knobs to shift from one sound
to another. These are often called "Vector" synths because you could
map out a path, or vector, from one sound element to another over time. The
PPG, Waldorf's Microwave, Ensoniq's VFX and the Korg Wavestation are synths that used wavetables and
the latter two can be considered vector synths.
The Korg Legacy package has an exacting model of the Korg Wavestation, an unbelievable feat. Ok, I have to quote the blurb here. "...provides all 484 waveforms and 55 effects found on the WAVESTATION series (including the WAVESTATION-SR!), with 32 digital oscillators, 32 digital filters, 64 envelope generators, and 64 LFOs that allow letter-perfect replication of the three-dimensional WAVESTATION sound, ..." Those waveforms are quite neat. The synth architecture followed the philosophy of the PPG, if I recall properly, the Synergy, the synths of the era when Wendy Carlos used on Digital Moonscapes. The Wavestation SR is one of my favorite synths. If you take the time to go beyond the presets you can make powerful evolving timbres that go beyond the stuff Tritons and Fantoms can do. Of course, there is a tradeoff for getting this much power. Make sure you have a strong CPU for the legacy package. Also check out the inexpensive Digital Edition of the Legacy Collection
Arturia Analog Factory Experience Hybrid Synthesizer with Keyboard
Arturia's Analog Factory Experience offers the
immediacy of a hardware synthesizer combined with the flexibility of
a software based solution. How is it possible? Analog Factory
Experience is a unique combination of a software synthesizer that
brings 3500 sounds, along with a high quality dedicated hardware
controller. Once the Software is started, you can put your mouse
away, all functions can be activated from within the keyboard
controller: select a sound to play, modify this sound, recall
snapshots... This is a true hands-on experience: simple,
straightforward and fun.
So far, I've yet
to see any Roland D-series models but I would not be surprised to find out a
D50 soft synth is on some developer's bench right now. After all they
are bringing the D50 back into the hardware V-Synth II.
Sample playback came into popularity with
the first Proteus synths by Emu and quickly took over the synth industry.
The Roland JD and JV, XP and XV series, the Yamaha AWGS system, the Korg,
Kawaiis, and many others are in here. Its the same technology you find
in the Fantom, Triton and Motif today. Digital samples of acoustic
instruments and samples of analog and digital waveforms are arranged into
layered presets. You get typical analog style envelopes and lfos and
digital filters to round it out. The sound, we we all have heard, is
clean, authentic, precise at best and at worst, brittle, starchy and
Cakewalk released its Dimension Pro Software synth which has a whopping 7GB library and 1500 sound programs of instruments we all use. It even runs on a Mac as well as on Windows. Hmm. Think about that. Simpler and less expensive is the Native Instruments Bandstand, a "modest" 2GB, and is GM, GS compatible. 2GB is "modest"? Umm, sure, it beats the rap out of the old 512KB GM soundbanks that come on many soundcards! M-Audio is getting in on the act with the low cost Drum and Bass Rig and Key Rig soft synths.
There are many out there, so lets start with the Emu Software Proteus X2 With the Proteus X you can buy modules that use the same samples as the original hardware Proteii, such as the Planet Earth (world) Virtuoso (orchestral), Mo Phatt (Hip Hop) and more. There are several emu collections that cover a history of analog and digital synths but remember these are samples of those synths, not models, so they correctly belong in the sample playback section.
Another way to get the old classic emu synths in software form is through Cakewalk's Dimension Pro. Many of these sounds are on famous dance and electronica tracks as they go back to when the Emulator samplers ruled the electronic jungle.
Cakewalk Dimension Pro Software Synth (Macintosh and Windows)
Dimension Pro is the critically acclaimed
synthesizer that combines real instruments with advanced synthesis,
giving you endless sound possibilities. The immense 2 DVD sound
library that ships with Dimension Pro makes it the ideal go-to
instrument for musicians, while its deep editing and sound
generation capabilities have a natural appeal to sound designers.
Cakewalk EMU PX7 Drums Sound Library for Dimension Pro
Capture the dynamic feel of a real drummer or percussionist with the PX7 drum collection. You get fantastic multi-layered acoustic drum kits along with an in-depth percussion ensemble. This collection offers eight precisely recorded drum kits that were then meticulously layered and programmed to provide the human feel often missing in MIDI drums. Kits include Rock, Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop, Swing, Electronica, and more. Warning: other producers will be asking for your drummer's phone number.
Cakewalk EMU Virtuoso 2000 Sound Library for Dimension Pro
Virtuoso 2000 is your ticket to world-class orchestral sounds. Become the composer and conductor of a professional symphony orchestra recorded under ideal conditions. Get string (section and solo), woodwind, brass, and percussion sounds at your fingertips that preserve the natural sound of these high quality acoustic instruments. And best of all, this collection was created for ultimate musicality by one of the most revered sound designers in the industry.
Cakewalk EMU MoPhatt Sound Library for Dimension Pro
There ain't nothing like the real thing. Mo'Phatt is THE ORIGINAL Hip Hop sound generator. In this collection you'll find the actual sounds that have made your head nod and booty shake on countless #1 Rap and R&B hits. Drums, bass, synth leads, pads, hits and moreā€”you'll recognize them all. Accept no substitute.
Cakewalk EMU Planet Earth Sound Library for Dimension Pro
Add the kind of global warming that everyone enjoys with Planet Earth, an amazing collection of authentic world instruments and percussion. We've toured the globe for you to find the best sounding instruments and the best players, and recorded samples at multiple velocities to present the ultimate realism. Whether you're looking for tambora, kotos or shakuhachi, marimbas or timbales this collection features unique textures guaranteed to spice up any mix.
Cakewalk EMU Proteus 2000 Sound Library for Dimension Pro
The Proteus 2000 represents a vast array of instruments used in film, TV, and commercial scores. This incredible sound set includes custom programs tailored to the needs of composers, and features a wide-ranging collection of instruments which cover many different styles of music. This may be the most useful sound library ever created.
Priced from 79.95
Cakewalk EMU Xtreme Lead-1 XL1 Sound Library for Dimension Pro
Cut through the mix and make an impression with Xtreme Lead-1, a diverse set of cutting edge synthesizers and percussion. Perfect for Electronica, Trance, Dance, and other modern music these synth basses, sizzling leads, drum kits, vocal stabs, and DJ scratches will liven up any house mix.
Another soft synth that uses samples of old synths along with some quality acoustic tweaks is Spectrasonics Atmosphere, which I have reviewed. Its a fantastic choice. Spectrasonics just released Omnisphere, which will be reviewed here soon! In the Atmospherical veins we also have the Zero-G Altered States which uses the Intakt engine and Morphology which uses the Kompakt engine. Its tempting to call these sample libraries rather than soft synths. I hope to hear these soon.
|Synthogy Ivory Grand Piano|
While guitarists are a dime a dozen, a good bass player has always been hard to find. Not so in the virtual domain. These Bass players come with a truckload of basses and, unlike those I know, they won't drink all your beer. Yellow Tools has the Majestic Bass. East-West has HardCore Bass. Steinberg has Virtual Bassist and Spectrasonics has Trilogy, which will be replaced soon with Trillian. Trilogy won't work on newer Macs, so I hope they hurry.
Virtual Guitarist, a Steinberg product,
is, and I quote "a perfect rhythm guitarist who plays
both acoustic and electric guitar, including all keys and difficult chords,
who never gets impatient, follows the tempo of your song..." Let me
add that the product will never hit on your girlfriend, wife, mother or
daughter. Reason enough right there to get it.
Mark of the Unicorn's Ethno World is one of the first World sample collections in a soft synth plugin format and is a combination of sampled instruments loops and phrases. Usually you have to buy a sample collection to run in a soft sampler to get these sounds, so this is cool.
of the Unicorn (MOTU) Ethno World Virtual Instrument Soft Synth
The Ethno Instrument delivers expressive ethnic instrument sounds combined with authentic world music loops and phrases in one easy-to-use window. From solo instruments to full ensembles, the Ethno Instrument delivers all of the exotic textures you need to take your recordings to the four corners of the globe.
While physical modeling hardware synths have been around in modules such as the Yamaha VL70M they have never really taken off, much to the surprise of many. That is changing now that developers have gone to the soft synth realm to take advantage of the computer's superior processing power. As one software modeler put it, "you can develop models of any sound occurring in nature. Once the mathematical characteristics of sounds are captured, you can apply them to other models.
Those with Logic Pro 7 should explore the new softsynth Sculpture, based in part on models of a vibrating string. Sculpture can create everything from EPs to guitars and harps conventionally but also make totally unearthly sounds like deep waterphone-like scraping metallic noise, very real sounding voxs, and scary effects you have not heard at the movies yet.
Physical modeling the technology leading the edge of soft synth design. Just as developers have emulated analog and digital synths with mathematical models, they have developed them for other instruments as well. The Electric Piano is one of these. Its relatively simple design makes it a good candidate. Take a listen to the Native Instruments Elektrik Piano and the Lounge Lizard.
Arturia Vintage Collection Software Bundle
Of the Hybrid Modeling Synths we have
Tassman which has digital models real world instruments (not samples).
As they say "You' ll find all the classic analog and FM
instrument emulations you'd expect in a modular synthesis solution,
staggeringly realistic acoustic instruments including various drums and
chromatic percussion, string instruments of all shapes and sizes, an
electric piano, tonewheel and pipe based organs, and more, complete with the
nuances and subtleties that would be simply unattainable with a sample based
solution" Version 4 is now out and adds a lot of compatibility. This
could be where the future is headed that finally breaks our (over) reliance
on sample playback.
One of the cool things about making synthesizers in software is that you don't have to emulate something that already existed as hardware, you can go wild and really take all the synthesis technologies and combine them into a single synth or set of synths. Then you can add other stuff, little mini-sequencers, arpeggiators, effects, samples and really go a warpin'. That's essentially the recipe Native Instruments used for Reaktor.
In many ways, this program is ahead of other softsynths out there in terms of sound making potential. You can build your own synth engine from templates and presets. Add FM, analog, ring mods, fx, samplers, step sequencers...getting the idea? Another flash of greatness is that there are tons of user built synths that are freely downloadable at the Native Instruments site. These aren't just "patches" but full-hog user-blown total virtual synths! (careful though--lots of them crash!) But in the balance: Reaktor is visionary! Check out my review of Reaktor Session
Absynth is another heavy NI soft synth. Extremely powerful. I've had it for years. This synth is for heavy tweaks. You get a lot of different filters and can "granualize" your own samples with it. Cool and unusual. Absynth will also do convincing analog and FM Check out my review.
Kantos's ad states "finally liberates you from the tyranny of MIDI, keyboards, controllers or, in fact, anything that stands between you and the music you hear in your mind" oh-key. That's quite a claim. The way it works is you patch it as an insert on an audio track. Kantos takes the audio data and generates sound. Someone tell me if it works. I'm still trying to get over shelling out another $100 to keep Antares Auto-Tune working in Logic 7.
OK, I know you want to know, "what's the bes...NO! don't say that word! Which do I like the most? Sorry, still can't answer. I have a lot of those on this page and I like them all for specific things. Ok which do I use the most? That I can answer. Omnisphere. There you go.
A really good strategy is to get different types of synthesis. If I were starting today what would I get. Easy. Omnisphere and Komplete, then a Moog. If you can't get Komplete, get Absynth. Even if you never program it, Absynth will open your ears. The Mini Moog V is so Moog-like that it will make you smile. Omnisphere has all of atmosphere in it. I have it sitting here waiting for my Mac pro (the G5 1.8 is just shy of the recommended requirements). Next time i update this article I'll tell you all about it.
Naturally, it is impossible to cover all of today's software synthesizers on one web page. This is a rapidly growing field. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now. Will every vintage analog synth be modeled? Or will manufacturers release all their synths under the software flag. "In this box you get models of all the Roland Synths from 1977-1995". Will mathematical models of acoustic instruments finally overthrow sampling technology? Will the next software guitarist actually shout sampled insults so we feel its more real? Keep thine chops up and ears peeled.
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The whole story of the universe is implicit in any part of it. The meditative eye can look through any single object and see, as through a window, the entire cosmos.
Aldous Huxley (18941963), British novelist.