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What can a Real Analog Synth Do That a Software Synth Can't?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3 ... 12, 13, 14  Next [all]
Author What can a Real Analog Synth Do That a Software Synth Can't?
UltraViolet
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?
Franktree
Sound organic?
nigel
Nothing.

But I think you're asking the wrong question.
UltraViolet
nigel wrote:
Nothing.

But I think you're asking the wrong question.


Then what is the right question?
milkshake
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


And still sound good....


Aliasing can be a problem if you use distortion, fm, ringmod, Audio rate modulation of the filter etc all at the same time in a patch. Then aliasing can become audible in software synths. But most of the time I can't hear it.

Digital technology is growing up.
commodorejohn
Be an analog synth.
Pelsea
It's not a matter of can be done or not, it's what easily comes to hand. Further, it depends on the user's skills in either format. An experienced programmer can do practically anything with supercollider (for instance) or even low level code like Chuck. Those with no programming background can learn Max for basic things, but will more likely prefer fully cooked programs like Tassman or VCV. A DIY circuit guru can put together utility modules with ease and with some effort build entirely new functions, but the less handy will have to buy a lot of potentially expensive modules.

Leaving that aside, to answer the question we first look at what the user experience mavens call affordances. You know, the sign on the door that says "Pull" when the obvious thing to do is Push.

The affordances of physical modules are patch cords and knobs, with probably some touch plates or a traditional keyboard added in. The affordances of a program are pictures of cords and knobs, which you tickle with a mouse. This brings up the first thing you can do on a physical instrument that can't be done with a mouse: change two parameters at the same time. (Yes that is possible with MIDI control, but then you have a hybrid system.) You can also pop in a patch cord that was already connected at one end, or move it from one jack to another. So in the heat of battle, the physical instrument beats the completely virtual one.

In the preparation for performance, I have to give the nod to the virtual. For instance, you never run out of modules. Most emulations feature polyphony never dreamed of in the original, and you never have to send a frantic email to Analog Heaven to get a third VCA before the weekend performance. If you are working in the Max environment (and any VST or AU will run within Max) you can assemble sequencers up the wazoo, not to mention bring in techniques from chaos studies and artificial intelligence.

As for the sound, for a long time computer music had a certain blandness, because the synthesis worked too well. Sine waves were sine waves, balanced modulation was balanced modulation, all with mathematical precision. FM broke that mold a bit, but it was still pretty clinical, and only really took off in physical instruments. More recently, folks like Native Instruments started to pay attention to the right things and give us organic sounding applications like FM8 and Absynth.

Of course the computer world will always have a lead on types of synthesis because that's where techniques are invented. All the stuff in Braids, FM, waveguide modeling (Plonk and pluck), granular etc. existed in as code for decades before crossing over to modules. And I know some coders that still have new tricks up their sleeves. [controversial statement] Almost all of the analog circuits we use were invented by 1985, and all we are getting these days are tweaks of those designs.[/controversy]

So I say for me, some things are easier in the computer, others (especially real time performance) are easier in hardware, and I will continue to use both.
ignatius
my real analog synth doesn't have the internet so i don't waste time posting on forums when i use it. it also doesn't stop working when i update my mac. also, in 20 years when the manufacturer is not around anymore i can probably get it fixed if it breaks but all my software can be 'end of lifed' on a whim.

that being said, who cares. use what sounds good tp you and make music while you can.. you could get hit by a bus tomorrow
nigel
UltraViolet wrote:
nigel wrote:
Nothing.

But I think you're asking the wrong question.


Then what is the right question?

I would suggest, "Why do you prefer using your analog gear to a software synth?". Or vice-versa, I suppose. See Pelsea's reply for some useful answers.
Misk
nonlinearities and subtle timbral inconsistencies will still bring a powerful processor to it's knees. Try running a monophonic sequencer patch in Max with a sample vector size of "1".

Or, install reaktor on a bitchin fast computer with an great audio i/o and then bump the sample rate of some blocks patches up to 192k and watch your processor usage jump up to anywhere from 50-80%.

Shit I ponied up and own a Symbolic Sound Paca (Kyma's the only software I know of that processes DSP algorithms on a per-sample basis) and if you've put together a decent emulation of a duophonic complex oscillator (with various subtle distortion, drift, waveshaping, etc), I'll be lucky to run it at 44.1k samps without dropouts.

I do a lot of work inside the box still (fuck i invested in Kyma, I damn well better) — and there is so much complexity in even just gently cross-modulating a DPO that you don't even catch until you realize you've been listening to an open oscillator for 10 minutes and you haven't gone crazy.

I mean, I'm still looking forward to Massive X tho...
thetwlo
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?

touch it's knobs.
TACTILE!!!!
chrisso
Yes, moving several things at once (knobs, sliders etc).
There are more and more hardware controllers for software, but still, hardware outboard and synths can be more tac tile and immediate.
The big thing for me is variability and happy accidents.
Every aspect of software has to be designed by someone first.
With hardware, you can plug something in the wrong way, or there could be an old part trying to fail, or not performing properly any more. You could dial in a setting the hardware that goes beyond the pieces capability. These are all ways you can end up with unique sounds only you could have achieved (in the moment).
With software, some designer somewhere has had to pre-imagine every achievable sound.
Modern software tries to emulate being abused, failing parts etc... But it's not the same.
Both tools have worth, but I will never go ALL software.
Superaction80
Analog gear is a very good indicator to the audience that you’re not just firing songs off a playlist.
lisa
In the end, there is no relevant answer to this question. That’s why it’s being asked again and again and again forever and ever. meh

The only thing that matters is what gear you like to use and the music you make.
peripatitis
Classic Filters, distortion and perhaps feedback.
You will always get more options with a computer IF you care to put the time and effort.
Because the vst world is filled with a lot of dsp crapped aimed at being something like their hardware counterpart (in which case i'd say everything is better in the analogue world).
soundslikejoe
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


The instrumental performance of analog gear can't be equaled by software in terms of user interface or tactile organization. Software like Omnisphere has all of the functions... but even with a good hardware controller, the performance and playability of Omnisphere is limited compared to the way people wiggle knobs on analog.

It's a tactile thing... and mapping midi encoders or sliders just doesn't give you the same unified experience.
BugBrand
Tactility/interface & surprise - that's always been one of the real drivers for me. It always felt like you had to really work to get computers to surprise you but when you have a physical instrument with a load of variables (and of course you can adjust each one quickly without having to use a mouse) the sum becomes a wonderful play fight.
forestcaver
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


Heat the room.
chrisso
BugBrand wrote:
It always felt like you had to really work to get computers to surprise you


Exactly.
Blingley
Analog synths, especially older ones, can be used as battering rams in case of emergency.

forestcaver wrote:
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


Heat the room.


Oh please, my computer definitely runs hot enough to lower the heating bill. lol
forestcaver
Blingley wrote:
Analog synths, especially older ones, can be used as battering rams in case of emergency.

forestcaver wrote:
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


Heat the room.


Oh please, my computer definitely runs hot enough to lower the heating bill. lol


:-)
Muzone
Wood, s/w doesn't have (?give) wood like a decent analogue synth lol
wackelpeter
fart sounds?!? cool
lisa
BugBrand wrote:
It always felt like you had to really work to get computers to surprise you

Even with modular software like VCV or Max? Or unintelligible VST plugins like therapy?
luchog
I started working with software synths before starting to build a hardware synth. For me personally, the primary advantages of a hardware analog synthesizer are the interface, and the immediacy.

Others have already elaborated on the issues with software exceeding system resources, so all I'll say is that I had the same experiences there. Same with software suddenly becoming unusable due to OS updates or lack of developer support or whatever.

Same with the "happy accident" feature of analog synths.

But more than that, the result of playing an analog modular is that the interface is better, for the most part, than even using a good MIDI controller with a computer. Changing parameters, adding and removing functions, fine adjustments, and so on are, IME, easier and more controllable in hardware. They're more responsive, more obvious in what they're doing, and the results are more immediate than software.

Obviously, with the growth of digital modules the line between hardware and software is getting blurred, and modular synths can start acting more like computers, but I tend to avoid digital modules for precisely that reason.

A more subjective advantage is that a hardware synth feels more like a musical instrument to me. When I'm using software synths, it feels like I'm on a computer, the same as when I'm working, playing games, reading email, watching funny cat videos, writing MLP:FiM fanfiction, whatever. I'm in the computer mindset.

But when I'm playing with my hardware synth, it is much easier to get into a musical mindset, to feel like I'm playing music, rather than just playing with a device. I react to it the same as I do to playing piano or saxophone, I'm in the "making music now" headspace, and less likely to get distracted by other stuff on the computer.

Blingley wrote:

forestcaver wrote:
UltraViolet wrote:
What are things that you can do with your analog gear that either can't be done on a software synthesizer or would be very difficult to do on one?


Heat the room.


Oh please, my computer definitely runs hot enough to lower the heating bill. lol


My Mac especially. It's an early-2008 tower, with dual quad-core Xeon CPUs. Middle of winter and I have to crack the window open to keep from overheating in the studio, when I have it running interface and DAW while browsing synth tutorial videos online. Heats the room better than my small space-heater does, and probably uses more power in the process.
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