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hardware synths vs vst/vsti?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Guelph_Guy, Jan 10, 2016.

  1. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    ok...I'm curious , I currently have a rack of samplers and synths, a carry over from my midi days... (aka 5000, Roland 550) and more.

    I'm curious to know since the computers are getting far more powerful, and the vst's are getting so good , who has migrated to vst solutions and has abandoned hardware synth all together...?

    This is coming from my deep dive in Studio One and working with MAI THAI synth and presence XT.

    I'm starting to question the value of hardware solutions in My rack ... Yes my sample solutions for the hardware synth are pretty big (1300+ samples for the Roland alone, I've lost count of the Akai samples).

    So at this point, the value I see is that I can offload sample processing to hardware with the Akai's. To unburden the processor in the computer.. and I can leverage the analog filtering in the Akai's ...

    Anyhow, who's gone all out with vst synth and abandoned their hardware? Is there anything you miss?

  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I'm using both, but it depends if I'm recording an electronic style of music then I'll lean towards the vsti's...mainly because I'm spoilt for choice with the sample libraries I have aquired and theres literally thousands of sounds to choose from compared to what I have with the Korg synth.
    Sometimes it a combination of the two, it really depends on the style and what the track calls for.
    I have the Presonus Studio Grand collection which as you are aware is vsti, and this from someone who has a grand piano in the house.
    But if I really want the true authentic grand sound I'll mic up the real thing with a Rode NT-2A and Bobs' ya cross dressing aunty...
    I do like the full size keys with the Korg synth as opposed to the smaller keys on my midi controller as well, sometimes I just use the Korg as my midi controller.
    Some vsti's churn through more power than a Russian 60's-era nuclear sub
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, there's a few ways to look at it...

    These days, with technology and modeling growing as fast as it is, you'd be hard-pressed to not be able to find VSTi versions/libraries of most of the popular digital and classic synths - although, there's the debate as to whether a digital sample of something like a Roland Jupiter 8 analog synth, or a Prophet Five VSTi, would truly measure up to the real thing(s) sonically; it's the same debate that people have about analog hardware compressors and EQ's vs. the VST emulations of those pieces... and I'm not gonna pull that particular lever right now, I'm just giving you the angle from which to consider things.

    If you are using external synths/ tone modules, there's always the chance for latency/delay... not only in the midi data send rate (TRX), but also in the reaction time of the synth (RX) you are sending that midi data to.

    And, if you happen to be using MTC ( Midi Time Code) for any purpose - usually used to lay-over and record the audio outputs of the external synth to audio tracks on your DAW- and in sync with the DAW's project tempo - then you need to be a bit wary of that process - as MTC often has a "lag" to its syncro-start time.
    When using MTC with exterbal synths, it's not uncommon for engineers to add a few blank measures to the top of a DAW project, in order to allow the MTC enough time to sync with the DAW... because if you start the song right from 01:01:01 on the DAW's timeline, and if there are synth parts that are supposed to come right in with the start of the song, it would often result in "chopping off" the first few notes of the external synth(s).
    MTC isn't as commonly used as it used to be; neither is SMPTE for the same purpose, because internal VSTi's have made that external synth synchronization a thing of the past. But, there are still those who use this process.

    Now, the other side of that coin, is that using external synths/modules can really take the pressure off of your system's resources.
    VSTi's - depending on their quality - can be very CPU and RAM hungry, and can end up taxing the hell out of your system, especially if you have many instances of their use.
    This would include all VSTi's: synths, samples, sound FX, drum libraries, etc. The higher the quality of the sample, the more resources it will command from your system.

    These days, for the most part, I'm using internal VSTi's, and if they start to bog my system down, I generally export them as .wav files, and then re-import them as audio files... although I never delete the original midi files after this, because I want the option to be able to change parts if necessary, and as the song morphs. I just don't have these midi files assigned to anything. Raw, unassigned midi data tracks take up almost no memory at all, require next to no CPU power.
    It's when you assign that data to trigger a VSTi, that the "hunger" for power becomes part of the equation. It's not the midi data alone that taxes your system's resources, it's the VSTi you assign to that midi data that requires the power.

    As far as abandoning external syths; I have't gone that far. I still have a few Proteus mods in storage - and in the event that I'm not happy with any of the VSTi choices I have for a particular track or song, I have other things I can try, and maybe that one patch from that one rack-mount Emu I have will do the trick. ;)

    But, in all honesty, it's been quite some time since I've had to power any of them up; 95% of the time, I can find what I am looking for in a VSTi.

    FWIW :)

    kmetal likes this.
  4. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    Thanks Sean and Donny , I appreciate the input, Totally forgot about MTC ...!!!!(where was my head???)...

    I've been looking at my hardware, and realize that some of the gear has not been used in a few years (even when running Sonar)
    I've spent more time with Dimension pro, Rapture and z3ta+2., novation bass station vst..

    Yes, I understand what you're saying about "That one Patch"... and I do question how well VST's emulate.. I have yet to fine a VST for a Super Jx 10 that sounds as good as the "real deal". I also know my S-550s have that great 80's 12 bit "grittiness".

    However, my "gear hoarder" instinct is telling me I'll use them for something at sometime!!! The Akai's do punch really well..

    I've got EMU gear in the closet too.. Proteus .Donny did you ever grab the EMU library off Cakewalk for all of the EMU Synth?
    The patches run in Dimension D.... I grabbed them when they had a promotion on...

    What I do find interesting is up and coming composers/producers and Engineers are doing ALOT "in the box". Never to have heard ALOT of the hardware we had coveted during the 80's.. Super JX10, Wavestation AD/EX, M1 ,D50, dx7, Tx16.....Emulator 2, Oberheim matrix 6r,1000...The toolset is changing... and is evolving at a remarkable rate, I was looking at an OmniSphere video last night and was blown away ...(and its been around for awhile)

    I think the other reason we hold onto the gear is when we are composing, in our heads we hear it all, bass, melody, rhythm.... and because we have so much exposure to our gear we know instinctively where to look and tweak to get the sound we need..We hear those patches on our head and say "yep that's bank b patch 28".
    AHA !!!, now I know why I hoard gear...!!!!

    When the wavestation came out, I was hearing ads on the radio where I could actually identify the wavestation patches, heard them in documentaries as well.
    Same with the dx7 " tine" piano...

    Anyhow, my daughter has been "laying it down" in Ableton and has not bothered with the "hardware rack" I put together :((
    The other reason I question keeping gear...

    Anyhow, I need to make more room ....
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've heard various DX 7 VSTi libraries ... and they sound just as good ( or just as bad, depending on how you personally feel about that particular keyboard) as the real thing did. I mean does. Or, err... whatever.

    That being said, I put myself into the category of the latter.
    I lived through the period of the real various Yamaha DX FM synths ... in fact, I was working music retail part-time in its retail heyday ('85/'86) and I sold quite a few of them to my customers.
    (Not for lack of trying to talk them out of it though - LOL).

    I never drank the DX7 Kool Aid. Yeah, I understand it was huge. And I accept that it was a very successful keyboard model. I know, I was there, I saw the level of its acceptance and success.
    Every working keyboard player had one... (and a lot of non-working players had them, too).

    In short.... if I never heard the DX7 Rhodes patch ever again - or for that matter, the regular DX7 Piano patch, either - that would be just ducky with me. ;)

  6. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

  7. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    I know it ... The wavestation EX had this sweep in it that was pulsed and flanged at the same time ... I think that keyboard sold more for that one patch then it ever did for the balance of the patches in it ... (I still have one on the keyboard stand) Personally, I found the dx7 to sound weedy but that was my synth programming skills in the day... Sorry FM synthesis didn't really move me ...
    I remember the Korg M1 and the D50 to be pretty much the keys in the 80's as well ...both keyboards I enjoyed and they're not my main instrument.!!!
  8. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I still have an M1 packed away in storage under the bed.
  9. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    Heck , if I had the room, I'd hunt down a korg MIR and a wavestation AD rack versions...
  10. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    If I was to buy another Korg synth, it would be a triton
  11. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    I've got the triton Rack .. fully loaded all ebx slots are full.. It a club, eurodance machine in a 2 u rack and my favorite synth o I've got a Roland oFantom xr rack and a motif xs .. the triton whips the both
    Sean G likes this.
  12. Terry Leigh Britton

    Terry Leigh Britton Active Member

    Well, I have two Wavestations - an original keyboard I will forever use as a controller at the very least, and an SR rack module.

    I also have hundreds of patches for them, but no cards.

    I recently purchased (super-cheaply) the Korg Legacy Collection Wavestation VSTi, which comes with hundreds of patches from every card ever made and all sounds (waves) ever offered built right into the VSTi.

    It threatens to retire the use of the hardware versions entirely! It is soooo much easier to program and make changes to the presets "making them my own" than the hardware versions. It does NOT seem to load my existing sysex banks entirely accurately in all instances, however, which was a big letdown. (I might be doing something wrong, but the performances do not always point to the correct patches and waves.) Still, GADZOOKS does it make working with the instrument easier! With so many patches already, easy editing, the ability to have multiple instances running for ungodly polyphonic layering of sounds, and a very moderate CPU impact, it really takes the cake!

    The original Wavestation keyboard is indispensable for its joystick and, as I have the Korg foot pedal, I send out CC#4 to my host(s) and convert it to whatever I need (often to modwheel CC#1) and/or to my other H/W synths.

    The SR is likely going into the closet, but then again, the many uses its sounds have make it a nice "No-CPU-Hit" option to keep in there!

    I use Samplitude Pro X2 Suite, and connecting the synths as Aux Sends/Returns compensates for the latency perfectly, so no reason not to use my H/W synths.

    I also have an Ensoniq ESQm and Yamaha TX81Z in my rack, and use the Kawai K5000s additive synth as my main controller. Using MidiQuest I can finally really get great editing abilities and MANY more patches into those machines. (MidiQuest Pro includes great patch libraries for many of the synths via its online patch portal). Those synths are fun and definitely have their uses as well.

    (MidiQuest does not support the Wavestation parent/child relationships yet, so that is another reason to use the Korg VSTi versions for me.)

    *IF* I did more traditional arranging and multi-tracking (Keys/Pads/Bass/Drums/Lead/etc.), I would definitely use more of the sounds in the H/W rack to take the load off my CPU during live playing. But I mostly play/perform/compose using my synths as live layers or as left-hand/right-hand sound layers triggered from each of my two keyboard controllers.

    Otherwise - for certain - VSTi instruments have taken over my world. I am a huge fan of Linplug's instruments, and have Alpha3, Octopus, CrX4, MorphoX, Relectro, RMV5, Organ2 and most especially, Spectral, which is totally amazing for a "layered sound" freak like me. That and Samplitude's instruments - especially Independence - have me hooked! I use the about-to-be-released Cantabile 3 (available to Cantabile 2 owners only currently) as my host for creative experimentation.

  13. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    Yes, the wavestation ex here is basically being used as a controller, I was curious about the Korg legacy collection.. nice to know you're on here using it .. I'd consider getting it and retiring the ex (the keyboard not the wife) . I just had no insight as to how good the vsti is.
    I have no shortage of synths ..2 Korg t1, a novation remotesl 61, novation impulse, Yamaha kx8, wavestatipn and a super JX... I have gear lust that's on run away

    Thank you for you insight..
  14. Terry Leigh Britton

    Terry Leigh Britton Active Member

    You will definitely be delighted.

    I additionally (recently) picked up the Korg Legacy Collection M1 and Mono/Poly which are also extremely good renditions, easy to edit the patches, modulate with controllers, and tons of patches (downloadable from the same page you download the synths from). Same price as the Wavestation for each.

  15. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    All righty then, thanks for your input.. I've got to check this out
  16. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    On thing that gets attention lately, specially from those doing live gigs is Vst Hosts. A hardware that can receive your VST instruments and plugins and avoid computer problems..
    Seems like a good alternative !

    here's one of them : http://www.seelake.com/en/as-vstplayer.html
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I think the big advantage to the hardware is the dedicated controls. Mapping is tedious for me. Things like an mpc, and moog, maybe wurly and rhodes (to a lesser extent), In particular, I think cannot be duplicated in sound quite yet. That's said for was of use, and $ factors, and the sake of projects easily moving around, I use vsti's almost exclusively.

    Imo the most important thing is quality of samples, not quantity. There's millions of sample collections out there, most mediocre. Fishing thru menus, and lists is tedious. I prefer a smaller collection of high quality samples. Particularly drums and strings, which often create a big part of a rythym bed. Also with higher quality sample collections, you get far more authentic performance ability, helping to make your programming more 'realistic', if that's what your going for. Particularly wind instruments suffer in authenticity with lesser sample collections.

    That said the korg legacy is a nice collection, and propellor head Reason has the best stock samples of any vsti's I've used.

    Edit- plus with the integration of the daw you get layers and automation that is otherwise unattainable, or extremely painstaking.

    I will say that the hardware versions do usually have a bit of and edge in sonics in general, and if the synth part was the focus, or a main element, there might be some benefit to the hardware if time and acquisition allow.
  18. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    You are spot on Kyle...just last night I must have spent 8 hours just surfing through sample libraries to cull the odd high quality sample from the heard.
    It is very tedious, having to literally listen to every single sample to build your own sound library. And then you have to arrange them for easy reference, otherwise you just have to repeat the whole process in your own library just to find them again....but it is well worth it after you have listened to 30+ average samples to find that one diamond in the rough. There are times when you may have to download a whole bank for variety, but I try to avoid it where I can.

    I find its much better than opposed to downloading everything in an entire sample library...99% of which you probably will never use anyway, all the while clogging up valuable disk space and slowing down your DAW program on start-up while it loads up all these never-used samples into its browser.

    2.13GB....the amount of samples I had on HD before I took this approach to cull from the HD and cull from sample libraries before I DL'd new samples.
    kmetal likes this.
  19. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I find many still sound too synthi...especially the sax ones.
    Terry Leigh Britton and kmetal like this.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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