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Michael McBroom

Multi-Timbral Synths?

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Cakewalk's TTS-1 is the best multi-timbral synth that I know of. But I would like to find others that have instruments besides the standard set of MIDI instruments. So far, I haven't found any worth mentioning that are available for a reasonable price (say from Free to under $100). I'm sure they exist though. Care to mention any of your favorites?

I'm interested in finding other multi-timbral synths in order to keep the overhead to a minimum. Sure, I can stack mono-timbral synths, but with the increased overhead, which can range from mild to substantial.

 

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https://www.roland.com/global/products/sound_canvas_va/

I think you can still get it for 150.00. you can also rent it but that is not cost-efficient of course. It has loads of stuff. Probably the best synth of its type in the world.

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A "multitimbral" synth is just a "synth" (or sample playback application virtual instrument) capable of producing more than one voice/timber. It would be hard to find a synth that does not qualify these days--given that even dedicated single instrument packages often give you some flexibility to filter the sound and add effects.  If you are looking for cheap and capable of playing a large variety of sounds you might want to pick up a free soundfont player and scouring the web for the thousands of soundfont samples available for free or very low cost. Google "free soundfont players" and "free soundfonts" and you will be very rapidly overwhelmed. Alternatively you can find plenty of free "samplers" (or sample players as not all of these applications actually allow you to record and edit your own samples) that will load standard sound file formats like wave and look for free or low cost sample libraries--these are probably more common these days than soundfonts. General MIDI is a spec that deliberately limits the number of "instruments" available and most implementations do not contain anything exotic. TTS-1 is a pretty capable general midi instrument, but it was designed to give newbies access to a bunch of instruments in an easy to manage package. I think most people are using it as a sketchpad rather than trying to wow their audience with its greatness. If you want to make a career out of mastering a truly massive instrument limited only by the imagination and the bank account , then you probably need to spend several hundred dollars on a monster like Kontakt, but the learning curve and price point for these "samplers" is high. 

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11 hours ago, Michael McBroom said:

Cakewalk's TTS-1 is the best multi-timbral synth that I know of. But I would like to find others that have instruments besides the standard set of MIDI instruments. So far, I haven't found any worth mentioning that are available for a reasonable price (say from Free to under $100). I'm sure they exist though. Care to mention any of your favorites?

I'm interested in finding other multi-timbral synths in order to keep the overhead to a minimum. Sure, I can stack mono-timbral synths, but with the increased overhead, which can range from mild to substantial.

 

I'm interested to know how mildly and how substantially overhead might be increased by stacking a mono-timbral synth.

Also, I wonder if a multi-timbral synth can run multi-threaded.

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9 hours ago, slartabartfast said:

A "multitimbral" synth is just a "synth" (or sample playback application virtual instrument) capable of producing more than one voice/timber.

Not much of a synth/MIDI expert myself, but I'm guessing the OP means a soft synth capable of playing a bunch of different instruments simultaneously on different MIDI channels. I'm vague on the terminology but would that be "multivoice?" Or some other "multi-?"

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4 hours ago, Larry Jones said:

Not much of a synth/MIDI expert myself, but I'm guessing the OP means a soft synth capable of playing a bunch of different instruments simultaneously on different MIDI channels. I'm vague on the terminology but would that be "multivoice?" Or some other "multi-?"

@Larry Jones is correct. 

Multitimbral means being able to play more than one instrument simultaneously - examples are TTS-1 (16 part), Kontakt (16 part as a VST, 64 part standalone), Omnipshere (8 part), AIR XPand! 2 (4 part).

Most VSTi's are Monotimbral - i.e. they can play many different sounds, but only one voice or part at once. The reason I say part is because you may be able to layer sounds, but they're usually playing the same note as the others - in other words, on a monotimbral synth you can't play a completely different set of notes on a different MIDI channel.

Not to be confused with Polyphonic and Monophonic, which relate to how many notes they can play simultaneously.

And of course, just to confuse, there's Paraphonic as well... many notes, but only one envelope/filter.

[Edit] - To answer the OP, I use this which is free:  http://veg.by/en/projects/syxg50/

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On 1/21/2020 at 2:51 AM, msmcleod said:

Multitimbral means being able to play more than one instrument simultaneously

Thanks for clearing that up for me, @msmcleodMark. Generically, I've always thought timbre refers more or less to tone, which led me to think that "multitimbral" would refer to a voice or an instrument with many different tonal facets, as opposed to completely different voices or instruments singing and playing completely different notes and rhythms.

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I would vote for:

NI Kontakt 6 Player Free with 16 channels, 16 parts (free with limited free factory library, but with access to purchase additional "Powered by Kontakt" libraries from NI).

AIR Xpand!2 with 2500+ sounds,   with 4 channels, 4 parts. Currently $14.99 at Plugin Boutique, but various deals can be found.

Followed by SampleTank 4 SE starting at $149 with 30 GB of samples and 2000 sounds and 16 channels, 16 parts.

Upgrade to full Kontakt  6 starts at $399 unless you have a crossgrade eligible product, so that is not as budget friendly. More factory sounds, and access to a number of free or discounted 3rd party libraries.

 

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Thanks much for your replies, guys. I've been  quite busy these past few days and this is the first chance I've had to check back in. Looks like I have some homework to do. Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check into them.

I agree that the term 'multitimbral' can be misunderstood, but this is the term that is used when one is referring to a synth that can play more than one track or part or instrument at a time.

On 1/20/2020 at 11:34 PM, bvideo said:

I'm interested to know how mildly and how substantially overhead might be increased by stacking a mono-timbral synth.

Also, I wonder if a multi-timbral synth can run multi-threaded.

My DAW is an older machine that still has respectable numbers -- on the surface at least. It has a quad core AMD processor and 16 GB RAM, and I learned recently that the thing to look for in multi-core processors, especially when they'll be used in a DAW application, is the speed of the individual cores. I think that's where my machine is taking a hit. I haven't run a test on it yet, but it's the only thing I can think of that will explain the overhead issues I'm experiencing with some of my larger pieces of music. I've found that some synths have more demand on resources than others and that when I stack them, I quickly run into overhead issues -- Rice Krispies in the playback (snap, crackle, pop, donchaknow) and even playback audio dropouts. When I incorporate audio tracks the problem quickly becomes worse.

I don't know what you mean by "multi-threaded," unless you mean multitimbral.

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If your computer is taking a serious hit, then a few considerations that would possibly help would be defragmenting older HDD drives. Having sample based synth libraries on a second drive. Adjusting playback buffers in your interface, removing unnecessary programs, especially virus software that has a check in/scan routine. If the scan kicks in while recording it can cause issues. More recent computers are less prone to becoming overloaded, but not impervious to it. Win 7 is no longer supported. Cakewalk dropped support for it too.

If playing back midi recordings coupled to synths, you may freeze the tracks into audio and save valuable cpu. Audio interface and drivers are also often an issue. Asio has historically been the most reliable drivers for Cakewalk even though Cakewalk has invested considerable time in making sure WASAPI drivers can be used. The most recent update to Cakewalk includes some work with WASAPI. 

To get into working with synths the AIR  synthproducts are inexpensive,capable and sound pretty good including Xpand2! Awhile back I bought some of the AIR synths and kept getting a scan lock in my vst folder for Xpand2. I downloaded it but never bought it, so to avoid the scan error I bought it finally. I was surprised by what it is capable of. AIR synths were originally made for Pro Tools by a 3rd party. They branched out and now sell those as vst to anyone.

Xpand2 works similar to some other synth "shells" that allow you to load up multiple synths in one instance. Kontakt will do similar but is much more complex allowing you to use independent midi channels to trigger different sounds within that "shell". The benefit to Kontakt is it can load 3rd party written for it. 

A company called Plugin Guru has a new invention out called UNIFY that is a shell which allows you to load any synth from any vendor. Kind of unique in that respect. Comes with some interesting synths already loaded. UNIFY is really a lot more than just a shell. Sampletank 4 is a shell for IK sounds.

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40 minutes ago, Michael McBroom said:

I don't know what you mean by "multi-threaded," unless you mean multitimbral.

If a VSTi supports multi-threading, it means can use all of the CPU's cores. The majority of VSTi's do not support multiple cores (i.e. they'll just use the one).

Cakewalk's plugin load balancing won't help here, as it only applies to VST effects.

If you've got  the Performance module enabled in the control bar, and the first core is showing much more activity than the others then its a good indication that your VSTi's (or at least some of them) aren't able to use more than one core.

To get around this you can use multiple instances of the VSTi - e.g. for a 16 part piece on a 4 core CPU, use 4 instances where the first instance uses parts 1-4, then second instance 5-8 etc. This should more evenly spread the load across your CPU cores.


 

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Why not just buy Rapture session? It's a powerful synth once you've learned to master it's oscillators. There's thousands of presets to choose from, and that you can buy. 

Z3ta is another powerful synth. 

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/By-Category/Virtual-Instruments

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Rapture

https://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Z3TA/Buy-Now

Everything sounds big.

 

Edited by _Will_

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2 hours ago, _Will_ said:

Why not just buy Rapture session? It's a powerful synth once you've learned to master it's oscillators. There's thousands of presets to choose from, and that you can buy. 

Z3ta is another powerful synth. 

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/By-Category/Virtual-Instruments

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Rapture

https://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Z3TA/Buy-Now

Everything sounds big.

 

Why not? Well try buying one yourself and let us know how you go :)

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9 minutes ago, ensonced said:

Why not? Well try buying one yourself and let us know how you go :)

Yeah! Bad ears right? 🙂 been using it for years!

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7 minutes ago, _Will_ said:

Yeah! Bad ears right? 🙂 been using it for years!

Did anyone else hear that 'swooshing' sound like something going over your head? ;)

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3 minutes ago, ensonced said:

Did anyone else hear that 'swooshing' sound like something going over your head? ;)

Nah! just you. 🥺 bad ears.

Edited by _Will_

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12 hours ago, msmcleod said:

If a VSTi supports multi-threading, it means can use all of the CPU's cores. The majority of VSTi's do not support multiple cores (i.e. they'll just use the one).

Cakewalk's plugin load balancing won't help here, as it only applies to VST effects.

If you've got  the Performance module enabled in the control bar, and the first core is showing much more activity than the others then its a good indication that your VSTi's (or at least some of them) aren't able to use more than one core.

To get around this you can use multiple instances of the VSTi - e.g. for a 16 part piece on a 4 core CPU, use 4 instances where the first instance uses parts 1-4, then second instance 5-8 etc. This should more evenly spread the load across your CPU cores.


 

Useful info here!

But just to clear up my understanding about scheduling VSTi's?

Normally there's just one VSTi serving any audio (synth) track. That is to say, the "synth rack" for that track  only has one item in it, not a stack. This is clearly different from the case where an FX rack with multiple audio effects serves a single track (or bus). My understanding of plugin load balancing is that each audio effect in such a rack could get a thread simultaneously. That per track concept of load servicing does not even apply to synths.

Your last paragraph implies a slightly different concept for synths; it doesn't sound like there is anything preventing running simultaneous threads on individual synths in the synth rack (it's global). In this sense, doesn't it make sense to say there is load balancing among the synths in the synth rack (and there probably always has been)? In this view,  for a synth instance that has multiple parts, a single thread has to serve all the parts, even if the parts are directed to separate audio tracks (i.e. for the majority of VSTis, not supporting multithreading). Are there situations where Cakewalk would do multithreading to a VSTi that supports it?

That would clear up most of my question (post 5?) about "overhead" of stacking synths. RAM is another part of the equation. For a VSTi that can support multiple ins & outs, how much difference in RAM does it take for multiple instances each with a single voice vs. a single instance with multiple voices. The code part should be shared. For a sampler, if samples can be shared between instances, I imagine there is relatively not a whole lot of difference. But how about for a synth like TTS-1? Does it wind up using a lot more memory for multiple instances?

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15 hours ago, _Will_ said:

Why not just buy Rapture session? It's a powerful synth once you've learned to master it's oscillators. There's thousands of presets to choose from, and that you can buy. 

Z3ta is another powerful synth. 

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/By-Category/Virtual-Instruments

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Rapture

https://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Z3TA/Buy-Now

Everything sounds big.

 

Well duh! Cakewalk went out of business in November 2017. Those products are no longer for sale. :(

https://help.cakewalk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360021858293-What-happened-to-Cakewalk-SONAR-What-happens-to-everything-I-paid-for-

 

Edited by abacab
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