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Notes_Norton

Does anyone else prefer hardware MIDI modules to software synths?

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23 hours ago, Vernon Barnes said:

If you are lucky - I have several dead pieces of hardware. <...snip...>

I guess so. I have a dead battery on a TX81z, but I can load the patches via a data dump. I tried replacing the soldered in battery myself, which should have been a simple process, but it didn't work. It takes a minute to reload the patches so I'm not going to take the time to figure out what went wrong.

Other than that, everything works as if they were new.

Notes

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2 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

. . . I have a dead battery on a TX81z, but I can load the patches via a data dump. I tried replacing the soldered in battery myself, which should have been a simple process, but it didn't work.

I can relate!  A few years ago I looked inside one of my Casio VZ8m modules and decided I did not have the dexterity or skills to get to the battery and replace it.  Fortunately I had backed up my patches as sysex banks in pre-Cakewalk ProAudio *.wrk files--and they still work!

Can't do that with a VSTi/DXi that no longer works simply because its old.

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If I'm going to be recording a lot, I keep the TX81z plugged into the UPS and turned on. That way I don't have to reload the patches every day.

For my favorite solo modules, (Yamaha VL70m), I have the patches burned into ROM and inserted into the units. Some engineers in a wind synthesizer group I belong to figured out how to do that.

That's great because the VL is a physical modeling synth. It models cup mouthpieces, single reed mouthpieces, double reeds, picked strings, bowed strings and so on. Then sends that to the various resonator models, tubes, cones, boxes, etc. After that to the dampers, bells, bridges, and so on.

The result is a synthesized instrument that plays, feels, and sounds like a sax, guitar, flute, violin, trumpet, trombone, harmonica and so on.

This is one sound module I would hate to lose because there is nothing close, either hardware or software. I take them on the gig with me and use them with my Wind MIDI controller.

Notes

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I bought one of these a long time ago... actually I traded in my YAS-32 sax for it (still regret that :(  ) - but it's great for both saving/restoring patches & also playing sequences.

image.png.871d8b5bae7d7d7d49a00665a3c6c3f7.png

It also worked great in the studio. I could sequence all my keys at home, "bounce" it to the data-disk then sync it up to the BRC in an ADAT system. Random access to anywhere in the song on the ADAT worked a treat. The only downside was manually entering tempo maps into the BRC.

For live, I'd store each song as a combination of sysex/patch changes so that my whole rig was set up exactly how I wanted in around 2-3 secs.

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I've been programming a Montage for live use... and have really been enjoying the synth-engine.

Unlike past units, there's no separate "single-patch" and "multi-patch" paradigm.

All patches are "Performances".  Each performance can use up to 8 internal parts (individual sounds).

Each individual sound can be comprised of up to 8 "elements" (oscillators)... with some advanced triggering/switching options.

Not as flexible as Kontakt, but you can setup some advanced/detailed sounds.

If you're working with your own samples, John Melas' "Waveform Editor" is a tremendous help... as is Sample Robot.

 

I like having a balance of hardware and software synths.

Each have strengths/weaknesses.

 

 

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On 3/21/2020 at 11:13 AM, msmcleod said:

I bought one of these a long time ago... actually I traded in my YAS-32 sax for it (still regret that :(  ) - but it's great for both saving/restoring patches & also playing sequences.

image.png.871d8b5bae7d7d7d49a00665a3c6c3f7.png

It also worked great in the studio. I could sequence all my keys at home, "bounce" it to the data-disk then sync it up to the BRC in an ADAT system. Random access to anywhere in the song on the ADAT worked a treat. The only downside was manually entering tempo maps into the BRC.

For live, I'd store each song as a combination of sysex/patch changes so that my whole rig was set up exactly how I wanted in around 2-3 secs.

I owned one of those (years ago).

Used it a lot...

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So my question is how do u get cakewalk to recognize as audio the sounds you record from hardware tone generators. I have an mAudio 2 x 4, Tascam interface, midi wind controller. My hardware sounds include a Yamaha VL70m, Yamaha VL1m, 2 Yamaha EX5rs. The midi info records into the Cakewalk program but the external sounds dont. Any ideas? 

Thank you

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I use an audio to usb interface from the output of the synth to th e input of the computer. The ones I use are old Edirol models, long discontinued, nothing fancy, works with standard windows drivers (I think it's a UA-1A but not sure, it's buried behind the rack).

Notes

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Posted (edited)
On 7/11/2020 at 8:36 PM, jack said:

So my question is how do u get cakewalk to recognize as audio the sounds you record from hardware tone generators. I have an mAudio 2 x 4, Tascam interface, midi wind controller. My hardware sounds include a Yamaha VL70m, Yamaha VL1m, 2 Yamaha EX5rs. The midi info records into the Cakewalk program but the external sounds dont. Any ideas? 

Thank you

Any standard USB audio interface will work. If your hardware tone generators have stereo audio outputs then you will need at least a module with 2 inputs. Run your hardware audio outputs into the audio interface.

Once an audio interface is installed on your PC, Cakewalk will recognize those inputs as available to assign to audio tracks. Enable record on them and you're good to go.

Edited by abacab

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Posted (edited)

An interesting thread, when it comes to keyboards, I have never used or owned any dedicated hardware, no sound modules, synths or hardware of any kind, neither have I ever played a real piano. I have only ever known a midi controller and VST. In the early days, I always thought the sound was lacking, I could never get it to sound like the sounds I heard on the radio or what others were producing. What I was missing was the experience of using those sounds and how they were constructed, so I had nothing to use as a reference for creating the sound on my system. It's only with time that I have developed sounds that I am satisfied with through experimentation. That's because I have never played keyboards in a band for example.

It's different with guitars because I have played a lot of real guitars in different genre's and different bands and before I came to the computer, I already had a good reference to call upon to create a good sound, I knew what I needed to do, where the sound needed to go.

I've been using brass and woodwind in my recent stuff but I am unhappy with it, trying to get the sax sound as in Sade type music....complete fail, because I am not a Saxaphone player, I don't have the experience or skills to duplicate that sound, to make it sound authentic. I can get away with some short notes and embellishment but I can't get it to sound like a real player because I don't have the background to do that.

The other thing is also that when you hear a sound of an instrument you don't know how to play on a produced recording, your not hearing the instrument sound, you are hearing the "mixed" sound. Took a while for that to sink in. In a busy mix, the guitars and pianos sound thick and rich, but when you drop the bass out and the other instruments, they sound thin, trebly and brittle because they have been mixed into their space, above the bass.

I think this may be why modern pop music has evolved the way it has, with electronic (midi grid based) drums, synth bass, and piano's, synths etc because it is easier and cheaper for someone new to music to get good results quickly, even if they don't have any experience with playing real instruments.  They just need to up their synth/piano skills or maybe, like Deadmau5 not even bother to do that, just use pre packed midi chords and experiment moving the notes around on the piano roll. Doing his tutorials was a real eyeopener for me, he basically just throws stuff at the piano roll without much theoretical knowledge or experience at playing real instruments and can get a good finished product in his genre of music. When you look at acoustic drums, guitar bass and guitars, piano's with brass and woodwind or even orchestral stuff, that is much harder to duplicate unless you have the actual background of playing the real instrument.

 

Edited by Tezza

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Back in the '90s I used CW mostly as a tool to drive my external MIDI gear (Alesis DM5, Emu Proteus 1, Alesis Quadrasynth, etc.). Recorded vox and pre-processed guitar onto audio tracks. Didn't do any fx or mixing in the box, just ran a couple of channels of audio from CW through an Echo Gina to an external mixer, and drove the MIDI gear live into the same mixer. FX were done with hardware units also attached to the mixer.

About 10 years ago I deleted all of the hardware and my MIDI interface and threw them in a box in my closet. Since then I do everything in the computer -- synths, fx, guitar/amp modelling, mixing, automation, pseudo-mastering, etc. Have a 49 key keyboard (AKAI) for playing synths, but I mostly draw what I want in the PRV. Couldn't be happier; the results are near enough to 'pro' quality, which was never going to happen with an external hardware solution ($$$). There's no futzing around with saving and recalling presets on various hardware, I can automate faders, pans, and everything else, and years later I can load up a project and it sounds just like it did when I last worked on it. No trying to re-match whatever the hw config was back when I originally recorded.

I still have a pair of Mackie mixers in my setup, mostly because I already had them. One of them provides a convenient way to send different things to the audio input without rewiring, the other gives me live monitoring of my vocal recording (with fx in the monitor) while listening to the track playback in parallel. Also serves as a handy volume knob for the speakers/headphones. But neither are necessary; could certainly do it all with just a 2x2 usb interface and a laptop - though a desktop with 3 screens is certainly more pleasant.

Great time to be alive!

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Hmm...  I thought I had already replied!  And there it is, way back on page one.  Guess I'm done here! 😏

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Posted (edited)

Neither do I. I would love to sit down at a restaurant and play a couple of jazz songs (Vince Jones style) on the house piano with vocals, then go back to my dinner. The classier the restaurant the better. The truth is, I don't have one to practice on and they feel completely foreign to my midi keyboard, I can play on the keyboard but the piano terrifies me. They are loud with heavy keys and pedals, mistakes would abound. The closest I can come is with Pianoteq by Modart, which is very expressive. When I move back into the house, getting a piano is high on the list. Making the jump from midi keyboard to piano, just to play a couple of songs well, I don't know, it might take 2 weeks or it might take 6 months.

Edited by Tezza
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Posted (edited)

Just looking at these Jurassic romplers gives me a warm digitally fuzzy feeling!

 

MT-32.png

korg-wavestation-sr-xl.png

unnamed.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present . . . my 1990's.

Edited by emeraldsoul

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That MT32 has about a dozen great sound in it that haven't been duplicated by more modern forms of synthesis. The MT uses "Linear Arithmetic" synthesis where sampled attacks are used over synthesized sounds.

The old FM synthesizers like the TX81z and the DX7 make some melodic percussion sounds like vibes and some electric piano sounds that also hold up to the test of time.

My VL70m which uses "Physical Modeling" synthesis can emulate a saxophone better than any other sound module I've ever tried, and I am a sax player.

The secret to recreating acoustic and acoustic/electric instrument sounds in MIDI isn't as much about the tone as it recapturing the nuances that those instruments allow the player to exploit.

The trick is to listen intensely, not to the tone, but to the notes and all all their variations. You will hear sax players often scoop up to pitch, variable vibrato speed and intensities often on the same note, which way the vibrato varies from center pitch (mostly under for sax lip vibrato and mostly over for guitar finger vibrato), the ornaments the instruments use and so on.

Different forms of synthesis are better at emulating different instruments.

Here is a synthesized sax clip. The tone is thin because it was recorded in 2004 with a pre-iPod Archos Juke Box with its internal mic hung out near the PA speaker on the gig. clip

It was done with a Yamaha WX5 wind MIDI controller and a Yamaha VL70m synthesizer. Even with the think tone it sounds more like a sax than any other type of synthesis. Everything but the vocals is played on synths.

Here's one I did with the VL70m in 2008 emulating a lead guitar. This was also done on the Archos so the sound is tinny. As above everything but the vocals is synthesized clip

It's more about expression than tone. After all Jimmy Page sounds good on his LP, a Tele and even a Danelectro. Hendrix sounded great on his Epiphone too.

By having a rack full of FM, LA, ROM based, and other forms of synthesis, all with a latency of about 6 or so ms, I can mix and match, taking the most appropriate sounds from each synth and mixing them without having to time shift any tracks to compensate for different amounts of latency on different software synths, and with no load on the computer CPU to make the sounds so I can even record at a higher bit rate if I want to.

Someday computers will be fast enough to match the speed of the old hardware modules, and that's when I'll switch.

Notes

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I just prefer external midi gear - synths and modules.

- it usually is real fun and nice way of making own sounds - knobs on everything - does not compare to VST instruments

- less load on cpu, but takes more analog inputs on computer - until recorded to audio clips

- and usually a power on button - and sit and fool around a bit - lower threashold to actually use the gear

 

Drums and some sample libraries are inevitable though. Everything that requires tweaking - EXTERNAL.....

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I'm just not a pro knob tweaker.

I love using the XY mixers and the vector mixer in Rapture Pro to shift balance between the different sounds.

Even after all these years, I don't spend weekends futzing with synth sounds, but I do spend weekends playing synths.

Rapture Pro with a touch screen has really kept me very happy.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/6/2019 at 11:35 AM, Notes_Norton said:

First of all, there is more than one right way to make music, and my way might not be best for anyone else. But I'm curious.

Does anyone else prefer hardware MIDI modules to software synths?

It seems like it's getting more and more difficult to find good hardware synth modules. Yet there are plenty of soft-synths available.

The way I see it is this:

  1.  Hardware MIDI synths last forever. I have a Yamaha TX81z, a Korg DS-8 and a Roland MT-32 that were manufactured when PCs still used DOS-5 or maybe Windows 3.1, Atari/ST computers had built in MIDI ports, and Mac computers used Motorola CPUs. Some of the sounds on these modules are stale, but others are stellar and have no contemporary equal. Plus how many software synths from that era still work today? Zero. How many software synths have been orphaned when computer OS systems evolved? Plenty
  2. Hardware synths store all their sounds in ROM. Software synths must 'do the math' creating every note, every nuance, and every articulation while the sequence is playing. This taxes the computer's CPU which is also running the DAW and perhaps other background jobs
  3. Since all the sounds in hardware synths are stored in ROM, the latency is negligible and they all run about 5ms plus or minus 1ms. I've seen some software synths that have a latency of almost a half second.
  4. Since there is no tax on the CPU and since all the hardware synths have the same latency I can mix sounds from my rack of 10 or more synths. I can pick the best snare drum for the song from one module, the best kick drum from another, the best bass from another the best guitar from another the best trumpet from another the best sax section from another and do on. They will all be in sync.
  5. With practically zero latency I can add track after track in real time while the old ones are playing and have the new track in sync.
  6. With zero load on the CPU for sounds, the hardware synths can be better sounding or better responding. I have yet to see any software synth that can do what the physical modeling Yamaha VL70m can do -- and it's been discontinued for years. The nuances it can reproduce are light years ahead of any sample or sample-modeling synth.

Through the years I have added new synth modules while my ancient stone-age sound modules still contribute to my mixes.

To be fair, there are also advantages to software synths.

With all the talk about software plug-ins, sometimes I feel like a dinosaur. Are there any other dinosaurs out there?

Notes

Yup.  Just came back to recording after retiring. Won't go through all the issues of the older PC recording unit running EMU 1820m under XP (love that audio interface and intend to keep it while upgrading everything else....I think. All working under Windows 8.1 pro 64 bit but can't recrod higher that 48k. Unit has capability of going to 192k. SOme difference between XP and Windows 7 and above.  I have tone modules and keyboards. They are reliable and all have on-board processing for effects. Mine are the Korg Trinity Pro keyboard, Trinity Rack, Korg O3r/W, EMU Proteus PK6 keyboard loaded, Proteus 2000 loaded, Ultra Proteus, EMU Emulator 6400 , E-Synth, Voce tone wheel organ simulator, Midiverb 4, TWO Qyadraverb 2.  

Will be building a  new computer in late September or early October. Looking at the Intel i910900 processor or possibly the yet to be released Ryzen 4000 series for desktop, depending on single and dual core latencies. ... and price.  I would prefer to run Windows 8.1 pro 64 as I know it works with my EMU 1820m. I may have to go to an earlier version of Windows 10 (1709) build) that supposedly also works. I do not want to have to buy a replacement card. This bugger has the same A/D D/A converters Pro Tools used. I have a PCIe to PCI adapter that I am told works well. Might need to modify the case slightly. 

So.... that what is there and likely upcoming.  In the interim, I am recording a simple Christmas Song (Silent Night) to familiarize myself with the DAW. So far so good. Everything talks nicely. 

Edited by O.K. Johnson
add a sentence and clarification

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15 minutes ago, O.K. Johnson said:

I am recording a simple Christmas Song

Can't believe that you dropped the C bomb in July........

 

Go and hang your head in shame.😎

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