Virtual Instrument Software, Some Great, Some OK

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by LSchefman, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Typical of me...I sell off gear thinking I'm no longer in the business, and then I get projects in the door. I already had MOTU Mach Five (this is a very powerful tool), and like it, but needed more stuff to do the projects. Of course, my shopping budget is tight, so instead of new hardware...

    Software to the rescue. I tried these software synth things, bought some, tested others:

    Crystal - Free software. Yes, free. Powerful, sounds good, but uses a LOT of computer processing power. Unless you have a dual processor machine, you won't get the most out of it.

    MX4. Motu's software. Uses less horsepower from the computer than crystal, sounds great, easy to get around on. Very cool rhythmic things synced to tempo, plus arpeggiation, etc. After demoing it, I'm buying it today. It's a really nice product.

    Motu Symphonic Instrument. Bread-and-butter orchestral sounds, easy to use, and the sounds are substantially better than what comes on most keyboards, but are limited in number. Still, this is an effective tool for writing and the sounds are good enough to be useful in a track. By way of comparison, I formerly did my orchestral writing with my old Kurzweil 2500 simply for speed and ease of selection, and then printed the final tracks with my higher end samples, which took longer to select. With this tool, you don't have to do that. What you write with is usable. There just aren't enough sounds for me to say, "wow, this is IT." But I no longer have the 2500, or my 2000, so it's a reasonable substitute, and I have Mach Five to load samples from my libraries. Uses a lot of processing power, tho. Still, I bought it.

    Native Instruments Absynth. Great sound, presets are very..um...creative...but brought my computer to its knees.

    EQ/Dynamics - Tested ChannelStrip. I'm not sure about this one. On some things, it's good, on others merely okay. I think I like the Waves stuff better. Maybe I'm just used to it, since I've had it for years.

    So that's my report.
     
  2. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Very helpful!
    Anyone used Soundfonts with Fruity Loops? I have the setup but haven't quite divined how to use 'em.
     
  3. elambo

    elambo Member

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    The most powerful plugin synths I've used to date are:

    -Ivory (piano - I can't say enough about this. As close to the real thing as it's gonna get for a while. Bosendorfer, Steinway D, Yamaha C7)

    -East West Symphonic Orchestra (Recorded by Keith O. Johnson, and it's tremendous. If your arrangement is strong and you take your time tweaking the MIDI, it will give you a recording that truly sounds like the real thing. BEST sounding plugin I own, although Ivory comes very close)

    -BFD (drum software. Plenty of kits to choose from, especially if you buy the expansions. New one recorded by Steve Albini here in Chicago. Recorded very well and can be infinitely adjusted and separated for a perfect mix. Again, take your time and it will sound as real as it gets.)

    I use hardware boxes less and less as time passes. Sonically, the software stuff is simply better. But it takes a lot of memory and CPU horsepower to keep a session running smoothly. It would be impossible to run the above three plugins in one session with a moderate amount of simultaneous MIDI notes. No computer on the market now can keep up. Some people have dedicated computers for East West Symph, even for Ivory. But ProTools 7 is coming soon and it's supposed to be up to 150% more efficient than version 6 for plugins like this. That should make things a little easier or us.

    The hardware boxes aren't going in my closet anytime soon because they're fast and don't eat up the computer's horsepower.
     
  4. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I forgot to mention one other I really like: Spectrasonics makes one called Atmosphere, which I bought and find extremely useful for scoring work.

    Eric Persing created it, and IMHO he's one of the best sound guys out there, with tons of great history. I usually love his stuff, which includes the roland sample library, many of their synths, the truly inspiring distorted reality series, etc.

    Not your basic bread and butter synth sounds for music, but truly interesting atmospheric stuff, hence the name. Perfect for films, ads, etc.
     
  5. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Good call. If I see Eric's name on something, I typically buy it. And you're right - he's one of the best in that business and his products never fail. Spectrasonics discs are in heavy rotation at my studio. Not only do they sound great, but they're *smart*. If you've used them, you'll know what I mean by that, and it makes using them easier and keeps you more productive.
     
  6. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Lovely synth plug, that.
     
  7. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I may never buy another hardware synth again, but ya know what I miss? Having a rack of cool looking hardware in the studio. :)
     
  8. elambo

    elambo Member

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  9. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    I'm really diggin Atmosphere...

    I have Native Instruments 'Kontakt' on the way to my house, so I want to play around with that before getting any additional software textures and sounds.

    BFD... I LOVE IT!!

    Waves... spectacular! Easy to use and their stuff sounds stellar. Love R-Verb!!!
     
  10. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>Fill the blank spaces with a few of these<<

    They're cute, but there's something about real gear I kinda like.
    :D
     
  11. elambo

    elambo Member

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    They ARE real (shh, don't tell my clients).
     
  12. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    While on the subject of soft synths, can you guys recommend a good B3/Leslie synth?
     
  13. Sofus

    Sofus Member

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    One the B3/Leslie question, I prefer the USB Charlie it is sample based, the NI B4 is pretty cool to imo.
     
  14. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    That's the one I use. VERY cool plug.

    I record the MIDI in two passes: one where I play and use a MIDI continuous controller pedal as the expression/swell control, then a second pass with just a MIDI sustain pedal adding the automation for Leslie fast/slow. If you're in PT be sure to have "MIDI Merge" enabled so you don't erase the first pass.

    I suppose I could do all three at the same time but I don't. I've always been a piano player first and foremost, just a little B3 experience by comparison, and I find this method more intuitive.

    Then when I record the MIDI to audio in PT I manipulate the drawbars at the right spots while it plays back. Add a touch of room ambience you'd swear it was a B3.

    I love it. Beats the hell out of anything else I've tried, short of the real thing. And believe me, I've tried them all.
     

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