A software synthesizer, or soft synthesizer for short, is a computer program used in music production to perform sound synthesis . Either be hardware - Synthesizer adjusted mathematically (simulated) or sounds generated generic. It is counted among the software instruments .
The first synthesizers on computers were already on home computers in the early 1980s . a. with the C64 synthesizer and the Synthimat . These were played on the computer keyboard and in some cases could even process MIDI , especially on the Atari ST and, with extensions or DIY conversions, also on the C64 . In the mid-1990s, personal computers also became powerful enough to make software synthesizers playable via a MIDI keyboard with little delay. For both home computers and the first PCs, the sound generation mostly required a sound card with integrated sound synthesis based on a sound chip . Only occasionally was the sound output directly to the ports, e.g. B. as PWM with a downstream low pass . At the same time, the first studio equipment that used general audio signal processors, such as the 56301, developed . This was built into both keyboards and sound cards.
In the 2000s, due to increasing computing power, PCs were increasingly able to carry out sound synthesis entirely in software, with only the DA conversion being used by the sound card. This made such programs very popular. Since then, they have increasingly replaced and supplemented the much more expensive and often heavy-weight hardware synthesizers in large recording studios. Many synthesizer programs are inspired by hardware models.
In addition to the possibility of programming completely new instruments, more and more software synthesizers are replacing their own originals . This is not surprising, as modern virtual-analog synthesizers today often contain microprocessors on which only software works. Examples of this are the Novation V-Station, which precisely simulates the K-Station hardware synthesizer , the Viirus plugin for TC Power Core with sounds from the Access Virus B, and the Korg Legacy Collection, which simulates three hardware synthesizers from Korg: The Korg Wavestation, the Korg Polysix and the Korg MS-20 . Even the virtual operating elements on the screen are modeled on the switches, wheels and buttons of the originals.
In the meantime, however, users of such software solutions have criticized the fact that the actual feel of the game is completely lost when operating a software synthesizer. The intuitive operation of melody or sound-shaping controls only with mouse and keyboard makes the art of sound much more difficult. This is why control devices are increasingly coming onto the market that look like a normal hardware synthesizer in terms of appearance and operating elements, but do not have their own sound generation. Connected to the computer, they give the musician a real feeling of playing again, while the entire sound synthesis and music production ultimately takes place entirely via software in the computer.
Types of software synthesizers
- Command-line software synthesizers : One of the first forms of software synthesizers. These were created at the end of the 1980s and were initially not real-time capable. The Csound program is particularly well known .
- Simulations of hardware synthesizers : A type of soft synth that was particularly widespread in the early days. Analog synthesizers such as the famous Roland TB-303 were reproduced particularly often . Well-known programs were Rubberduck and ReBirth RB-338 .
- Software drum computers are mostly sample-based and can therefore be classified in the software sampler category. Exceptions are so-called drum synths , which generate synthetic drum sounds.
- Modular software synthesizers are the most common and versatile type today. A freeware is z. B. Hydrogen . These programs combine different synthesis forms and today often also include sampling. A well-known program of this type is Reaktor from Native Instruments .
- Plug-in synthesizers are firmly integrated into a certain program environment (e.g. the VST instruments of the Cubase sequencer program ). They are usually kept relatively simple, often resorting to exotic forms of synthesis.
- In contrast, synthesizer workstations combine different types of sound generators and effects processing together with a sequencer to form an integral (stand-alone) system. Not only can they be played with a master keyboard, but with the help of MIDI files they can also be interpreted by a polyphonic orchestra and thus produce complete pieces of music.
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