Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

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Pro5
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Pro5 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:12 am

Goose wrote: And, that digital synthesizers that aren't VA won't have a bunch of knobs like LFO Waveforms those things, and would be patch-players, with some settings, for people who are really good at piano and are playing at a church or something.

JD-800 :)

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Pro5 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:18 am

Goose wrote:Is being a virtual analog a subjective thing? Are synths definitely or definitely not VA or is it pretty much whatever the company calls it? I mean, the Novation Novas are pretty modern sounding, but they're called Virtual Analogs, which confuses me a little, I don't really get it. "modelled on analog methods and designs" sounds pretty general, like something that'd be in a lot of product descriptions. I might be looking too far into it though. Okay, here's something that might help, why is the Microkorg considered virtual analog but the Roland JD-800 isn't? Sorry for the endless questions by the way
THE MAIN THING (sorry caps) is not the control surface it's the sound creation method most importantly at the oscillator level. If a digital synth uses DSP/Software to create live versions of waveforms (like an rough simulation of what analog does) then it IS a virtual analog in that respect (to be what most would term a true VA you would need the control surface to go with it - see further down re D-50).

If it uses static samples (rompler) then it isn't. If it uses FM (not static but not analog simulation) then it isn't. I think you are worrying a bit too much about terms instead of just listening and enjoying a synth.

It is SIMPLE.

A Digital synth tends to be either FM, PCM (or hybrid), or VA - to simplify the main types.

FM and VA create waveforms 'on the fly' or 'live' if you will by referring to code, algorithms, systems... blah blah to create a sound's starting block that isn't exactly 'static' (so more akin to analog which constantly create waveforms live/on the fly).

On the other side (PCM/Romplers like the JD-800) use STATIC PCM SAMPLES as their basis for sound creation. THAT is the fundamental difference between romplers and VA. The fact VA have nice control surfaces is just because they do, because it was part of the marketing and the ethos of the instrument. Nothing to stop a Rompler having that (JD-800) it's just a very rare and now-a-days almost pointless endevour as they found that DSP/on the fly creation of waveforms (VA) was more lively and more akin to 'real analog' than the romplers/sampled/pcm synths (so those type now tend to be the big workstations or preset machines with gigabytes of samples in, while the VAs rarely if ever use samples - ms2000 etc CAN use some samples but it's a feature not forced).

The Roland D-50 is often called the 'first VA' (and yet you can see it does NOT have a knobby interface at all) because it's a digital recreation of an analog process (live waveforms created on the fly by software) - yes it ALSO has some short samples that you can tack on (optional) that gave it it's great sound at the time but now the D-50 is still revered due to that 'hypothetical analog synthesizer' (as roland calls it) inside that is always live, never static like a pure rompler.

You really can't class all digital synths under the same banner, there is a wide variety.

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Pro5 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:28 am

ninja6485 wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't virtual analogs attempt to recreate the physical circuitry of an analog synth digitally? In other words, a virtual analog filter will digitally model the circuits of an analog filter to replicate the way it behaves, while a standard digital filter is just focusing on getting the job done?

no. There have been a few NON VA digital synths with VERY VERY GOOD Digital Filters (Roland JD series for one).

Read my post above, a true VA is a combination of a NON STATIC OSCILLATOR SOURCE (NOT PCM!), An analog like architecture/engine (oscs > filters > envs etc) and a hands on control surface to complete the 'effect'. It is a digital simulation of an analog synthesizer from start to end - while some other digital synths only copy that AFTER the oscillator section (JD) and others only copy the filter/Envs (not analog like oscs, not analog like control surface).

If you actually play around with a few of these diff digital synths you'll find your answers in the sound and the way you program them.

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by calaverasgrande » Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:42 pm

Z wrote:All VAs are digital, but there are other types of synthesis that are only available with digital synths (or in which digital synths excel). Such syntheses include, but not limited to:

DGW (Digitally Generated Waveform) (found in many Ensoniqs, Kawai K3, Korg DW, PPG Wave & SCI Prophet VS)
Additive (Kawai K5 & K5000 among others)
Frequency Modulation (made famous by the Yamaha DX7)
ROMplers (pretty much all 'workstation' synths)
Physical Modelling (Korg Prophecy, Yamaha VL-1)
Granular (can't think of any hardware, but there's plenty o software)
additive, fm and granular are not exclusively digital.
your standard organ with multiple stops and 'percussion' (attack) is essentially an additive synth.
I use FM on my analog synths daily.
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Z » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:37 pm

calaverasgrande wrote:
Z wrote:All VAs are digital, but there are other types of synthesis that are only available with digital synths (or in which digital synths excel). Such syntheses include, but not limited to:

DGW (Digitally Generated Waveform) (found in many Ensoniqs, Kawai K3, Korg DW, PPG Wave & SCI Prophet VS)
Additive (Kawai K5 & K5000 among others)
Frequency Modulation (made famous by the Yamaha DX7)
ROMplers (pretty much all 'workstation' synths)
Physical Modelling (Korg Prophecy, Yamaha VL-1)
Granular (can't think of any hardware, but there's plenty o software)
additive, fm and granular are not exclusively digital.
your standard organ with multiple stops and 'percussion' (attack) is essentially an additive synth.
I use FM on my analog synths daily.
It is true that analog synths CAN do FM, but most hardwired analog synths cannot create the complex timbres of a 4+ operator FM synth, since these analog synths typically do not have more than two oscillators.

Also true that organs (with draw bars or stops) are also additive "synths", but with organs you are limited to certain timbres and/or footages and not able to add specific harmonics (integer or non-integer).
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by calaverasgrande » Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:30 pm

Z wrote:
calaverasgrande wrote: additive, fm and granular are not exclusively digital.
your standard organ with multiple stops and 'percussion' (attack) is essentially an additive synth.
I use FM on my analog synths daily.
It is true that analog synths CAN do FM, but most hardwired analog synths cannot create the complex timbres of a 4+ operator FM synth, since these analog synths typically do not have more than two oscillators.

Also true that organs (with draw bars or stops) are also additive "synths", but with organs you are limited to certain timbres and/or footages and not able to add specific harmonics (integer or non-integer).
Saying that 'most hardwired analog synths cannot create the complex timbres of a 4+ operator FM synth' is placing an awful lot of qualifiers on that. Any modular of sufficient resources can do pretty fantastic FM, and if you get it working right I find that analog FM is kind of smoother and has more sublte variations in the timbre. I personally prefer the gritty awfulness of digital FM for certain tones. I can never get an analog rig to recreate the aliasing artifacts of digital (which I like!). Or the extreme frequency range of some FM patches. This is why I still have a DX27.
I only used the organ as an example as it was just recently pointed out to me that organs (and even the Korg Poly 800) have features of additive. But there are other forms of additive synthesis. Lets not forget the....well forgotten early synthesists that used tape,records and even wire recordings to construct tones and whole compositions. Though I suppose that kind of blurs the distinction between granular, additive and music concrete to the point where it becomes one of duration or degree of the elements used to construct the timbre.
Not trying to wind you up, I just thought it was something to point out.
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Emiliano » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:39 pm

Regarding how analog compares to digital (and analog emulations) at the bottom of this post you can find a few examples:
https://digituria.co/blog/analog-vs-digital-synths/
It compares different raw waves and filter sweeps.

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by elisecoen » Thu Sep 24, 2020 10:21 am

Analog synths produce sound with voltage controlled oscillators, filters and amplifiers. The tuning may not be precise and they are harder to set up taking more skill but a sound some love.

Digital have precise tuning and filtering but may sound dry and are simple to use.

In general analog signals are continuous and digital signals have steps, no matter how small.

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:09 pm

Digital control signals have stepping, but the audio does not once it passes into the analog domain through an A to D converter. This is a very common misconception.
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by desmond » Thu Sep 24, 2020 5:21 pm

elisecoen wrote:
Thu Sep 24, 2020 10:21 am
In general analog signals are continuous and digital signals have steps, no matter how small.
Sounds like the old "stair-stepped" digital audio misconception, which still seems to be exist.

Digital audio is not stair-stepped, that's just not how it works. If in doubt - research!

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by Big Gnome » Fri Sep 25, 2020 1:14 am

elisecoen wrote:
Thu Sep 24, 2020 10:21 am
In general analog signals are continuous and digital signals have steps, no matter how small.
While it may be kind of an academic point, this is simply not true. Intersample values are strictly undefined and can only be bridged by a single (smooth) function. Digital audio is exactly as "continuous" as analog audio, it's just bandlimited. If there were little squared-off "steps" between samples--which is an unfortunate and incorrect artifact of how sampled data is sometimes rendered visually, 'cause that's fast and easy to do--the system would be inducing a low-amplitude, infinite series of partials above Nyquist, which is not possible.
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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by SciNote » Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:45 am

And let's not forget that, unless you're recording directly to something like an analog reel-to-reel tape deck or directly to vinyl, once you record the output of an analog synth using any modern digital recording technology, that smooth analog signal is now also broken down into a series of numbers -- but then brought back to analog once it's played through speakers or headphones.

But the original question of the thread wasn't the difference between digital and analog. It's what is the difference between digital and virtual analog. I'm not sure if there is even a real, official definition of "virtual analog", but I would start out by saying it is a subset of digital synthesizer technology, but instead of using more "exotic" methods to shape and control the sound, like FM or wavetable, virtual analog uses controls that mimic the classic analog oscillator, filter, LFO, and envelope generator controls to shape the sound. The benefit is that you get more precise control, more stable tuning, typically more polyphony, and lower cost-per-feature than with most true analog synths. But, some people do feel that true analog has a warmer sound.

Beyond that, some people feel that "virtual analog" goes beyond just using controls to mimic an analog synth and also includes complex programming that actually digitally simulates the analog circuits -- digitally tracing what happens to electrons and voltages as they travel through the resistors, capacitors, transistors, coils, and wires of an analog circuit in real time -- and generating sound based on how that circuit would affect the sound produced.

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Re: Difference Between Digital and Virtual Analog Synths?

Post by meatballfulton » Fri Sep 25, 2020 1:50 pm

Back in the 1990s when "physical modeling" started arriving, in addition to the modeling of vibrating strings, pipes and membranes there was also research into modeling analog electronics. Yamaha's first VA, the AN1-X, was described as "analog physical modeling". Nord still calls it "analog modeling". I'm not sure who first used the term "virtual analog" in their marketing. Today many plugin manufacturers leave out "virtual" entirely :?

Image

It turned out modeling of electronics is a lot easier than modeling acoustic instruments, the programming UI is straighforward by comparison and analog was in demand but almost noone was making it any more, so it took off like a rocket.
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