Are software synths disposable instruments?

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Los974
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Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by Los974 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:14 pm

Hi,
I have always considered synthesizers as true musical instruments and this means they are desirable and are worth keeping them for years regardless of their age. The trouble is that a Yamaha DX7 from the 80s can still be used today but this cannot apply to software synths: chances are high that you cannot install them on a newer computer with new generation of software. This makes me sad because I invested lot of money ten years ago on a DAW and although it is still working flawlessly, I feel like my investment is near to be lost, the day I update the computer. Hence the title of this topic.

So here is my question: is there any "emulation" layer that can allow to use "Vintage Software Synths" on a current Digital Audio Workstation?

I know this exists for old PC video games. There is DosBox (http://www.dosbox.com/information.php?page=0), a software that emulates an old PC so that old games can execute in a "known" environment. I was wondering if such a solution exists for software synth apart from creating a virtual machine.

Greetings.

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meatballfulton
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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:48 pm

I wouldn't call software disposable but it's longevity is tied to the longevity of the computer itself. The only way to run older software is to either have an older computer running the appropriate OS or use some sort of virtual machine softare that can run the older OS.

I have been through Atari ST, WinXP, Mac OS9, Mac OSX 32 bit and now Mac OSX 64 bit. At every platform change various pieces of software became unusable.

As hardware becomes increasingly tied to software, it has the same longevity issues. If certain features require software....deep editing, MIDI and/or audio interfacing...and the mfr drops support for newer OSes, the hardware becomes as crippled as instruments that are 100% software.

My solution (for now) is to only use plugins (including instruments) native to the DAW. That way, only the DAW itself has to be kept up to date. This isn't always enough, witness the recent Cakewalk announcement or when Logic was discontinued for Windows.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by Los974 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:07 pm

Dear meatballfulton, thanks for you reply.

I totally subscribe to your point of view regarding hardware interfaces and even the main software sequencer: I also started with the Atari ST in my childhood! But I found it wonderful to be able to attach my good ol' PSR-600 with a more powerful computer over the time to be able to experiment new ways of using it. And that's the difference with nowadays context: I wish I could do the same for software synths as each of them are representative of an era. Without mentioning the need to have money to buy all the stuff again.

Of course I can not open sequences and projects done twenty years ago (actually, I was able to load projects done in 2000 on my current workstation but assignments and patches were messed up), but at least, playing the virtual instruments in the same way I could have played a hardware synth or a guitar from the 80s should have been possible. Who knows? Maybe in 30 years from know, we will miss some virtual synths in the same way we currently remember some mythic synths like the Minimoog.

I also feel sorry for Cakewalk fans. Maybe it is quite similar to have one's favorite software moving to a "cloud-based" subscription instead of a lifetime purchase, such as Adobe Creative Cloud or Avid Pro Tools.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by gs » Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:36 pm

I currently have an old XP desktop and an old Win98 laptop in my studio (alongside my modern PC for DAW), running older software that I still love and use.

I'm not giving up on VAZ Modular (which is no longer updated), and I still run old software like floppy disk copiers (for older synths with FDs) and flash-card-burning software for burning samples onto flash-RAM cards (also for older synths that use them). All of this software works great, and would no longer work if I tried to install them on newer OS's.

So, yes, the best answer is to use the computer OS that was designed to work with the software you want to use. OS emulators can work, but can be problematic for some older software.
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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by elsongs » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:18 pm

Unfortunately, they are disposable. Just ask anyone who's used Propellerheads ReBirth, or Native Instruments B4 or Pro-53. They are obsolete once your DAW graduates to a new OS version but they can't.

I am also a Cakewalk Sonar user. I have hope that the story isn't totally finished yet, but I do have some "lifeboat" DAWs ready just in case. But yeah, if it is over then there will be a time when a new computer won't be able to support it.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by ʝɵʝɵ » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:50 pm

elsongs wrote:Unfortunately, they are disposable. Just ask anyone who's used Propellerheads ReBirth, or Native Instruments B4 or Pro-53. They are obsolete once your DAW graduates to a new OS version but they can't.
You could, though, keep them running on a separate box (or VM) and have a direct hardware (or virual) MIDI connection to that box, much like an old hardware synth that is not updated anymore. In fact, old hardware synths may become disposable as soon as some major manufacturers decide to get rid of MIDI, although that's not very realistic at the moment. It may happen over time though that getting USB-to-MIDI adapters will prove to be more difficult, since practically all modern synths have direct USB connections.

In fact, with all the emulation of old computer systems available these days, I'd even argue that keeping an old softsynth running in some (maybe not the most comfortable) way will always be possible; hardware that is dying of old age will be more and more difficult to keep alive, though.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:16 am

elsongs wrote:Unfortunately, they are disposable. Just ask anyone who's used Propellerheads ReBirth, or Native Instruments B4 or Pro-53. They are obsolete once your DAW graduates to a new OS version but they can't.
The problem is really the computer. If you never update the OS or any of the applications, then no problems.

Think about this:

1. Buy a new computer with the latest OS, plus whatever interfaces and controllers you plan to use.

2. Install DAW, all plugins and drivers. Hang on to all the installer files.

3. Disconnect from the network and never upgrade anything.

4. Perform regular backups.

This will last as long as the computer does.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by Jabberwalky » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:19 pm

This won't work for everything, but feel it's worth mentioning that JBridger will convert 32bit VSTs to 64bit. I use it for a variety of the old Kjerhaus plugins.

https://jstuff.wordpress.com/jbridge/

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by Los974 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:07 pm

Thanks to all for your comments and answer. I'll try to follow your advices. It may already be to late to build a Windows XP PC as none of the current hardware can run it anymore, but it is still possible for recent gears.

Actually, I already follow meatballfulton's advice: my DAW runs Windows XP is not updated anymore. It is disconnected from any source of viruses or malware. But given its age (10 years), I feel so nervous each time I turn it on.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by baz99 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:19 pm

It's usually cheap power supplies that kill motherboards (with power spikes and unstable voltages). If you want a PC to live long then buy a good power supply for it. From my experience Seasonic power supplies are the most stable ones available for PCs and it's not just me saying this, plenty reviews confirm this.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by abruzzi » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:24 pm

Don’t call them disposable, call them fragile. In our modern world everything runs in top of a pile of requirements that our civilization provides, and if we can’t supply that requirement stack the thing ceases to function. Software instruments simply have a few more items in the stack that must be present for them to function. Hardware seems more permanent because the things it depends on are more consistent (but by no means guaranteed) such as AC voltage and frequency, and audio system standards. If your local power company changed power standards as frequently as MS updated operating systems, we'd all have piles of old synths that don’t work with this years voltage standards. Acoustic instruments have less external requirements but we still need to re-hair our violin bows or re-cover our drums. With any instrument it’s a matter of knowing what it needs to remain useful and being prepared to provide it that for as long as you want it to remain functional.

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by Jabberwalky » Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:05 pm

^ Well at least my coconut kalimba should last me my lifetime

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by vicd » Sat Dec 23, 2017 8:01 pm

I will dearly miss my Legacy Cell (quite handy macro control over the loaded synths, in effect, - similar to Massive).

I don't like the drums, but the drums like me!

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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by minime123 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:12 pm

a softsynth will only work for as long as the OS/computer system that it runs on works. and computers are intentionally made obsolete fast. personally, i buy hardware because i dont like paying for products that rely on other products to work - products that are designed to be obsolete quickly.
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Re: Are software synths disposable instruments?

Post by joeboy » Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:46 am

I saw an interview with Steve Albini and this precise concern seemed to be the root of his analog fundamentalism, as opposed to concerns over audio itself.

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