Why do presets universally suck?

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
sensorium
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 233
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2004 2:17 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Why do presets universally suck?

Post by sensorium » Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:07 am

I've always wondered this as it seems to be the general consensus the presets on 99% of the synths out there don't do that synth justice. It seems to me that it would be in the manufacturers best interest to have the presets really showcase the product's true potential. Why are they always lacking? If anyone would know how to program some great sounds it should be the programmers, right? Just wanted to have a discussion on this. And while we're at it, what synths DO have great presets?

User avatar
Bitexion
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 4230
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:43 pm
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Roland D-50
Creamware Minimax
Yamaha DX7s
Analogue Systems modular
Ensoniq SQ-80
Waldorf Blofeld
Location: Drammen, Norway

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Bitexion » Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:12 am

I think it is because the factory presets are made before the synth is released, and are often rush jobs just to fill up the banks. And in many cases, made just to make ppl go "whoa" when they press a single key in the shop, and wanna buy it. Thus, they can be pretty unusable for own music. Like heavily arpeggiated sequences and stuff like that.

Also, the programmers haven't had time to really go everywhere the synth can go, and the end buyers usually gain more experience than the factory programmers as the start using the synth and explore it. For instance, the document that went out to the Alesis Andromeda patch programmers, only contains a basic rundown of all the features on the synth. Then leaves the rest for them to figure out.

One synth they DID get the presets right is the Roland Juno-106, because it's next to impossible to make a bad sound on it.

The Jupiter-8 however, is known for awful presets. As usual.

User avatar
Syn303
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1400
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:46 pm
Gear: Quite a bit...
Band: Syn303
Location: UK
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Syn303 » Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:14 am

best thing to do with any synth is basically wipe the contents of entire user area and start making your own sounds
| syn303.bandcamp.com | soundcloud.com/syn303 |

User avatar
griffin avid
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 11:08 am
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by griffin avid » Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:34 am

I don't think they 'suck'. I think they try to cover all the bases and don't excel at any exact genre enough to be all you'll ever need. That's asking the sound designer to be a producer- well actually your personal producer.
Too many variables as stated above.

A patch should show off the tone. this is a bass, not necessarily the bass YOU are going to use on your next record, but a good bass sound none the less. I look at preseets primarily as starting points. Does the Sound designer even work in your genre? That could make a huge difference.

Also, I think it's the sheer number of patches that synths come with nowadays.
1,100 patches - 880 combis - 620 performances

Just like features, you want to see huge numbers and lists as some sort of guarantee of moneys' worth, but so few will actually be usable. I'd challenge anyone to make a full bank of great presets for every type of person that may buy that synth. Not gonna happen.

A synth with great presets? I would say Korg MicroKorg.
I have read on forums (electronic, general music, rock and more) - complaints about the number of bands using its presets as is- so apparently they are well programmed and mostly usable.
Music Product: Better Sounds for Beats http://www.StudioAVX.com
Music Production: Resources and Research http://www.ProducersEdgeMagazine.com
Music Produced: Abstract Hip Hop Sci-Fi: http://www.TheDynamicUniverse.com

User avatar
wiss
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 2141
Joined: Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:03 pm
Gear: .com, mpc, and a studio full of behringer clones.
Location: Chicago

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by wiss » Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:40 am

The presets on the Yamaha SY-2 are sweet.
The Factory Patches on different Sequential Circuits Synths I have owned have been ok to great. I have always enjoyed Mr. Bowen's work.
"All we used was the explosion and the orchestra hit. The Fairlight was a $100,000 waste of space."

User avatar
hyphen nation
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 877
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 10:43 am
Gear: boxes that make noises
Location: sunny northwest

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by hyphen nation » Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:01 am

I was just going to say, the MEK comes with a handful of beautiful programs, mindblowing actually, that I end up saving. There are plenty that are not to my taste...

It's a funny timing on this thread, I was just thinking what I need to do is go through the MEK, condense all the presets I love into a cluster, and nuke the rest...

User avatar
Jack Spider
Retired Moderator
Retired Moderator
Posts: 902
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2005 7:42 pm
Gear: -
Bit One
Boss DR-220
Boss DR-660
DSI Mono Evolver Keyboard
Korg LP-10
Roland XP-50
Yamaha QX21
Location: Old Blighty

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Jack Spider » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:50 am

A couple of thoughts, none of them necessarily true:

- as others have said, time could be a constraint. The programmers might not have been given enough time to familiarise with the instrument's fullest potential. Naturally, this would only apply to more complex instruments.
- the programmers could be working to a brief, to demonstrate specific sounds.
- the programmers might want to keep any really amazing sounds for themselves. Would you want to give away all your programming tricks and secrets?! (think of the money people made selling fantastic DX7 patches in the '80s!)
- to encourage people to program their own sounds, exploring the instrument fully. I'd like to think this was the main reason, even if it is risky from a 'first impression' front.
- of course, presets that suck for one, rock for another!

Synths that I think have great presets:

- the first that springs to mind is the Roland D-50. Yes, they were overused at one point, but they are fantastic!
- Roland JP-8000. I think they do a great job of showing off the synth, but are perfectly usable in their own right.
- Roland Juno 60. When I got mine, I found the data-sheets for the presets, so I programmed them back in to hear them and thought they were really nice-sounding. Kept a few of them in there!
- DSI MEK. A couple of amazing showcases of its abilities (though not necessarily useful for your own tunes), but it was packed with great sounding patches that were.
- Oberheim Matrix 1000. It's a goldmine of great sounds - I never even bothered to try to program my own.
- Alesis Ion. Again, some hideously complex patches that show off its abilities, coupled with great emulations of famous patches.

As Bitexion has said, there are some synths that it is genuinely difficult to make sound bad
I didn't get where I am today by posting on internet forums.
http://www.myspace.com/thegreenalsatian
http://www.soundclick.com/greenalsatian

User avatar
Synthprophet
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 338
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2004 5:05 pm
Location: Denmark

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Synthprophet » Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:00 am

The presets on the Nord Lead 2x sucks so hard. Somehow that's just good, because I don't feel like I need to keep those, i can just overwrite without going through all banks. On the other hand I never use presets, some are just too nice to overwrite.
What I in general don't like about presets that comes with the synth is, that they often try to show how wild it can go in ugly and unusable modulations or just every experimental, as some kind of mentioned. All parametres are in heavy use. Others are just nice. As mentioned it also depends on what kind of sounds you use yourself. It rarely fit my style.
Clavia: /Nord Lead 2x/
Roland: /AX-Synth/D-50/SH-201/
Korg: /EMX-1/Microkorg/Monotron/MS-20 Mini

User avatar
nitkov
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:55 pm
Gear: vlt-1, juno 60, poly-800, ptx-8, dx-11, K5, s2800, nord rack, er-1...
Band: alone, ilegalne emocije
Location: belgrade
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by nitkov » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:38 pm

i haven't tried many modern synths, but in the 80's, factory presets usually tried to emulate acoustic instruments and that was always horrible. i always thought that synthesizer's biggest strength was synthetic-sounding sound, and acoustic sounds always suck. even on my nord rack 1 there's tons of acoustic s**t that sounds like from some yamaha's plastic toy, very naive.
vlt-1, juno 60, poly-800 [soon to go], ptx-8, dx-11, K5, s2800, nord rack, er-1...

User avatar
jaypodesta
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 789
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:50 pm

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by jaypodesta » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:40 pm

I'm not that keen on the Prophet '08 patches...

Just deleted chunks of them to create space for my own.

I quite like some of the Novation presets though - X-Station in particular.

User avatar
Huppo
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 485
Joined: Thu May 19, 2005 2:58 pm
Gear: V-synth, broken Fusion 6HD, HPD10, MP-7, 60+ guitars, etc.
Band: naught
Location: Western Mars
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Huppo » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:46 pm

The Virus TI has some pretty nice presets. THere's so friggin many of them there's got to be something decent in there!
~huppo

Please feel free to add me to your Foes list.

User avatar
DocT
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 166
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2005 5:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by DocT » Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:48 pm

sensorium wrote:I've always wondered
I think it's mainly because most manufacturers can't pay an ingenious sound programmer like you :wink:

What are presets actually ? Imho they are just sounds that some people programmed in a way they liked.
If you rarely find presets that you like, it demonstrates that your taste is different from the taste of most programmers.

Ok, it might be not quite as simple, several complex factors, part of them already mentioned, have to be considered too, like the manufacturers wish to demonstrate variety, complexity, to demonstrate at all and so on. A preset that sound good when played solo usually isn't suited for an arrangement.

Another point: preset bashing seems to be quite hip. It's an easy way to claim superiority without beeing forced to deliver evidence. Still 9X% of sold synths contain nothing but the factory presets.

User avatar
hfinn
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1197
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 3:21 pm
Gear: http://soundcloud.com/heath-finnie
Location: Boston
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by hfinn » Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:00 pm

I thought a lot of the Jupiter 8's presets were quite good. It's another synth were it is hard to make a bad sound on the thing.

User avatar
Bitexion
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 4230
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:43 pm
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Roland D-50
Creamware Minimax
Yamaha DX7s
Analogue Systems modular
Ensoniq SQ-80
Waldorf Blofeld
Location: Drammen, Norway

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Bitexion » Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:01 pm

Sequential Circuit were baffled to see that more than half of the Prophet-5's they got back for repairs contained 90% of the factory presets intact. Was like keyboardists just bought it to play the sounds they'd heard elsewhere (aka presets) instead of bothering to actually make their own sounds.
And certainly, an oldschool Hammond player who just wanted "some of those new-fangled synthesizer sounds" isn't likely to go deep into subtractive synthesis.

The Juno presets are awesome, I received my 106 with mostly usermade patches (tailormade for a band obviously, because many sounds were very similar), was quite unimpressed with the thing. Then I figured how to load the factory sounds from a WAV file via the Tape Load input. And WOW was I impressed! Had to spend serious time to figure what presets I'd erase when I made my own sounds. The "juno strings" sound and "juno brass" sound is just unique, and other synths try to emulate or sample them always.

It's kind of weird that we judge synths by their patches, when you think that before the preset synths, no presets at all. What you see is what you get. I am however eternally greatful for patch memory, having owned several ancient 70's synths with no memory..not to mention my rather big modular system where I have to record all my settings in a text file after a cool patch session. And most likely never get the exact same sound back, since there are no digital readouts on the knobs.

I remember reading a JP-8 user review on harmony-central, he said he couldn't for the life of him produce those "fat" sounds he heard in the presets when he tried it himself. They always ended up weak and weird.
Last edited by Bitexion on Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
mcomeg
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:48 am
Gear: Minimoog Voyager, Juno 60, Volca Beats and Bass, Kaossilator, Roland HD-3, Epiphone Casino, Fender Telecaster and Jazz Bass, Takamine Acoustic
Band: Damaged Tape
Location: Nagano, Japan
Contact:

Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by mcomeg » Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:02 pm

Typically, I look at the presets as a good launching point for dialing in my own patch. This is especially true on my Voyager, where I don't think I've ever used an untweeked factory patch. Then I usually get all zen and never save my new patches. If I'm going to replace a lead or bass in a song, chances are I'll have to change the tone and timbre as well. That said, I often do end up using MicroKORG presets, especially the ones in the 'vintage' and 'retro' banks. The 2nd vintage patch is one of the best bass patches I've heard on a modeling synth. On the other hand, that patch with the synthesized drums sound in the 'electronic' section is one of the worst presets I've heard this side of the Casio aisle at Best Buy.
Last edited by mcomeg on Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Minimoog Voyager, Roland Juno 60, Korg Volca Beats and Bass, Korg Kaossilator, Roland HD-3, Epiphone Casino, Fender Telecaster and Jazz Bass, Takamine Acoustic

Post Reply