Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

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Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by username » Sat Nov 15, 2008 2:27 pm

I'm just wondering what KYMA offers over MAX/MSP and virtual modulars. I'm most interested in the following:

1) learning curve?
2) programming interface?
3) sound quality
4) versatility
5) company updates and progress (seems kyma website hasn't been updated since 2006?)
6) why is kyma so expensive and what do you get for that $$

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by xpander » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:55 pm

username wrote:I'm just wondering what KYMA offers over MAX/MSP and virtual modulars. I'm most interested in the following:

1) learning curve?
2) programming interface?
3) sound quality
4) versatility
5) company updates and progress (seems kyma website hasn't been updated since 2006?)
6) why is kyma so expensive and what do you get for that $$
first of all, the nord modular is not in the class of Kyma or Max/MSP by a long shot, the nord is a configurable softsynth where the other two are extraordinarily powerful programming environments infinitely more powerful.

the big differences that pop to mind is that Kyma uses its own supercomputer (capybara), has really complex single modules and gives you true programming language control of the program as long as you learn SmallTalk. in Kyma you can write algorithmic compositions in pure object-oriented programming language. Kyma is more geared towards pure audio applications, too, unlike Max/MSP which is a much more broad multimedia application.

both take lots of studying to learn (i took classes in college on both). sound quality is irrelevant, it is as good as your audio interface. max/msp is more broadly powerful but Kyma works much differently.

these days its hard to argue not getting Max/MSP... it is an essential a tool as a modern sequencer/recorder, completely powerful, relatively cheap, and Cycling 74 is extremely active along with its users, which includes many artists who use the software for non-sonic arts.

what i'm saying is really buy & learn Max/MSP. it is awesome in every conceivable way once you learn it.

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Post by crystalmsc » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:41 am

about the Nord Modular G1:
1) learning curve?
as with most modular, it won't be the easiest. But the software (cabling system, general programming environment, knobs assign system, etc) is supporting the learning process which could be enjoyable to learn on. plus there are some good articles to learn about it on the net
2) programming interface?
once understand about the modules, features and workflow. daily programming with the software is logical and effective. the hardware is ain't G2 with dedicated LCD for the assignable knobs for easier editing without the software, but it works and easy to assign things up
3) sound quality
Great. From the osc, down to the processor and filters. The classic filter sound more analogish than the 2x, but the overall sound just not as big as the 2x as well. But It got great quality, both in engine and audio. It sounds edgier while the 2x can do smoother sound
4) versatility
I got the Kb version, and it could be the most versatile modular system to carry around. It run stable with the XP system and the hardware is also a joy to play with without the software. I like the knobs feeling, but not the fan of the keys which is serviceable.
5) company updates and progress
Clavia has stopped the update for both the hardware and software, but there's some hope from an open source developer that keep updating the software called Nomad.
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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by madtheory » Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:00 pm

It depends what you want to do. The Nord is the easiest to use, but it's still quite a challenge. It's based on an older approach to synthesis, but it has a few very modern modules in there.

MAX/MSP is infinitely flexible, but if you want subtractive synthesis it takes a lot of work. You really need to know what you're doing to build filters as good as what comes with the Nord. But, you can do stuff that no one has done before, potentially, whereas the Nord is more old fashioned.

MAX will crash your computer often, depending on your programming skills :) The Nord will just work.

As for sound quality, without serious in depth programming, MAX does not sound good, unless you stick to the presets. The previous comment about quality depending purely on your audio interface is misleading IMO. The quality depends on how good your DSP skills are. Making basic audio building blocks is a serious challenge. It's more of a programmer's tool I think.

I haven't used the Kyma, but the sounds it makes are fabulous. The sound design techniques it makes available are possible to do in MAX, but in the Kyma they've been programmed by folks who really know what they're doing. And I imagine it would be far more stable than MAX.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by cebec » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:36 pm

madtheory wrote: I haven't used the Kyma, but the sounds it makes are fabulous. The sound design techniques it makes available are possible to do in MAX, but in the Kyma they've been programmed by folks who really know what they're doing. And I imagine it would be far more stable than MAX.
I have used both and that about sums it up, in my experience.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by xpander » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:31 pm

i disagree with much of what's been said, Max/MSP (and /Jitter for that matter) is ultra powerful and skilled users will have no problem creating great reusable sonic environments. you could start a thread on a more software-oriented board to answer what Max/MSP can do that you can't do with a soft modular, it is a long and ever-growing list. even Max as a MIDI utility is stunning.
madtheory wrote:As for sound quality, without serious in depth programming, MAX does not sound good, unless you stick to the presets. The previous comment about quality depending purely on your audio interface is misleading IMO. The quality depends on how good your DSP skills are. Making basic audio building blocks is a serious challenge. It's more of a programmer's tool I think.
my guess is that you don't know Max/MSP because of that last comment. you can make any sound on Max/MSP is my point, it is as good as the user's skills. i'm not even sure what "presets" are in Max.
madtheory wrote:I haven't used the Kyma, but the sounds it makes are fabulous. The sound design techniques it makes available are possible to do in MAX, but in the Kyma they've been programmed by folks who really know what they're doing. And I imagine it would be far more stable than MAX.
you haven't used it! i'm an advanced Kyma user & fluent in the Smalltalk language. i'm curious how you are coming to conclusions about it.

i think Kyma is awesome, by the way. however, Max is much cheaper and more broad in scope and a giant redesign (Max 5) was just released along with an SDK for it!

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by madtheory » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:17 pm

xpander wrote: my guess is that you don't know Max/MSP because of that last comment. you can make any sound on Max/MSP is my point, it is as good as the user's skills.
Wasn't that exactly my point? It depends on how good your programming skills are. Yes, the potential is there in MAX to do "anything" (infinite was the word I used), but you have to know DSP. That's neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, but it is most certainly undeniable. maybe I can't program because my grammar is good.
madtheory wrote: i'm curious how you are coming to conclusions about it.
I've already made it clear that I haven't used one, but that I have heard the sounds. There's nothing else like it.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by _seph » Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:13 am

as it was mentioned, it really depends on what it is that you are looking for.

here's my thoughts and btw, I've owned all three.

First, the Nord Modular. They're great, I love mine, i've got the keyboard version of the G1. Out of the three you're asking about it's the one that i've given the most use but, it's also the one that you really can't compare to the other two. For the sake of this discussion it would be best if you imagine the Nord Modular as a fully programmable Nord Lead 2 with a few added functions, like the ability to process external sound or be set up like an x0x drum machine, etc. Really the only thing it has in common with MAX/MSP or Kyma is that it has a graphical editor and it makes sound. I'd recommend buying a Nord Modular if you are in the market for a virtual analog modular synth. What I like most about the NM is that it's saved from the insanity of building a real modular synth system, although the temptation is always there...
Also, there's the NM G2. I don't have any experience with it, but since your asking about Kyma and MAX/MSP, I'd probably suggest looking into it as it does a bit more than the original. Although, like the G1, the G2 is no longer being supported by Clavia, so, what you buy it what you'll get. (i'm still really bitter that the G1 had it's support dropped before bringing out any new models as they said they would)

Next up, Kyma. Kyma is really cool but I honestly can't give you a single reason to buy it. So, not only has their website not been updated since 2006, but they're pricing and technology has remained the same for more than a decade now. The only thing they've done in the last 10 years is bring out a Firewire adapter and a version X of the software editor. I can't imagine how they can still justify the price or who would even entertain buying one these days. Not to sound negative here, I think Symbolic Sound was an amazing and innovative company, but seriously, unless you have a large sum of money you have to get rid of, don't buy this.
There's a lot of really cool things about Kyma and even if it seemed the perfect fit for you, these days there are other ways of doing nearly everything it can for MUCH less money. I sold my Kyma system several years ago and aside from how 'cool' it is owning one, i can't say that I really miss it at all. However, if i could some day pick one up for $500 or so, I'd love to have it around again.

Finally there's MAX/MSP which is exceptionally cool if you have the attention span to learn it. With the current version it's much easier to get into than it was before and now it will also run on a PC. (but, if you are on a Mac another program I HIGHLY recommend is UI Software's Metasynth)
MAX/MSP will only set you back, what? $500? It can do all sorts of things with sound, it has a very active user community and it's been around and being developed for more than 20 years now. There really isn't anything that MAX/MSP can't do, if you have the money and the computer then just buy it. I haven't used it in a while but lately I've been wanting to get back into it just to play around, for me though Live does virtually everything I need right now.

another contender for this sort of thing I'm surprised you didn't mention is Native Instrument's Reaktor which is basically like if you'd take the Nord Modular and toss in a good chuck of MAX/MSP. It could be a nice compromise. Also, if you happen to be using a Mac I do highly recommend looking into Metasynth which still to this day gets my vote as one of the coolest programs ever created and it's somewhat related to all of these... sort of.

i don't know if this has been of any help. i've been pulled away from the computer several times while writing so i've kind of lost my train of thought.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by xpander » Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:48 am

madtheory wrote:Yes, the potential is there in MAX to do "anything" (infinite was the word I used), but you have to know DSP. That's neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, but it is most certainly undeniable.
you definitely do not need to know DSP, you can just learn how to use the objects & patch 'em together.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by madtheory » Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:12 pm

xpander wrote:
madtheory wrote:Yes, the potential is there in MAX to do "anything" (infinite was the word I used), but you have to know DSP. That's neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, but it is most certainly undeniable.
you definitely do not need to know DSP, you can just learn how to use the objects & patch 'em together.
You do if you want to build a synthesizer in it.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by cebec » Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:33 pm

Synth building tutorial for Max. No low level DSP knowledge required.

http://www.cycling74.com/story/2007/8/20/111019/403

I think that DSP has a couple of different meanings these days. While I think you need to have an understanding of DSP and signal flow to use any digital synthesizer (soft or hard), you do not need to know how to 'program DSP', which is what I associate with the Reaktor's Core technology, for example.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by madtheory » Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:45 pm

Interesting tutorial. It's a pity Google didn't turn up that tutorial back when I needed it. It's only been on Cycling 74 since last year.

How does that filter sound?

My problem (when I tried MAX/MSP) was getting a good sound from the osc and filter. I think the Nord has a far better sound from the get go, and it's very satisfying to build on that. I just didn't have the patience to figure out how to build a better module in MAX. I also felt that just getting notes to control the osc polyphonically and with equal temperament was more challenging than it should have been. I also attempted to make an arpeggiator, with a view to moving on to an Oberheim Cyclone emulation. It was easier just to buy another Cyclone :)
cebec wrote: I think that DSP has a couple of different meanings these days.
True. I think it's fair to say that that tutorial gets you out of any DSP stuff, because you can use the filtergraph object.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by cebec » Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:19 pm

madtheory wrote:Interesting tutorial. It's a pity Google didn't turn up that tutorial back when I needed it. It's only been on Cycling 74 since last year.

How does that filter sound?
Not sure. Probably pretty neutral like a lot of the basic MSP objects. For 'character' and 'personality', some extra patching and/or use of 3rd party externals/abstractions goes a long way.
madtheory wrote: My problem (when I tried MAX/MSP) was getting a good sound from the osc and filter. I think the Nord has a far better sound from the get go, and it's very satisfying to build on that. I just didn't have the patience to figure out how to build a better module in MAX. I also felt that just getting notes to control the osc polyphonically and with equal temperament was more challenging than it should have been.
I agree. I think the learning curve with MSP is steeper than with the Nord platform and that most of the Nord modules sound pretty good right away -- neutral, as well, but not as neutral as the basic MSP objects. Still, I believe the best results can be achieved in either environment by augmenting the existing modules or by DIY'ing custom 'building blocks' or abstractions.

Perhaps the thing that might account for this steeper learning curve with Max/MSP is the fact that it isn't solely for audio processing and signal generation like the Nord Modular platforms. Max/MSP is more of a blank slate and you have to work a little harder at first to build up a library of externals, abstractions, bpatchers, etc., that you can reuse.

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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by cornutt » Wed Nov 19, 2008 9:42 pm

Capability-wise, how does either Kyma or Max/MSP compare to Csound? Yeah, Csound's programming language is brutal, but us old farts that grew up with Fortran 66 can live with it. :lol: And the price is right -- $40 for the book, $0 for the software itself.
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Re: Kyma as compared to MAX/MSP or Nord Modular

Post by madtheory » Thu Nov 20, 2008 1:09 pm

Same again, the potential is there to do anything, and that depends on your programming skills.

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