Should I buy hardware or software synths??

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
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decaren
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Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by decaren » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:38 am

Hey guys, long time reader first time poster. I know this question has been asked probably a million times, but everyone's situation is different. I've gotten to the point that I can start purchasing equipment for a home studio again and I've got a burning question. I've talked with my friend who is all about hardware over software, but he likes full size synths (with keys). I've always been a rack unit guy. So now the question is if I'm used to tweaking through a midi controller and rack units, is the learning curve going to be that hard to switch to software or should I stick with hardware?? I currently have a mac for my actual recording computer with both protools le 8 and logic pro 9 installed. My mac is a little old so I really don't want to slow it down running other things. So I was thinking about building another computer and getting reason and NI's Komplete 6. My controllers are an Axiom Pro 49 and a KX88. I've messed around with my friend's Reason 4 and it's kinda confusing. So should I put the money into a computer and software, or stick with hardware synths?? If hardware, what would be a good jumping point for them. I have always like the K1R so now would just be grabbing some other classics. Any ideas on either direction is appreciated.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:02 am

If you've already got Logic 9 then you've already got some of the best softsynths on the market. check them out before you spend any money on more, if you find them too hard to use then you'll know.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by decaren » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:25 pm

Wow, I didn't know that Logic had soft synths in it. It's kinda weird the way it works because if you load a new software instrument track, it gives you a list of instruments to choose from. Not until you double click on the soft synth name does it actually pop up the UI. I spent all last night tweaking and having fun. The Axiom Pro 49 really makes it feel like a real synth too. I like how you can still map the controls as well because I can keep the same knobs in the same place across all the synths. It's just like having a bunch of rack units but easier. I think having the Axiom Pro really makes the difference too. My friend that has Reason just has a simple controller with no knobs. My Axiom came with Reason 4.0 too and installed that. Hypercontrol is kick a*s. It's completely funny too because I thought I would never have a use for Mainstage either and I was even playing with that last night. So now, I have a K1R and Alesis Micron for sale :) Thanks Stab. I've been using Logic for two versions now and never touched the soft synths. I always just used it for recording/editing/mixing.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:19 am

No worries. If I were you I'd have a good look at the manual, there might be other things that you're missing as well. Logic isn't the most intuitive program IMO, although 8 and 9 are a lot better than 6 and 7 were.

There's also a few video series out there about getting the most out of Logic, I'd seriously consider investing some of the cash from your hardware sales into them, they're a great way to learn.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by grilch » Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:13 pm

I'm kind of at this place too. Software synths have gotten so powerful that it's hard not to choose the computer route for sound alone. But what's it worth to you to be able to actually physically touch and manipulate the hardware? That's my dilemma.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by D-Collector » Wed Mar 03, 2010 11:41 pm

A few years ago I was very pro hardware, but I have to admit that software is getting prettty damn good. But as you say, it is still a mental struggle. Personally I like having the hands-on experience of hardware drum machines, sequencers, samplers and synths. I like not having to stare at a screen (especially one that makes me sick like my current one, blah!) and use a mouse to program sounds and sequence. At the same time I am good with computers and miss the simplicity of a good DAW, with recording, MIDI-sequencing, effects, sampling and softsynths rolled into one with total recall of all elements in a mix. With a laptop and good software the possibilities are endless, at least for production (not so much performing). Then there is the nostalgia factor of hardware, the instant fun of a real sampler or synth, no software conflicts or CPU issues. I tell you I have so much fun with my small MPC2K/ESi-32/D-50 setup now.. Anyway, it is a real challenge finding the right tools and more important the right way to use them. My journey in the world of synths and music has put my ego, judgement and wallet at work many times. And in the end relatively little music has been made, sadly. If I was to give you any advice it would be to find a really good DAW that suits your workflow, and 1 vintage synth with lots of knobs for that instant gratification of hardware! It's best not to think too much, just make the best of what you have and make music!

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:42 am

grilch wrote:I'm kind of at this place too. Software synths have gotten so powerful that it's hard not to choose the computer route for sound alone. But what's it worth to you to be able to actually physically touch and manipulate the hardware? That's my dilemma.
Get a really good midi controller and user a sequencer like Live that lets you easily map midi controls to software. Best of both worlds.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by skweeegor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:55 am

There are too many good things in both to ignore either.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by anoteoftruth » Fri Mar 05, 2010 8:42 am

I think it really depends on what kind of sound you are looking for. If you have racks full of digital synthesizers, than software synths may be a easier route to go.

If you have any allegiance to the analog sound, then stick with hardware. I basically was introduced to synthesis through software synths, and then "upgraded" to hardware synths later when I could afford it. Coming from this perspective, I can tell you, there were some times when I was amazed with a new purchase, and some other times when I was pretty unimpressed.

Almost everytime I was "amazed" was when I picked up a new peice of analog equipment. But almost everytime I was unimpressed, was with a digital synthesizer... mostly only because, I was expecting something more out of a hardware synthesizer than the software synths I've played... but between a digital hardware and a software synth.... my ears could'nt tell a whole lot of difference. In fact some of the software synths sounded better.

Makes me think of what Steven Jobs used to say about the iPod and Apple... that apple are more a software company, the package it comes in may be beautiful, but theres nothing special about it alone... it's the software that makes it what it is... I see digital synthesizers in the same view.. and if it's the software then, well... there is a ton of amazing software out there that could trump the hardware in value and quality.

With all of that said, I also think it can be a fine line sometimes. I would never recommend anyone going "purely software" or even "purely hardware", just because there are so many possibilities out there for how you can sculpture your sound. Some hardware equipment could bring something unique to the table that software does'nt and vice versa... I think of mastering.. some hardware mastering equipment out there is amazing, and can really shape your sound uniquely depending on what unit you purchase.. the same goes for mastering software..

I guess what I'm getting at.. is the way I see it, each unit is in competition with eachother, not because of it being hardware or software, but more because of what it can bring to the table.. what choice u make is what is going to define your sound.

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Re: Should I buy hardware or software synths??

Post by stikygum » Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:40 am

ES2 is one of my favorites. Quality is brilliant in it.

My answer would be to go with hardware (analog) and software combined. I don't think the answer will ever be one or the other, at least not in what we've seen the progression of soft synths to be. The best quality from software comes from samples imo ( and even still not as quality as hardware ). Software is for flexibility so it's a different game.
"MTV's gaudy overexuberance contributed to the trivialization of the one thing it had been initiated to support, music" - Rik Millhouse

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