Is there such a beast?

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CS_TBL
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Re: Is there such a beast?

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:49 pm

Christopher Winkels wrote:Point taken, but I have a "no software" rule. I could go on about the reasons why, but suffice it to say I find the limitations and tradeoffs imposed by software to be at least as irritating as hardware.
What are those limitations then?
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Re: Is there such a beast?

Post by Christopher Winkels » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:09 pm

I'll enumerate a few.

a) You need a computer in the studio. I don't have one there, and my wife would be none to pleased about moving our current one in there permanently.

b) The software has to install cleanly.

c) Offer up sacrifices to the synth gods that the USB or MIDI interface won't have some deranged conflict issue.

d) It's more cables to muck about with.

e) Ergonomically one must either reconfig the studio setup so that a keyboard/mouse/monitor is right in front of you at the keyboard, or you're forever twisting to one side to make edits. I find this annoying and counterproductive. I like stuff there, in front of me.

f) New computer? Upgrading? Start the whole frigging process over again.

g) In the last two years I've had one synth lock up on me, one time. Rebooting took five seconds. Care to guess how many computer crashes I've had in that same span of time?

h) I'm a hardware guy. Moving a mouse is never as satisfying as a knob, slider, or even an alpha wheel. I shouldn't have to also invest in a control surface just to make a software UI pleasant to deal with.

That's my short list. I could throw a few more out there, but you get the idea.

These may or may not be issues to you, but my ratio of "significant problems" to "flawless operation" on the software side in unacceptably poor. Maybe I'm just unlucky.

Edit: I don't mean to come across as combative. It's just that I never feel happy with music software. I always feel as though I've giving up more than I'm gaining.

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Re: Is there such a beast?

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:14 pm

Knowing that I'll hit rock anyway:

a) You need a computer in the studio. I don't have one there, and my wife would be none to pleased about moving our current one in there permanently.

So, you do your sequencing with a workstation or external (HW) sequencer? Mixing too? Mastering too? (Score printing too?) The pleasant thing about computers is that it's a mass product. This has a positive effect on prices of RAM, CPU and HD size These are the essential bits of samplers as well. As for comfort, it also has a positive effect on the size and price of TFT screens. Which -if you're in for editing- is practical as well. The fact that PC's are gradually taking over the music industry (whether you like it or not) also means that UI controllers get cheaper and better, PSU get more silent and Operating Systems get more stable (or even alternative music-OS'es appear).

I can certainly understand one has a fondness of hardware, hey I've HW stuff here as well, including a sampler I never use. It may also depend on the musical style you're after. If it's anything acoustic (samples), then there's no way a HW sample with specs from yesteryear can beat a multi-GB PC with gazillions of GB's for sample streaming. If acoustic (samples) music is not what you're after, you can choose to go with HW tho.

But, to take advantage of the price drops in the PC world, would you find a sampler acceptable which is actually a PC which looks like a traditional sampler, but has all the advantages of a PC? Because there probably are some of those. How about the V-Machine?

b) The software has to install cleanly.

Never had any issues. You're unlucky I guess.

c) Offer up sacrifices to the synth gods that the USB or MIDI interface won't have some deranged conflict issue.

Never had any issues here.

d) It's more cables to muck about with.

Only the MIDI or USB cables going from the PC to your HW, the PC cables (power, monitor, mouse, keyboard etc.) can all be tucked away behind your PC. Even the MIDI/USB cables can be tucked away behind your rack(s).

e) Ergonomically one must either reconfig the studio setup so that a keyboard/mouse/monitor is right in front of you at the keyboard, or you're forever twisting to one side to make edits. I find this annoying and counterproductive. I like stuff there, in front of me.

Mm, that depends. I've a typical table (about 1m deep), 2 flatscreens on the table, an 88-key master keyboard in front of them, and my PC keyboard/mouse in front of the keyboard (and a lot of junk :P). I can reach everything with great comfort. If you're using the PC to edit a HW synth, then the idea is of course that you don't need to physically touch those HW synths, so you don't need to be twisting to your synths and back. If you don't use a PC to control your HW synths but still prefer a keyboard to be in front of you, then you may need to reshape your desk. Dunno, can't say much of it without seeing it. (not going to dive into that studio pic thread, elsewhere, it's way too big :P)

f) New computer? Upgrading? Start the whole frigging process over again.

A one-time activity, the software itself can be installed in a few hours. Sample libs take some more time tho, but that's not because they're bad, but because they're big. :P My current Music PC was assembled in summer 2006 and is still running. I think it'll be running fine for years to come. It depends a bit on the availability of 64BIT software. It's all nice that some hosts are 64BIT already, but when my fav. softsamplers and softsynths aren't then I guess there's no point yet. Formost I'm talking about memory addressing in softsamplers.

g) In the last two years I've had one synth lock up on me, one time. Rebooting took five seconds. Care to guess how many computer crashes I've had in that same span of time?

My crashes can be counted on one hand since 2006, and I actually never had one during something critical such as composing and such. Perhaps it helps that I've manually assembled my PC together with the shop owner. Back then it was a great and superfast configuration for less than 1000 euro ex VAT!

h) I'm a hardware guy. Moving a mouse is never as satisfying as a knob, slider, or even an alpha wheel. I shouldn't have to also invest in a control surface just to make a software UI pleasant to deal with.

These surfaces aren't always expensive though (in fact, I feel they get cheaper every day). Anyway, as for your knobs, sliders or alpha wheels, I'd say these refer to the actual sound-design. And yes: tweaking envelopes, filters and such with knobs is more fun and comfy than with a mouse, tho I personally don't care much about it. But how about non-sounddesign activities? Loading samples, making keygroups, editing waveforms etc.? How would a HW sampler with a limited display (and often the lack of a QWERTY keyboard) compare to a PC with a large flatscreen, a comfy QWERTY keyboard, a mouse to quickly point to things etc.?


I see the PC/softsampler as a revolution of complete user-control. A HW sampler can be defined using 3 elements:
- functionality (synth functionality, editing etc.)
- interface (knobs, display etc.)
- raw power (RAM, CPU, HD etc.)

In yesteryear's samplers these were fixed, and one may have chosen a certain model from a certain brand just because one of these elements was important to that person.

Today, these 3 elements are split and people get to choose the best elements!
- functionality: choose the best VSTi softsampler or VSTi softsynth
- interface: choose the monitor you like, the keyboard you like, the mouse you like, the control surface you like, the OS-colorscheme you like, and as a bonus you get to play Patience and browse NSFW!
- raw power: choose the CPU, RAM and HD you like. Use any physical media you like, CD, DVD, CF, SD, USB Stick etc.

This is -I think- the main reason why there are less samplers on the (new) market these days. If company X says: 'hello, here's our brand new sampler, config abc', then you get responses like: 'but I have config defghij already, which works better!'


Anyway, as said: I'll be hitting rock anyway.. :P
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Re: Is there such a beast?

Post by killedaway » Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:39 pm

Christopher, did you ever find a suitable sampler? i'm curious what you plan to use it for: one-shot drums (ie: "make your own drum machine"), multisampling/synth/keys, random vocal snippets/FX? all of the above?

what style are you working in? and if you found something, what did you choose?
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Re: Is there such a beast?

Post by Christopher Winkels » Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:30 am

Nope. Nada. I just have a twice-weekly scan of Craigslist now and if anything suitable cheap that satisfies half of my criteria I'll just make a lowball offer and buy that. I've almost resigned myself to the idea that I really should stick with proper synthesizers anyway, since that seems to be what gives me maximum pleasure with minimum hassle.

I don't work in a style, because I don't bother to record anything. My music, such as it is, isn't for public consumption, so issues like mastering, sequencing and mixing are irrelevant. I wanted a sampler partly to take all my monophonic analogue goodies and "make them polyphonic" (or at least approximate their sounds in a polyphonic manner).

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