The Official Sequential/DSI Forum

What is unique about Analog Synths ?

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #40 on: March 18, 2016, 01:05:12 PM »
Do any of you make bad music using digital, just because somebody else think digital is inferior to him/her? (or the other way around for that matter) ... Are my music not intellectual because Sacret Synthesis find his music not to be intellectually satisfying when he touch on the Ambient site of music? .. Some could find such a statement arrogant, but honestly I just see it as for what it is... SS's own opinion on Ambient music in relation to HIS view on HIS music..

Exactly.  That's all it is - my opinion of ambient.  I think that should be apparent from the abundance of first person pronouns in my post.  In the same way, I understand that many folks here don't like classical music, or church music, or my music, and the occasional statements found here and elsewhere suggesting this don't bother me.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 01:26:53 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #41 on: March 18, 2016, 01:25:15 PM »
There is ONE more reason analog is seen as "better" than digital... it's called HYPE... and for some people (my self included) ther eis also the thing called "Placebo effect"... because I will not rule out, that some people find analog better, because most people have that view on it... it's part of human culture, to "mingle with the rest"... and then placebo start to seep into the equation... we start to THINK we hear something better, because we KNOW we are playing an analog synth, and not a digital one. I'm not saying that all fall for this, but some certainly do.

Speaking for myself, this is not the case.  Instead of bringing to the playing of an analog synthesizer a mental disposition to favor it, I hear a synthesizer online and recognize a tone that I either like or dislike.  And the consistent result is that I favor the analog. 

Remember that I got back into synthesis only about seven years ago.  At that point, I was entirely unfamiliar with the instruments that were available.  I started from zero, listening to one demo after another on YouTube.  I didn't know which was analog and which was digital, until I began researching the instruments I liked.  And you know what the score was.
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #42 on: March 18, 2016, 01:28:19 PM »
I would argue that a particular character is dependend on imperfections rather than perfection. The Moog filter is a perfect historic example. In that sense I would call streamlined perfection rather boring and immediately replacable.

I would agree with the statement that the Moog sonic character is due, in part, to imperfections.  It's a fact that the designers made some miscalculations that resulted in an inherent subtle distortion.  But what I'm trying to focus on here is the view that the analog character is due primarily to imperfections in oscillator pitch.  I realize that this is the common opinion, and Dave Smith has taken it seriously enough to add the Slop parameter.  But I disagree with it. 

So let me ask you, Paul, are you saying that if you take, say, a Nord Lead and add the slightest amount of random frequency modulation to its oscillators, and perhaps to the cut off frequency as well, that you will have created a persuasively analog tone?  To me, this is the heart of the issue and it's specifically what I disagree with.

Now we get back on track.

That's certainly an intersting question worth asking. My initial answer would be: I don't know. I've never owned a Nord and feel like I had to in order to give a fair answer. But I take the Nord reference as a representative example for VAs and any emulative plug-in respectively. Even then, the question is not easy to answer.

See, the reasons why I use analog has a lot to do with me moving back to hardware, and that was a step that wasn't entirely influenced by the analog-digital-dichotomy. Although I was first and foremost attacted by the early analog renaissance and subsequently units like the Monotron for example, my ultimate goal was to get out of the box that is the computer. Not because i think it was better to record to tape or anything like that. No, I would never want to miss a laptop-based studio ever. But: With the abundance of instruments you're offered these days it's hard to draw lines. I'm enough of a dialectic thinker that I would say if everything is suddenly possible, nothing ends up being possible anymore. Simply put: I need limits to work around, since I approach the act of creation as a problem solving case in the first place.

When I settled with Native Instruments' Komplete and numerous more plug-ins, I felt like I had all the tools I need, but I also recognized that I became less of a tweaker, maybe a preset adjuster in most cases. I can also relate to why Dave moved back to hardware, because I sit at the computer all day already for the work I'm doing. It has neither been particular compelling for me to edit sounds with a mouse, nor physically pleasing to interact with a display only. Add to that the endless possibilities. I was still able to produce music, nothing totally blocked me, but it made more sense to me to cut down on the actual equipment I use. And it's precisely there, where the analog instruments came in for me. But not exclusively because they're analog. As you know, I own a Pro 2 as well, and I'm also an avid Push 2 user, which I like because it takes the concept of a studio just being an instrument amongst others to a compelling level. I still use plug-ins, but only if they do something that my current hardware doesn't do, like for example granular synthesis or simple sample playback. My rule is only to use just one thing of each. I don't want 1000 delays to choose from, I don't want 100 different filter modes, and I certainly don't need 25 different versions of a Moog synth - be it emulated or hardware. All of that would only lead me to wasting a lot of time.

So for me it has never been a question of analog vs. digital ever. I still prefer analog filters to most emulations, yes. What I like in particular about the analog character would be its imperfections, but also "fatness" or whatever attribute we've all been reading about for the past decades. But I won't make a religion out of it. And to come back to the initial question: I honestly don't even care. If I would happen to own only a Nord right now for whatever reason, I'd try to get the most out of it for my purposes. That's what I tried in the very beginning with my Wavestation and that's what I'm still trying to achieve now with my current equipment.

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #43 on: March 18, 2016, 01:42:33 PM »
That said, I have to add that I'm in the fortunate position to afford some of the gear I truly want. I point this out in case anyone thinks that my equipment choices are completely random. If I hadn't a preference for DSIs synths, I wouldn't use them. But I will also always say that I could work with whatever is there. If all DAW companies would go bankrupt tomorrow and I would be forced to use nothing but GarageBand that would still be fine with me.

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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #44 on: March 18, 2016, 01:42:54 PM »
There is ONE more reason analog is seen as "better" than digital... it's called HYPE... and for some people (my self included) ther eis also the thing called "Placebo effect"... because I will not rule out, that some people find analog better, because most people have that view on it... it's part of human culture, to "mingle with the rest"... and then placebo start to seep into the equation... we start to THINK we hear something better, because we KNOW we are playing an analog synth, and not a digital one. I'm not saying that all fall for this, but some certainly do.

Speaking for myself, this is not the case.  Instead of bringing to the playing of an analog synthesizer a mental disposition to favor it, I hear a synthesizer online and recognize a tone that I either like or dislike.  And the consistent result is that I favor the analog. 

Remember that I got back into synthesis only about seven years ago.  At that point, I was entirely unfamiliar with the instruments that were available.  I started from zero, listening to one demo after another on YouTube.  I didn't know which was analog and which was digital, until I began researching the instruments I liked.  And you know what the score was.

as I stated... I do not believe ALL has this way of looking at it... but I'm most certain that some people do like analog (or any other method of synthesis for that matter) because of hype... and I don't even blame them for it because IF they are a "victim" of hype or placebo, then it still benefits them, very simply because it gives them inspiration to make sounds and music! ... so hype and placebo can as well be an advantage as any other thing.... if my placebo effect for analog synths makes me inspired to actualy create something with them, then placebo has a purpose in the end  :)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 01:45:04 PM by Razmo »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #45 on: March 18, 2016, 01:47:18 PM »
I have been thinking in context to the recent release of polyphonic analog keys...What is Better? I now have the choice besides vintage.
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #46 on: March 18, 2016, 02:11:56 PM »
Now we get back on track.

That's certainly an intersting question worth asking. My initial answer would be: I don't know. I've never owned a Nord and feel like I had to in order to give a fair answer. But I take the Nord reference as a representative example for VAs and any emulative plug-in respectively. Even then, the question is not easy to answer.

Yes, the Nord was meant to be representative of VAs in general.

My opinion is that the imperfections we've been discussing have little to do with the analog attraction.  They seem to be only the easy and more tangible explanation.  Besides, such slight effects would be noticeable only on long notes, and not on melodies or solos that used quarter notes or less.  Rather, there is a sonic character, the origins or causes of which escape even the designers of synthesizers.  The technical explanations are beyond me.  I'm content to conclude for good reasons that it has to do with components and circuitry that create, not imperfections only, but also a richness and depth of tone.  This may be the closest we can come to a resolution on the subject.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 04:03:08 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #47 on: March 18, 2016, 02:15:57 PM »
Richness and depth of tone are basically the attributes I may should have used with regard to how I see the imperfection I was addressing to result in.

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #48 on: March 18, 2016, 03:01:48 PM »
Then we basically agree.  I only wanted some clarity on the key question that gets tossed around the forums without anyone actually reaching a conclusion.  It's not a question of personal opinions, but of the best explanations as to why analog sound has the characteristics that it does.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 04:01:27 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #49 on: March 19, 2016, 07:04:10 AM »
Then we basically agree.  I only wanted some clarity on the key question that gets tossed around the forums without anyone actually reaching a conclusion.  It's not a question of personal opinions, but of the best explanations as to why analog sound has the characteristics that it does.

The first thing is variance. If you take an analog synth with 6 voices, each with two oscillators then you have 12 oscillators. Each of these oscillators is made up of certain components, as an example lets take a resistor. Resistors are graded at tolerance levels, ranging from 0.05% to 20%. So the absolute closest match we could hope for is 0.05%, each oscillator is going to be using slightly different resistors. The same applies for lots of other components we use as well. So each oscillator is going to be different to the others in various ways as various components are basically "different", so it will sound slightly different.

Now in a digital synth it is pretty easy to knock up some basic oscillator code, now if I want 12 oscillators I run the oscillator code 12 times, once for each oscillator and every oscillator sounds the same. Aliasing nowadays also should not be a problem there are solutions for this including FM and sync.

If you play a 4 note chord on the two machines above the analog one is going to sound fuller and a bit more alive as the oscillators are not perfect while the digital ones are.

Nowadays though digital synths don't tend to take this naive approach to oscillators, they build in the variance to each oscillator so it acts differently to the others, on a digital synth like this then the oscillators sound analog.

The same sort of thing needs to be done for things like VCAs, you need to model a VCA and its distortion not just multiply samples like digital synths used to do.

The next major issue is filters, filters use feedback in the analog world this is pretty instant but in the digital would it isn't, it is running at the sample rate say 44.1Khz, so a feedback is going to take around 22.7 microseconds. Although you are not going to hear this directly it messes around with the phase response and frequency response of the filter. In general this means that the cutoff frequency is not accurate and also the resonance and frequency effect each other rather than being largely independent as in analog.

You can minimise this in digital systems by oversampling to reduce the feedback time but of course this uses more processing cycle, nowadays filters are being used (say in Monark/Diva etc) that are called Zero Delay filters that remove this feedback problem.

So if we compare an analog synth to a naive digital synth (all oscs the same, non modelled VCAs, feedback delay filters) then the analog synth is going to sound nicer, it has movement from its variance and it's filter is acting linearly across the frequency range.

Now if we compare it to a digital synth with variance, VCA modelling and zero delay filters you are going to find it very hard to tell the difference.

There is no point comparing analog synths to bad digital synths, you need to compare them to good digital synths.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2016, 07:08:03 AM by BobTheDog »

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #50 on: March 19, 2016, 03:08:42 PM »
So if we compare an analog synth to a naive digital synth (all oscs the same, non modelled VCAs, feedback delay filters) then the analog synth is going to sound nicer, it has movement from its variance and it's filter is acting linearly across the frequency range.

Now if we compare it to a digital synth with variance, VCA modelling and zero delay filters you are going to find it very hard to tell the difference.

There is no point comparing analog synths to bad digital synths, you need to compare them to good digital synths.

That's true of course. I think a more pressing issue in the everyday life of most music makers is the question what controller makes your workflow easier. The main problem with software is of course that you have to assign all the parameters yourself (no rocket science, but still) and that you have to find a controller that's flexible enough for many different purposes and you're comfortable with in the first place.

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #51 on: March 19, 2016, 11:51:45 PM »
You are totally correct of course, I was just talking about the sound aspect of it which is what most people seem to get hung up on.




Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #52 on: March 20, 2016, 04:34:36 AM »
Then we basically agree.  I only wanted some clarity on the key question that gets tossed around the forums without anyone actually reaching a conclusion.  It's not a question of personal opinions, but of the best explanations as to why analog sound has the characteristics that it does.

The first thing is variance. If you take an analog synth with 6 voices, each with two oscillators then you have 12 oscillators. Each of these oscillators is made up of certain components, as an example lets take a resistor. Resistors are graded at tolerance levels, ranging from 0.05% to 20%. So the absolute closest match we could hope for is 0.05%, each oscillator is going to be using slightly different resistors. The same applies for lots of other components we use as well. So each oscillator is going to be different to the others in various ways as various components are basically "different", so it will sound slightly different.

Now in a digital synth it is pretty easy to knock up some basic oscillator code, now if I want 12 oscillators I run the oscillator code 12 times, once for each oscillator and every oscillator sounds the same. Aliasing nowadays also should not be a problem there are solutions for this including FM and sync.

If you play a 4 note chord on the two machines above the analog one is going to sound fuller and a bit more alive as the oscillators are not perfect while the digital ones are.

Nowadays though digital synths don't tend to take this naive approach to oscillators, they build in the variance to each oscillator so it acts differently to the others, on a digital synth like this then the oscillators sound analog.

The same sort of thing needs to be done for things like VCAs, you need to model a VCA and its distortion not just multiply samples like digital synths used to do.

The next major issue is filters, filters use feedback in the analog world this is pretty instant but in the digital would it isn't, it is running at the sample rate say 44.1Khz, so a feedback is going to take around 22.7 microseconds. Although you are not going to hear this directly it messes around with the phase response and frequency response of the filter. In general this means that the cutoff frequency is not accurate and also the resonance and frequency effect each other rather than being largely independent as in analog.

You can minimise this in digital systems by oversampling to reduce the feedback time but of course this uses more processing cycle, nowadays filters are being used (say in Monark/Diva etc) that are called Zero Delay filters that remove this feedback problem.

So if we compare an analog synth to a naive digital synth (all oscs the same, non modelled VCAs, feedback delay filters) then the analog synth is going to sound nicer, it has movement from its variance and it's filter is acting linearly across the frequency range.

Now if we compare it to a digital synth with variance, VCA modelling and zero delay filters you are going to find it very hard to tell the difference.

There is no point comparing analog synths to bad digital synths, you need to compare them to good digital synths.
This is the best response I have heard in this debate, it simply explains why. Basically, if you like the characteristic imperfections of analog then it will be your preference. Acoustic instruments behave imperfectly in various ways when played so it's only natural.

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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #53 on: March 20, 2016, 07:31:21 AM »
Then we basically agree.  I only wanted some clarity on the key question that gets tossed around the forums without anyone actually reaching a conclusion.  It's not a question of personal opinions, but of the best explanations as to why analog sound has the characteristics that it does.

The first thing is variance. If you take an analog synth with 6 voices, each with two oscillators then you have 12 oscillators. Each of these oscillators is made up of certain components, as an example lets take a resistor. Resistors are graded at tolerance levels, ranging from 0.05% to 20%. So the absolute closest match we could hope for is 0.05%, each oscillator is going to be using slightly different resistors. The same applies for lots of other components we use as well. So each oscillator is going to be different to the others in various ways as various components are basically "different", so it will sound slightly different.

Now in a digital synth it is pretty easy to knock up some basic oscillator code, now if I want 12 oscillators I run the oscillator code 12 times, once for each oscillator and every oscillator sounds the same. Aliasing nowadays also should not be a problem there are solutions for this including FM and sync.

If you play a 4 note chord on the two machines above the analog one is going to sound fuller and a bit more alive as the oscillators are not perfect while the digital ones are.

Nowadays though digital synths don't tend to take this naive approach to oscillators, they build in the variance to each oscillator so it acts differently to the others, on a digital synth like this then the oscillators sound analog.

The same sort of thing needs to be done for things like VCAs, you need to model a VCA and its distortion not just multiply samples like digital synths used to do.

The next major issue is filters, filters use feedback in the analog world this is pretty instant but in the digital would it isn't, it is running at the sample rate say 44.1Khz, so a feedback is going to take around 22.7 microseconds. Although you are not going to hear this directly it messes around with the phase response and frequency response of the filter. In general this means that the cutoff frequency is not accurate and also the resonance and frequency effect each other rather than being largely independent as in analog.

You can minimise this in digital systems by oversampling to reduce the feedback time but of course this uses more processing cycle, nowadays filters are being used (say in Monark/Diva etc) that are called Zero Delay filters that remove this feedback problem.

So if we compare an analog synth to a naive digital synth (all oscs the same, non modelled VCAs, feedback delay filters) then the analog synth is going to sound nicer, it has movement from its variance and it's filter is acting linearly across the frequency range.

Now if we compare it to a digital synth with variance, VCA modelling and zero delay filters you are going to find it very hard to tell the difference.

There is no point comparing analog synths to bad digital synths, you need to compare them to good digital synths.
This is the best response I have heard in this debate, it simply explains why. Basically, if you like the characteristic imperfections of analog then it will be your preference. Acoustic instruments behave imperfectly in various ways when played so it's only natural.

I'd say that even though this is correct, it is not ALL of the answer to why some people like Analog better... One of the things that I do not like about Digital is when it has too much aliasing, which is generally a problem with all digital oscillators I've ever seen... especially in the higher regions... If you need crystal clear highpitched FX etc. then digital very often introduce artifacts in the sound... some digital synths are worse than others.... Not long ago I had the V-Synth GT which really is a marvelous sampling-synth... but it's worst aspect was exactly aliasing... I simply could not get myself to ignore it's teethgrinding alising noise when using the elastic audio features, so it had to go again...

To avoid this aliasing, most companies bandlimit the oscilltors so much, that it starts to be deteriorating the sound, making it sound strangely "plasticy" (in lack of better words)... I rarely hear digital oscillators have as strong a hold of the "cardboard in the monitors", as analog does, and it's very easy to hear the difference I think... every time I fire off the oscillators of any of my analog synths, that "strongness" is obvious... the digital ones just sound like "cheap clones" to my ears... this goes for Prophet 12 as well... the oscillators simply does NOT have that strong character to them, that the analog synths does.

This is MY personal view of course... it's the difference that I hear, and makes ME like analog better... Digital are limited by their inherent steady sample rates, being bandlimited to "cloud" the artifacts. If someone would start creating digital oscillators that were running at much higher frequencies, things might change... take the Yamaha FM chips for instance... these run in megaherts, not just 44.1 or 48Khz... or the Modal 002 synth where the sample rate is changed instead, to avoid aliasing of the oscillators... I think part of the problem with digital is, that all manufacturers do not want to shed out the cost for creating new processors customized for Audio... they rely on normal DSP processors, meant to do a lot of other types of code but Audio, at rates that will compromize the quality.... Listen to old FM chips... these hardly give you aliasing in the higher notes because the chips run so fast... they have aliasing because of poor bit depth, but that's another story.

So... I believe that much of the "badness" of digital is more down to DSP speeds, than just because it's digital in general.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2016, 07:34:49 AM by Razmo »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #54 on: March 20, 2016, 11:54:02 AM »
There is no need for aliasing in digital oscillators nowadays due to increases in cpu/dsp performance, there are ready to go solutions to solving this.

You need to have the antialiased oscillators running with oversampling to raise the frequency of the initial bandlimiting and then use a steep brick wall filter at the nyquist frequency before downsampling.

Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #55 on: March 20, 2016, 11:59:54 AM »
Here is an image of a saw in Strobe from FXPansion, this uses the technique posted above.

As you can see there is no noticeable bandlimiting


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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #56 on: March 20, 2016, 03:32:55 PM »
Here is an image of a saw in Strobe from FXPansion, this uses the technique posted above.

As you can see there is no noticeable bandlimiting

I'm not a user of softsynths... I was talking hardware, and I've not seen many hardware digital synths that are capable of no aliasing yet... of course I've not tried all out there, so I do not know if any may exist, I'm talking solely of those that I tried myself...

I cannot say what it is that makes me find digital less attractive than Analog ... I just can hear a difference between the two, and that is enough... how much of the reason is aliasing, bandlimiting or even placebo I don't really know... and I do not care either... I just keep the synths that inspire me to make music, and those seem to always have an analog element somewhere in the signal chain  :)

Another aspect is that I do not find the resonance of digital filters convincing, when you compare them to analog resonance... for some reason, resonance allways seem clean and boring, compared to analog resonance.... I know that emulations get better and better, and that some may fool the listener if you do not know about it being digital, but all the digital synths I've had, to compare yet to analog ones, I can hear a clear difference in the raw sound they produce one way or the other.

Someday they might get there... but that day is not yet... for me...
« Last Edit: March 20, 2016, 03:38:35 PM by Razmo »
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #57 on: March 20, 2016, 03:45:31 PM »
There's the problem, all the good digital synths are soft synths.


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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #58 on: March 20, 2016, 03:59:32 PM »
There's the problem, all the good digital synths are soft synths.

Almost ;) ... there are some good ones, but that does not come down to audio quality alone in my opinion, but the types of sound they can create, but in most cases (for me), it's those that offer synthesis techniques that analog simply won't be able to touch... FM... PM... Physical Modelling... Wavetable Synthesis, Sampling Oscillators etc. But they are few... maybe because they usualy want to "do everything", and thus compromise sound quality, I don't know.... I'd really like to see a killer hardware digital synth, with all DSP horsepower used in generating the raw oscillators as best as possible, and with lots of modulation possibilities, and then forget about multitimbrality, internal FX etc...
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Re: What Makes Analog Better
« Reply #59 on: March 20, 2016, 04:25:10 PM »
I don't know. There's some pretty powerful stuff out there: Omnisphere 2, u-he's Zebra, Wolfgang Palm's apps just to name a few. And of course it's no wonder that innovation mostly moved to the software side because it's easier to develop, as you have to keep less hardware boundaries in mind.