Best all round soft synth?

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
BBFG#
KVRAF
6634 posts since 28 Apr, 2013

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 1:36 am

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 1:00 am
BBFG# wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 12:46 am
Since you seem to keep bandying this point of an absolute singular approach...
Specifically, which one synth of yours is your "all around best"?
My favorite synth is my MicroWave I (Rev A) followed closely by my Nord 3 (just for the interface alone). However, my best all-arounder synth would my MKS-80. F$ck, it just sounds so great. The resonance (where almost all softsynths fail) is sublime. Plus, it's so punchy that it cuts through any mix.

I don't really have a favorite softsynth because they mostly all suck. But if someone put a gun to my head, I would probably say Spire (as comparatively weak as it sounds) for its Virus-like qualities.
That's fair. Thank you for listing those. Personally haven't thought highly of any of those though. Would even describe one or two of them as "cheesey" for certain instances in my opinion. But I gather from those that you go for a different sound than I do. So I can equally respect your choices.

I do have hardware synths and workstations myself. And have had many over the years as well. And getting ready to reduce them greatly for my next plans in life. Oddly enough, I'm strongly considering keeping my V-Synth-GT and R-70. I felt for quite awhile they seemed to had peaked with those and have been on a steady slide into mediocrity with everything since. But I'm well aware that even these two will eventually have better software replacements for how I use them. I also have that "nostalgic" emotion when looking at the MoogOne, but I know that's what it is, and even when the money presents an opportunity for it, I think I'm more apt to go for the Quantum. Which is still software based in a hardware package. And already easily redundant to what's currently available.

I've been using a group of software compressors for awhile that adequately do the job, but made a decision to latch on to one as a "personal favorite" that better fits my needs/uses/flow. And that seems to have currently nullified anything as thin or weak really.

I'm not looking for 1:1 emulations as much as 1:1 inspirations of what those synths of the past did or do for me. And that's not just about sound, but the complete instrument in playing. I think many of us here have similar needs. And whether it's software, hardware or both, there's no right or wrong. What sucks for some will be sublime for others. And as always in these threads, "there's no such thing as best".

User avatar
pdxindy
KVRAF
20908 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:16 am

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:40 pm
The fact is that Zebra sounds very average for a software synth (which is not saying much when considering competing hardware synths). Zebra is certainly flexible and has a whole load of features. But it's really thin and weak-sounding compared to the software and especially the hardware competition.
That is one of the reasons I like Zebra... it can make thin sounds that sound organic and appealing.

A ukelele, or one of my flutes or a kalimba all sound thin. Thin sounds are great... they contribute without taking up too much space.

User avatar
pdxindy
KVRAF
20908 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:33 am

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 1:00 am
My favorite synth is my MicroWave I (Rev A) followed closely by my Nord 3 (just for the interface alone). However, my best all-arounder synth would my MKS-80 (with the Kiwi Patch Editor). F$ck, the MKS-80 just sounds so great. The resonance (where almost all softsynths fail) is sublime. Plus, it's so punchy that it cuts through any mix.

I don't really have a favorite softsynth because they mostly all suck. But if someone put a gun to my head, I would probably say Spire (as comparatively weak as it sounds) for its Virus-like qualities and excellent interface.
The Waldorf M is my new favorite synth. My other favorite synth is u-he Bazille. Sonically, it just does it for me and makes sounds I cannot get elsewhere. I've had lots of hardware and I would pick Bazille over almost all of it.

That is why it is good that there are lots of different options cause users have different aesthetic interests. Since 2.1, Hive has become one of my most used synths cause it can make lovely natural sounding plucks and percussive sounds that sound more 'acoustic' than what most hardware can do.

User avatar
Paul881
KVRist
66 posts since 22 Oct, 2002 from Rose of the Shires, UK

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:31 am

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 1:04 am
I'm sure a lot of people voted for Omnisphere or should I say "ROMnisphere" as their desert island synth.
So basically, Omnisphere just sounds like any other VA except that it takes forever to load the patches because the oscillators are almost all sample-based.
I don't really get why anyone would think of Omnisphere as a ROM'pler? Nor why it is slow to load patches?
My collection of softsynths, past and present, is pretty extensive and what I have found over the years is, just like life, you only get out of synths what efforts you are prepared to put in. So if you want to rely on just presets with a minimum of tweaking/programming, then maybe all synths can be thought of as ROM'plers? But once you start to get under the hood and start programming, then all of them have their strengths and weaknesses BUT as producers, what we should learn to do is to use them appropriately, hence how Hans Zimmer might use a synth others may disregard as sounding "thin."
Music is the food of the soul!

pierb
KVRist
265 posts since 28 Oct, 2010 from Mexico

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:51 am

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:40 pm
The fact is that Zebra sounds very average for a software synth (which is not saying much when considering competing hardware synths). Zebra is certainly flexible and has a whole load of features. But it's really thin and weak-sounding compared to the software and especially the hardware competition.

Even Hive 2 is a much better synth.
Huh? Zebra sounds thin?

Check these basses I did for my last Zebra library. I mean, you might not like them, but they're anything but thin.

https://soundcloud.com/user-56185579/ba ... an-warfare

User avatar
Paul881
KVRist
66 posts since 22 Oct, 2002 from Rose of the Shires, UK

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 12:19 pm

pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:51 am
Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:40 pm
The fact is that Zebra sounds very average for a software synth (which is not saying much when considering competing hardware synths). Zebra is certainly flexible and has a whole load of features. But it's really thin and weak-sounding compared to the software and especially the hardware competition.

Even Hive 2 is a much better synth.
Huh? Zebra sounds thin?

Check these basses I did for my last Zebra library. I mean, you might not like them, but they're anything but thin.

https://soundcloud.com/user-56185579/ba ... an-warfare
Very cool…and deep! Proves the point I was trying to make, if you take the time to understand any synth, as you have done here, you can really produce some great sounds from almost any soft synth.
Music is the food of the soul!

User avatar
pdxindy
KVRAF
20908 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 12:34 pm

:tu:

SamDi
KVRist
300 posts since 27 Apr, 2018

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 2:06 pm

pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:51 am
Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:40 pm
The fact is that Zebra sounds very average for a software synth (which is not saying much when considering competing hardware synths). Zebra is certainly flexible and has a whole load of features. But it's really thin and weak-sounding compared to the software and especially the hardware competition.

Even Hive 2 is a much better synth.
Huh? Zebra sounds thin?

Check these basses I did for my last Zebra library. I mean, you might not like them, but they're anything but thin.

https://soundcloud.com/user-56185579/ba ... an-warfare
Very cool sounds!

But TBH, I have my problems with Zebra. Often, when I make similar patches with different synths to find out, which synth sounds best at this place, it is like all synths sound pretty similar, but Zebra is standing beside these with a different sound. So I can dial in with the other synths relatively easy, what I want. Not so with Zebra. Often I just don't find the sweet spot.

I would even say, some things are pretty outdated. Take for example, how to get OSC Unison. With most synths, you just choose the number of OSC instances, the Detune value, the Stereo width. Not so with Zebra. What shall this odd selection of single, dual, quad and eleven be?

Or take the envelopes. Pretty easy to get what you intend, when you have an ADSR env and you can adjust the slope with a knob from exp over lin to log as in other synths. What should then this strange selection of quadric, linear and v-slope type in Zebra offer as an additional value? I don't get it.

Or take the effects: Shape does never do, what I expect from a saturation/distortion module. It just sounds strange to me. Also with the Chorus - I never bring it easily in a direction as I want. In Hive or Pigments or even Serum (which I rate soundwise a little bit behind in these days) I get it in some seconds, how I want it to have.

So is it a bad synth? No!
Is it that the user (me) is not able to use it correctly? Yes!

But - when it is so difficult to dial in, what is easy in other synths, I would not rate it as an best all-round-soft-synth. It's pretty niche for me.

Your sounds are awesome, but I assume with a Hive or a Pigments one can get it similar, with much less effort.

:D :D :D

User avatar
pdxindy
KVRAF
20908 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:21 pm

SamDi wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 2:06 pm
Or take the effects: Shape does never do, what I expect from a saturation/distortion module.
Maybe use the distortion module then :tu:

Zebra is one of the best synths available for sound design plus it is very expressive and playable. Here are a few of my Zebra sounds... all played in realtime from a keyboard, single preset and no layers.

https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/repsun.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/ruitar.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/spectro.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/kuitar.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/stutterstep.mp3

pierb
KVRist
265 posts since 28 Oct, 2010 from Mexico

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:24 pm

SamDi wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 2:06 pm

Very cool sounds!

But TBH, I have my problems with Zebra. Often, when I make similar patches with different synths to find out, which synth sounds best at this place, it is like all synths sound pretty similar, but Zebra is standing beside these with a different sound. So I can dial in with the other synths relatively easy, what I want. Not so with Zebra. Often I just don't find the sweet spot.

I would even say, some things are pretty outdated. Take for example, how to get OSC Unison. With most synths, you just choose the number of OSC instances, the Detune value, the Stereo width. Not so with Zebra. What shall this odd selection of single, dual, quad and eleven be?

Or take the envelopes. Pretty easy to get what you intend, when you have an ADSR env and you can adjust the slope with a knob from exp over lin to log as in other synths. What should then this strange selection of quadric, linear and v-slope type in Zebra offer as an additional value? I don't get it.

Or take the effects: Shape does never do, what I expect from a saturation/distortion module. It just sounds strange to me. Also with the Chorus - I never bring it easily in a direction as I want. In Hive or Pigments or even Serum (which I rate soundwise a little bit behind in these days) I get it in some seconds, how I want it to have.

So is it a bad synth? No!
Is it that the user (me) is not able to use it correctly? Yes!

But - when it is so difficult to dial in, what is easy in other synths, I would not rate it as an best all-round-soft-synth. It's pretty niche for me.

Your sounds are awesome, but I assume with a Hive or a Pigments one can get it similar, with much less effort.

:D :D :D
Thanks!

Oh, believe me, I have problems with Zebra too. Specially the effects are showing its age. And other other stuff like parameters that are modulated in low resolution or the sequencer/arp is kinda limited. But all in all, it's still my favorite synth, after a decade using it.

I tried Pigments recently and ended up selling it. The sound was a bit vanilla, unlike U-He synths which tend to have a lot of character. I could never get anything remotely analog convincing with Pigments. Ultimately it was very frustrating as it is a very limited synth.

pierb
KVRist
265 posts since 28 Oct, 2010 from Mexico

Post Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:25 pm

pdxindy wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:21 pm
SamDi wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 2:06 pm
Or take the effects: Shape does never do, what I expect from a saturation/distortion module.
Maybe use the distortion module then :tu:

Zebra is one of the best synths available for sound design plus it is very expressive and playable. Here are a few of my Zebra sounds... all played in realtime from a keyboard, single preset and no layers.

https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/repsun.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/ruitar.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/spectro.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/kuitar.mp3
https://dandelionaudio.com/sound/stutterstep.mp3
Nice stuff pdxindy!

SamDi
KVRist
300 posts since 27 Apr, 2018

Post Thu Dec 09, 2021 12:16 pm

pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:24 pm
Oh, believe me, I have problems with Zebra too. Specially the effects are showing its age. And other other stuff like parameters that are modulated in low resolution or the sequencer/arp is kinda limited. But all in all, it's still my favorite synth, after a decade using it.
I think that is one of the ma

pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:24 pm
I tried Pigments recently and ended up selling it. The sound was a bit vanilla, unlike U-He synths which tend to have a lot of character. I could never get anything remotely analog convincing with Pigments. Ultimately it was very frustrating as it is a very limited synth.
Strange - this is often said. Of course Pigments is not analog convincing as Diva or Repro, that's clear. But I am not the right one for talking about that, because for me "analog character" is just adding some noise, tone drift and saturation after the filter and other movement :D. I am no vintage freak :party:

But on the other side, when I compare Pigments with Rapid, Hive or Dune, which are all regarded sounding excellent, I would rate Pigments easily in this league. The FX in Pigments are pretty good and with the sophisticated routing I can get it sounding directly in that direction as I want. that makes it for me the perfect sound design tool.

Zebra on the other side does often does not I want and then the sound develops in a different direction as intended. Sometimes I get it then back with tweaking, but sometimes not.

But Zebra 3 with Uhbik FX, Diva and Repro filters and Hive wavetable would be the ultimate killer machine :hihi: :hihi: :hihi:

Ah_Dziz
KVRAF
3505 posts since 2 Jul, 2005

Post Wed Dec 15, 2021 9:24 pm

Gadget Fiend wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:40 pm
Ah_Dziz wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 6:25 pm
Zebra HZ. Most of the time.
I know, I know, the great Hans Zimmer uses Zebra in his scores. Who cares, his scores haven't been any good since Driving Miss Daisy. Also, it's a widely known secret that Hans has always used ghost writers and professional orchestrators to create most of his scores except for the main themes.

The fact is that Zebra sounds very average for a software synth (which is not saying much when considering competing hardware synths). Zebra is certainly flexible and has a whole load of features. But it's really thin and weak-sounding compared to the software and especially the hardware competition.

Even Hive 2 is a much better synth.
I don't really care who uses what. The question was what I use for an all around synth. I'm not the biggest fan of HZ's scores including Driving Ms Daisy, but mostly I don't wanna watch big action flicks. Zebra HZ has all the filters from diva along with nice ass compressors for each buss and an incredibly flexible engine. Unless I need something very specific (granular synthesis, sample manipulation, heavy audio rate modulation, etc) then zebra or zebra HZ is what I reach for to make a sound. If you can't get the synth sound you need out of one of those then you need to practice. Hardware won't make your music better.

I don't see why you can't accept the answers to the question that was asked. What the hell do you care what someone considers their go-to? You need to hire a sound designer?
Don't F**K with Mr. Zero.

Ah_Dziz
KVRAF
3505 posts since 2 Jul, 2005

Post Wed Dec 15, 2021 9:29 pm

SamDi wrote:
Thu Dec 09, 2021 12:16 pm
pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:24 pm
Oh, believe me, I have problems with Zebra too. Specially the effects are showing its age. And other other stuff like parameters that are modulated in low resolution or the sequencer/arp is kinda limited. But all in all, it's still my favorite synth, after a decade using it.
I think that is one of the ma

pierb wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:24 pm
I tried Pigments recently and ended up selling it. The sound was a bit vanilla, unlike U-He synths which tend to have a lot of character. I could never get anything remotely analog convincing with Pigments. Ultimately it was very frustrating as it is a very limited synth.
Strange - this is often said. Of course Pigments is not analog convincing as Diva or Repro, that's clear. But I am not the right one for talking about that, because for me "analog character" is just adding some noise, tone drift and saturation after the filter and other movement :D. I am no vintage freak :party:

But on the other side, when I compare Pigments with Rapid, Hive or Dune, which are all regarded sounding excellent, I would rate Pigments easily in this league. The FX in Pigments are pretty good and with the sophisticated routing I can get it sounding directly in that direction as I want. that makes it for me the perfect sound design tool.

Zebra on the other side does often does not I want and then the sound develops in a different direction as intended. Sometimes I get it then back with tweaking, but sometimes not.

But Zebra 3 with Uhbik FX, Diva and Repro filters and Hive wavetable would be the ultimate killer machine :hihi: :hihi: :hihi:
I'm digging Pigments but mostly because it is the best MPE synth I have. The FXpansion synths crash too much and equator is a bit silly to program. Pigments spits out great MPE sounds and pretty nifty standard synth sounds too. It would have turned into one of my favorites except that the modulation is a bit counterintuitive even after prolonged use (for me).
It's one of my favorites to just load up and play to practice my seaboard skills though.
Don't F**K with Mr. Zero.

briefcasemanx
KVRian
1052 posts since 28 Jul, 2006

Post Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:04 pm

JunoX^2

Return to “Instruments”