October 19, 2012

Dave Smith On Why Hardware Synths Still Matter – ‘Fun Is Extremely Important!’

Will true hardware synthesizers become a thing of the past now that we have hundreds, if not thousands of virtual synthesizers at our fingertips?  Granted, not having to plug and unplug cables from several different pieces of hardware is nice, and not having to spend thousands of dollars and antique pieces of equipment that can break at any given time is also nice – but is there something that separates a physical synth from a virtual one?

Moog Slim Phatty

Dave Smith recently shares his view on why “hardware synths still matter”.  His first point has to do with the layout and interface of most virtual synthesizers.  Knobs, buttons, and other functions simply cannot be spaced and laid out in a way that makes sense.  Adding a goofy looking mouse and QWERTY keyboard also detracts from how a synthesizer is supposed to be used.  Obviously, he’s biased – but he makes a good point that even though hardware synths are subject to physical abuse and deterioration, they don’t get left behind in constant operating system updates that inevitably wreak havoc on outdated synth software.

Moog Modular V 2.6

The resurgence of hardware synthesizer is akin to the resurgence of vinyl records.  Although the functional aspect of them peaked long ago, the interest for them appears to be growing.  So which is better, a hardware synth or a software synth?