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Explain softsynth to the newbie..

category: general [glöplog]

I know theoritically about midi, wav, module, mp3, e.t.c... but softsynth is something new for me. There were few 64kb intros claiming they used a softsynth, but I am not sure what this means. I don't want code and stuff, just a practical explanation to the mass, of what it is as a logic. As I know with few words that module is a piece of music compining waves played in diferrent frequences and mixed, I would also to know what is the simple logic behind the things called softsynth. I would like to hear your explanations pleaz. (I think FR08 was feauturing a softsynth and it surelly sounded cool, but I don't know what it is) What the heck is a softsynth?

added on the 2002-07-02 00:10:43 by Optimus Optimus
modplayer is a softsynth. in a way.
if you add some real effects (filtering, modulation, reverb..) then it's even more so.
added on the 2002-07-02 00:30:18 by 216 216
a moduleplayer of xm and such is not a softsynth, its just a software mixer :)

a synth needs to have generators .. atleast thats what i have as an idea of a synth in general but maybe iam wrong..

maybe steffo or someone can fillin/correct
added on the 2002-07-02 00:37:08 by Hatikvah Hatikvah
a softsynth uses formulas to generate sound.

and those formulas are scary and only scary people know how they work (steffo, cs/tbl, kb/fr :)

you could think about generators for sines, sawtooths and things like lowpass filters, possibilities are endless basically
Ok, a tracker can be seen as a software sampler, it uses samples for waveforms etc. But usually with softsynths people mean software that "simulates" a synth, so you can make different instruments in it etc. Like on a synth. But this is scary stuff and only for scary people like me, probe and kb and others of the same kind.
added on the 2002-07-02 00:44:17 by steffo steffo
tinnitus synth demonstrates the really scary side of a softsynth. only scary people like stefans can do something like that
added on the 2002-07-02 00:46:01 by Hatikvah Hatikvah
whoa, im scared...
added on the 2002-07-02 00:50:06 by dmh dmh
I guess the old FM Midi things (non-wavetable) on old soundcards are somewhat like a softsynth? (a hardsynth?)
added on the 2002-07-02 01:14:42 by cats cats
added on the 2002-07-02 01:19:04 by 216 216
Here's my shot at an explanation:

The Yamaha DX-7 is/was a very famous synthesizer from the early 80's. Unlike Moog synths, which used analog circuits to generate sounds, the DX-7 used a specialized digital processor. (re: CPU)

Instruments were created using FM synthesis, which is one of several methods of creating synthetic sounds. It was a suitable choice for the 80's, because the contemporary computer technology could calculate such sounds in realtime, and it was cost-effective.

Obviously today CPUs are far more powerful than some 4 MHz Yamaha FM chip. So a softsynth is similar to, say, a DX-7, but instead of using a specialized chip, it's just a synthesis program running through a general purpose CPU.

I'm pretty certain ".the .product" uses FM synthesis, because it certainly sounds like FM, and it'd be relatively simple for today's processors to calculate. Later on we may hear analog modeling synthesis in 64K intros. (Unless someone is already working on this??)

And I suppose another type of softsynth would be the emulated Yamaha chips (and others) found in MAME.

well, softsynths generate simple waveforms (square, sin, saw and noise). they are simple sound generators.
Optimus, you should find some books about c64's SID chip. what is mentioned there is what a softsynth does.. (well, not exactly but you'll get the idea :)
added on the 2002-07-02 04:03:31 by medron medron
Da_Medron: I don't think simple 'tone generation' is quite the same as synthesis. The latter implies taking several elements and putting them together, such as a sine wave modulated by oscillators, filters, etc., whereas the former is just one fundemental element.

The dictionary definition for 'synthesis' roughly means taking various parts to create a whole.

I think I got it! So that was it! It is like FM or C64 or other chips who tried to produced sounds based on sine waves and stuff, but now it's not on the chip, it's done by software. Quite interesting, and I think that FR08 sounds much better than the old chips, so I think it's much improved than the old hardware synthers..

Thanks for all of your explanations!
added on the 2002-07-02 10:14:04 by Optimus Optimus
what "the scene" defines as softsynth is also better known as "sample generators" since most intros generate samples to be used in tracked music (with exceptions of course).

and ile: those formulas can be downloaded from www.musicdsp.org and they REALLY aren't hard to figure out (though a bit longhaired to optimize).
Thorn: the FR08 synth in fact IS analog modelling like almost all other softsynths. I admit my synth is also able to do FM, but only since a few months or so, i didn't use that in FR08. Also it's no "sample generator", as it's 100% realtime in everything it does. Sometimes I wish I was able to play samples, but I didn't implement it so far because of my total lack of motivation to write a senseful GUI for that ;)

(oh, Did I mention that you can get an IMA ADPCM like decoder down to 120 bytes and into a software mixer's inner loop without problems? ;)

Anyway. For some infos behind the inner workings of the FR08 synth feel free to check http://kebby.org for some articles. I might even finish the parts which go a bit more in-depth than the introductions standing there :)

And justfortherecord, the current feature set of the FR synth (9K code uncompressed) is:
- full MIDI implementation making the synth usable from every MIDI sequencer/tracker/master keyboard
- three oscillators with colored tri/saw, square, sine, colored noise and FM sine as waveforms, optional ring modulation, everything nicely antialiased
- two 12dB/oct multi mode filters in all important configurations (low,high,band,notch,all,etc)
- a distortion module per voice capable of saturation, clipping, bit reduction, sample rate reduction or usable as 3rd filter
- Two ADSTR envelope generators, EG1 is hardwired to the voice volume, EG2 is usable as you want
- Two LFOs capable of saw/tri/square/sin/S&H waveforms, oneshot/continuous mode, optional sync on NoteOn
- fixed low shelving EQ at 150Hz for bass boost
- two AUX send busses
- whole channel distortion (look above)
- modulating delay line capable of doing all sorts of chorus/flanger/phaser effects (own saw LFO included)
- per-channel compressor with peak or RMS level detection and adjustable threshold/ratio/attack/decay
- AUX1: Reverb (quite cheap, look into the Fortnight/Win32 source, there it is ;)
- AUX2: Stereo Delay (with modulation and delay times up to 2sec)
- Post processing: low cut / high cut and a compressor/limiter
- flexible modulation matrix capable of routing every senseful source (velocity, controllers, EGs, LFOs, etc) to every twisting-capable parameter

... so much for my daily posing :). Oh, and if you have questions (please please way above the "i want to write a softsynth, how?" level. please.) feel free to write me ;)
added on the 2002-07-02 11:32:29 by kb_ kb_
optimus : if it doesn't sound like chip, that's because it's substractive synthesis instead of additive synthesis. Chip samples are created by adding several basic signals (square, triangle, sinus,...) at different frequencies/phases, that's how it works on most old 8-bits/16-bits consoles.

For substractive synthesis, you start from a signal that is composed of an nearly infinite number of sinus waves (ie. square) and you remove these frequencies using filters and such. Of course, this is a simplified view :)

KB : ADPCM is quite impressive, I was surprised how it could save our Mekka 2001 64k from an oversize syndrom :) I'm wondering about 1D daubechies-wavelets, ever tried ?
added on the 2002-07-02 12:27:38 by dake^cdx dake^cdx
Yamaha used PM, not FM. :)
added on the 2002-07-02 22:37:34 by steffo steffo
I made a samplegenerator for use in intros (though we never did get to use it :-D )

You can leech it here:

it's quite flexible and stuff, but not many musicians wants to learn a whole new samplegenerator just to do a tiny xm :-D
stefan, almost all of the so-called FM synths are in fact PM, it's equivalent and makes soo much more sense ;)
added on the 2002-07-03 11:15:27 by kb_ kb_
Yah I know. PM is kinda cool, but dangerous for biased (if only temporary biased even) waveforms. And you have to think about that for instance FM with a square is equal to PM with a triangle wave. And such things. But you don't have to worry about detuning artifacts with PM in the same way as with FM.
added on the 2002-07-05 00:16:45 by steffo steffo
What a timely thread - and thanks to all who posted links. I've been wanting to try and build some softsynth stuff for a while now... it seems the "right thing to do" somehow.

kb_ : Wow. I'd guessed from listening to it the FR-08 softsynth was complex, but that surprised me. Still, its a nice checklist though :)
added on the 2002-07-05 01:47:34 by MrMessiah MrMessiah
Well, if the synth's basic stuff is flexible enough you don't need a complex synth, since you can do a lot with a little. If that little is flexible shit that is :) But some people seem tio have a seperat "synth" and "drum" machine etc. Not my style though.
added on the 2002-07-05 13:55:16 by steffo steffo
It is:

added on the 2005-09-23 13:40:40 by shadez shadez
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added on the 2005-09-23 14:00:12 by the_Ye-Ti the_Ye-Ti
Optimus (and others interested in making a softsynth) - be sure to check out the seminars from this year's Assembly from kb and from gargaj.


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