Soft synths sound great. Until you compare them to hardware. Even digital. Any synth by the big three, Yamaha, Roland, Korg, take the synth, find the relevant obscure menu, and figure out how to off all the layers of effects. And what’s left underneath often sounds 2D and like a softsynth.
But then you pick up a classic digital synth. The classic Yamaha FM synths, for example, have huge punch and dimensionality to the sound. When you modulate an operator by another, even on a 2op sound, it feels like you can feel it in your gut. Or the Ensoniqs, like the ESQ-1 and SQ-80. Even if you don’t use the filter, even if the sound lacks all punch and sounds distant and brittle, the phasing between the oscillators when you detune sounds so rich, and like nothing analog could ever do.
Then you do the same thing on a modern synth by the big three. And it all just sounds the same, like software relating to software, not like distinct oscillators crashing against each other. But why?
I recently played a Korg Z1, Kawai K5000s, and Korg Kronos in various music stores. And without the effects, they all sounded 2D to my ears. But the lowly Korg 707 (an FB-01 chip) and the Preen sound HUGE to my ears in comparison. But I just don’t understand why.
I know older Yamaha FMs have 12 bit resolution, and this makes them warm, noisy, and fuzzy. I know clock rate impacts this with lookup tables in relation to aliasing. I know op-amps impact things, and that every time the signal goes into the analog realm this likely impacts things too. I’ve been told bandwith impacts ‘punch’ (ie: the ability to go from low to high volume with clarity very quickly), and maybe more recent synths are sacrificing this and just privileging the processor. I know many more recent synths draw a LOT less overall amperage than classic synths. But I’m no techie. I’m curious to learn, though.
I just know that when I listen to classic Yamaha or Korg FM, or the Preen, they sound huge. And then the Korg Kronos, the Z1, the Yamaha Dx200, the Kawai K5000s, urg. Strip away all the effects, and I hear a softsynth. Why? What’s the technical causes to what my ears are hearing?