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2005 vs. 2016

 

2005

2016

Beard

Waning days of the goatee.

Ironic facial hair all the way.

iPhone and iPad

 

Not for another couple of years. If you're really cool you have a Palm Treo, which is just a little less advanced than a Commdore 64 from the early '80s.

The first iPad is 2010.

What can we say?

Actually, the iOS synth craze has been on a somewhat downward slope. iPads are still great tools in the studio, but they're not the driving force they looked like they were going to be.

Multiple
computers

 

You only have one computer?!

Due to limitation of 32-bit memory addressing, loading a full production with software instruments usually required multiple computers ("slaves"), each with their own audio and MIDI interfaces.

Windows XP could only address about 1.5GB of memory, and it required some minor hacking to get it to access that much.

Early Mac OS X versions could load about 3GB of sample libraries if you had 4GB installed in the machine.

Memory access is water under the bridge.

With 64-bit memory addressing, some musicians have 128GB in their machines, and 32GB doesn't raise eyebrows.

A lot of people complain when Apple releases long-awaited laptops that could only hold 16GB.

Sample slave computers certainly aren't extinct, but it's no longer necessary to have lots of them.

Software samplers

The last days of Tascam Gigastudio, the software sampler that created a new musical medium, that revolutionized sampling by streaming samples off hard drives.

Format wars for sample libraries: Gigastudio, Steinberg Halion, Native Instruments Kontakt (mainly - there were others).

Native Instruments Kontakt becomes the format most sample library developers license.

 

Some of the major companies like EastWest, Vienna Symphonic Library, Spectrasonics have come up with their own sample engines to suit their needs.

Native reverb

Word was that you need outboard reverb processors for professional-level productions. Good reverb takes a lot of processing power, and few musicians are interested in a reverb plug-in that needs an entire computer.

The exception is convolution processing, in which room or other space responses are sampled. It's called an impulse response.

Computers have been powerful enough to produce really good reverbs for a few years, while running all kinds of other things at the same time.

Add-on DSP

Should I buy Digidesign Pro Tools, which uses add-on DSP cards to run plug-ins (and the Pro Tools software doesn't work without Digidesign hardware)? Or should I take a risk and go native, meaning the computer runs everything.

For larger productions it's important to have guaranteed track counts and know you're going to have enough processing.

Companies like Metric Halo still make use of add-on DSP, especially in their audio interfaces.



But the native/add-on DSP quandary was over years ago. Off-the-shelf computers have been able to run large productions for a few years.

Drives

Hey, there's a great new hard drive that won't give you clicks and pops when you're streaming large sample libraries!

It's 10,000 RPM, and only $350 for 30GB.



Standard 7200 RPM hard drives are okay, but larger productions are going to be a little frustrating unless you have multiple computers.

SSDs have totally revolutionized not just sample-streaming but everything to do with computers.

Remember when we'd buy a new computer after 2-1/2 years, and for a couple of days it would feel fast?

Just putting your system on a $50 SSD speeds up everything much more than that. SSDs are awesome.

Now, most musicians still use conventional spinning drives for large storage, just putting the libraries they use most on SSDs. Even that's changing as prices drop.

Software vs. hardware

Walking around NAMM (the music instrument industry's biggest trade show), there's a dearth of hardware synths.

Synthesis has been figured out in software. Who needs hardware? We can even load our ancient DX-7 sounds on the computer, and they sound a lot better!

Driven by the silly amount of power in today's computers, soft synths are even better, whether they're analog emulations or unique instruments.

Hardware is back like crazy, but this time around it's complementing software. Musicians are using a combination of hardware, software, vintage, and modern instruments.

Computers

 

PowerMac G5 comes out. The top-end computer is a dual 2.7GHz. Not bad.



Windows XP is the current version, and a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 is a hot machine. (I still have four of them in my garage. They probably even work.)

Music software brings computers to their knees; people running the latest software versions still replace their main ones every 2-1/2 or 3 years.

Multi-core computers have been out for a few years. They have a silly amount of processing power, and they're multi-year investments today.

For a while, the hardware was actually ahead of the music software - it took a while for developers to make their instruments and processors take advantage of the new power. But they've caught up (especially VSL's Vienna Ensemble Pro).

Now, computer processing still a finite resource, but you can run large-scale productions on a machine several years old.

Sample libraries

Amazingly detailed libraries are coming out every month. The sampler programming becomes more and more advanced, to the point that features like legato transition samples are de rigeur, and everything is sample at lots of velocities and mic positions.

Musicians are collecting sample libraries as fast as they come out.

Amazingly detailed libraries are coming out every month. The sampler programming becomes more and more advanced, to the point that features like legato transition samples are de rigeur, and everything is sampled at lots of velocities and mic positions.

Musicians are collecting sample libraries as fast as they come out.

And yet there's still a large variety of takes on every sampled instrument. It remains a vibrant field of endeavor.

Connections

SATA, PCI-E, Firewire, USB 2... yawn. :)

SATA, PCI-E, Thunderbolt, USB 3... yawn. :)



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