Types of Softsynth
There are a number of very popular hardware synthesizers which are no longer manufactured which have been emulated in software. The emulation can even extend to having graphics that model the exact placements of the original hardware controls. Some simulators can even import the original sound patches with accuracy that is nearly indistinguishable from the original synthesizer. Popular synthesizers such as the Minimoog and Yamaha DX-7, Korg M1, Prophet V, Oberheim OB-X, Roland Jupiter 8, ARP 2600 and dozens of other classics have been recreated in software.
Some softsynths are heavily sample based, and frequently have more capability than hardware units, since computers have fewer restrictions on memory than dedicated hardware synthesizers. Some of these sample based synthesizers come with sample libraries many gigabytes in size. Some are specifically designed to mimic real world instruments such as pianos. Many sample libraries are available in a common format like WAV or SoundFont, and can be used with almost any sampler based softsynth.
The major downside of using softsynths can often be more latency (delay between playing the note and hearing the corresponding sound). Decreasing latency requires increasing the demand on the computer's processor. When the soft synthesizer is running as a plug-in for a host sequencer, both the soft synth and the sequencer are competing for processor time. Multi-processor computers can handle this better than single-processor computers. As the processor becomes overloaded, sonic artifacts such as "clicks" and "pops" can be heard during performance or playback. When the processor becomes completely overloaded, the host sequencer or computer can lock up or crash. Increasing buffer size will help, but also increase latency. However modern professional audio interfaces can frequently operate with extremely low latency, so in recent years this has become much less of a problem than in the early days of computer music.
Read more about this topic: Software Synthesizer
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