MIDI Studio Sound Generators: Soft-Synths - dummies

By Jeff Strong

If you’ve chosen a computer-based system for your home studio, your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software enables you to produce great sounds by using soft-synth plug-ins. Soft-synths are basically software equivalents of stand-alone synthesizers, sound modules, or samplers. As you can see in the following illustration, a soft-synth’s graphical user interface (GUI) is often designed to look just like a piece of regular hardware, complete with buttons and knobs.


Of course, soft-synths have advantages and disadvantages, as follows:

  • Advantages: Soft-synths cost less than stand-alone units because no hardware is involved.

  • Disadvantages: Unlike regular synthesizers, soft-synths need a computer to run and require quite a bit of processing power to work effectively. This can slow your computer system and prevent you from recording as many audio tracks or applying as many effect patches as you would like.

    It may also introduce some latency into your system, depending on what audio recording program you use. Most offer ADC (automatic delay compensation) to deal with this, so don’t let this stop you from using soft-synths.

Countless soft-synth plug-ins are available for most DAW programs. The best way to find the soft-synths for your DAW program is to visit an Internet newsgroup or message board that covers your software. Then do a search for soft-synths or ask the other members what software they use.