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Discussion Starter #1
I have an Akai EWI 4000s, which I've been playing for about three years. In addition to the Patchman soundbank for the EWI, I also have a Roland JV 1010 with the Patchman soundbank and a Yamaha VL70-m with the Patchman turbo chip. (Yes, there may be a trend here. :)

The external synths live in a rack case with a mixer and a power conditioner/distributor, and this setup works very well for playing at home and for the occasional solo gig.

...but I also play clarinet (that's where I started, more years ago than I want to think about), in community concert bands and other local ensembles, and recently I've been thinking that it would be fun to use the EWI for that, too -- but for that my needs are quite different, and that's where my question comes in.

Specifically, I'm looking for something which is easily portable, and which provides accurate emulation of "real" woodwind and brass instruments. I'm aware of the following options:

1) Buy a second VL70-m and Patchman chip. (I'd really prefer to leave the one I have in the rack, and to leave the rack at home, for the purposes of this discussion). This has the advantage that it works well, and I already know how to use it. The disadvantage is that it's a discontinued product and I don't know where to buy one. (Coincidentally, Patchman has one for sale right now on their used gear page, but as I don't live in the United States that doesn't help me at all.)

2) Buy a Windows or Mac laptop and use either SampleModeling or Wallander WIVI instruments. These both have good reputations, but I have absolutely no experience with softsynths and don't know where to start.

Most VST hosts I've found are intended for studio work, and seem overly complex for live performance. I've seen some good reviews of Forte for Windows; I don't know what the equivalent would be for MacOS (GarageBand comes with the OS, but it doesn't seem oriented toward live use).

Are there other possibilities I'm missing? Of the options I've listed, which would be the simplest to use? Which would sound best?

I know these are all beginner questions, but I'm very much a beginner in this area at this point. Any advice would be gratefully received. :)

Thanks,

- Steven
 

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VST (or AU, I think Mac calls them) plug-ins I've used have a stand alone application. If the WW BW sampled and modeled instruments are similar, you wont need a host program for live playing.

What you are proposing is low polyphony. You may not need a super computer. With laptops, the 5400 rpm speed of the drive could be a problem....and, you'll probably need an audio interface rather than the comp's headphone out.

I don't know how the Yamaha sounds but modeled instruments can be very realistic as you likely know. I'm looking to put Pianoteq on a laptop for gigs because it sounds so much better than the Yamaha p105 I recently bought.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
[When I originally tried to post this, it appeared to have gotten lost; that's why it looked like I posted essentially the same thing twice. I don't know how to delete a post entirely, so this is the next best thing. Post #6 below was the replacement, only slightly better edited; please read that one instead. :)

- Steven]
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I was faced with the same issue several years ago....Bought a second vl70....
Thanks for confirming that at least my instincts were good. :)

Unfortunately I can't seem to find a VL70 available for sale, so I just ordered a Thinkpad X201 tablet PC on which I'll try out the Wallander WIVI instruments.

- Steven
 

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Discussion Starter #6
VST (or AU, I think Mac calls them) plug-ins I've used have a stand alone application. If the WW BW sampled and modeled instruments are similar, you wont need a host program for live playing.
Thanks for your reply!

Unfortunately both the Wallander WIVI and SampleModeling instruments do require a host, at least according to their respective web sites. I can confirm this for the WIVI sample download, as well.

On the plus side, I found a couple of simple and (legally :) free hosts, namely Cantabile Light and SAVIHost. I plan to start with these, and perhaps buy something more powerful later.

What you are proposing is low polyphony. You may not need a super computer. With laptops, the 5400 rpm speed of the drive could be a problem....and, you'll probably need an audio interface rather than the comp's headphone out.
The Lenovo X201 tablet PC I just ordered comes with a 7200 rpm disk -- and thanks for pointing this out, since otherwise I might not have thought to look for that. :)

I do expect to need an audio interface. The "KOMPLETE AUDIO 6" seems to be well regarded (eg, the reviews at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/768774-REG/Native_Instruments_21066_KOMPLETE_AUDIO_6.html); does anyone here have other recommendations?

Thanks,

- Steven
 

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This is the VST host I used to use it`s really small and all it does is act as a host. Chainer http://www.xlutop.com/html/chainer.html

I have to say you really have so much choice with Soft synths that I think it just comes down to selecting one and sticking to it. If it were me I`d use a mid range Windoze Laptop & Reason 5 and just spend a wee bit time setting up patchs to suit my needs. You just won`t get better sound making capabilities as easy and it`s pretty well future proof . heres a nice vid of "the Master". Bernie Kenerson using Reason live with a macbook.
 

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If you want "real acoustic instrument emulation", you won't get it with Reason and even the VL70 is now sounding very dated. Some of the things you can tweak on the VL70 are very cool like growl etc, but the technology sounds as old as the unit's release date. The most realistic acoustic emulations easily playable on the EWI at the moment are SampleModeling and WIVI products. For jazz flute, there's Passion Flute. WIVI is generally best for ensemble use and SampleModeling is generally best for solo instruments. Of course there are some exceptions in both products but the generalisation is pretty accurate. Many of the WIVI woodwinds are not great as solo instruments but the brasses are quite good all-round. Both WIVI and SampleModeling products can be configured to your personal taste but the WIVI Pro Player is by far the most configurable of the two products. SampleModeling instruments come in 2 different formats: Native Instruments Kontakt and SWAM. Some instruments are Kontakt-only and some instruments are SWAM-only. The Saxophones are available in Kontakt and SWAM but each product is slightly different…see the SampleModeling forum for more info about this.

For clarinet, you cannot do any better than the SWAM Clarinets from SampleModeling at the moment. There still aren't any blow-you-away classical flute products on the market right now. SampleModeling will soon be releasing their Oboe/English Horn package and I personally hope Flute won't be far behind. Passion Flute by Orange Tree sounds and plays jazz flute very, very well but you need a fairly decent computer to get the most out of it of you want to use all of the features.

I've spent a fortune on both hardware and software synths over the past 15 years and am very experienced with both the EWI 4000S and WX5. In my opinion, there are no hardware synths on the market that can match current soft synths for acoustic instrument emulation except for Xpression by DynaSample.

There are some excellent hosts around but for Mac, it's very difficult to beat MainStage by Apple if - once again - you have a fairly decent MacBook Pro and a good quality audio interface. You pay for quality and it doesn't come cheap. There are folks around who will tell you that such and such netbook will do the job or you don't need a powerful computer or high-quality audio interface to get great results…sorry, but that's BS if you really want quality. You may be able to get away with 2nd or 3rd tier hardware/software if your standards aren't very high but it all depends on how you define "realistic" for acoustic emulation.

A lot of folks use Reaper as a host and I've tried it but as a Mac user, Reaper doesn't even come close to MainStage, especially as you can get MS for around $30 on the Mac App Store. It used to only be available as part of the Logic package but Apple changed this just over a year ago and MainStage is now at version 3.

My recommendation is definitely to go for a MacBook Pro if you can afford it but you'll also need to budget for a good quality audio interface somewhere down the road. You can run audio out from the headphone socket of the MBP but a quality audio interface makes a big difference. MOTU, Apogee and RME make excellent products and you wouldn't regret spending the money.
 

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If you want "real acoustic instrument emulation", you won't get it with Reason and even the VL70 is now sounding very dated. Some of the things you can tweak on the VL70 are very cool like growl etc, but the technology sounds as old as the unit's release date. The most realistic acoustic emulations easily playable on the EWI at the moment are SampleModeling and WIVI products. For jazz flute, there's Passion Flute. WIVI is generally best for ensemble use and SampleModeling is generally best for solo instruments. Of course there are some exceptions in both products but the generalisation is pretty accurate. Many of the WIVI woodwinds are not great as solo instruments but the brasses are quite good all-round. Both WIVI and SampleModeling products can be configured to your personal taste but the WIVI Pro Player is by far the most configurable of the two products. SampleModeling instruments come in 2 different formats: Native Instruments Kontakt and SWAM. Some instruments are Kontakt-only and some instruments are SWAM-only. The Saxophones are available in Kontakt and SWAM but each product is slightly different…see the SampleModeling forum for more info about this.

For clarinet, you cannot do any better than the SWAM Clarinets from SampleModeling at the moment. There still aren't any blow-you-away classical flute products on the market right now. SampleModeling will soon be releasing their Oboe/English Horn package and I personally hope Flute won't be far behind. Passion Flute by Orange Tree sounds and plays jazz flute very, very well but you need a fairly decent computer to get the most out of it of you want to use all of the features.

I've spent a fortune on both hardware and software synths over the past 15 years and am very experienced with both the EWI 4000S and WX5. In my opinion, there are no hardware synths on the market that can match current soft synths for acoustic instrument emulation except for Xpression by DynaSample.

There are some excellent hosts around but for Mac, it's very difficult to beat MainStage by Apple if - once again - you have a fairly decent MacBook Pro and a good quality audio interface. You pay for quality and it doesn't come cheap. There are folks around who will tell you that such and such netbook will do the job or you don't need a powerful computer or high-quality audio interface to get great results…sorry, but that's BS if you really want quality. You may be able to get away with 2nd or 3rd tier hardware/software if your standards aren't very high but it all depends on how you define "realistic" for acoustic emulation.

A lot of folks use Reaper as a host and I've tried it but as a Mac user, Reaper doesn't even come close to MainStage, especially as you can get MS for around $30 on the Mac App Store. It used to only be available as part of the Logic package but Apple changed this just over a year ago and MainStage is now at version 3.

My recommendation is definitely to go for a MacBook Pro if you can afford it but you'll also need to budget for a good quality audio interface somewhere down the road. You can run audio out from the headphone socket of the MBP but a quality audio interface makes a big difference. MOTU, Apogee and RME make excellent products and you wouldn't regret spending the money.

With you almost 100% . If the OP has a decent Budget. But he could shave a lot off by using alternative platform and Hosts. OP remember both windozE and MacOS both run on basic Intel Chasis nowadays. Anyway hers a nice vid and link showing samplemodelling for you
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The most realistic acoustic emulations easily playable on the EWI at the moment are SampleModeling and WIVI products.
That's definitely what I've been reading, but since I haven't actually used any softsynths yet it's great to hear some confirmation. :)

WIVI is generally best for ensemble use and SampleModeling is generally best for solo instruments.
I plan to start out with WIVI simply because they have a broader collection of available instruments, but I expect to end up with both eventually (the reason for "eventually" being to avoid spending the full price for both all at once).

In my opinion, there are no hardware synths on the market that can match current soft synths for acoustic instrument emulation except for Xpression by DynaSample.
Have you tried the Xpression yourself? I've seen their web site, and it looks amazing, but it also looks like a niche product which almost nobody is buying yet. I know Bernie Kenerson and Alistair Parnell each have one, but it hasn't even been mentioned yet on patchmanmusic.com (that I've seen, at least, and I've looked for it); the fact that DynaSample has no retailers in North America and that they themselves are currently out of stock doesn't inspire confidence, either.

There are some excellent hosts around but for Mac, it's very difficult to beat MainStage by Apple if - once again - you have a fairly decent MacBook Pro and a good quality audio interface. You pay for quality and it doesn't come cheap.
I wish you'd mentioned this about two days earlier than you actually did. :)

I needed to buy a laptop for this purpose anyway, and was vacillating between Windows and Mac -- but the Mac seemed to have fewer available choices, and the ones I could find all seemed to be full-fledged DAWs, which are absolutely not what I'm looking for (yet, at least; I want to start with something a lot simpler).

I read about MainStage, but the sources I saw all predated its separation from Logic, so I ruled it out not knowing I could buy it as a separate product.

Anyway, I'm committed to Windows for now (I haven't received the new laptop yet, but I've ordered and paid for it).

There are folks around who will tell you that such and such netbook will do the job or you don't need a powerful computer or high-quality audio interface to get great results…sorry, but that's BS if you really want quality.
I understand this, thanks. The machine I ordered has a core i7 CPU, 4 Gb of memory and a 7200 RPM disk (and can handle an SSD if that proves necessary), so I hope it has enough capability for what I want do with it (not least because, if it doesn't, I don't know what would :-/).

Anyway, thank you very much for taking the time to write this. It helps a lot to hear from someone who clearly understands what I'm aiming for and has experience doing it (incidentally, I just saw your post about playing the SWAM clarinet in a pit orchestra in the SampleModeling forum :).

- Steven
 

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Discussion Starter #15
This is the VST host I used to use it`s really small and all it does is act as a host. Chainer http://www.xlutop.com/html/chainer.html
Thanks, I'll check this out.

I have to say you really have so much choice with Soft synths that I think it just comes down to selecting one and sticking to it.
Choice is definitely a good thing. In this case, there's so /much/ choice that it looks a bit overwhelming right now. I'm hoping it will seem much less so in the near future. :)

If it were me I`d use a mid range Windoze Laptop & Reason 5 and just spend a wee bit time setting up patchs to suit my needs. You just won`t get better sound making capabilities as easy and it`s pretty well future proof . heres a nice vid of "the Master". Bernie Kenerson using Reason live with a macbook.
There's no question that Bernie is a master EWI player, but I suspect that the kind of thing I'm trying to do (i.e., realistic emulation of acoustic wind instruments) isn't what he's interested in. That doesn't make his sound any less impressive, but it does mean that he isn't my role model for this particular project.

- Steven
 

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SMW, I'm really sorry now I didn't reply a couple of days earlier. I'd seen the thread and knew what I wanted to say but also knew it'd be a long post and put it off until I had some time. Is there any chance you can cancel the PC order? I used PCs for years before buying my first Mac about 4 years ago; I'd always seen/heard Mac fanboys and absolutely could not understand how they could claim Macs were so much better than PCs....until I bought my MacBook Pro. The difference is light and day when it comes to music use, overall stability and performance. I'm expecting to be roasted by PC guys with these statements but I stand by what I've said. Once you've tried Mac, you won't go back.

Bernie Kenerson is a great player and fantastic proponent of wind synthesis but I agree that acoustic emulation isn't really his main thing. You've just got to check out his YouTube clips to see this. However, I've learned a number of things from talking to Bernie about programming various synths for wind controllers and he's an incredibly knowledgeable and really nice guy.

I haven't tried the Xpression myself: I'm not in the US or Germany and therefore I'd pretty much have to buy one just to play around with it. However, the Patchman Music Forum is the best place to talk to some Xpression owners. It's also probably the best place all-round to talk to wind controller players who really know what they're talking about. That being said, I've listened to a lot of Xpression clips and spoken to its users and in terms of hardware, I haven't heard anything better at this time. I've got a Turbo VL70m and never use it because it really does sound incredibly dated compared to WIVI and SampleModeling products...especially if you want acoustic emulations that could fool experienced players of those instruments. You read about my pit show experience: there were some very experienced pro musicians in the audience who were impressed with my clarinet playing, and then I got to tell them it was electronic! You should've seen their faces!

Regardless of whether you go PC or Mac, you'll almost definitely want to at least double your 4GB of RAM to 8GB. WIVI will be ok with 4GB but SampleModeling instruments (either Kontakt-based or SWAM) will chew up RAM like nothing else. See how you go with 4GB and then upgrade when you catch the soft synth bug :) Re. HDD vs SSD: I'm running a Samsung 512GB SSD and it's awesome for samples...I can't recommend it highly enough.

Finally, I absolutely cannot recommend M-Audio for an audio interface if you want a stable, high-quality and low-latency device, especially for live performance. I've seen dozens of posts on several forums by people who were frustrated with M-Audio interfaces and eventually ditched these to buy something better like MOTU, Apogee, RME etc. The MOTU Ultralite MK3 is very cheap given its quality and I/O options, and I can personally vouch for this device. There are also a number of other wind controller players on the Apple MainStage and Logic Pro forums who use the Ultralite and swear by it for its price point. If $$ weren't a consideration for me, I'd buy an RME Fireface simply because its drivers have just a little less latency than the MOTU devices. Apogee is also incredibly good but doesn't really compare with MOTU or RME when it comes to value for money and I/O, unless you have $2K + for a new Ensemble (around $1.5K for used). For portability and travel, the MOTU Ultralite and RME Fireface are 1/2 rack units and can easily fit into a backpack with your laptop. Above all, buy an interface with stable, ultra-low latency drivers made by a company with a track record for regular driver updates. The last thing you want is for an OS upgrade to be released for your laptop but you're stuck because your audio interface manufacturer is slow to update compatible drivers. I've seen this happen time and time again with certain manufacturers.

PM me anytime for advice.

Cheers
 

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Not to be difficult Maddcow but - are the applications you are writing about modeled or sampled? As mentioned, I have no experience with woodwind sampled modeling only with Pianoteq. Rather than being a RAM hog, it is CPU intensive. I would imagine that an application that decides which sample to play based on how one articulates the sounds would be memory intensive. Kontakt is a problem for my system. All of MidiOpera transcriptions are done with Logic's ESX24. Some of these works are 50+ tracks - not all simultaneously - and run smoothly on my recently deceased PowerMac 2/2.0.

Running Pianoteq in Logic, a 3 track (piano, bass and drums) recording uses less than 10% of the available 5.5 Gb of RAM. Depending on how dense the piano track is, I can push it to the point that it chokes but that is a CPU limitation.

As to the M-Audio, I've had 2 interfaces so far - one PCI and the Firewire 410. The PCI did have driver issues but the 410 is a very different beast. Discussing latency without knowing the settings is unproductive.

One of the problems for the potential buyer is there are few places to try a proposed set up. Computers and software are difficult to return if not impossible.
 

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Not to be difficult Maddcow but - are the applications you are writing about modeled or sampled?
WIVI is modeled but is very low CPU-intensive but SampleModeling products use samples which require lots of free RAM. It's rarely the CPU on recent computers that is problematic so long as you're happy with not going below 64 samples for the audio buffer eg 32 samples is pretty difficult to achieve with most live audio systems. And 4GB RAM really isn't very much if you want to load multiple sampled instruments, which you're going to need to do if you're playing live. Anyone who uses sampled instruments will tell you that 4GB RAM is virtually nothing for quality sampled instruments. You could perhaps have a couple of instruments loaded and switch between them but you won't get much more than that, especially with Windows machines which generally don't manage RAM very efficiently.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
SMW, I'm really sorry now I didn't reply a couple of days earlier. I'd seen the thread and knew what I wanted to say but also knew it'd be a long post and put it off until I had some time.
I definitely understand what that's like, and in any case it's as much my fault for being in a hurry. I saw a good deal on Ebay and rushed to order it while it was still available.

Is there any chance you can cancel the PC order?
No, it's already been confirmed and paid for.

...and I can't afford to buy two laptops at the moment, so I really am committed (even though I still haven't actually received the new machine yet; I expect it before the end of the coming week, however).

The good news is that if I end up having performance or stability problems with Windows, I could always buy a Mac later and use this machine to replace my general-purpose Linux laptop (for which purpose it would be a significant improvement over what I have now :), so it's not a total loss.

The difference is light and day when it comes to music use, overall stability and performance. I'm expecting to be roasted by PC guys with these statements but I stand by what I've said. Once you've tried Mac, you won't go back.
I have no experience with Macs at all (and none with Windows 7 either; except for this purchase, all the computers I use at home and at work run Linux, though one has a Windows XP virtual machine for the few applications which have no Linux version or equivalent), but my sister and my mother each have Macs and like them, so I'm familiar with the sentiment. :)

However, the Patchman Music Forum is the best place to talk to some Xpression owners. It's also probably the best place all-round to talk to wind controller players who really know what they're talking about.
Thanks, that's good to know. I've spent a lot of time on the Patchman site in general (their FAQ was invaluable when I first bought the EWI), but I've never looked at their forum before.

I've got a Turbo VL70m and never use it because it really does sound incredibly dated compared to WIVI and SampleModeling products...especially if you want acoustic emulations that could fool experienced players of those instruments.
Since the Turbo VL70m is the best I've used personally, it sound like I'll be in for a treat no matter what happens. :)

You read about my pit show experience: there were some very experienced pro musicians in the audience who were impressed with my clarinet playing, and then I got to tell them it was electronic! You should've seen their faces!
That's amazing, and I really wish I could have seen it. :)

Regardless of whether you go PC or Mac, you'll almost definitely want to at least double your 4GB of RAM to 8GB.
This is something I wouldn't have guessed, so I lucked out in that the machine I ordered can handle up to 8 Gb, and the upgrade probably won't cost more than about $80 (the exact value will depend on whether there's an empty RAM slot, or whether the existing 4 Gb is actually 2 x 2 Gb, in which case the upgrade would probably cost about $160 -- still not much at all in the grand scheme of things).

See how you go with 4GB and then upgrade when you catch the soft synth bug :)
That's pretty much exactly what I'm planning right now. :)

Re. HDD vs SSD: I'm running a Samsung 512GB SSD and it's awesome for samples...I can't recommend it highly enough.
Likewise, I'll hold onto that thought. In this case it's not just the cost of the SSD, but also the effort required to transfer the content of the existing disk. Still, it's good to know the option is there if/when it becomes necessary.

The MOTU Ultralite MK3 is very cheap given its quality and I/O options, and I can personally vouch for this device. There are also a number of other wind controller players on the Apple MainStage and Logic Pro forums who use the Ultralite and swear by it for its price point.
It sounds like the common factor here is using it with a Mac. The reviews I've seen (after looking it up based on this recommendation) is that it works really well on MacOS, but that the Windows drivers aren't nearly as good, and people have had really mixed experience with it on Windows.

I'm still not exactly clear on what features I'm looking for in an audio interface. I know it's the way to connect a MIDI cable from the EWI to the laptop, and that it provides much better sound quality and lower latency than the built-in audio hardware, but beyond that it's still a bit of a mystery to me.


Above all, buy an interface with stable, ultra-low latency drivers made by a company with a track record for regular driver updates. The last thing you want is for an OS upgrade to be released for your laptop but you're stuck because your audio interface manufacturer is slow to update compatible drivers. I've seen this happen time and time again with certain manufacturers.
That's always good advice, and I thank you for reminding me of it.

The good news here is that the machine I'll be using will be dedicated completely for softsynths. Since it won't be used for anything else, once I have a working setup I won't have any reason to upgrade the OS unless or until some new softsynth comes out that won't run on the current version.
 
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