November 29, 2011

The Difference Between Vintage And Old...

by Chris Randall

Steinberg today announced that they updated their old Model E and VB-1 plug-ins from VST1 days to modern 32/64 VST2.4 standards, and made them free. They are available on Steinberg's site.

Model E, along with Neon (also available free here, but PC only, and don't expect it to work) is one of the very first softsynths that didn't require extra hardware--I believe Creamware made the first softsynth, but it required their cards to work--and at the time was one of the best. It is obviously based upon the MiniMoog, and is coded extremely tightly, in order to run at all on computers of the era. In today's terms, it uses essentially no CPU.

Anyhow, it's a fine softsynth, and a bargain at twice the price. It is quite bright by today's standards; Adam conjectures this is due to a lack of band-limited oscillators which would have been too heavy-duty at the time. Certainly usable for certain situations, though, and you can instance a bajillion of them on a modern computer.

It brings to light an interesting semantic issue, though. While the term "vintage" gets bandied about to the point of uselessness on eBay and Craigslist, in real life we all know what it means. The difference between "vintage" and "old" is essentially desirability. A Neve Melbourne console is vintage. A powered Conn console from the same era is "old." A Moog Source from '81 is "vintage," while a Bontempi chord organ from '81 is "old." Easy enough, right?

How does that relate to software, though? I use a lot of old software like TurboSynth, M, and UpBeat when the mood strikes me. But it would never occur to me to call UpBeat "vintage." It's just old. It runs on an old computer, and does old shit. In the computer world, though, it is so ancient as to be almost indecipherable. But by our normal metric as specified above, to me it is desirable; building a system running it that works with my modern rig is a worthy goal. That makes it "vintage," right?

Semantic issues like this are rife in the music industry. I think it's the result of music being an inherently subjective art form. Everyone working in the industry, or utilizing its resources, carries that thought process over to the gear itself. Millions of lines of code are devoted to recreating desirable (i.e. "vintage") gear in the modern DAW context, while almost none is devoted to recreating gear that is just plain old. Obviously, someone isn't going to go out of their way to try and clone something that was inherently shitty, but as we've learned, shitty is also in the eye/ear of the beholder.

This is a strange world we live in.


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Nov.29.2011 @ 2:07 PM
mike kiraly
I think there might be desirable software that when discontinued, not updated, not supported, etc will still be desirable. If something that doesn't sound like 18 other software products or necessarily have a direct equivalent, (maybe Absynth for example?) it might achieve the same nostalgic afterglow for those who found it to be useful in their lives.

However, the real problem is something you touched on: if I bought a 2600, I could plug in a 1/4 cable and record it successfully in under 5 minutes. Same goes for a 40 year old Tele for that matter.

But if those instruments required a special cable with an obsolete connector and an amp that was only made for 1 year and was difficult to find because no one bothered to keep them....those products would no longer be sought after by "vintage" enthusiasts. They would only exist in a very specific niche market populated by obsessive collectors.

Nov.29.2011 @ 2:13 PM
AD Ratshack reverb being a possible exception to your theory...

Nov.29.2011 @ 3:36 PM
I think it's great that Steinberg is giving something away. I don't remember them every doing that before.

On the other hand, there isn't much about these that can't be replaced by many other free softsynths.

I don't really care about 'vintage' -- I have vintage hardware synths, and I use them sometimes. The thing is this: there's sound design, and then there's music. Sound design can enhance good music, but it can't rescue bad music. Otherwise trance music wouldn't be so fucking annoying and BT would be the next Beethoven.

I also have a wheezy chord organ -- a JC Penney and not a Bontempi, and inexplicably built into a wood cabinet with The Worst Drum Machine Ever Made, and when I mic it up to catch it's full asthmatic charm, it brings a mood with it. It reeks of the sepia-tinged memory I have pre-urban-renewal America, of moribund music stores with dusty Lowry Console organs in the window.

Nov.29.2011 @ 3:39 PM
Chris Randall
That's the spirit! Fuck the labels. Make some music. I've often said the following: a good musician can make a good tune with a piece of string and a soup can, while a bad musician can't make a good tune with all the gear in the world.

It doesn't really matter what you call it, I guess is what I mean. Good gear and the skill to use it certainly helps, but it's not the end, only the means.


Nov.29.2011 @ 4:25 PM
Indeed to the last two posts .
If you still had to ask the question ...just ask the guys who were still running ReBirth in XP mode or like me through Wine ( till the iOS version anyway )
Or indeed look to your alpha syntari and that big ol' dongle it runs off ?

Nov.29.2011 @ 7:37 PM
Before reading this post i believed that I was vintage.

Turns out I am just old.

Nov.29.2011 @ 8:16 PM
beauty pill
Ha ha ha ha!

Nov.29.2011 @ 8:19 PM
there's a vintage/old porn joke here somewhere.

i read an interview w/the Dust Brothers ages ago about the 1st beck record they did and they said he would bring lot's of random stuff into the sessions but always had his $25 sears guitar that he played on the whole record. it took a while because it wouldn't stay in tune or something.

vintage/old.. meh.. as said.. in the right hands it's just another instrument.

i'd love some mid 90s vintage max patches :)

Nov.29.2011 @ 8:47 PM
Turbosynth! A great old DD product from my grad school days (we used SoftSynth too -- the first digital additive software I ever used. That was DD too right?) But what impresses me most is that you sound like you were/are able to get Turbosynth to run more than 45 seconds without freezing your (vintage) computer.

Nov.29.2011 @ 9:39 PM
Chris Randall
I run Turbosynth on a c. 2005 iBook in Classic mode. Works fine, pretty quick, doesn't crash.

UpBeat and M are on a PowerBook 185 for extra authenticity. I don't think that thing could run Turbosynth. Never tried, anyhow.


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