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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Dec.02.2011 @ 6:11 AM
In 90's all good stuff were cheap. I bought red 101 and 303 both with Kenton midiretrofit for $500 each. 106 was $350, but later i made mistake of my life by selling the 303 and 106 to get Korg Prohecy.

106 and 303 are still classics while Prophecy is just old and dated and worth nothing.

Btw, neither of those steinbegrs were the first VSTi. I cannot remember what was the first one, but i used from the day it came out with first Cubase VST. It also had distortion VST and all that was so amazing at that time. Previous version Cubase XT had only 8 audiotracks and midi.

Dec.02.2011 @ 11:06 AM
If it?s of any use to someone, I tried neon, vb1 and model-e succesfully on cantabile, pedalboard2, savihost, vsthost and other free/open source hosts, so maybe neon also works on other hosts.


Dec.02.2011 @ 5:54 PM
Prophecy values were strong over the summer, but they seem soft now. Only one completed sale, and that at a much lower price than six months ago. Completed Z1 prices are about where they were, but the starting prices for some of the new listings are stratospheric.

'90s gear will come into vogue soon enough. There will be endless debates on which synth has the most authentic aliasing and digital glitching. But the Roland MC-303 will remain unloved, as it should.

Dec.03.2011 @ 9:09 AM
Chris Randall
Interesting. In the late spring I thought to myself "it'd be kind of handy to have a Prophecy again..." and I went looking, and was shocked at what they were bringing. It is a fun little synth.

I had one of the first Z1s in America. At the time I was a Korg endorsee and was on tour. I had one of the limited edition silver Deltex stands, with two Trinities on it, which looked kind of cool, I thought. I swapped out one of the Trinities for the Z1, and that was my keyboard rig for a couple hundred shows. I ended up cannabalizing one of the Trinities to keep the other going, then ended up using big chunks of the remaining Trinity to keep the Z1 going. Eventually, I sold the Z1 and what was left of the Trinity (the MOSS board). I regret all of those things. It'd be fun to have a Trinity and a Z1. For like a minute. Then I'd sell 'em.


Dec.03.2011 @ 9:37 AM
The Trinity MOSS board wasn't the same as the Z1's voice expansion board, was it?

Dec.03.2011 @ 9:42 AM
Chris Randall
No. The Trinity MOSS board was essentially a Prophecy. The Z1 is 6 Prophecy voices, and the voice expansion board just brings that out to however many. (Twelve? I don't remember.)

Dec.03.2011 @ 12:59 PM
Adam Schabtach
Akshully... Having owned both, and still owning a Z1, the Z1 is not six Prophecy voices. There are a couple of things in the Prophecy algorithms that are absent on the Z1, including a waveshaping-with-feedback thing that is capable of some delightfully odd noises. OTOH obviously there are things in the Z1 that are not in the Prophecy.

The base model Z1 has 12 voices, and there was an expansion card that boosted it to 18.

Nice synth, the Z1. I've hung onto mine largely because of its keyboard action, but it sounds rather good, too.


Dec.03.2011 @ 1:10 PM
Chris Randall
A pedant walks in to a bar. Well, it's a restaurant with a bar. Technically it's a brewpub, because they make their own beer...


(I stole that from someone's Twitter feed; unfortunately I'm not that funny.)

Dec.03.2011 @ 1:28 PM
Adam Schabtach
Sorry. It came as a bit of a disappointment that the Z1 wasn't 12 (or 18) Prophecy voices when I discovered this after selling the Prophecy in part to finance the Z1 purchase.


Dec.03.2011 @ 1:53 PM
I think there are actually three MOSS boards for workstations, and then one for the Z1:

* SOLO-TRI: A one-voice Prophecy board for the Trinity
* MOSS-TRI: A six-voice Z1 board for the Trinity
* EXB-MOSS: A six-voice Z1 board for the Triton
* DSPB-Z1: A six-voice expansion board for the Z1.

The stock Z1 comes with two DSPB-Z1 boards installed, resulting in twelve voices. You can install a third DSP-Z1 to bring the count up to eighteen voices. I've seen Z1s for sale with only one DSPB-Z1 board because the owner pulled the second board and sold it. Kind of like the people who pull the PLG150DX boards out of Yamaha DX200s and then sell the DX200 shell, except the Z1 is still functional with a single board.

When I was shopping for my Z1 over the summer, the six voice DSPB-Z1 and EXB-MOSS boards would often sell for as much or even more than a 12-voice Z1.

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