Do we still need the real thing?

Hi All and happy new year!

I got into modular during the summer, and only later got to know VCV, and the work of artists such as Omri Cohen showing how deep that is. With VCV becoming more reliable - and possibly being even better than it is already with the upcoming mayor release - a few months and thousands Euros later the question was inevitable to me: do I still need the real thing?

The release of most of Instruo’s product line in VCV - one of my favourites - was the last nail in the coffin. Now, every time I sit at my rack - or, worse, I think of buying a new module - I can’t but wonder: shouldn’t I rather just sell everything and focus on VCV? A second hand Cš-L was actually my last purchase in the real world, 400 vs zero EUR.

Now, I love the module manufactures and I want more of them and new creativity and competition. I’ve purchased many of the non-free VCV modules as a way to support them. But the question stands.

Note that I’m not a professional musician, and I don’t need to perform outside my studio. Please give me a reason we still need the real thing, beyond the satisfaction of patching and tweaking something physical. Thanks!

G.

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For me, moving knobs and cables with a mouse pointer is less satisfactory than handling the ‘real thing’.

I sold my tiny hardware rack a couple of years ago because I thought making music completely ‘in the box’ would give me more opportunities.

But I still miss the experience of the ‘real thing’.

My personal advice:

  • If you want to play around with knobs and cables, go for hardware.
  • If you want to compose and produce music, go for a traditional DAW.
  • If a traditional DAW doesn’t fit your needs, go for the VCV Rack.
  • If you can code your own modules, the possibilities given by the rack blow up for you.

In my case, I’m a microtonalist. A traditional DAW never ever fits my needs, e.g. when I need 94 notes per octave. Pitch-CV in the rack gives me a nearly endless fine-grained continuum of pitches. Fortunately I’m able to code modules for my own needs.

Last word: You can also combine both worlds and get the best out of them.

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Why choose, why not both? I started with Reaktor, then I focused on VCV and built my current hardware to be able to adapt it to VCV, communicating via ES-8. Now I am happy to have all these opportunities, I also took the excellent Midilar controller modules and mounted them in my modular system. I’m probably a megalomaniac. :alien:

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I hoped (!) for years that I could remain ITB but got tempted by the dark side :slight_smile: The experience of using hardware really is very different to using software. Mapping midi controllers simply does not produce the same experience, and is not practical when building a patch. It depends, then, if you want that experience of working with knobs and cables, an experience that is far more ephemeral, for better or worse. Fortunately, we now get to use both together. That said, when working with VCV and other virtual modulars, I have been using this for a couple of months now, which works quite well while building patches: https://www.nobcontrol.com/

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Don’t forget that it can be a completely different way of working. In hardware, with a limited wallet and limited rackspace, you are more or less obliged to get complex modules with lots of posibillities. In VCV Rack the space is practically unlimited and there are 2000 free modules. It is very well possible to work with a great many, fairly simple modules. Those modules are easier to understand. Often you don’t even need a manual. I know what I prefer…

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I already have an OTB hardware problem, and the more I learned about Eurorack the more my wallet would recoil in horror. The biggest attraction for me is creating my own sounds for use in traditional projects and the biggest challenge is to spend just enough money to get just enough hardware so that I can learn to do that. With VCV Rack, I can learn what I need before I spend that money. Or, as it turns out, maybe I don’t need the hardware at all.

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Good point!

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Before knowing the vcv rack I never thought of buying hardware, after knowing it I bought hardware, the rack has made me change my perception about synthesizers a lot, I think that with the vcv rack (and some other software) the gap between hardware and software is invisible, at this point we can call the software “the real thing”

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On my case / based on experience : I understand about modular world after I use and experiment with VCV Rack since around 3 years ago. So now, I know what sounds that I really want and efficient to spend my budget for ‘the real thing’ on small system. I like minimalism. For the approach, I like hybrid setup : combine software and hardware.

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You need to be aware of CPU limitations. One thing that isn’t an issue in the Eurorack world, but load up a number of heavy duty modules simultaneously and you can run into dropouts and glitching.

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True, but a) you can buy a computer that will handle the load for much, much less money than the equivalent modules., and b) Don’t use modules that use a ton a cpu if you don’t have to - support us devs that spend a lot of effort to not create problems like these.

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I’m relatively poor so the only hardware I ever even consider is user interface stuff. I really had no idea about any kind of synthesis before I got into VCV and it’s been really eye opening. For instance the whole notion of there being a west coast or east coast sound was completley alien to me.

If I had unlimited funds I might consider getting some modular stuff just for a more direct user interface. I’d miss polyphony though.

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Oh wow look, an Nth conversation about software vs. hardware :slight_smile:

We sure as hell never saw this question asked a million times, and all possible responses regurgitated a billion times :slight_smile:

I love twiddling knobs, so I prefer HARDware :slight_smile:

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Yes @SyBorg I am sure this wasn’t a new question, however, I believe that VCV was never more “competitive” as an alternative, and it is getting better, with more power available for less money, a wider portfolio of software modules - including very serious stuff from IRL manufacturers - and, if VCV 2.0 keeps its promises, a lot more performance, reliability and interoperability with DAWs etc.

Turning knobs is fun, but you can buy a FaderFox PC12 for the same price of a single high-profile oscillator module - say an Instruo Saïch, that is - btw - available for free in VCV.

Of course you lose some of the serendipitousness of randomly fiddling with knobs, but you can pay for a few months of mortgage with the money you save. I love that tactile dimension, but it’s more and more difficult in my heart to justify the money.

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As a learning environment, VCV is amazing. I’m surprised nobody (that I know of) has yet published a Coursera-ish course on modular synthesis based on it. Even Chris Meyer’s excellent learningmodular.com doesn’t use it, probably the trainings were developed earlier than when VCV was good enough. (I’ve actually just asked him on Patreon what he thinks about it).

Managing latency in hybrid setups is such a pain, I am not sure it makes it worth it in respect to ITB only.

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Oh boy, a question that has been beaten to death since the first virtual hardware showed up :slight_smile: I would say the answer depends on your relationship with the ergonomics of computers, the ergonomics of hardware and your wallet, plus the strengths and weaknesses of the different technologies. Different people have very different relationships with each of those you know, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to be had here.

Yes, computers, software and controllers have come a long way, and there’s never been a better time to be “in-the-box”. Hardware has also come a long way, and there’s never been a better time to buy amazing synthesizers, so there you go.

From a purely financial standpoint there’s no doubt you can get more bang for your buck with software, although people seem to always conveniently leave out the price of the computer they need, from the calculation. So “I can do more with less” is a perfectly valid argument for computers and software I think. Likewise, the people who say “It’s simply more satisfying, with more immediacy in my creative flow” about using hardware, also have a very valid point methinks.

As someone having both I would say: PROS and CONS, strengths and weaknesses. I definately do find it much more satisfying with physical cables and knobs, and there is no love lost between me and my mouse. Some things do sound better in hardware, it takes real effort to make things sound great in software, but again, peoples hearing sense are very different. Also, there will always be modules in either hardware or software that you really lust for, and can only get that way.

I really, honestly believe, that there’s great satisfaction to be had with a hybrid system, where you can harness the best strengths of both worlds, but yes, it’s definately not for free. If you go into any moderately featured recording studio in the world I think you will find they have a hybrid setup. It’s wonderful that we have things like VCV Rack and the question can never be resolved.

Each to their own, just discover what makes you happy, productive and inspired, whilst being able to afford it, that’s the important thing I think. You can make entire, amazing albums on purely free stuff, and there’s amazing stuff for money out there. It’s a great luxury problem :slight_smile:

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There’s a rule about that: Sit on your hands for one year before doing it! An awful lot of people regret it bitterly when they sell everything on an impulse :slight_smile:

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Not really the point I was making. Certain DSP (e.g. high feedback granular/delay/reverbs etc) will have a high CPU load if you wish to employ them so you have to take that into account as you don’t have an infinite bucket of processor power. Just avoiding using such things and using a different set of modules from a different maker isn’t fixing that issue. It’s like responding to someone saying people may have to watch their recording levels when using an overdrive pedal by suggesting they stick the pedal in bypass mode or use a chorus pedal instead.

reminded me of this thread

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Can you remember which VCV control you mapped the knob on row 5 column 7 to ?

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