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Life in the box. Grass is greener?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Software  
Author Life in the box. Grass is greener?
Have you ever felt like ditching all of your hardware (except for controllers) and moving into software only land?

I have a very large collection of hardware, and a very large collection of software. I love both. But the hardware is so damn inconvenient and expensive. I look at it and think: I can do all this and much more in my computer, and this this pile of stuff I can't possibly use all at once could be a fat down payment on a really nice car.

I'm open minded about software or hardware, see the benefits to either. Love playing with the power of the vst world, it's mind blowing. Also love tweaking the knobs on a fat knobby beast. If an ipad sequencer is far more powerful than a hardware sequencer, then it is, and I'll use it - no arbitrary hate for either. But that price difference! And the space it takes up!

I just rebuilt a new music pc, and the first thing I do is set up all the software and get it working in isolation. This is what triggered this latest feeling. Ahh, so simple, I can just sit here in this spot and do everything. And jeebus is this stuff powerful.

I'm finding myself more and more staring at my gear and wanting to cut anchor, live a simpler musical life. Sit at just a single desk and maybe a table besides. Sorry Prophet 12. I love you, sad to see you go.

I've regretted selling stuff before. Will I regret it this time? Should I ditch all of it but just a couple?

Maybe I should do some hard vs soft comparisons on a few of the synths that have some unique sonic characteristics, see if I'd miss the sound aspect of them.

First world problems, I know.

Ever find yourself feeling this way? What'd you end up doing?

(p.s. posted this here instead of General Gear - I know the audience is smaller here, but there are too many computer haters there to get anything objective. Plus they'd assume I was trolling hihi )
I'm thinking the very same thing right now. I was software only for a long time, and adding hardware hasn't really helped me make more or better music. The one things computers aren't great for is live performance, and I'll probably shift my setup to emphasize that.
If you're worried about regretting selling it, try setting it aside, out of sight. See how you feel in a month or two.

Regarding the larger question: I'm in the same situation. I actually stopped making music for a long time because using 100% software wasn't fun at all. After a few years of being hardware only, I recently admitted that actually mixing and finishing music for me requires the power and flexibility of software. But I also understand that for me, having hardware for certain things is far more enjoyable. So my Cirklon will be staying, as will some or all of my modular. Some of the synths too, but I probably don't need them all. I'm on the fence regarding samplers - software samplers are obviously far easier to use, but my Emu is so nice...

Anyway,I guess I'd say, focus on what you enjoy using the most or what helps you be creative, regardless of whether software or hardware.
I also feel like this has slowly become a more difficult question due to the increase in really capable controllers, and more integrated software to support it. Komplete Kontrol, that new Omnisphere 2.5 thing, how many plugins support instant control mapping... software is getting more tweakable all the time, blurring the line. Some days I want to slide up to a table with a just laptop, controller, and a big ipad.

I don't do live, btw. I totally get why that would be scary. Windows 10: Now installing updates! d'oh!
The hardest thing for me when working fully in the box is that unlimited capability, unlimited decisions, and unlimited potential means a total lack of progress. If I don't give myself strict guardrails on what I'm doing, the music lacks cohesion and focus. Analysis paralysis becomes real.
Like the second poster said, try putting all of your hardware in storage. Force it out of sight. See if you still feel the same way about being software only after, say, a month.
I hate clutter sure, but going ITB would only work as an alternative studio. And I just don’t know how to play the computer well.
I have recently been thinking about this. But then I fire up all my hardware and get it (kinda) synced - and endless happy accidents ensue. Heaps fun!!
I prefer the simplicity, flexibility, and portability of working ITB. Hardware is very cool, but when it comes down to writing and recording, I produce more and higher quality music in my computer running Ableton Live controlled by a Push.
Composing by hunting for happy accidents isn’t my thing at all. I love the control and the sound I get out of Ableton Live and a few VSTs but I’m also an addict and a total sucker for hardware. So, I can’t choose. I pick both. w00t
The trick today is that everybody has to find its own way by himself.
nobody can help you !
What one wants to achive is so personal.
What is inspiring to one, same.

i think the other part of the trick is to connect one world with the other.
Thats not necessarily a "Hardware" "vs." "Software" question.
also ITB alone is initself full of different tools, "levels" or "environments", etc. , same goes for hardware.
for example do i like to record into wavelab from other applications and just managed now to get this workflow down in good ways.
(thanks to a bigger screen (40"), plus a second one beside)

To me the question is not like:
should i drive to work with my car or with my bike ? you can´t do both at the same time.
But in the studio you can........
beside the fact that it would be sometimes nicer to take the car ( i never had one, haha) or take out the bike for a ride.

personally, for me, a big question is: do i sit or do i stand ?
( my electric table yet still to be build ( got me the hydraulic legs allready))
ITB do i HAVE to sit, modular do i HAVE to stand what is what i want !!
Grooveboxes are also more placed that i have to stand but the OT is setup that it suits both)

i think, there are really sidequestions which can be from more importancy than the Hardware vs. software question itself.
A good workflow is achievable for both !
i here, just to say, can play my ITB stuff as it was hardware !!
and i use my ITB stuff mainly as a kind of "jam-station", similar to waht my modular is.
( i do not produce......)
In my opinion its all a thing of how one has setup his environment.
some are in this regrad more lucky in one direction others in the other........

to setup your environment is a walk in my opinion..........a long one for many folks.....
my perspective on this wink
I'm getting into eurorack, but not going to give up on my software. My entire thinking about the hardware is all about merging what I have done and can do with the software and looping it out and bringing it back in. Also with getting into hardware I'm planning on picking up my guitar and all those wonderful old crappy casio synths that I hardly touch. I think for me it helps that I'm planning on having a separate room in my house away from my usual computer workstation. So for me it's not hardware vs software, but changing it up and reassessing my workflow.
The Grump
Been there, done that, did it for a while, now moving back to a mix of the two. Use what works best for each part of the job for you.
I was pure ITB for 15 years. Just adding some pieces of hardware has been a huge help for me. The main improvement was getting a Cirklon and doing my sequencing in that. Why? It is very powerful and allows creation of more detailed and evolving parts that are tedious ITB. But more importantly, it lets me arrange with my ears. I do all my arranging in the Cirklon and then dump into the DAW to add parts that I play live over the sequence. I found that arranging without looking at a screen is far more musical for me and helps me come up with better transitions.

To add to this, I usually have 3-4 pieces of hardware. Currently ome analogue synths for bass and then a poly that has a lot of knobs. I really think having a synth in front of me is a major help for learning how to patch synths. I still use softsynths too, but when I was just using them exclusively , I was a preset browser and not learning enough about the sound design of the synth. With a knobby synth in front of me, I spend the time to figure out how all of it works, so that is a huge help.

The one thing I am not a fan of so far is hardware drums. I use a sync box and it’s hell to get a hardware drum synth to hit the DAW grid in a musical way. Some of them have delayed starts and stops, or there are timing issues galore. Additionally I like to jam everything together so that’s at least 8 more ins that I need to free up on my interface. So I find that using software for drums is a much better way to achieve a headache free hybrid setup. Since I can control them with the Cirklon, it makes the programming process much more enjoyable as well.
Oh man, I started waaaaay back using Cubase on a PC @ 1991, with hardware keyboard and sampler (Korg 01WFD and Emax II). Had various hardware since then though..... sold off hardware and went entirely software based, then got back into hardware/software, sold off hardware again, did all software for awhile, then got back into hardware/software again @ 2010, then sold off hardware again 2016 (more so for needing the proceeds, as I was unemployed for awhile. You can live off the proceeds of 24U worth of Euro for awhile hahah)... currently all software, but thinking about getting back in with some hardware again. Software is amazing of course with a decent computer- I have an 2015 MacBook Pro with a 1TB SSD, it's really hard to beat sitting in a chair with a laptop and good headphones.... but having hardware is still good. I came up with so really good stuff when I had a Eurorack system, so much of the stuff I did with a hardware Euro system is stuff that I'd have never stumbled upon staying strictly in software. Thats just me though... PS- Music is just a hobby for me, has never been an income stream
I think a combo of hardware with software is optimal. Going full hardware is just for the really rich kids or those who are actually making money from their music... because to sound better than plugins you need serious hardware with serious price tags...especially when it comes to FX and compressors.

I've sold half of the gear I had and feel a lot better for it. Two monosynths, two polysynths, and a sampling drum machine are more than enough for anything really. DAWs these days are pretty good at saving your whole project and I find it easier to finish tracks if I'm working with a single device.
It's also a question of space and ergonomics.
Rex Coil 7
Controllers are becoming more and more useful. And they are becoming far better built than the shitty things we've been force fed for over two decades. Computers (PC) are becoming faster and more capable.

I've been collecting the highest quality controllers that I can afford. They kybd is steel framed with solid walnut, and is a FATAR TP/9S. I also have two Kenton CV-to-MIDI (note that it's NOT a MIDI-to-CV) converters that will allow high quality voltage and control voltage sources to be used with MIDI controlled computers. So the joystick, 20" long ribbon controllers (with pressure and position sensitivity), and the LightStrips and Lightplane can all talk to the computer now.

Push and the Akai APC40MkII help, as do MIDI Fighters Twister and 3D controllers.

The RME PCIe interface card with a multi channel preamp with 8ch of I/O you can add external FX devices in "FX loops".

So computers are becoming more and more like hardware, mostly because more high quality (and very well built) hardware is able to take full advantage of the modern computer's abilities in the form of excellent controllers.

When you think about it, many of the most beloved keyboard and rack synths are nothing but computers anyway.

I decided to go half-way (well, almost) - i sold 2 cases of eurorack, modules i rarely used and wouldn't really miss too much. For the money i bought stocks, an ipad 2018 and a Digitone.

For inspiration i really think it's best to have both software and hardware because they impress me and are fun in different ways. I can see myself switching to software-only for two months and having a blast, then going back to eurorack or doing a mix of both (preferable) and finding new inspiration in that.
I've recently decided to go the half way route after wanting to simplify and de-clutter. I mainly used Modular and pedal effects, most of the pedal effects I really liked and used a lot were digital. I came to the conclusion that I was much better off doing the processing ITB. I only really record stuff as live takes so use GigPerformer as a host for the plugins. I can then tweak the effects as I play using controllers. I'm finding it to be the best of both worlds. All the analog modular stuff is hardware and the processing is digital and ITB.
Rex Coil 7
dan_p wrote:
I've recently decided to go the half way route after wanting to simplify and de-clutter. I mainly used Modular and pedal effects, most of the pedal effects I really liked and used a lot were digital. I came to the conclusion that I was much better off doing the processing ITB. I only really record stuff as live takes so use GigPerformer as a host for the plugins. I can then tweak the effects as I play using controllers. I'm finding it to be the best of both worlds. All the analog modular stuff is hardware and the processing is digital and ITB.
So you're doing all of the post production "ITB" (~shudder~ ... blech ... I'm not one to use a lot of timely abbreviations ... but I'll allow myself to play along for now). I think many folks do the same thing.

I've always wanted to be able to create an "instrument" out of the computer, but the whole notion of screen-staring and use of the mouse has always been so off-putting. On paper, the computer makes for the ultimate digital synth. Large display, deeply muscular processing capability, massive storage, and nearly infinite upgrade potential. But it's never really fleshed out that way.

The reason a (let's say) Yamaha Motif works better than a computer ... even though it is a computer itself ... is because it's limited in it's capability. There are only so many tracks that can be running at once, only so many FX at once, only so many other functions at once. The controllers (knobs/buttons/keys on the kybd/etc) respond quickly and sharply, there's little (if any) perceived latency.

Computers can fall on their faces because users attempt to do so much all at once. And they do so much at once because the competition within the DAW software market is ruthlessly intense ... so DAW software makers load up their versions of DAW software with gaboodles of features. Features that users are certain to use as many of at once as possible until the computer chokes. Then the complaints roll in.

I feel that limiting the use of features, functions, VSTs, playback track count, and so on makes today's computers with today's DAW software with today's controllers deeply useful as a "live performance instrument". Making good choices on configuring a computer (chipset, CPU, RAM, Interface, OS storage, Mass storage) ... combined with making good choices of controllers ... combined with limiting one's self when it comes to how many features/functions are run at one time .. can all come together to create a deeply powerful live performance instrument. One that is reliable, stable, and instills a sense of confidence that the whole works isn't going to take a shit in the middle of a song being performed live, on stage, in front of an endearing audience.

I feel like some folks expect far too much from far too little. And when their expectations are crushed and they are embarrassed in front of an audience, it's the "shitty computer/DAW's fault". When a 4th generation CPU and chipset is expected to perform like a (let's say) Yamaha Motif .. and it doesn't ... because it can't ... the idea of using a computer as an instrument takes the hit.

I look at a computer that is solely purposed as a musical instrument as a "modular digital instrument". "Modular" because the individual components may be selected from a long list of available pieces ... and changed/upgraded on a whim. Storage drives, CPUs, chipsets, RAM sticks, Interface designs ... all are able to be changed and uprated very easily if the user selects a computer chassis capable of accepting uprates and changes. But that notion excludes laptops. Laptops are designed for convenience, not designed as "modular" computers.

I feel that if one comes at this issue from the perspective of starting out with designing a computer as a "modular live performance processing core" and assembles a wisely chosen set of peripheral support components (interface, controllers, et al) the computer can be a solid, confidence inspiring live performance instrument. Some of the modern controllers are so well thought out that even the time spent looking at the computer's monitor has been greatly reduced. Same goes for use of the mouse.

And oddly enough, we have the "DJ Set" to thank for those developments. Or better said, the demands/needs of the "DJ Set" to thank for those developments. Competition between hardware developers that cater to DJs has driven the development of some amazingly useful controllers. DJs require ultra-tight timing, as close to zero-latency as possible, and immensely supportive and useful controllers since the music they create on stage is so groove and beat oriented ... timing and tight orchestration is an absolute must-have.

And in the end ... YAY FOR US!

I, for one, am willing to take full advantage of these developments in the construction of my own "Modular Computer Instrument".

seriously, i just don't get it
Yep it’s greener. I friggin love solo rack and vcv rack.
Still using my old 27 inch 2009 iMac, still powerful

My recent purchase and return of a Mac book pro was horrible.
Ableton push so so. Horrible experience mapping vstis.

Funnily my iPad is great as a controller, running touch able and shove, a push emulation via lemur .
I've tried to go both routes, and found for myself a combo of software/hardware is optimum but also kind of necessary.

I just can't gell with the sound of pure ITB. Never have. Whenever I play with hardware, its like, 'oh yes now I remember what I love about electronic music'.

So the sound of hardware inspires me to produce, and software makes it quick and easy.

Love the combo.

Also I don't think either pure software or hardware is bad, just not for me.
I have thought about going down to just my modular and the box. I like playing around with real things, though.

I am at a point where I have more than I want or need in terms of hardware, including my stringed instruments.
I went back in the box but I decided I'd keep my hardware in case I changed my mind. A trip outside the box renews ones appreciation for the box. I do switch on my hardware occasionally and it's nice to have the option right there rather than having to buy a bunch of gear again if the pendulum swings back the other way.

I'm kind of lazy and I don't like the hassle of selling stuff unless I'm strapped for cash.
Rex Coil 7
hex wrote:
I went back in the box but I decided I'd keep my hardware in case I changed my mind. A trip outside the box renews ones appreciation for the box. I do switch on my hardware occasionally and it's nice to have the option right there rather than having to buy a bunch of gear again if the pendulum swings back the other way.

I'm kind of lazy and I don't like the hassle of selling stuff unless I'm strapped for cash.
Thassum wise magic right there.
I 'm focusing on a small strictly curated combo of hardware and plugins. It's great for de-cluttering mind and studio, and freeing up funds for other things. I reasoned like this: how many synths and drum machines do I actually need to make a track? How many tracks a year am I producing? Am I multi-tracking and sampling enough to make the most of my sound sources? Does this hardware sound so good and is so inspiring to use that it justifies costing 10 times the price of a plugin that sounds just as good?

The answer to these questions determined that in fact I had too many synths and drum machines.

Curing myself from GAS and gear fetishism has been a revelation and a relief.

I don' t actually need any more gear! nanners I can at last focus on the music and learning how to mak eth emost of what I have- I no longer have to spend hours trying to figure out what hardware limitations the manufacturer is hiding before I buy something. I'm not waiting around for exotic boutique stuff that may be released "soon" (eg. Radikal and SOMA)

Most electronic music hardware is severely limited and overpriced and just not worth the space it occupies or the hassle of the cables, wall warts, etc.

Boxes that magically produce amazing sounds are addictive- once you get over the wow factor and see them as tied-up money rather than irreplaceable instruments, things get easier. Especially if your bank balance is going down.

The other factor is making the DAW easier to use by investing in control surfaces, a good trackball, a good IPS display and an ergonomic desk setup.

Maybe once i get used to Bitwig I won't even bother with the Cirklon!
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