Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Software Instruments

2. History

In 1997, a Scandinavian software company called Propellerheads released a program that revolutionised the computer-music industry. That program was Rebirth RB-338, and was a beautiful simulation of a pair of Roland TB-303 bass synths and a TR-808 rhythm machine. As with the originals, you couldn’t play them from a keyboard - instead the TB-303 used a step sequencer and the TR-808 a row of 16 pads that you could turn on or off for each sound as it cycled round. Sticking to an emulation of the machines’ original interfaces was perhaps the key factor in Rebirth’s success, as at that time computer and soundcard technology was not up to the task of generating sound from software quickly enough to make viable using a keyboard. Rebirth bypassed this problem completely, so anyone could use it, and instantly start making grooves without the need for a keyboard, or the ability to play one.

Propellerheads ReBirth RB-338

Steinberg, the creators of Cubase, released their Virtual Studio Technology (VST) architecture at around the same time, which brought proper ‘live’ mixing and real-time effects plug-ins to their recording software. Propellerheads wanted to find a way to integrate Rebirth with the VST engine – their solution was ‘Rewire’. This is essentially a bridge between the outputs of Rebirth and the VST mixer in Cubase, allowing you to route, mix and add effects to Rebirth alongside audio tracks. This development inspired Steinberg to create an extension of their VST engine which allowed software synth ‘plug-ins’ to be used, in much the same way as the already-existing plug-in effects. These were called ‘VST Instruments’ or VSTi’s for short. The success of VSTi’s hinged on the seemingly elusive ability to play them in real-time from a MIDI keyboard. Steinberg’s ASIO driver technology (Audio System In/Out) held the key, and the release of ASIO 2.0 and VST 2.0 in 1999 saw latency down to under 10ms (milliseconds) for the first time, rendering VSTis properly playable. It was the integration of the software instrument and recording software that was the real stroke of genius, and this allowed software companies to concentrate on generating great sounds without having to worry about the issues of connection with the soundcard and latency – Cubase handled all that for you.

In the early days, most software instruments were basic models of analogue style ‘subtractive’ synthesis – oscillators, envelopes and filters – but over time, other forms of synthesis were explored such as FM, wavetable, and acoustic modelling. Once GigaSampler and Bitheadz Unity DS-1 had demonstrated that the computer could also handle sampling, there was no barrier to the computer becoming the ultimate sound source – CPU power was the only limitation.

Other recording-software companies eventually caught up with Cubase, either by adopting Steinberg’s standard, or by introducing their own. Cakewalk launched the DirectX Instrument and Digidesign the RTAS (Real-Time Audio Suite) Instrument, while Apple later developed Audio Units. These days, most software instruments are compatible with all the major formats.

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in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
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    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
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Software Instruments overview

Yamaha P-125 BK Boss GT-1000 Line6 Power Cab Reloop RP 4000 MK2 Gator iMac 21" Tote Bag Yamaha L-125 BK Alto TS 315 XVive Wireless System U2 Red Aston Microphones SwiftShield Marshall Origin 50H Head LD Systems U518 BPH2 Aston Microphones Shield
Recommended
Yamaha P-125 BK

Stage Piano Graded Hammer Standard Keyboard (GHS) with 88 weighted keys, Pure CF Sound Engine, 24 Tones, Max. Polyphony: 192 votes, Dual, split and duo function, Two-track recording (one song), 20 Rhythms (drums + bass), Intelligent Acoustic Control, 21...

to the product
€555
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Boss GT-1000

Multi effect pedal 32-bit AD / DA, 32-bit floating-point processor and 96 kHz sampling rate, New BOSS DSP engine, specially developed for audio applications, AIRD (Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics) brings BOSS's Tube Logic concept to a digital guitar processor,...

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€959
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Line6 Power Cab

Line6 Power Cab Guitar Cabinet, 1x12, '' active speaker systems, 250 watts into 8 ohms, 1 "Compression Driver, 6 speaker simulations, foldable feet, 70Hz - 20kHz frequency response, 125dB SPL @ 1m sound pressure, dimensions: 567 x 462 x 305...

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€586
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Reloop RP 4000 MK2

Quartz-driven DJ turntable with high-torque direct drive Speeds (RPM): 33 1/3 - 45 - 78, Pitch with selectable range of +/- 8% and+/- 16%, Reverse function, Connections: 1 PHONO output (gold plated) and 1 GND ground connection, Incl. platter,...

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€285
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Gator iMac 21" Tote Bag

Nylon Bag Fits 21" Apple iMac Water resistant, Good grip and protection with adjustable foam blocks and hard-panel reinforcement in the front flap, Foldable sun and dust protection, Double zipper, Strap and handle cutouts, Reinforced, detachable carrying handles, PVC...

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€118
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Yamaha L-125 BK

Yamaha L-125 BK; stand for Yamaha P-125 BK; colour: Black

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€128
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Alto TS 315

Active Full-range Loudspeaker Equipped with: 15"/ 1.5", Power: 1,000 W RMS/2,000 W peak, Class D power amplifier, Bi - Amp, Frequency response: 43 - 22,000 Hz, Maximum output level: 131 dB, Dispersion pattern: 90° x 60°, 2-channel mixer with...

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€359
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XVive Wireless System U2 Red

2.4 GHz Wireless System Set with transmitter and receiver - both with battery and without power supply to operate, Built-in, rechargeable lithium battery, Range without obstacles: up to approx. 30 m, Frequency range 20 - 20,000 Hz, Latency: <6...

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€129
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Aston Microphones SwiftShield

Aston Microphones SwiftShield; Universal Mic Mount and Pop-Filter; Mic Mount Features: without Rubber Bands; fits Mics from 30 to 50 mm Diameter; two quick release spring clips; made of Aluminium, grade glass-fill nylon polymer and medical grade latex ("ShockStar" suspension);...

to the product
€89
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Marshall Origin 50H Head

Tube Amp Head for Electric Guitar Gain boost function, Two voicings (Normal, High Treble), which can be mixed continuously via the tilt control, Switchable power reduction for full sound in any environment, 1 Channel, Power: 50 watts, Preamp tubes:...

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€649
Recommended
LD Systems U518 BPH2

Dual UHF wireless system with 2 bodypack transmitters 2 Dynamic headset microphones MH1 in black, Directivity: Cardioid, 19" 1U True diversity receiver, Frequency band: 1785 - 1800 MHz, Audio transmission range: 30 - 16,000 Hz, 96 Channels in 8...

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€568
Recommended
Aston Microphones Shield

Aston Microphones Shield; Pop Filter; Hygienic washable filter made of stainless steel shield; hexagonal filter holes; matte-black rubberised goose-neck with crocodile clip; printed Aston Microphones Logo

to the product
€45
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