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Is your soft synth or plug-in as real as the real thing?

Although digital designers try hard to get their products to sound like real musical instruments, how close do they really get?

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Take a look at your favorite fruit-flavored product. "All natural", itsays on the label. Let's say that it's orange flavor. Now take a lookat the list of ingredients. Do you see oranges listed? No?

Did you know that in many countries, including the entire EuropeanUnion, it is totally legal to manufacture fruit flavoring from chemicalsin a factory, and then use it in an 'all natural' product. That is aslong as the flavor is chemically identical to the natural product.

But the question is, when scientists analyze a fruit to learn how itsflavor is created, how far do they go? Do they search for the singlemost important chemical, or do they keep on going until they have foundall the more subtle elements of flavor?

Scientists and engineers are very much driven by solutions. Once theyhave found the solution they stop work. And they prefer simple solutionsto complex ones. That's why your flavored product doesn't have the samesubtlety of flavor as the real thing.

Got that?

OK, now consider software emulations of physical instruments or effectsunits. Do you really expect them to sound like the real thing? Or dothe scientists say, "That's enough" when they have emulated the onemost significant characteristic?

It will be a long time before plug-ins really do sound like the realthing. And those scientists and engineers will have to work a lotharder.

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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