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The Bad Presets Defense
Old 26th February 2014
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
The Bad Presets Defense

"The presets are really bad. They don't show what an incredible synth X is. You really need to program your own sounds to make X sound good."

You read these types of comments all the time on Gearslutz and other music forums usually in defense of overpriced synths that look good on paper but sound marginal at best. (I won't name names. But I think we all know synths that fall into this category.)

The thing is, these sorts of comments usually don't make any sense. Are we to believe that professional sound designers (who get hired to develop the preset libraries for various synths) are all incapable of programming good patches and that relative novices (the synth owners/customers) can do SO much better? Isn't it far more likely that a given synth just doesn't sound very good if all 500 or so of its presets are terrible (or exhibit an inherently poor tone/sound).

Of course, everyone has his own idea of what sounds good and thus may need to tweak the presets for his own applications. But I find it hard to believe that 500 professionally developed synth presets won't give you a good indication of what a synth "really sounds like."
Old 26th February 2014
  #2
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
I find that presets are a good basis for making custom sounds more to my liking.
Old 26th February 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
i also tend to ignore the "bad presets" thing when i demo something i run through the presets and if they all suck i'm not interested.
Old 26th February 2014
  #4
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
I tend to like "bad presets" which are hated here. On the other hand, GS members tend to like the VA sound and rave about softsynths. They even accept 2-octave mini keyboards which I frown upon, so things seem to cancel out.
Old 26th February 2014
  #5
Lives for gear
 
login's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Fiend ➑️

The thing is, these sorts of comments usually don't make any sense. Are we to believe that professional sound designers (who get hired to develop the preset libraries for various synths) are all incapable of programming good patches and that relative novices (the synth owners/customers) can do SO much better? Isn't it far more likely that a given synth just doesn't sound very good if all 500 or so of its presets are terrible (or exhibit an inherently poor tone/sound).
This argument appeals to authority, is a fallacy.

First do we know Professional sound designers did them? If yes, did really commit to getting the best? did they had the time to learn to use the synth?

Second, nobody is saying relative novices are going to get better presets, simply that people who can put time and dedication given the options could make better presets.

I would say that the quality of the sound( or how usable it is) is just a subjective matter. Some people can find some synth super good for the music he intends to do and others don't.

I would suppose developers try hard at their presets because that's one of the biggest selling points, specially at a store, and depending on the genre in vogue they willl include presets tailored to them (even buttons as in Mininova dubstep genre selection).

But at the end the quality of the synth will depend on how the user intends to do with it.
Old 26th February 2014 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by login ➑️
This argument appeals to authority, is a fallacy.
Is it a "fallacy" to say that most New York Times reporters are better writers than the average blogger? (I'm not saying that bloggers can't break important stories. I'm just talking about the quality of the writing itself.)

How is programming sounds any different? You would naturally expect professionals to be at least competent at their jobs. Otherwise, why would anyone hire them?
Old 26th February 2014
  #7
Lives for gear
 
BTByrd's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
It really is true for some synths. The Nord G2's presets are a laughably bad representation of what the synth is capable of. Jomox and Elektron drum machines have pretty lousy factory kits/patterns but can sound awesome. The Sunsyn's presets are pretty bad but it sounds like a beast once you program it. I've heard a bunch of people demo the Minimoog Voyager and come away with the impression that it's only good for cheesy 70's sounds. It's not. Sometimes synths with unique distortion, feedback, or effects capabilities will come loaded with presets that overuse those capacities. Some soft synths come pre-loaded with factory patches that are tailored to a particular genre of music (e.g. Rob Papen's Predator, REFX Vanguard) so people can get the impression that they're only good for those genres. Most of the presets on the mighty Jupiter 8 are dedicated to producing godawful emulations of instruments like harmonica, clarinet, cello, harpsichord, xylophone, harp, and sitar.

The fact that a professional designed a set of presets doesn't guarantee that these sounds will be especially musically interesting or that they will provide a good overall representation of what the synth is capable of. That's all that people claim when they use the preset defense.
Old 26th February 2014
  #8
Lives for gear
 
maisonvague's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
There are actually very few synths that ever had presets I liked -- even classic synths like the Prophet-5 or OB-Xa.

The only synth where I genuinely liked the presets was the Alpha Juno-2, designed by Eric Persing. But that's a fluke -- and strictly a matter of personal taste, as I'm sure others might feel differently (perhaps even a lot differently ).

Otherwise, I have little use for presets. So it doesn't matter to me how they sound. What matters is if I can get what I want from the instrument. I actually prefer synths that allow me to completely erase all the patches and replace them with my own.

Sometimes presets can be a helpful indicator of what a synth can do. But they are by no means definitive and will inevitably represent the taste of someone else. I would never reject a synth solely based on its presets.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Fiend ➑️
Is it a "fallacy" to say that most New York Times reporters are better writers than the average blogger? (I'm not saying that bloggers can't break important stories. I'm just talking about the quality of the writing itself.)

How is programming sounds any different? You would naturally expect professionals to be at least competent at their jobs. Otherwise, why would anyone hire them?
Yes. I think that one is a straw man fallacy. New York Times reporters have nothing to do with presets on a synthesizer, and therefore you are drawing a supposed parallel to your original point, and derailing the argument.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scholl ➑️
Yes. I think that one is a straw man fallacy. New York Times reporters have nothing to do with presets on a synthesizer, and therefore you are drawing a supposed parallel to your original point, and derailing the argument.
Yes, the idea that professionals are usually competent at their jobs is utterly irrelevant to the conversation. Please. Are you so literal in your thinking that you can't even fathom an analogy that is not music-related?
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #11
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by login ➑️
This argument appeals to authority, is a fallacy.

First do we know Professional sound designers did them? If yes, did really commit to getting the best? did they had the time to learn to use the synth?

Second, nobody is saying relative novices are going to get better presets, simply that people who can put time and dedication given the options could make better presets.

I would say that the quality of the sound( or how usable it is) is just a subjective matter. Some people can find some synth super good for the music he intends to do and others don't.

I would suppose developers try hard at their presets because that's one of the biggest selling points, specially at a store, and depending on the genre in vogue they willl include presets tailored to them (even buttons as in Mininova dubstep genre selection).

But at the end the quality of the synth will depend on how the user intends to do with it.
You should respond to these points directly, not question whether or not it was a fallacy, when it clearly was. I understand what you are implying, but just because someone is a professional does not mean they are competent. Plus, the training to be a writer or to work for the Times has nothing to do with the training to program a synth. Who knows, some of those presets could have been given to the new guy because every one else had better things to do. You don't know that. If you want to argue, then argue well. Or, at least try to.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BTByrd ➑️
Most of the presets on the mighty Jupiter 8 are dedicated to producing godawful emulations of instruments like harmonica, clarinet, cello, harpsichord, xylophone, harp, and sitar.
Though to be fair, that doesn't show how bad the programmers were, that was the original concept of the Jupiter 8, to emulate traditional instruments.
The fact that no one used it for that, and created their own sounds that now make the synth one of the most coveted out there is a totally different story.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BTByrd ➑️
It really is true for some synths. The Nord G2's presets are a laughably bad representation of what the synth is capable of.
I will grant you that. The presets in the Nord 1 are likewise pretty god awful. But those were supposedly done in-house by the guys at Clavia. Clavia subsequently released 3 banks of presets done by professional sound designers that do a much better job of showing off what the synth is capable of. I think most synth manufacturers these days understand the importance of good presets and hence outsource their development to people who do this for a living.
Old 27th February 2014
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Rufuss Sewell's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I wish all synth's first patch was a single sawtooth osc with the filter all the way open and a basic on/off amp envelope. Then I can hear the various wave forms, play with the filter, adjust the envelopes etc.

So many presets are bathed in crap reverb/delay, an arp or sequence that no one will ever use.

I kind of wish all synths had a general midi bank just to act as starting points for basic sounds. A plucked bass, strings, electric piano, lead etc.

Most presets are too complex to be used as a part of your own compositions.
Old 27th February 2014
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Alex Aliferis's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Who knows the time constraints and direction under which the presets of any particular synth were created. There have been many cases where a synth's presets were made to ape the sounds in popular music at the time, not fully explore every aspect of the synth's engine.

An experience which sticks out to me in another way is EMU's UltraProteus. The presets often harkened back to the somewhat mild orchestral and pad sounds of previous EMU racks, but when time was spent programming presets from scratch, a truly nasty, dark sounding synth could be brought forth.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scholl ➑️
You should respond to these points directly, not question whether or not it was a fallacy, when it clearly was. I understand what you are implying, but just because someone is a professional does not mean they are competent. Plus, the training to be a writer or to work for the Times has nothing to do with the training to program a synth. Who knows, some of those presets could have been given to the new guy because every one else had better things to do. You don't know that. If you want to argue, then argue well. Or, at least try to.
I'm trying a new tack of late: When someone, through probably no fault of their own, clearly doesn't have the capacity to discuss a topic at an advanced level, I find it's best to ignore them . Otherwise, the "conversation" devolves to my saying "You're a [derisive term to express the person's limited critical reasoning skills]" And no one needs that.
Old 27th February 2014
  #17
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
^damn i thought i knew my e-mu **** pretty good, thought the highest proteus was 2500.

edit: in response to alex aleferis
Old 27th February 2014
  #18
Lives for gear
 
lowkey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
How long can it take to make a sound that fits just perfectly into one of your tracks?
Sometimes for me it could take an hour...
A synth might have say 500 preset patches. My Matrix had 1000.
It's not surprising my synth manufacturers wouldn't spend 1000 hours making presets for their machines.
If the presets are crap it's either because the presets are crap or because the synth doesn't sound good to you.
It's impossible to say all synths with crap presets are crap.
Old 27th February 2014
  #19
Lives for gear
 
gremlin moon's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I notice that preset designers tend to take their tricks from synth to synth. Richard Devine sounds like Richard Devine, Howard Scarr like Howard Scarr, etc...I find I sound like me for the most part no matter what. To quote Buckaroo Bonzai," wherever you go, there you are."

OT: I came up with a preset name today that I am not going to use so someone take it: Sine on You Crazy Diamond
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowkey ➑️
It's impossible to say all synths with crap presets are crap.
i agree but at the same time i just adopt the view that they ARE crap because i don't have infinite amount of time/money to learn new synths.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
maisonvague's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gremlin moon ➑️
I find I sound like me for the most part no matter what.
I totally know that feeling! Sometimes I ask myself, why do I need all these different synths? They're still going to end up sounding pretty much the same!
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
gremlin moon's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Fiend ➑️
I'm trying a new tack of late:
What does a sailing or equestrian term have to do with making forum posts?
Old 27th February 2014
  #23
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kirkelein's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Most presets are pretty masturbatory. They are so eager to show off all their features that they overuse everything. More importantly, as a result of that, they are so complex that you can seldom just take a preset and have some fun with it to see what the synth is really capable of, because it will take you half an hour to strip away all the stupid modulation and effects.

In this day and age I would think that tone is more important when you're trying to sell a synth, but the presets are often not too upfront with that.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein ➑️
Most presets are pretty masturbatory. They are so eager to show off all their features that they overuse everything. More importantly, as a result of that, they are so complex that you can seldom just take a preset and have some fun with it to see what the synth is really capable of, because it will take you half an hour to strip away all the stupid modulation and effects.

In this day and age I would think that tone is more important when you're trying to sell a synth, but the presets are often not too upfront with that.
two examples of this are nexus (which is all presets obviously but i still love it) and tone2 saurus, EVERY preset has some combo of heavy reverb and/or delay.

especially nexus2, if there's some way to turn reverb and delay off by default someone please tell me. off course that's not a synth so not really within the subject matter we're discussing.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
EDGEK8D's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein ➑️
Most presets are pretty masturbatory. They are so eager to show off all their features that they overuse everything. More importantly, as a result of that, they are so complex that you can seldom just take a preset and have some fun with it to see what the synth is really capable of, because it will take you half an hour to strip away all the stupid modulation and effects.

In this day and age I would think that tone is more important when you're trying to sell a synth, but the presets are often not too upfront with that.
I agree. Put a naked saw or square on. Press a key and play with the cutoff and resonance. That's how I assess things. Then start messing with envelopes, LFOs, PWM.

F#%* a preset.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gremlin moon ➑️
What does a sailing or equestrian term have to do with making forum posts?
try a different tack - Idioms - by the Free Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.
Old 27th February 2014
  #27
Deleted User
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The Akai AX80 has spectacularly **** factory presets, which is probably why everyone thought it was a dud when it came out, despite it being capable of some really unique sounds if you take the time to program them yourself.
Old 27th February 2014
  #28
PES
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PES's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Presets will always be bad

Presets on synths are like those demo songs on romplers, or preset patterns on groove boxes; merely an indication of what can be done. Sometimes an inspiration, showing new tricks and approaches, but usually just a taste of what a unit is capable of.

When you buy a synthesizer, it is with the motivation of being able to design patches, creating music from one level lower than simply playing an instrument. Because of this, a preset can never be truly useful. When you play a patch, you might be thinking "Wow, this sounds great," but at the same time you're also thinking "..but I would rather have done so-and-so."

So, no matter how "good" a preset is, it is always competing against your vision of your personal sound - the mere reason you bought a synthesizer to begin with! And no Expert Preset Creator can compete against something as subjective as that.

Therefore, presets will always be bad.
Old 27th February 2014
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Presets are usually designed to help sell the instrument to a particular type of customer.

They may or may not be designed to show off the full capabilities of the synth, depending upon the category of customer or customers that the synth is being marketed towards.
Old 27th February 2014 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by maisonvague ➑️
The only synth where I genuinely liked the presets is the Alpha Juno-2
When I had a Juno 1.. I didn't care much about the presets. Years later I got a Juno 2 and it taught me that velocity can really go a long way. Those same presets can sound amazing. I really need a cartridge now (my friend's working on building one himself).

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldSpanner ➑️
The Akai AX80 has spectacularly **** factory presets, which is probably why everyone thought it was a dud when it came out, despite it being capable of some really unique sounds if you take the time to program them yourself.
True.. but there are 2 amazing bass sounds, 1 nice italo-disco piano and 1 decent pad.
IMO - for presets, 4 is a hit.

Let's also not forget Lately Bass on the TX81Z

And oh yeah... presets in general suck.
So do "professional" sounds. It's probably why the Roland D-50(not because of it's presets) is the latest polysynth I can swallow.. real talk (that was for Fatal1)
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