With this post, I would like to complement the post about sample libraries. The trigger was that synth libraries kept appearing in searches for new virtual music tools, which was never my intention. I will try to explain why I consider this a problem.
First, a few definitions that are important for understanding and contextualizing the following part of the post.
What are synthesizers?
A synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument that generates artificial sounds through electronic oscillations. It uses oscillators, filters, envelopes, and effects. A synthesizer can produce a variety of sounds, some of which may even resemble acoustic instruments. The key aspect is that the sound is completely generated anew. Synthesizers can exist in hardware or software form. In software form, plugins are usually small in terms of file size.
What are synth libraries in my understanding?
For me, synth libraries are basically sample libraries that have exclusively recorded synthesizers instead of acoustic instruments. So it's a combination of synthesizer and sample library. In my opinion, the latter predominates when considering the size of such products.
What is my problem?
I occasionally search for new tools to work with. For example, I have searched for new synthesizer plugins that I could use in my music production software. It often happened that I came across search results on platforms like the KVR Plugin Database that, in my opinion, incorrectly categorized certain products. There were many product listings that implied a synthesizer, but were essentially just sample libraries. During my recent spontaneous search on April 19, 2023, I found the following products: Sika Pro X, Mosaic Neon, DV8, Revelation Fusion Harp, Usynth, and Synth AI. The latter product, with its name implying artificial intelligence, takes the cake for me. However, it actually stands for "Animated Intelligence" and has nothing to do with conventional AI methods such as machine learning. I consider it to be a form of clickbait.
Just on the side: How awesome would an AI-powered synth be!? Oh wait, there's actually Synplant 2 coming soon, which according to the information from Sonic Charge in the forum actually uses machine learning to generate new sounds. What I mean to say is: it can be done honestly and future-oriented without a buzzword name for the product.
Ehr, back to the point. What was the problem again? Well, it obviously concerns sample libraries and not just synthesizers. Most products, for example, require the software sample player Kontakt, so they are not a standalone plugin. In addition, the point is that these products require a lot of data space. That ranges from a few hundred megabytes to many gigabytes. The synths I usually use are more like 3 to 20 megabytes in size. So, I find it questionable how a "synthesizer" (Synth AI) with a 24 gigabyte data size can be over 8000 times larger than a smaller equivalent from the supposedly same category: namely "synthesizer".
Yes, but what is the specific problem now? The problem for me is the differentiation. More precisely, the lack of differentiation. When I'm looking for specific tools for music production, I don't want to have incorrect results in the list. Additionally, I don't want supposedly enticing name additions to imply something completely different from what the product actually offers. In my opinion, this is to some extent a false advertising promise, and in the end, I feel rather deceived as a potential customer. For something like that, there's April 1st. However, the mentioned products are obviously available all year round.
When would it not be a problem?
I can understand that there are some (in my opinion, esoteric) producers who prioritize hardware over software. In that case, it may be a compromise for producers who cannot afford expensive hardware to purchase a hardware synthesizer sample library. However, I also see the irony here, as this hardware is ultimately played through a digital sample player and runs on software as well.
I could of course not care about all of this if it didn't affect me more often than desired. Therefore, I wish for a clearer differentiation on the part of certain search engines and the industry behind them. Since customers are certainly attracted in the end using certain buzzwords, it may not change quickly. Of course, alternatively, one could focus their efforts on new technologies and create truly original things. But that is certainly associated with greater risk and may not bring the desired and guaranteed added value from an economic point of view.
There are sample libraries that give the impression of being a synthesizer, which technically is not entirely accurate, in my opinion. The lack of transparency on product pages and the misleading listing on search pages increasingly makes it difficult to get an overview of the available tools. I find this to be very cumbersome.
Moreover, from an educational perspective, it could create a distorted image for newcomers in the industry. My impression so far with newcomers asking questions in chats is that they struggle to differentiate even the most basic things. Who knows if such opaque product marketing might have contributed to this problem.
As a musician and producer, in such a case, I have little choice but to keep track of which companies employ such tactics. And to me, it seems like not much more than just a tactic. Therefore, I have to try to filter out certain companies that release such products when searching for synthesizers. It would be cool if, for example, the KVR search engine could do this filtering for me!
13.09.2023: I found out today that the tag Sample-based Synthesizer exists on KVR. This makes me wonder why my other findings don't use this tag. I simply assume that the respective companies are pursuing a misleading and non-transparent marketing strategy.