This book is an excellent introduction to the world of software synthesizers by long-time Keyboard columnist Jim Aikin. For anyone new to computer-based synthesis, this book will provide a basic understanding of the ideas of software synthesis. It also reviews many of the most popular software synthesizers.
Software Synthesizers: The Definitive Guide to Virtual Musical Instruments, unfortunately, suffers some because of the combination of the newness of the field and the vast number of applications currently available. It’s early enough that it’s not clear whether a few software synths will rise to the top of the pack, so any guide necessarily has to cover a lot of territory. The book brings together many articles and reviews that were previously published in Keyboard magazine. Aikin covers a lot of territory, but it seems like he’s a little unsure what needs to be emphasized.
Overall, the reviews are good and to the point. Coverage includes many of the most popular applications, including Pro-52, Reaktor, and Reason. In addition to the reviews, the book includes demos of many of the software synthesizers. This points out another problem, not necessarily of the book, but of the subject matter in general. Many of the demos are dated. You could easily go the manufacturers website and download newer versions. In this rapidly changing area, though, this would be hard to avoid. The disk will be very useful for many readers with slower Internet connections.
Readers of Keyboard magazine will have a feeling of deja vu reading the book. For others, Software Synthesizers provides a good overview of the ideas and technologies of software synths, and reviews of many of the leading applications.