Longtime Synthtopia readers may remember that one of our pet peeves is sexy 3D virtual instrument interfaces for software synths.
Software synth designers gravitate to ‘virtual instrument’ style user interfaces modeled after 30-40 year old hardware designs.
They do this because:
- It makes their synth designs easy for knowledgeable synth users to understand; and
- We’re suckers for all those ‘vintage’ knobs. Even if they are virtual.
Their are a couple of problems with this approach, though.
First of all, manipulating virtual knobs and sliders on a screen with a mouse or even with a multi-touch tablet is awkward. While the ‘virtual hardware’ look may be appealing, it’s too fiddly to perform with.
Second, designing software synths to imitate vintage hardware limits the way designers and users think about working with sound to 40 year old approaches to synthesis. Classic subtractive synthesis is wonderful – but it doesn’t make sense to try and make every new electronic music tool fit into an old school paradigm.
That’s why it’s exciting to see a couple of multi-touch designs today by people that aren’t afraid to design a synth with a mind-blowing user interface.
Earlier today, we posted an update on Subcycle, a new multi-touch controller designed by Christian Bannister that explores alternative ways of visualizing and controlling electronic music.
Now check out this user interface study by The Strange Agency for their Curtis granular synthesizer.
Watching the UI demo, it’s not immediately obvious how the interface works. But it’s clear that the developers aren’t afraid of exploring new approaches to direct, tactile manipulation of sound.
And, while The Strange Agency’s synth interface isn’t as immediately sexy as a software synth that looks like a vintage Moog synth – would Bob Moog have blown anybody’s mind if he’d imitated 40 year old instruments, instead of coming up with something new?