Knockoffs vs Virtual Instruments vs Sampled Instruments – Which Sounds Best?

This video, via Analog Prophet, offers a head-to-head comparison of four modern alternatives to the classic Solina String Ensemble synthesizer.

The contenders include:

  • Behringer Solina, a modern hardware knockoff of the original;
  • Arturia Solina V2 a virtual analog emulation of the original hardware; and
  • UVI String Machines 2 and Bigga Giggas‘ sample-based virtual instruments.

Here’s what they have to say about the video:

“A comparison between Behringer Solina String Ensemble and three different Solina software clones: Arturia Solina V2 (virtual analog), UVI String Machines 2 (sampled based) and a Solina sample pack från BiggaGiggas (samples).

The settings used in all examples is all instruments, ensemble on, medium bass volume, medium crescendo and medium release.

Some of the instruments are made to shine in stereo but for the sake of comparison everything is in here in mono, just as the original Solina was made as well as the hardware Behringer clone. No external processing such EQ has been applied but small settings on the instruments to reproduce about the same sound as close as possible and volume matching.

The purpose of the comparison is to show the different character of the hardware Solina clone and some Solina software clones.”

While the demo is short, differences in the sound of the various approaches are immediately apparent. Based on these examples, at least, Arturia’s virtual analog emulation sounds livelier than the sample-based alternatives, and gives Behringer’s hardware take strong competition for the top spot.

Give the demos a listen, and then share your thoughts on which option you think the sounds best!

18 thoughts on “Knockoffs vs Virtual Instruments vs Sampled Instruments – Which Sounds Best?

  1. My two faves were the Behringer and the Arturia, followed by UVI and BG. Daniel Fisher from Sweetwater just did a great video on the Behringer. One nice advantage of it is that they have a patch point for the FX. They sound great on other gear.

  2. Dear Mr. Synth head.
    Why not keep the name of the original post video by Analog prophet: ‘Behringer Solina vs Solina software clones’?. Why the need to replace on your site the word Behringer for knockoff no matter what. This is a genuine question not trying to step on toes or anything like that. I really want to know your reason for such?
    Thanks in advance

    1. The purpose of a headline is to attract attention, and to help readers know why they might be interested in a story.

      What makes this video interesting to synthesists is that it compares several different technical approaches to recreating Solina sounds – a hardware knockoff, a software emulation and a sample-based virtual instrument.

      What sounds best? What are the pros and cons of each approach? Those are important questions for musicians considering these options. And the fact that Behringer’s knockoffs have been so controversial makes this comparison especially interesting to synthesists.

      You ask, “Why the need to replace on your site the word Behringer for knockoff no matter what?” Your statement is a generalization not supported by facts.

      We use the term ‘knockoff’ when it’s the appropriate term for categorizing a product, and making ‘knockoffs’ is the core of Behringer’s business. Many, but not all, of their products are accurately categorized as ‘knockoffs’. We wouldn’t categorize the Behringer Neutron as a knockoff, but we would the Toro and Swing.

      Saying that some of their products are knockoffs is not a subjective opinion. It’s fact, and reflects Behringer’s own statements about their business model.

      Behringer describes their business model as being a ‘market follower’, with this definition:

      “The market follower effectively rides on the market leader’s coattails, while positioning its brand just far enough away from the market leader to be different.”

      Behringer’s business model is to copy other company’s products as closely as legally possible. This is what they have stated, any reasonable observer sees and, after doing it for 35 years, the company has gotten very good at it.

      We realize that some Behringer fans are offended by the fact that we state the obvious, but we’re not going weaken our coverage to avoid offending a handful of readers.

      The fact that Behringer is bringing this business model to synthesizers is one of the most important synth trends of the last 5 years. This is a fundamental, disruptive change in the synth market.

      1. Thanks for taking the time replying to my question is such detail dear Sir. It is highly appreciated. Keep the good work and let’s have another 20 more years (or more) for all of us synthheads!


  3. Surely sampled and virtual instruments are way more a “knockoff” than a genuine hardware instrument.
    It’s far cheaper and easier to copy something in software… but somehow that’s ok, and a real instrument is somehow an inferior knockoff?

    1. Christian

      Why do you think that knockoffs have to be inferior or that making them is somehow ‘not OK’?

      Knockoffs are products designed to be a cheaper version another company’s product. They are, by definition legal.

      They might be inferior in some ways, and they might be better in some ways. Or they might just be a better fit for your needs or budget. It depends on the knockoff’s design.

      People buy knockoffs all the time, because they they like the original product, but see the knockoff as a better value.

      Anyone thinking that our use of the term ‘knockoff’ for the Behringer Solina implies that it’s inferior is completely missing the entire point of this post.

      The post compares the Behringer copy to software solutions and even suggests that, in terms of sound, the Behringer is the one to beat.

      Which option is the best for YOU is ultimately subjective, because some value hardware solutions and others the ease of integrating a virtual instrument into their DAW.

    1. That’d be because we don’t make a Solina emulation. ( But the string section in our Quadra is pretty well in the ball park.)

  4. Allways found the Solina VST from Arturia very convincing. One of their best VST’s actually. This comparison confirms it. Time to explore Full Bucket’s version!

  5. Nobody is going to listen to your track and think, “Golly, it would have been a hit if they’d used the Behringer copy, but I find the string synth lifeless in an otherwise stunning mix.”

    It’s like a bunch of car enthusiasts getting together and A/B testing the sound of the exhaust as they rev their engines.

  6. First a disclaimer: I honestly never thought the Solina sounded all that great. And I still don’t. But that said, I found myself liking the UVI sample most often despite its obvious deficiencies when compared to the Arturia and Behringer offerings. That slightly muddled sound more accurately reminded me more of my own experiences hearing a Solina back in its day, even though my ears are now admittedly older and far less sensitive to nuances than they were back then. Either way, I’ll take hardware over software most times so my pick would still be the Behringer. But only if my nostalgia reflex was running unchecked. So while I’m glad to see companies are resurrecting these antique synths, there’s still many that have faded into history with some justification.

    Now if somebody would just release an affordable Ondes Martinot I’d be more grateful than words could tell.

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