On Fri, May 6, 2011 at 2:07 PM, ian <email@example.com> wrote:
> Wonder if anyone has ideas or opinions on
> this one? Just bought a new computer, nothing
> fancy and it comes with the Realtek HD
> Audio Manager software. This appears to be a
> software synth. It's fine for listening to
> background music and through good speakers
> is perfectly acceptable; BB can play through it
> too. What I wondered was, is there anything
> in software out there which might be better? If
> I don't have to buy a sound card for this
> backup machine so much the better. Thanks in
> anticipation. Ian.
Your computer apparently comes with a RealTek Semiconductor Corp High
Definition sound card, of which a number of varieties are available.. It
has a RealTek HD Audio Driver that should work just fine without needing a
ASIO driver to avoid latency. In fact using a real ASIO driver would mean
that you would no longer be able to access some of the special features
available with your card. Most of these features are controlled with the
RealTek Audio Manager software which is built to work with the RealTek HD
The Manual for the RealTek Audio Manager software is available in PDF which
you can find by doing a google search on "Realtek HD Audio Manager"
The hardware/software combination has a number of impressive features. It
can handle stereo, quadraphonic, and even 5.1 channel and 7.1 channel set
ups. It can compensate for the physical layout of the speakers
and acoustic peculiarities of the room, do automatic bass management to best
use subwoofers and full range speakers present, do speaker fills to create
virtual surround sound from from a stereo source or in the other direction
can do headphone virtualization to create the illusion of a full theater
system in your headphones. It can apply special effects such as mimicking
environments like a sewer pipe or a large auditorium. It can
do equalization and has built in settings for Pop, Live, Club, and Rock.
When the music is in stereo but the voice is recorded on both tracks, it can
do voice cancellation for Karaoke and additionally do key adjustment. It can
do tricks for recording as well such as automatic fixed noise suppression
and can handle a great variety of sampling rates for both recording and
playback with optimal settings for CD and DVDs. When you are recording while
listening to a playback, it can filter the playback out of the recording.
Similarly, it can eliminate echo as when you are using Skype and the person
on the other end would otherwise hear when their voice is played into your
All of these capabilities will use the features of your sound card to do
much of the work, leaving your computer's CPU free for other purposes.
These capabilities are controlled from the RealTek Audio Manager software.
Notice that the RealTek Audio Manager software is not any kind of software
synth. The RealTek Audio manager does not contain a synth. For that
matter, neither does the driver. It's somewhat unlikely, but certainly not
completely impossible, that the sound card contains a hardware synth.
However, the Windows operating system (whether XP, Vista, or System 7) does
contain a synth built into the operating system.
The good news is that with your sound card and a decent pair of speakers the
built-in Microsoft synth sounds just about as good as it's going to sound.
It is perfectly adequate to practice along with.
The bad news is that really the built-in synth sucks. The evaluation of
the sound quality of a synth is pretty subjective, but you are going to get
pretty universal agreement that, unless you are intentionally going after a
cheesy sound, the only way you can go downhill with the Microsoft synth is
to play it on tiny built in speakers.
The good news is that PG Music throws in two free software synths with any
of their semi-annual upgrade packages and I suspect they may throw them in
with any copy of BIAB. These two synths are the Roland HyperCanvas and the
Coyote Wave Table. The HyperCanvas is better (in my subjective opinion) but
won't work with a 64-bit system. After installing, to use either requires
checking the "Use VST/DXI Synth" option in the "Midi/Audio Drivers Setup"
window of BiaB and selecting the desired synth from those available.
Technically the two synths are being paid for as part of a package deal, but
since there is more than adequate reason for buying the packages without the
synths, considering them as free is not too much of a stretch. You will
find either software synth to be a huge improvement over the built-in synth
and the best part is that you may already have these synths in the stuff
you got from PG music.
Can you do better yet with a free software synth? Yes indeed. You can
find a free software synth on the Internet that can handle soundfonts and
you can find many many free quality soundfonts hidden here and there on the
Internet. The days when soundfonts were cutting edge is long past, so this
stuff becomes harder and harder to find over time. Still I am reasonably
confident that with a lot of time and effort you can wind up using a free
software synth that you will like better than what you get from PG music.
But the thing is, most of the stuff available for free isn't better and
it's a lot of time and effort to invest. I'm not at all sure that the
degree of improvement is worth the time and effort required.
The alternative is to throw money at it. The bad news is that this is an
open ended rat hole that will absorb however much money you care to toss
into it. The good news is that you can probably find a synth that will make
you happy for somewhere between $200. and $1,000.00.
If you're a real bargain hunter hunter that doesn't mind used or
discontinued you might be able to bring it down as low as $100.00. If you
have no ethics against stealing and a high tolerance for risk you might be
able to find a cracked version of a high quality software synth for free
along with a virus or three.
I went the free soundfont route; it was educational. I wound up with two
General Midi fonts I liked a lot with another half dozen special instrument
fonts that were really good and reasonably compatible with one of the
General Midi fonts. The first time I threw money at the problem, buying a
Native Instruments software synth being discontinued for less that a $100.,
it blew what I had completely away. I don't even maintain the free stuff
To date I've invested around $400. in software synths and threw another
$100. away and chalked it up to education. I anticipate sinking another
$150. into it in the next three years.
Once you start throwing money at the problem, there are a lot of different
hardware and software routes you can go. A lot of us are willing to share
the route we took and a few of us are willing to share audio of the results.
Notably Bob Norton has a lot of MP3 files on his site
showing off his styles, but also demonstrating the results of his process of
going from midi to audio.
I have a Skydrive I'm not using for anything. I should put up some samples
of midi or BIAB files and audio. Dunno when I'll get to it though.
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