The History of Soft-Synths

Soft-synths, also known as software synthesizers, are digital instruments that generate sound using computer software. They are a type of virtual instrument that simulates the functionality and sound of traditional hardware synthesizers. The history of soft-synths is closely tied to the evolution of computer music and electronic music in general.

In the early days of computer music, software was often used to generate sounds, but these sounds were typically limited to simple waveforms such as sine, square, and triangle waves. The first software synthesizers were developed in the 1980s and were often simple additive or subtractive synthesizers that emulated the capabilities of analog hardware synthesizers.

One of the first soft-synths was the Yamaha DX7, which was released in 1983. It was a digital synthesizer that used a form of synthesis called frequency modulation (FM) synthesis to generate complex sounds. The DX7 was very successful and became a popular choice for musicians in the 1980s and early 1990s.

As computers became more powerful in the 1990s, soft-synths became more advanced and complex. They were capable of emulating the sound of a wide range of analog and digital synthesizers, as well as other instruments such as pianos, guitars, and drums. Soft-synths also began to incorporate new synthesis techniques such as wavetable synthesis, granular synthesis, and physical modeling.

One of the most popular soft-synths of the 1990s was the Native Instruments Reaktor, which was released in 1996. Reaktor was a modular synthesizer that allowed users to create their own custom instruments using a drag-and-drop interface. It quickly became a popular tool for electronic musicians and sound designers.

In the 2000s, soft-synths continued to evolve and become more sophisticated. They were often integrated into digital audio workstations (DAWs), which allowed musicians to compose and produce music entirely within the computer. Soft-synths also became more affordable, with many companies offering free or low-cost versions of their software.

Today, soft-synths are an essential part of electronic music production. They are capable of generating a vast array of sounds, from classic analog synth sounds to modern electronic textures. They are also highly versatile, with many soft-synths offering advanced modulation and automation features that allow users to create complex and dynamic sounds. Soft-synths have become an essential tool for musicians, producers, and sound designers, and they continue to evolve and improve with advances in computer technology.

Date Event
1983 Yamaha DX7 released, one of the first digital synths
1987 Steinberg releases first software synthesizer, Tangerine Dream
1996 Native Instruments Reaktor released
1997 Propellerhead Software releases Reason
2000 Steinberg releases Virtual Studio Technology (VST)
2003 Apple releases Logic Pro 7 with software instruments
2004 Ableton Live 4 released with integrated soft-synths
2010 Native Instruments releases Massive
2011 Spectrasonics releases Omnisphere 1
2012 Xfer Records releases Serum
2017 Ableton Live 10 released with new soft-synth Wavetable
2019 Native Instruments releases Komplete 12
2020 Korg releases Triton soft-synth

This is just a brief overview of some of the important dates in the history of soft-synths, and there have been many other developments and releases over the years.