Opinions - The better outboard all-around sound modules

Halion Sonic :slight_smile:
Or does it need to be hardware?


I have a QS.8 and IMO you will have to spend a good bit to get to the next fidelity of sounds (or go ITB). Since you are doing all this MIDI routing stuff … your QS in Multi Mode should keep you happily messing about for quite a while.

Here’s the thing with the Alesis sounds (and most all the sound module synths), they are highly compressed and samples/waves are widely spread from whatever root note they originate from. So, with every sound you have to find it’s ‘good’ range. Which may be very limited. Also, don’t forget to treat like any other source in Cubase. The sound needs EQ and better effects than what you will get onboard.


Have the Roland jv1010 and an Alesis QS8…love them both and they work well together. The Jv1010 works well for bread and butter patches (typical Roland sound), but the QS8 has some unique and quirky patches you won’t find elsewhere and it’s highly flexible. Jump on the Alesis site and you’ll run across a lot of extra banks thayt will complement the sounds you already have. I have the PCM cards and I enjoy and use them all.


I still sometimes use a Roland JV1020 in my studio. A while ago I got a Yamaha Motif ES which was supposed to replace the JV1020… an now they are both still here :slight_smile:. I find that both have their own very special sound. I’ve decided to keep and use them for as long as possible.

Although the Motif ES is still a bit expensive, it surely could be worth a try…

Steve, Yes, they are completely new sounds that can be imported. You can get both program and mix banks (multi’s). Q Cards also have program and mix banks included along with the waveforms that generate the sounds. I also go to the JV1010 for options and inspiration. I guess it all depends on what hits you at the moment. The Vintage Keyboards and Vintage Synthesizer Q Cards may be an option for you.


Although a bit old school having an editor/librarian is essential IMO.

Yep i still have my old JV1080 here as well as a trinity+ and a wavestation.
I have the ethnic and piano boards in the JV and there are MANY instantly recognisable sounds for when you want THAT sound… same with the trinity… the wavestation is quite different from the plugin version in that it sounds MUCH darker and grainier… VERY spooky sounding!
I did have a novation A Station too but TBH having the V Station and Bass Stations plugins it was pretty pointless as there was very little difference in sound.

At the recent AES show I was astounded to learn that Alesis is now owned by the same company that owns M Audio,Akai, AIR(Wizoo) and Numark. Alesis was an afterthought in their booth. I’d always thought of Alesis as a powerhouse in the music equipment business


I always find it interesting that people used those sounds in professional music for years. But, guys processed the shit out of the signal. Now, if someone can’t flip through a patch and get EXACTLY what they are looking for, its time to bin the synth.

Kontakt > *

And if you can afford that, you can spend a few more dollars to get Komplete. Best investment you’ll ever make.

I own an XV-5080. I don’t even turn it on anymore since getting Kontakt.

A little off topic, but I’m more and more with Steve on this.

I have 3 MIDI external instruments modules, 2 of them purchased as second hand, and 2 pre-MIDI old things. I certainly will not get rid of them in any case, just crossing my fingers and hoping that they will last as long as they can. I power them on and here are all the sounds instantly at disposal. I certainly won’t say that they are the best ones, but their sounds are unique and I still use them regularly.

Now I allso have several VSTis and what I consider a great sampler but well, seeing how E-Mu is evolving, I am wondering how to save all the investments and time put on it to choose, tweack and set the libraries I have now, fearing that I won’t be able to install it on a future DAW. I’ve been considering sampling all my hardware setup, but is it worth doing so, seeing the uncertainties about Emulator X future ? Not even NI is safe from this kind of evolution on the long run (and Kontakt, the so called ‘ultimate sampler’ isn’t even able to sample, anyway…). This without talking about the updates, registration, etc. I have the same problem with others, Sylenth1 being the first that comes to mind, and I just hope that the list will not grow for a while.

No such hassle with external hardware instruments : choose the best for you, tweack to get more or less the exact sounds you are after, and you are set for years. Mine are more than 20 years old…

You can’t sample with a sampler either unless you have some source signal. If you’re going through that trouble, you might as well record it in Cubase and export to WAV. The only difference between the two platforms is that you don’t need to export in a dedicated hardware sampler.

As far as updates go, I’d rather update Kontakt with new sample packs and capabilities than be stuck with the XV-5080, XP-50, or D-50 that I own and are stuck firmly in the 80’s and 90’s.

Before I got Kontakt, I would record on my XP-50 to MIDI then use that MIDI (after cleaning it up) to drive the XP-50 while I recorded the result as a stereo audio track. The quality of that pales in comparison to using Kontakt or any VST directly. Having used both techniques, I will never, ever go back to using outboard hardware for recording purposes.

Live environments are different, but the acoustics of a bar or similar venue are typically crappy enough that no one will notice the degradation of quality in the sound as a result of me using my synths instead of VSTs.

This should be a decent yardstick:

Compared to 10 years ago, how many companies are making hardware-based sound modules (synths are not included) vs. VSTs (AUs, RTASs, etc.)?

I recall, 5 years ago, feeling the same way as Steve does now. I walked into Sam Ash looking for a new rackmounted module. I couldn’t find any that I was interested in. I asked the keyboard / pro-audio folks why and they said simply that no one is interested in making them anymore.

Thats also because manufacturing costs and updates are MUCH cheaper with software. less risk involved and easier to start up as a company.

True. Time to market is definitely a concern not just from the “cost to develop” perspective but also from the “I need to continue to add value even after subsequent releases by my competitors makes my current product iteration irrelevant” perspective.

Agreed about studio work. The entire production process can cancel the substandard (by today’s standards) quality of the signal produced by those “ancient machines.” But since I’m a home enthusiast I get better results with soft-synths regardless of whether that’s a good or bad thing.

I guess it depends on how you’re going to use whatever it is you purchase.

What I meant was that EX3 is able to direcly sample a signal, wherever it is coming from (directly from a mic or line input if necessary), thanks to its dedicated samples recording tool. You can even sample a whole instrument (VSTi or external) by using the Synthswipe tool integrated, which allows you to specify keys range, durations velocities with all the relevent intervals, all in one pass. And it works efficiently ; I already used it several times. I know that I can make this with Cubase but it takes much more time, with the need to cut all the samples acquired after. Would like Kontakt to have this, with the ability to import exs/exb presets and banks.

But it’s not the debate. Indeed, the last century synths were limited to the sounds bundled with them. It’s no more the case : I have a friend who has a Nord Lead 2X and is able to update the software and samples loaded in it when he wants. And believe me : the sounds are anything but of degraded quality. And I think it’s not the only piece of gear which has this ability : the future of outboard gear is probably here and I think I’m going to check about this more and more as I’m getting fed up with vanishing developers, plug-ins products and abandonware in general. I’m very cautious about what I get now, the most recent plug-in I bought was BFD2, after nearly 2 years without purchasing a VSTi or plug-in of any kind…

Actually, I’m wondering more and more if the software industry is the future. Between developers/companies complaining about piracy and sometimes giving up because of it and musicians/users fed up by abandonware, erratical, abusive registration processes and OS or hosts dependency, I see less and less the future there. This one could be in updatable gear with tablet/touch screen interfaces…

Guess what would be my dreamed hardware module ? An updated Emulator IV with all the Emulator X3 features integrated in it…

I didn’t know this about the Nord Lead 2X, and it is very promising. :thumbsup: