KVR - Favorite MPE Virtual Instrument

For what is worth… KVR Readers’ Choice Awards - Winners Announced

A bit surprised on the winner for Favourite MPE Virtual Instrument : https://www.kvraudio.com/product/msoundfactory-by-meldaproduction
It’s even NOT on our list… and can’t say I’ve hear about or tried it.

That synth is a total mess. The GUI is terrible and there doesn’t seem to be any lag or smoothing options for MPE modulators. I would not recommend it.

A lot of that might fall under “still in beta”, but paying several hundred dollars for it as a leap of faith does sound unreasonable.

What were other contenders?

Melda GUI’s tho… I love some of their plugins, but the more complex they get the less usable the gui is. Too many layers, too much secondary stuff.

That’s a valid point, but its a problem only because some mpe vendors fail to implement this in their software.

Also never heard of this…
Downloaded the demo and clicked around a little. On first sight it looks a little like the combination of Zebra and SynthEdit. The semi-modular matrix approach from the first, the ability to build UIs and export instruments from the latter. Design and UI concept doesn’t seem to be fully up to u-he standards on first sight…
Probably no SDK though? This was what made SynthEdit great, the included modules were more for starting out…

Edit: Ok, the self-created instruments can only be used inside MSoundFactory, editing can be password protected etc. - so more like e.g. Kontakt or Reaktor than Synthedit then.

Edit 2: There is a four part video series about physical modelling on their web site. Neat!

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There seems to be a feature called “smart interpolation” that on first sight defines how often a modulation source updates the modulated target. This can be set from “minimal” (every 2048 samples) to “extreme” (every 1 sample).
Not sure what that means in the case of a MIDI modulator though, as smoothing would always require some kind of hysteresis and thus a delay. Unless we have a controller that sends midi events at up to audio rate :stuck_out_tongue:
Would be interesting, which additional latency the interpolation in “very high” (4 samples) to “high” (32 samples) modes would lead to for 44.1kHz audio - and whether all events from e.g. a 2 kHz Eigenharp OSC-to-MIDI input could be considered for modulation! (So: how many midi events are needed for smoothing)

Edit: Found out how to change the actual smoothing of the controller (which is independent of the smoothing for interpolation - which makes sense): There is an option “controller smoothing” that can be assigned to any multiparameter. This works for each CC individually.
You can e.g. see this in the Experimental/Physical Modeller Preset. There is a multiparameter “Timbre smoothing” in the Globals/MPE & Controllers section. CTRL+Alt click on the Timbre smoothing slider and the multiparameter editor opens. You can see that “Controller smoothing - Timbre CC#74” is selected here. Any other smoothing parameter could be chosen with the arrow symbol.

Have to say that I’m quite impressed up to now. Stuff has many options but it seems logical once a few concepts are understood. I’d say it’s a little bit like Reaktor without the “logics editing” level, but where everything supports per-voice modulation out of the box. Interesting!

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It is absolutely essential for the instrument to support this regardless of the vendor’s support. I want smoothing and lag control within the instrument, not fixed to hardware. For instance, in Bitwig Grid I often set a release-only lag for pressure on a patch and then map the amount of lag to a macro. Then I can set this per patch and save it with the patch. I wouldn’t want the same settings for every circumstance.

As for Melda Sound Factory — it is designed to be a do it all modular style instrument. I should be able to implement smoothing or put a lag processor on a modulator anyway… but they have not implemented this in the synth… not just for MPE but for anything. I find it to be poorly thought out and the GUI is ludicrously bad. It is the perfect KVR synth, though. It is inexpensive and it “does everything” on paper so long as you don’t actually try to use it. Also, while they may have added more by now, when I bought it it came with about 15 presets. Hard to believe.

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I think it’s still in development, so number of features and presets is probably still increasing.
Honestly don’t know too many synths that allow any control over control smoothing at all, in most cases it’s just hardcoded. Here you can apparently control the smoothing of any MIDI parameter per preset and also dynamically (also bound to another MIDI control parameter if desired).
MPE+ has a good way to handle this - there the hardware can tell which rate it supports to set smoothing accordingly. (Apparently that’s not what you want? Why?). Afaik MPE+ is currently only supported by EaganMatrix though…
If you want to have a delay between action and effect, perhaps you can just set an envelope as modulator, this has a delay parameter. And then modulate e.g. the attack (or hold) phase with the midi modulator you actually want as controlling parameter.

I think there is still room for an MPE-centric middle-ground complexity (not actually development environment) modular with a good set of physical modelling components (Tassman was great…). Doesn’t exactly fit my definition of “inexpensive” though - but to each their own :slight_smile:

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Wow, the MSoundFactory contains MXXX which in turn seems to contain almost all plugins the company has ever written (which are quite many), a full arsenal of mixing, mastering and creative effects! Considering that these sell for thousands of € alone this looks like a good value. (Either that or they were overpriced before :stuck_out_tongue: )

One imho particularly interesting effect is Morph which does morphing between two sound sources in the spectral domain. Could be interesting to put this on one or several instrument axis, morphing between timbres from different synthesis approaches…

It’s also nice that there is a player variant of MSF that can load all community presets (only factory presets and editing are blocked), so people can share their creations for free.
Further investigation is in order…

Edit: MSF has no audio input, so even though all Melda effects are included they cannot be used on arbitrary audio, just the MSF synthesis voices. MXXX is essentially a version of MSF with audio inputs. (MSF contains MXXX and MXXX contains MSF). MXXX costs 1000€ though and doesn’t have a player mode, so presets can’t be used by people without a license, this only works for MSF.
Ok, now the price structure makes sense again, was already wondering whether MSF makes all other stuff redundant for a fraction of the price… no, it doesn’t… sniff…

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In my case there is one use case that I am perpetually trying to implement, and maybe it is better to assert what I want and the value of it rather than trying to assert a negative value to the software that doesn’t do what I want. If for no other reason than the possibility that I am not seeing other solutions for the use case that I am pursuing.

First thing: I use a ROLI Seaboard 49. I had a Linnstrument and couldn’t get into it. I have been playing guitar for 30 years but couldn’t get into the note layout. The ROLI works splendidly, even if I am worried about it crapping out on me and not being able to score a replacement some time in the future.

In Bitwig Grid I am able to implement an asymmetric rate smoothing for pressure. I can preserve a sharp and quick attack and implement a smoothed and lagged decay on pressure. I then assign pressure to control dynamics, pretty much always. This enables me to hit a note hard and quick and have a percussive attack but have the decay smoothed. For pads and more specifically for re-purposed string sample libraries this is a must.

The use case is this:

I press a note quickly, get a sharp attack.
I press a note very gently, I get a controlled swell that only goes as loud as the pressure.
I release a note quickly (to press another note) and I get a variable (depending on the per-patch setting) decay to silence.
I release a note slowly and I get a decay that I control with pressure.

When I implement this I get a phenomenal and useful dynamic control over, say, a string section. Without smoothing at all, I get a janky, shaky control over volume (my fingers are not able to release notes smoothly enough.) With symmetric smoothing I can’t have a sharp attack as the dynamics are smoothed on the attack and the decay. I specifically want to apply smoothing to only the amp’s decay.

This is the only use case I want to pursue and I’ve found that the Bitwig patches I made with this implemented are so, so, so much more expressive than anything else.

As for things that allow smoothing in general (although not asymmetric smoothing) Hive 2, Falcon, Kontakt and a few others do it. I was able to implement the decay-only smoothing in Kontakt through some painful scripting work before Bitwig made it easy (with the envelope follower module.)

I’m not for or against other implementations, but I will say that the amount of decay time being fixed doesn’t really suit… I need to dial it in depending on the material and the patch. AND, I don’t trust the hardware vendors to do this correctly — this is another reason to keep the smoothing work in the instrument, where, changes and innovation move fast and are not tied to the hardware.

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In Pigments [2], one of the Combinate types is Lag, which has an Amount parameter. This parameter can be modulated, say by an envelope with a sharp AD shape, such that the amount is low at the start of the note and higher thereafter.

In Cypher2, the PlPressCurve transmod has a Slew parameter, which could be modulated in the same way.

I’m travelling for a few days, so I don’t have a chance to actually try these out for a while, but I think they would satisfy your use case.

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Nice. This sounds right. I am traveling too. I did an equivalent that mod scheme in Cypher to good effect… before Cypher mod situation became unreliable.

I will try this in Pigments in the new year! Thank you.

Sounds interesting! Would you be ok with sharing one of these example presets for Bitwig? Would be very interesting to see how you achieve the asymetric rate smoothing, don’t completely get that (are you modulating the smoothing parameter itself, so it changes between attack and decay phase)?

Edit: This reminds me on the MPE+ implementation advise from Lippold Haken where he proposes to change the events to prioritize over time:

  • first get the pitch as precise as possible, then ignore pitch for ~10-20ms
  • switch to 7 bit resolution to get as many pressure events as possible
  • after 20 ms switch back to 14 bit resolution to prioritize precision over rate.
    As I understand it, Continuum does it that way.
    These steps are more what a controller can do to get most out of the the usual MIDI bandwidth.
    MPE+ also introduces negotiation between controller and synth regarding smoothing but afaik this isn’t meant to be used to dynamically change smoothing but to find one setting that fits sampling and transfer rate of the controller.
    https://www.hakenaudio.com/mpe

It’s on sale atm. (The company seems to be of the sort that does most of their sales on “sales” I guess, the official prices are probably mainly there so people can make a “good deal” :wink: )
After playing around with this for some hours now I had to buy this. Comes closest to an EaganMatrix VST from any plugins I have. Physical modelling, additive, spectral, granular, FM, subtractive, sampling, a big effects and modulation section, GUI building etc. A big toolbox with everything :slight_smile: And quite approachable, imho.
I also like their unlock approach, it’s just a file, no activation etc., so I can use this on as many computers as I want.
I’m probably sounding over enthusiastic, but it is what I was looking for for a long time. (Well, if they had a low level option to build own audio and midi processors via a “dev module” it would be great. The developer meant he is considering it - at a low priority…)

Will see what I can come up with, fortunately “devices” as they call it are freely shareable (like the export function in Max - just that the runtime plugin works as a VST/AU which is crucial on Windows as inter-process sending of audio is quite cumbersome)

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You do know the note layout is adjustable?

For smoothing mpe midi cc : global tab, advanced settings: here, you’ll find : smoothing value and mpe user curves.

About Msf, I’m beta testing it for one year.
The midi smoothing algorithm is, for me, the best available in vst format. Plus, the mpe implementation is great. ( each modulations can have her own transfer curves)
The frequency modulator and the filter keytrack perfectly the X mpe source. The z pressure is fast without any zipper noise.
Msf is one of the best mpe synth.
With the Eaganmatrix, msf is the only tools I need ( for my expressive playing)

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Yes of course you can change the layout of notes per button. I just didn’t find the grid layout workable for my playing. Perhaps I’m too old to relearn but getting my brain from Db min7 to a my fingers on a grid didn’t allow fluid playing l8ke a keyboard layout.

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Maybe an unofficial poll here of what the poly expression fave MPE instrument would be interesting?

Presently it is Bitwig Grid for me — specifically my patch and presets that have a dual sampler inside that allows me to cross fade between resampled Spitfire Audio sample libraries with the Z-axis, dynamics on pressure, and various things mapped to my expressive Touch e controller. The ability to attenuate, lag, smooth and map controllers to curves + the way the modulation system works + the way the preset manager works make it a real pleasure to use… I feel like my presets are more instruments than “a sound” if that makes sense.

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