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Topic: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

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  1. #1

    Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    Sorry for the slightly off-topic post, but I\'m trying to locate anyone out there using Superconductor Pro, by Microsound International, to do virtual orchestra simulations. I bought Superconductor and Gigasampler and Cakewalk all at the same time several months ago, thinking I was going to learn the \"Superconductor way\" of doing orchestral mockups while simultaneously learning how to do them the more traditional (and arduous) midi-plus-sampler way. But gradually I got drawn into spending more and more time with Superconductor, trying to get it to do what I wanted. At this point I\'m pretty keen to find some fellow pioneers. While it\'s true that Superconductor is expensive, poorly marketed, and not as slickly polished as GS or CW, it\'s capable of doing some pretty amazing \"humanizing\" of computer-rendered music -- way better than Ntonyx Style Enhancer, IMHO -- and I\'ve been growing increasing frustrated at its apparently total lack of a user base. If any of y\'all are using it, I\'m especially interested in discussing the joys and sorrows of trying to improve on Superconductor\'s default instrument sample library by importing WAVs extracted from GS libraries.

  2. #2
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    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    Hmm. Never heard of it. The web site has a sort of “Snake Oil” feel to it. Is there a demo?

  3. #3

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    No demo. I tried to do as much research as I could before I plunked down my $400, but I turned up almost nothing besides Jeff Harrington\'s MP3 examples at MP3.com, which is how I found out about it in the first place. The inventor of the program, Manfred Clynes, appears to be selling it out of his hip pocket, and I believe he has the wrong idea about marketing it. I think he sees it as the embodiment of his theories about musical pulse and note shaping, and is aiming it at too narrow an academic market. In his emails to me (\'cause if you call tech support, you get him) he has spoken familiarly of Gigasampler, but I doubt seriously if he has spent any time reading this forum. I think Superconductor is a brilliant, slightly buggy, always fascinating, sometimes maddening program, and I want either to winkle out the few other people in the world using it, or to get enough other people interested to help me drive down the price and fuel further development.

    Sorry if this post seems entirely misplaced here. It does tie in with Giga samples, somehow. I bought the overpriced Pro version of Superconductor because it featured the ability to create new instruments from imported samples, and I knew up front, just from listening to the demos at the Microsound site, that I wasn\'t going to like, for example, Superconductor\'s oboe. I\'ve been extracting WAVs from my Dan Dean and Xsample disks and importing them into Superconductor, trying to improve on some of the default instruments. I was a total novice at sample editing when I started, and though I now know more than when I started, I still wish I had others (besides Dr. Clynes) to talk to. Apparently he tried to start a user\'s forum a year or so ago, but it fizzled out.

  4. #4
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    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    It does look interesting. I take it that it doesn\'t use standard MIDI controls, and thus can\'t control an external sound source like GSt.

    Anyone using it at the music dept there at Stanford? (and aren\'t you getting dizzy?)

  5. #5

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    Greg,

    I find the Superconductor software intriguing, but I must say I don\'t really understand what it does, even after visiting the website. Is it a ram-sampler, a sequencer, or a tool that works in conjunction with these these programs. Can you use it together with other programs in any way, or is it a completely stand-alone thing. How many voices, polyphony etc.?

    I listened to the Mp3\'s by Jeff Harrington, and thought that a lot of the material to be \"organic\", but rather \"canny\" sounding.

    Maybe you could elaborate some about what this program actually does?

    Thanks,

    Hans

  6. #6

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    That was another reason why I hesitated to buy it -- I knew it was going to take me off in an entirely different direction from the traditional midi controls. And now that I have it, I can see the tradeoffs. On the one hand, it \"automagically\" shapes the amplitude envelope and vibrato of each individual note in an intelligent and musical way. Big time-savings. In fact, magical, often.

    But its UI lacks some of the features that midi sequencer users take for granted. There\'s no such thing as patch change within a voice, for example. The assumption seems to be that you can get all the sonic variety you\'ll ever want out of a particular sample simply through the program\'s artificial-intelligence shaping of amplitude envelopes. And indeed, you can get an almost-convincing string pizzicato sound from a bowed string sample just by asking Superconductor to set the base-level envelope shaping parameters a certain way for a certain musical passage.

    But I find that I still prefer actual sampled string pizzicato -- which means that I have to allocate two voices to a string part that ping-pongs between bowed and pizz, because there\'s no such thing as patch change. (Fortunately, Superconductor does give you 128 voices to play with, and I believe it does do some form of streaming-from-disk, although I have no idea how that might relate to what Gigasampler does.)

    Another tradeoff: there\'s no concept of controlling the timbre of an instrument sample. Dr. Clynes told me an earlier version had timbre control, but it got taken out because it overtaxed the systems of the time. But the program does feature decent balance, panning, and delay controls, and the most elaborate reverb controls I\'ve seen in a software program.

    I\'m a classical guitarist, and at first I was disappointed by what SC could do with its classical guitar sample, because I didn\'t realize that SC makes no attempt to vary the amplitude envelopes (as opposed to amplitude, which it does vary) of the \"percussive\" instruments in its library unless you ask it to. But after I figured out some decent baseline envelope shaping parameters, all of the sudden I got, \"for free,\" all kinds of legato and staccato effects out of the guitar sample. Wonderful!

    Haven\'t heard of anyone using SC here at Stanford. Dr. Clynes has mentioned a couple of other universities to me, but I haven\'t made any directed inquiries. I did try posting a query like this one at rec.music.compose, but got zero response. Thanks so much for at least responding to me, Bill.

  7. #7

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    Hans,

    Saw your post only after I replied to Bill. Superconductor is entirely stand-alone, and that\'s another reason why I hesitated to buy it.

    You might say it\'s a sequencer/sampler/\"humanizer.\" Its \"humanizing\" features are what got me into it, and I think it\'s safe to say they\'re unique. In fact, when I told Dr. Clynes I was thinking about trying to emulate his amplitude envelope shaping algorithms with a CAL script, he gently warned me that he had a patent on them.

    It uses some form of disk-streaming when playing back its samples, and it can play 128 voices simultaneously. It can import midi files, translating at least velocity and tempo map into its own internal control language. (Or you can ask it to \"flatten\" a midi file as it imports it.) Each of its 128 voices is monodic, and you can give it, say, a solo guitar midi file to import, and sometimes it\'ll parse it into six separate voices, and sometimes it will parse it into even more. It takes two voices to render a violin playing double-stops. It can also export to midi, translating its amplitude envelope shapes into a series of volume controls. I still haven\'t figured out how to get decent results from its midi export feature.

    It features a note-entry tool as primitive as a mod tracker\'s. In fact, precious little of its resources are devoted to notational representation -- perhaps strange in a program aimed primarily at classical musicians.

    You\'re right about the \"organic but canny\" sound of Jeff Harrington\'s MP3s. Harrington accepts SC\'s default vibrato settings, which are way too quavery for my taste. And then there\'s the, shall we say, idiosyncratic string sound produced by SC. There are no massed-string samples included with the program. Dr. Clynes seems inordinately proud of his \"Stradivarius\" violin sample (seems I read somewhere that maybe it was recorded anonymously by his friend Yehudi Menuhin), and he seems to think that you can get a decent violin section sound by doubling or tripling the Strad sample and raising the balance on it. I\'ve done a lot of experimenting with imported massed-string samples, and am starting to feel as if I\'ve overcome that little problem with the program.

    SC does almost miraculous feats of humanizing right out of the box, but large ensemble combinations produced with it sound a bit muddy, sort of like a 50s recording. At first I thought that was the fault of its sample library, but now I think it might also be because it lacks any sort of EQ controls. (It is, after all, already trying to do a whole lot for a program that\'s supposed to be able to run without glitching on mid-performance PCs.) I\'ve thought about rendering individual voices, or at least instrumental sections, out to separate WAVs, then importing and remixing them in Cakewalk, but I haven\'t tried it yet.

    The canniness of Harrington\'s MP3s might also have to do with SC\'s default reverb settings, which are a bit harsh.

    Sorry for the long posts. You can see the pent-up frustration at not being able to discuss the program with anyone. At least you\'re getting more straight dope about it than I got before I bought it. For all its faults, I\'m glad I own it. I feel as if I\'m a savage in possession of a beautiful instrument I don\'t know quite what to do with. Wish some of you pros would get hold of it and see if you can make it sing.

    Greg

  8. #8
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    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    > he gently warned me that he had a patent on them.

    It would be interesting to see just what he has patented. Sounds like a stretch...

  9. #9

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    Bill,

    Hope I don\'t sound like a total rube. If several of you had responded by saying that you knew the program and thought it was trash, I would have at least felt the relief of no longer working in a total vacuum.

    Greg

  10. #10

    Re: Anyone out there using Superconductor?

    I didn\'t like the Jeff Harrington\'s MP3 examples. I think Dan Dean and Xsample\'s champer/Solo string demo is much better.

    Maybe the program could do better...

    Ewen

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