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  • Need Advice Rack Mount Synth GM/GS

    This maybe a silly question and I apologize. I play back my GM files live through Roland MGS64 rack mount unit. (I was told it is a rack mount version of the SC88). I was also told by someone "General Midi is General Midi" and the sounds are basic ...thin and do just what they are designed to do...backing tracks. the unit I have is probably 20 years old or close to it.
    QUESTION : If I were to buy a fantom XR, or a Motif ES and used this to play back my midi files from the general banks would I notice a difference? I don't edit sounds that much and what i have sounds pretty good live...but of course I always want to sopund better. are the sounds in these units thicker, better etc? or is it a waste of money?

  • #2
    A newer machine might sound a bit better than your MGS64 but for some reason the big workstations (and their rack versions) stil have bland sounding GM banks.

    For example, there are much better piano sounds in the Motif series than the ones in the GM bank. Why they are not used, I have no idea

    The Motif series in particular has a GM bank but no GM logo because it doesn't support the full GM spec. Not sure about recent Korg or Roland units.
    My VCAs go to 11

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    • #3
      A newer machine might sound a bit better than your MGS64 but for some reason the big workstations (and their rack versions) stil have bland sounding GM banks.

      For example, there are much better piano sounds in the Motif series than the ones in the GM bank. Why they are not used, I have no idea


      In some cases, companies will use a mono piano sound for GM instead of the unit's high quality piano patch (typically stereo) in order to maximize polyphony and help avoid note stealing when running a GM sequence. A stereo piano patch will use up 2 voices of polyphony for every note, instead of 1. Add the sustain pedal, and a stereo piano patch is the biggest culprit for eating up polyphony in a sequence.

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      • #4
        Thanks - glad I asked before spending bucks I dont need to. I would have thought by now the GM/GS sounds would have gotten much better.

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        • #5
          I was going to suggest a program called "Bandstand" by Native Instruments but I see that it has been discontinued on their website. It's a software GM program that had a pretty descent GM sound library. (Although not hardware, it was a step above most GM modules imo)
          Akai MPC4000, Kurzweil K250 & K2661, Roland JD-990 x2 & A-70, Yamaha FS1R, Moog Voyager RME

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          • #6
            I have heard some really good sounds on computer software however I find it to unreliable in a live setting. I prefer hardware live.

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            • #7
              Actually, there are differences between GM sets. A Roland SC-55 set will sound different from - say - a Korg NS5R on GM.

              I would stick with a Roland for GM, because they popularized the standard and other manufacturers can't quite reproduce that standard like they can.

              I would suggest a used Roland SC-880, arguably the pinnacle of GM. I have plenty of audio demos of it that you can hear here:

              http://synthmania.com/SC-880.htm

              On the other hand, if you have time to program your sets, you can also get any other brand module that you prefer, select / create a full GM sound set, and assign it to the memory locations of GM. That way you'll have the sounds you like, and will sound much better than the old MGS64.
              SynthMania.com
              SynthManiaYouTube

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              • #8
                Never heard of the SC880. Thanks. Not sure how easy or hard it would be to find one of these. Is this the same as the SC88 or SC88pro only in a rack? Those are plentiful.

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                • #9
                  I think you will be hard pressed to find a better GM synth than the M-GS64. Other synths have other benefits that might be worth switching, but the core 128 GM sounds in the M-GS64 are among the best for playing GM files from all kinds of sources.

                  RE SC-880: The M-GS64 largely sounds the same as an SC-880 for the GM sounds. The extended sounds are different, more in quantity and quality in the SC-880.

                  All Roland GM products use the same sound set for the GM sounds, but some have a larger version of the sound set. SoundCanvas series are specifically designed for GM/GS playback. Some other Roland synths, including newer models like the Fantom series, were not designed to focus on GM functionality so they have cut down sounds for GM as compared to SoundCanvas. Some of the loops are shorter for some sounds or the number of multisample splits might be lower. For basic GM performance, a SoundCanvas series product is still one of the better ones out there. Some models may have better D/A conversion making a slight difference, but it is the sound set itself that defines most of the sound. Look at the list here:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Sound_Canvas
                  To get the best Roland GM sound set select a synth that is both GM and GS compatible and has 317 or more sounds.
                  The M-GS64 is one of those.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks so much SYNMike. I'll save my self some bucks and keep what I have.

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