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When reading opinions about various synthesizers, I very often encounter a phrase like "instrument A is better for sound design than instrument B". What does it mean in this context? Does it refer to overall flexibility of a given instrument to modify its parameters and enabling the user to create a large variety of custom sounds (as opposed to using pre-made presets), or does it refer to the ability of the instrument to produce a certain specific type of sounds?

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  • Yes. It refers to both, depending on context
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 9, 2022 at 9:58
  • I don't understand the second option you've presented. If a synth has a lot of synthesis capabilities to reach a lot of different sonic territories, it's probably useful for sound design. More like the first option you wrote. Nov 9, 2022 at 12:18
  • @DataProcessing well, my impression is that when people try to demonstrate the "sound design" capabilities of a synthesizer, the examples they show are often pad-type sound, long and rather soft sounding, though complex. I may lack a better word for it. I wonder if this results from some dominant trends and collective taste of the synth experts, or such sounds are more difficult to achieve, thus better demonstrate the capabilities than more lead type of sounds, or maybe there is something about concept of sound design in it – like creating background cinematic music? Nov 9, 2022 at 21:17
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    Yea, I was afraid you were going to say something like this. You're watching people whose expertise is in YouTube video production, not sound synthesis. Pads are easy. Find someone who can synthesize the sound of a trumpet being played underwater, or a convincing alien voice, or the sound of a black hole swallowing a planet while you watch. Then you can learn something about the capabilities of a synth. Nov 9, 2022 at 22:38
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    That's why I build my own in Reaktor - You can design it to do exactly what you want it to do on a fundamental-level.
    – n00dles
    Nov 16, 2022 at 9:41

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I feel like this is like saying one guitar is better for playing the blues than another guitar. It’s the player, not the guitar, that is better or worse at playing the blues.

To me when someone describes a synth as being “good for sound design", they are really saying they can see how they would design arbitrary sounds with it. Another person with a different approach may consider the same synth to be "bad for sound design" and they would prefer a different synth.

I’m thinking of all of the hardware and software synthesizers I’ve used (not counting keyboards that are just wavetable playback devices that are called "synths" but shouldn’t be) and I can’t think of one that a creative person couldn’t use to design a vast variety of unique sounds.

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