Music Tech Magazine


Looking at the history of music purely from a gear point of view, I’d argue that some of the machines used have been as important (if not more so) than the humans that played them. History will, of course, place the humans above the technology, but we’re MusicTech, so we heap as much praise on the gear; therefore, it’s the Moogs and ARPs that defined synth pop, the 303s and 909s that defined dance… and for more recent strands of the genre? Well, let’s give some love to the humble soft synth.

Surely, you might say, this relatively young instrument category can’t be up there with the likes of the Odyssey, the 303 or the Jupiter? Yes, it can. Soft synths have had a good couple of decades to bed in and at least half a dozen – including Serum, Sylenth, Diva and Native Instruments’ original Massive – have been as influential as the hardware that preceded them.


When it was released over a dozen years ago, NI’s Massive shook up the market in a way that the Berlin developer couldn’t have predicted. Its then-slick three oscillator wavetable engine and ground-breaking modulation features helped it to massively (sorry) contribute to various dance subgenres, even arguably helping to invent a few along the way. It’s been as influential as any other synth before or since, so much so that you’ll still find it – alongside those previous synths I mentioned – as main recommendations across many dance forums.

However, 12 years is a long time in anyone’s books – let alone software – and Massive has been overtaken

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