Delay for Expression

Just below the Channel Grid in the Synful Orchestra Control Panel is the Delay for Expression switch.  It shows red when Delay for Expression is on and gray when it is off. The State of Delay for Expression applies to the entire Synthesizer.

What is Delay for Expression (DFE)?

When DFE is on, a one second delay is inserted at the MIDI inputs of the Synful Orchestra Synthesizer. This delay allows Synful Orchestra to examine the incoming MIDI data and make more sophisticated and expressive synthesis choices.

DFE is Confusing

Questions have been asked by many people about DFE. "Will DFE be unecessary when more computer power is available? ", "Will DFE go away with better algorithms from Synful?"  "Why does Synful need DFE when no other synthesizer/sampler has this?"  "With DFE turned off does Synful sound bad or lose all its expressivity?". 

Q&A About DFE

Q Why does Synful have DFE?

A When a wind or string player plays two connected notes — e.g. a legato transition from C to D — he/she generally changes the end of the first note in anticipation of the transition to the second note. This occurs partly because of the physical human interface with the instrument — e.g. the need to slow down the bow before beginning to move it in the opposite direction — and partly as a deliberate part of expressive phrasing. This anticipation may occur 0.030 to .250 seconds or more before the next note begins. With DFE this is exactly what Synful does: it changes the end of one note in anticipation of the transition to a second  note.


Q Why is there a difference between playing from a sequence and playing live?  

A There is a problem when playing live from a keyboard: when holding one note — say C — there is generally no indication from the MIDI keyboard of when a second note will occur — say D — until the new note-on is received.  At this point it is too late to do anything about the ending of the C — except on a very small time scale e.g. < .030 seconds. When playing from a sequence however it is possible to look into the future and know in advance when a new note will occur and how long it will be. This allows Synful to change the end of the first note. Synful will also adjust the beginning of the second note based on various information such as the pitch-interval of the note transition, the length and intensity of the second note, etc. 


Q Why Doesn't Synful just look at the sequence if it is available and if there is no sequence (i.e. playing live) then just do the best it can? Why is the annoying one second delay required?

A Currently there is no way for a plugin (VST, DXi, AU, RTAS, etc) to interrogate a host sequencer about the future of a sequence. However, this is a small technical detail and can be resolved when the host sequence program provides this ability. Which popular sequencer will be the first to provide this ability (Logic? Cubase? Digital Performer? Sonar?). A special Award for Synfulness will be presented to the first sequencer company that provides this ability!  When this ability is provided the DFE button will go away. However, this will not change the fact that Synful will still do a better job of expressive  phrasing when playing from a sequence then when playing live. This is a fact of life that results from the fundamental lack of information coming from a keyboard.


Q Why don't other synthesizers/samplers require a DFE button or something similar?

A No other synthesizer/sampler, to our knowledge, attempts to model note transitions as realistically as Synful. In particular, no other  synthesizer/sampler  attempts to model the ending of a first note in anticipation of a second connected note — or at least not in the fairly long 0.1 to 0.250 seconds time range. Any synthesizer/sampler that attempts to model this kind of expressivity will need to deal with the same issues that Synful has already confronted.  


Q Does Synful Orchestra sound bad or become just another average sampler when playing live and DFE is turned off?

A No. Synful continues to use considerable intelligence in modeling note transitions even when DFE is turned off. The intensity of attack, the amount of transient noise, the shape of the transition over a short time range — e.g @ .030 seconds — the dependence of the shape of the attack based on how much separation there is between the preceding note and the following note, the duration of the preceding note, the pitch interval, all these factors are taken into consideration when Synful models note transitions, even when playing live and DFE is off. This is certainly more than any other current synthesizer attempts to do. So the answer is — when playing from a sequence with DFE on, Synful note transitions sound very much more expressive than any other synthesizer/sampler. With DFE off playing live, Synful note transitions sound only much more expressive than any other synthesizer/sampler.      


Q How are the two modes DFE on and DFE off used in practice?

A When playing a live concert performance DFE is turned off. When recording DFE is turned off while laying down live tracks. DFE is turned on when listening back to the tracks and when making adjustments to velocities, volume and modulation controls, and note durations to improve phrasing. When using Synful together with other plugin synthesizers/samplers and live recorded tracks, one second delay effects are added to the output of these tracks. These delays are turned on and off together with DFE when recording and listening back. When the sequencer companies provide the ability to interrogate the future of a sequence and the DFE button goes away, these delays will no longer be necessary.

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