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Linux Audio: QSynth or not QSynth?

How do you want your soundfont served

summer of 02010

While I adore Rui Nuno Capela's DAW project Qtractor and am planning to write about it, today the answer to the above question would be "Not QSynth".

The reason for this is plain and simple: too many clicks for a simple job. All I want is an app that would load up a soundfont, allow me to easily choose the preset I need and play it. Period.

Now, I might be missing the point of QSynth, something I am always ready to suspect. On the other hand, my conversations with Rui revealed that QSynth is based on fluidsynth which itself has quite outdated architecture, at times difficult to work with. Don't quote me on that, though.

The reason I bring QSynth up is not to bring it down - but since it is very known and a lot of new musicians might not be aware of the alternatives, I decided to speak about plugins I switched to for loading soundfonts in a modular environment.

What are the alternatives? There are two plugins I prefer nowadays.

One of them is the good old DSSI Fluidsynth Plugin. Available in repositories of all main distros, fairly good but very slow. I heard that in order for it to be faster you need to recompile it with some options, since it does some checks when launching its GUI. I never bothered to explore that solution.

Another option, a much better one in my opinion, is CALF Fluidsynth. Faster than DSSI Fluidsynth Plugin, definitely looks better and is available as DSSI, LADSPA, LV2 or a standalone app within CALF Jack Host.

What I would additionally like to see in a soundfont player is an ADSR volume envelope. A simple feature, it would add quite a lot of flexibility to playing soundfonts.



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