October 17, 2011

CoolSoft's Virtual MIDI Synth, a softsynth alternative

Soundfonts are one of the easiest way to get a better MIDI sound in Windows (other options include using Yamaha in Windows XP or buying a better soundcard). But for non-Soundblaster users, setting up a soundfont host and a loopback is too cumbersome.

I used to have that set-up. I installed a virtual MIDI cable driver (LoopBe or MidiYoke) and Synthfont (and later on, Syfon) loads the soundfont I want then setup the configure the MIDI ins and outs between the synthfont and the MIDI player (vanBasco for Windows 7; Windows 7 has no MIDI mapper setting on the control panel). In this setup, everytime I want to play a MIDI, I have to start Synthfont (or Syfon).

Using soundfonts to play MIDI has its own downsides. Unlike Softtsynths like Yamaha S-YXG50 or Roland Edirol, some soundfont hosts (Synthfont, Syfon, FluidSynth) do not process the extra MIDI info like Portamento, Chorus, Reverb, and Modulation.

Recently, I installed CoolSoft’s VirtualMIDISynth which addresses the problems I stated above. In one easy install, it acts as a SoftSynth which loads Soundfonts. On top of that, it recognizes MIDI Control Commands. Unlike the previous setup, it does not need a virtual MIDI cable.

The downside is, it requires a fast processor to play smoothly. My 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom CPU stutters on some complex MIDI composition. But a 2 Ghz processor should provide smooth performance.

Oh, and it should be obvious that you need a soundfont to work with. I use PC51.sf2, SGM, and sinfonia. That should give you an idea.