It sounds perhaps too good to be true. The RealThing is an external analog/digital hardware device that connects to computer VST plug-ins. For true analog synthesis, the hardware is controlled via 14-bit MIDI data (rather than 0-127 MIDI messages which would produce stepped sweeps). The box includes both digital and analog oscillators, as well as both analog and digital filters. While everything fits in a single rack space, there are modular configuration options, so you can choose what goes inside or expand the device later as the developers unveil more options. I/O: MIDI in, out, thru, audio in and out, plus two insert points.
Here’s where things get a little odd: your sounds are generated by your sound card so that “You don’t have to pay two times for A/D and D/A converters.” So, here’s the idea, as near as I can understand it: the digital aspects are run in software on your PC, while the analog sounds run entirely in the audio domain on the hardware, with MIDI controlling both.
CDM’s Adrian Anders noticed this box in the first place; here’s his take: “I think it sounds interesting, but it’s a bit risky considering that the idea of analog hardware integration and way that it’s being implemented (without USB) is prone to bugs and latency issues. However, if you’re the type that can drop the cash on a Virus TI no problem (professional musicians, producers, etc.), then this box might be a worthy investment considering the potential reward!”
This hardware raises a lot of questions, but I’m intrigued. Sknote has a site full of unusual products, from the free beta granular synth we observed earlier to breath and ribbon controllers. They’re a bit like an odd, small hybrid of Native Instruments and Doepfer, but without any guarantee of reliability. We’ll be looking into this one.
RealThing Analog Synth, other hardware [Sknote.it]
Music thing picked this up a bit earlier, before some of the additional specs and approximate pricing were announced. Tom notes some of the past precedents for this, like analog computer-controlled SID synths rescued from the Commodore 64 computer, and similar computer-controlled analog from Waldorf. Really, any MIDI-controlled synth gives you this basic idea, once you have a software interface; what’s unusual is mixing in digital sounds in this particular way.
(Note that evidently Tom is not suing for the use of the word “thing.”)