Virtue

About Virtue

Virtue is a SoundFont creation tool based on a library of basic analog waveforms. With Virtue, it is easy to create or re-create analog sounds for your music using E-MU's SoundFont technology. Please note that this SoundFont is intended for SoundFont designers only; it is not a playback sample bank. This site assumes a basic knowledge of SoundFont editing using Vienna SF Studio v2.3 or later.

System Requirements

Virtue works with any sound card supported by Vienna SoundFont Studio v2.3 or later. This currently includes the Sound Blaster AWE32/64, Sound Blaster Live!, Sound Blaster Audigy, Sound Blaster X-Fi and E-MU Audio Production Studio. Compatability with software synths may vary.

How to Use Virtue

Open the SoundFont in Vienna SF Studio 2.3 or later (Audigy users must have 2.3 version 1.31.0 or later installed). Since all editing will take place at the preset level (no messing with samples or instruments), you might want to familiarize yourself with the bank layout:

The examples on bank 0 should serve as an example how Virtue can be used. The easiest way to create a new preset is to copy one of the presets from banks 1, 2 or 4, and then edit the global zone. It is easy to import more waveforms just by right-clicking the preset, and selecting "New Zone". Then simply select the new waveform at the appropriate octave from the list. Both will be affected by the global zone, which can be incredibly helpful if you are performing additive synthesis.

The Audigy/APS version of Virtue features all default modulator properties in the preset-level global zone except for those mapped to MIDI controller numbers (i.e.. CC7=Volume, CC91=Reverb, etc.). This way, "Key On Velocity" can be mapped to attenuation or filter on a per-instrument basis, among other things.

Synthesis Methods

There are two types of synthesis that are supported by Virtue: Additive and Subtractive. Subtractive synthesis simply means that a waveform rich in overtones is selected, and then filtered to achieve the desired sound. Probably the most versatile waveform for this kind of synthesis is the Sawtooth, since it contains all of the overtones of the harmonic series. Also very useful is noise, since the high frequencies can be filtered out to produce a wind-like effect, or rumbling. The least useful waveform for Subtractive synthesis is the sine. The sine wave is the most pure sound in nature, and it cannot be filtered for the simple reason that it doesn't have any overtones.

In Virtue, additive synthesis is performed entirely using sine waves. The fundamental and all harmonics in any sound are actually sine waves; they just add up to form a more complex waveform. Even our friend the sawtooth is actually made up of sine waves. The sawtooth is made up of more sine waves than either the square (which contains every other harmonic) or the triangle. The most familiar type of additive synthesis is FM (frequency modulation) synthesis. Since SoundFont technology was not designed to perform additive synthesis, there are a few limitations you should be aware of:

  1. I have found the limit of samples per note to be 8 on both the Audigy and the Live!, and 6 on the AWE32. I have not tried this with other SoundFont synths. This means that only a fundamental and 7 overtones can be represented in the SoundFont preset (or 5 in the case of the AWE32). To compensate this, I have provided grouped overtones on bank 3.
  2. The waveforms do not line up perfectly as they would using true FM synthesis or in nature. This is due to the fact that I can only get so much accuracy using the fine-tuning functions within the SoundFont bank.
  3. You'll have to adjust the dynamic level of the overtones by yourself, using your ear as the final judge. Keep in mind that overtones speak considerably quieter than their fundamentals, otherwise our ears would hear them as separate pitches.

Of course, with Virtue, you can also combine both additive and subtractive synthesis techniques within a single instrument sound. The first example preset "FM Electric Piano" uses additive synthesis to create the tone using sine waves and subtractive synthesis to add a bit of noise to the attack using a filtered white noise waveform.

Download

There are two versions of Virtue. You will need to download the appropriate version for your sound card.

FAQ (or more honestly, QTMBAIPFAMQ*)

Q: Are there any known issues?
A: Yes. If you have a Sound Blaster Live! and try to map more than 8 waveforms to a single key, you may receive a "blue screen of death" (BSOD) upon playing that key. I have found the BSOD to be harmless, and doesn't require a reboot (at least not on my machine). Also, sometimes the Live! exhibits a "click" sound at the beginning of a sample, even though the AWE32 and Audigy do not exhibit this behavior. I do not know if this behavior is restricted to Vienna or not.

Q: Can I publish/sell presets made with Virtue?
A: Yes. Putting a word of acknowledgement and maybe a link to my site would be appreciated, though :)

Q: Will presets created with the AWE/Live! version of Virtue sound correct on an Audigy or E-MU APS?
A: Some will, some won't. If you want to make your patches compatible with all three cards, you will need to use the AWE/Live! version of Virtue, and follow the directions on this page. The other solution is of course to resample the instruments (which will in many cases chew up less polyphony).

Q: Will presets created with the Audigy/APS version of Virtue sound correct on an AWE32 or Live!?
A: Same case as above. If you don't modify any of the modulator properties, it might sound OK, but don't forget that the AWE32 and Live! affect the filter if the attack is set above 0.007 seconds (explanation here).

Q: Why does editing only take place at the preset level? Why can't I edit the instruments?
A: Editing the instruments would be more difficult (not to mention pointless), because I used multiple samples of each waveform split across the keyboard. If you wanted to edit at the instrument level, you would need to add many samples just to get the entire range of the waveform without losing quality.

* – "questions that might be asked if people frequently asked me questions"