Synthesizers create new sounds, and many keyboards have thousands of tones to choose from; sometimes a musician may want a sound heard in a recorded song - but it is difficult to find. This may be because their equipment is different, older, or from a different company than that used for the recording.

Is there a synthesizer that can import a recorded tone, not being restricted to what it was created in, or created with synth capabilities.

  • To clarify, I am asking only about tones and sounds heard in keyboards and synthesizers. Why not a tone from a Yahama keyboard available in a Roland or any other examples. Just like they were universal and interchangable.
    – user3533
    Feb 7, 2013 at 14:25
  • Slim is right. You can't just transport sounds from one synthesizer to another, they're not samplers, they're synthesizers. You can try to recreate the sound if you know what you're doing but no matter how hard you try it'll never sound exactly the same; unless, of course, you're using the exact same synthesizer!
    – Tony
    Feb 7, 2013 at 14:44
  • 1
    I know this doesn't address your question (you've already got some decent answers), but you use a keyboard with a MIDI connection to produce basically any sound you want given enough time/knowledge/patience/money.
    – blakek
    May 28, 2014 at 17:01

4 Answers 4


I think a good analogy is with creating images.

There are lots of ways to create an image: with a pencil, with a fibre-tip pen, with oil paints, with chalk, with oil paint, with watercolours, with photography, and so on.

Of course, you can photograph an oil painting, but that doesn't help you modify it in an oil painterly manner.

You can't accurately reproduce a chalk drawing with oil paints, and you can't accurately reproduce an oil painting with chalk.

Similarly there are lots of ways to create a sound: with an acoustic instrument, with an electric instrument, with additive analogue synthesis, subtractive analogue synthesis, FM synthesis, sampling, and hybrids of all of these.

Of course, you can sample any sound - but that doesn't help you modify it in a way that's consistent with its origin. You can record a guitar note, but you can't make something that sounds much like a guitarist playing, just by playing that one guitar note at different pitches.

Different synthesisers use different methods to create sounds, and so in general you can't just transfer a sound from one synthesiser to another.

However, think of a tool like Corel Painter, which gives the digital artist a palette of simulated pencils, simulated oil paints, simulated chalk, and so on. This comes close to letting the artist recreate images created in all those mediums.

If you use a computer as your synthesiser, you have the ability to use thousands of software simulations of different kinds of hardware synthesiser. These are typically made available as plugins, which can be controlled by music software like GarageBand, Logic, Ableton Live, Cubase etc.

So for example, if you want a sound like that of the classic Roland TB-303 synth, you can choose from a number of plugins that simulate the circuitry of a 303; or you can pick a plugin you already own that simulates a synth with similar properties to the 303, and try and coax that into making a 303-ish sound.

So, you can make your PC or Mac simulate almost any kind of synthesiser. But different kinds of sound are likely to need you to acquire different plugins.

  • 2
    perhaps a more salient image is one of trying to load a roll of film into a brush with the intent of using it to paint photographs.
    – horatio
    Feb 7, 2013 at 18:36
  • 1
    @horatio: what is a "roll of film"? Feb 10, 2013 at 10:57
  • @RedGrittyBrick "roll of film".
    – NReilingh
    Apr 29, 2013 at 16:36

Some are, but usually this is limited to a particular manufacturer and often to model. It's a standardization problem. And sometimes an "amount of bytes for a hardware synth to deal with" problem.

Let's start with what the heck a "sound" is.

It's usually, but not always, a set of digital samples plus a whole lot of parameters about how they should be tweaked in real time plus the set of "effects" they go through.

For example, on a typical digital piano, there are 88 keys. On the "good piano" preset on most digital pianos, there are sometimes 3 digital samples per key. So 88*3 makes 264 digital samples that are picked from based on the key you hit and how hard(quickly) it's hit (the key's velocity).

That's quite a few bytes to send from one hardware synth to another. Not to mention that one hardware synth maker might want to keep the sounds that they worked on SOOOO carefully limited to their own synth.

There's also all those "real time parameters" - envelopes, LFO settings, Filter types are not the same across hardware or software synths. Trying to standardize these things is a monster sized job - almost impossible.

Then there are the onboard "effects" units that modify the original sounds like chorus, reverb, compression, and such. Also not a standardize-able thing.

So there are about as many "exact types of sounds" as there are synthesizer manufacturers * models. Number of exact sound definitions are pretty close to the number of exact synthesizer types. You have to know what the synth is capable of.

  • also, software synthesizers have a much easier job of sending sounds between each other. At least the samples can be moved from one to the next. Often the preset "realtime" parameters and effects parameters as well. So be careful which software synth you pick. Feb 7, 2013 at 20:18

There are some examples of what you're asking.

Patches made for the Yamaha DX7 synth can be imported in some software synths (Native Instruments FM8 for example) and some hardware synths (Korg Kronos).

The Kurzweil PC3K workstation can import patches from the Kurzweil K-series synths from the last two decades.

The rompler engine of the Roland JD-JV-XV-XP-JUNO-Fantom-Integra-FA dynasty of synths is based on the same core architecture. From Roland Clan you can download the XV+JV collection of patches converted for the Fantom X and the JUNO-G. The Integra-7 module contains the full SRX sound library that were available as extension cards since the XV line.


Actually there are several items that makes it hard to exchange sounds between synthesizers:

  • For romplers (meaning synthesizers based on sampling), the samples are different from one synth to another.
  • The synthesis engine is different (meaning the parameters that define the (change of) the sound/samples).
  • Even if the engine is the same, the parameter ranges or rate of increase/decrease may change (exponential, linear, logarithmic).
  • Effects are different.
  • Hardware differences, different (quality of) filters, number of polyphony.
  • There is no way to let two workstations communicate to exchange parameters (unless you want to type all parameters manually).

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