For several years now, software instruments have been threatening to take over the role of the hardware sound module.
But they haven't managed that yet, and manufacturers still make a hefty income from good old hardware.
There are two reasons for that. Firstly, hardware is very attractive. You can buy it, use it, own it, take pride in it, cart it from place to place… and then when you are tired if it, you can sell it! Try selling secondhand software and see what sort of price you get.
Secondly, software instruments rarely have the scale and power of hardware. The primary reason for that is that inside a hardware box are chips and circuits that are purpose-built for producing sound. Inside your computer is a processor, purpose built for nothing in particular. So when you compare a sleek Formula 1 race car and a fast road car on the track, you know which one is going to win. But the F1 car isn't much use for shopping.
But as computer hardware advances, and the dreams of software developers become more exotic, then software instrument will surely come to a point where hardware is irrelevant. And that point may have been reached now.
Of all the hardware manufacturers, you have to respect E-mu. Their Proteus range has been simply amazing, and so easy to use too (take note of that Roland and Yamaha!).
But since E-mu became part of a larger more computer-orientated enterprise, their computer products have advanced too. And now we have the Proteus X, which combines a PCI card with breakout cables and a software controller to run the whole show.
In brief, this system contains all the power of the earlier 0404 card, most of the functionality of the Emulator X software (plus the same 3 gigabyte sound library) PLUS a virtual Proteus 2000, which it itself is a wow of a module.
And the price is way, way low.
Hearing will be believing, but you are certainly never going to look at hardware in the same way ever again.
Now, if only they would produce a laptop version…