In 1979, Peter Gabriel paid $36,000 for his Fairlight, the first commercially available digital sampling keyboard, which he used to great effect all over his Security album. Today, you can have its sounds, and those of about eighty other vintage keyboards, for--if you'll pardon the pun--a couple of C-notes.
Let me explain.
England's Zero-G company, which sells a variety of software synthesizers (including the unique Vocaloid), has created a software collection of over 80 vintage hardware keyboards and synthesizers and over 40 vintage drum machines, under the name Nostalgia. And it's an apt title: as you flip through and sample the presets, you'll find yourself flashing back to so many great sounds of the 1980s: beyond the Peter Gabriel sounds, as we implied in the introduction, large quantities of the samples that Jan Hammer deployed on his Miami Vice score are here--from his sampled pan flutes, right down to that weird "B.B. in a tunafish can" sound (to borrow a Dave Barry phrase) he used on the rideout of the extended version of the Miami Vice theme song. (They were both standard Fairlight presets.) Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love sounds are here. (Minus her stunning vocals, of course.) Keith Emerson's. Herbie Hancock. And set the Wayback Machine to 1967, Mr. Wizard! Lots of Mellotron patches: the sampled flutes from "Strawberry Fields Forever". The sampled strings from, well, from every major English progressive rock group: The Moody Blues, Yes, King Crimson, and Led Zeppelin, included. All in all, there are 1,3000 patches, and 1.3 gigabytes of sound here.
No Stacks Of Keyboards Required
One huge benefit of Nostalgia is that you don't need to stack a hundred keyboards in your den or basement, or, needless to say, spend huge wads of cash acquiring and maintaining them. All the program requires is a reasonably powerful computer (Zero-G recommends Windows XP, Pentium III/ Athlon 700 MHz, 512 MB. For Mac users, OS 10.2.6 or higher, G4 733, 512 MB, both platforms require a DVD-ROM drive), a set of decent speakers, and an interface (MIDI/USB keyboard or guitar) to play these bad boys.
So what do they sound like? They're very nicely detailed. Several patches, such as some of the Fender Rhodes patches, have subtly nifty stereo panning going on as they play. (There are demos of Nostalgia in action on Zero-G's Website.)