Interview with George Reales (discoDSP)

The Nordlead series is well known since many years for its unique sound. In fact, it has been used worldwide by enumerous artists of various genres, be it live or for studio work. Probably just as famous is discoDSP’s Discovery, initially programmed to be a software-based Nordlead clone. We warmly welcome George Reales, head of and mastermind behind discoDSP. Let’s see what he can tell us about the past, the present and the future of his software!

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Q: George, it’s been quite a journey with your Discovery plugin. Did you ever expect a single product to be a favorite of many producers for such a long time? Can you even count the time, the sales numbers and the questions since it came out?

Few years, yes. Of course this can’t be expected for me. We have some pretty popular musicians using our products and it’s great to know. Terry Lawless from U2, Evil9, Scott Solida and many more are really happy with how it sounds and how easy to use Discovery is.
I can’t really count anything at this time! It has been 7 years since our first release of the plugin and almost every day there are people asking questions, requesting features… everything.

Q: At least some reasons for choosing Discovery are obvious: great sound, really cpu-friendly, small – and, since Discovery Pro came out – open for sound designers and their own samples. What’s your personal opinion on that?

I have to agree. The first time Discovery was released, it wasn’t really ready for the CPU power available at that time. I still remember people complaining about it, and they were right. It needed a lot of processing power. Fortunately this has changed over the time due to assembly of SSE and SSE2 optimizations – and well, the common computer specs increased a bit, too ;)
The GUI hasn’t changed a lot over the years. We do some restyling from time to time and try to stay up-to-date this way. Regarding the sample loading function, it has been a huge enhancement for Discovery (Pro), as well as the PADsynth resynthesis. There is some serious engine there.

Q: We already mentioned Discovery Pro. Obviously, you consequently improve and expand your existing product line, instead of throwing more and more products on the market like other companies do. What’s the reason for that? Do you just invest lots of time to finally offer new products in the future? Is there not enough time for new inventions? Do your customers beg for one thing only – a better and greater Discovery plugin?

Developing great products takes time. And it’s only part of the process. If you start throwing product after product on the market you can get sales, but each new plugin means less time to improve and to focus on getting them maturing. Musicians are very important for us, and we do listen to every single request and feedback to provide a better, more comfortable instrument. This is the magic of software instruments, you buy and see how it gets better and better as time passes by.
We have questions about new products, and it would be great to bring the next big thing. At the moment the Discovery line is our main focus because it’s getting successful for us.

Q: Maybe you can tell a bit about the history. What made you decide to go for a Nordlead clone? Or do you see it a totally different way and feel missunderstood when people call it “Nordlead clone”? What made you take the huge step forward to develop Discovery Pro? What are the Discovery features you like best nowadays or you think they’re outstanding and unique?

We didn’t really decide to create a Nordlead clone. I remember when we started to discuss which kind of plugin we want to do. We had several options to start with, but it happened that Arguru had a Nordlead 2 at that time and it would be a very fun project to do.

Discovery Pro was something like getting our synth on steroids. We added SoundFont support, so it could act as a sample player layered with Virtual Analog sound, FM based on waveforms, Moog modeled filters, new virtual analog oscillators and now PADsynth sample resynthesis.
I really like the WAVE oscillator and PADSynth. I could achieve greatest sounds, especially pads using these features. Adding some cool arpeggio lines on top of that makes me feel a joy I hardly get with other instruments.

Q: All the time we keep talking about a single plugin. Of course, there are some more you and your team developed. A simple and effective sampler called HighLife is even available for free, there’s an fm/pm synthesizer (Phantom) and an additive one, Vertigo. However, it seems you developed them once and don’t work on them any more?

Vertigo is still there. Phantom too, but not as developed. I can say they do not get as much attention from people as Discovery does. We are a company after all and we have to use our resources where it matters. This explains the slow updates.

Q: Okay, let’s focus once more on the question probably many people ask: what’s up for the future? Any plans or small hints you want to give to the readers? Can you also comment on third-party soundsets you currently would recommend a lot or which will be available in the future?

It’s always been my guideline to not talk about future products. Once something is ready for the prime time, it will be announced early enough. I think that works best, based on my own experience. I still remember how much hype there was once HighLife went beta phase and pre-release stage, only to see very little revenue. We paid our dues here.

Regarding sound sets I can only tell about excellent work that has been done – I can’t stop recommending all of them. Vengeance Sound has managed to provide great sounds for Discovery and Discovery Pro. Frank from Pro Sounds did a great work as well as CFA Sound, Daniel Stawczyk or FJ Project. Very very talented guys. I can’t stop saying “thanks!” for making the products even more interesting.

Q: Living in an internet-dominated world, the question of support quality is a very important one. No software, no hardware is released without problems, and customers don’t want to be left alone with their issues. We’ve talked to quite some discoDSP customers and also experienced ourselves that e.g. in your forum you try your very best to offer good support. Obviously, this is very important to you?

Yes, it’s first priority to me, since I got in charge of the support. I work every day in week. When I’m not at my desk, I just use my iPhone to provide service. It’s part of the business. Once you spent your hard earned money on a software plugin, downloading it is only part of the deal. Trying to offer the best support is the key, and I think our competitors truely know that. There are guys like urs from u-he or Camel Audio doing just the same.

Q: To our knowledge, discoDSP is the only reknowned music software company that uses no copy protection at all and is still alive. You must be very proud of lots of loyal customers? What’s your philosophy for choosing no protection? Is there anything else you want to tell your (future) customers or maybe all software users out there?

We trust our customers. If someone wants to avoid the license, no matter how hard you try, it will happen. I know copy protection first hand and I don’t really like the feeling. Maybe it’s okay for some serial code, but regarding hardware copy protection, what’s the point? It’s extra hassle for the final user and simply uncomfortable.

Q: Let’s talk about software development in general. We can imagine you need good ideas and the potential to realize them. And for sure, there’s always a time you don’t get any useful ideas. Can you tell about times that were hard for you, with respect to discoDSP software development? What’s the most rewarding aspect for so many hours coding software?

The beginning was very hard. Starting something from nothing and growing up was not like a dream job. I still remember the weeks we were working day and night, leaving little to no time for other activities. I also remember the time Arguru and me had to agree about the plugin ownership after he started working for Image Line -for sure a difficult situation as well.

The reward I like most is listening to music produced using discoDSP software as well as making people happy with our software. That can’t be measured. Still working to keep it on. Cheers!

Again, thanks a lot for your time, George!

Published on July 7th, 2012

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