What does a synth need..?

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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby Bitexion » Mon Aug 05, 2013 5:01 pm

There was this monster created in 1980 called Con Brio ADS that featured 64 oscillators, a CRT screen and looked like a Star Trek prop, and a $30,000 price tag. As far as legend goes, they only ever sold two, one was used for effects in TV series by a studio.

http://www.vintagesynth.com/misc/conbrioads200.php
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby briandc » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:49 pm

rhino wrote:You'd still have a problem - if I understand what you're asking - in that each of the four waves would contain only the harmonics of ONE fundamental frequency. You would need hundreds of different frequencies at the same time to approach random "white" noise. And, as Solderman said, filtering out all but one tone would be a nightmare.

Remember:
Sine wave = no harmonics
Saw wave = all EVEN harmonics - each in inverse level (volume) to it's number (higher=softer)
Square wave = only ODD harmonics

My take:
Most basic useable synth= (think Korg Monotron)
Oscillator - Low-pass filter - VCA - LFO - EG

Next step up= (think Roland Gaia)
Two VCOs, VCF with LP, BP settings VCA, 2 LFOs, 2 EGs, basic effects.

Again - we may not be seeing eye-to-eye here;
Do you mean what nember of filters would a synth need to cover most of the "popular synth sounds you hear"?
If so, then my answer (FWIW) is two: A low-pass/band-pass VCF and a high-pass adjustable.


Hi rhino,
if a wave covers only one frequency, then wouldn't playing the keyboard at different octaves permit reaching the other frequencies? Or is there distortion (perhaps this is what aliasing is)?

Regarding the rest of your post, I'd be curious to know why you said, for example, 2 LFOs (and not 1, or 6, or 100). Also, is a band-pass VCF better than a DCF?

thanks!

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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby briandc » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:55 pm

Bitexion wrote:There was this monster created in 1980 called Con Brio ADS that featured 64 oscillators, a CRT screen and looked like a Star Trek prop, and a $30,000 price tag. As far as legend goes, they only ever sold two, one was used for effects in TV series by a studio.

http://www.vintagesynth.com/misc/conbrioads200.php


That thing looks like it was used on the bridge of the Enterprise! :D Would be cool to have for an evening at home.. :)

So to the point, would 64 oscillators be too many? I mean, in the end, there's only one sound spectrum anyway, and once you've got some width to a waveform, things get "muddy" real quick!


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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby rhino » Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:17 pm

Without getting too deep, a note one octive higher has the same harmonics - just each frequency is now twice as fast. I think you are hung-up on the concept of white noise: White noise is a combination of every possible (audio) frequency at once. Not much good EXCEPT for percussion sounds and/or adding "air" or "spit" to a tone.
I feel you are meaning having control of all the HARMONICS of a musical tone. This can - most commonly - be done by:
1) Adding harmonics one at a time
2) Starting with a lot of harmonics, then removing certain ones with filters
3) Using FM or purely digital means to create the wanted harmonics from a base waveform

A one oscillator synth can sound rather thin without external effects. Two oscillators are able to be detuned to create pseudo-chorus effects and some wave spectrums are esier to create by tuning two oscillators to a third, forth, fifth interval etc.

AGAIN: I may not understand what you are asking...but think of a synth as a set of tools: A tech in an auto dealer, or one doing HVAC, or one working on office equipment would likely have some sepcialized tools that the others would not need, but they would surely have the same basic wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers etc. The specialized tools might make the work go faster and easier, but chances are, the basic toolset would still get it done.

My description of a two VCO synth is of a machine that - with work - could imitate closely most of the tone colors associated with "Synthesizer" sounds.

DCF is not a common term: Filters can be analog or digital, and then controled by an analog or digital signal.
Then a filter can be LP, BP, or HP. Each has a different function in a synth.
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby ninja6485 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:46 pm

I think some people were trying to be snarky in the beginning of the thread, and it got out of hand. Op is asking what the smallest cobination of synthesizer components would be to create any given sound, within reason of course. I think the question is wrongheaded: the more you have, the more you can do, but if you let the theoretical "I can create anything with these tools" notion get to your head, often you end up with the sonic equivalent of a diy Lamborghini kit car built on a fiero. You know what I'm talking about.
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby _dan » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:18 pm

This is probably an example of ninjas lambo comment, still... think envelopes are important. I've had a few synthesizers over the past 10 years, all of which had between two and 3 oscillators. On just about every single one, all of the oscillators were routed to a single envelope. That always frustrated me a little bit because I might want some separation in time between when each of the oscillators make a sound, and that's tricky to do with all of the oscillators going to one envelope. So yeah just in terms of limitations, having the option of one envelope for each oscillator, and maybe 1 envelope for each filter, and then some more envelopes for a mod matrix should be available. But I'm not really sure whether or not anyone would actually care enough to use all that stuff. And then of course there are envelope options. For example, the ion has the option to do all kinds of stuff with the envelopes, which opened up possibilities. And the motif I am finding has some interesting options as well. For example a delay option on the time between when a voice begins and when you press key, so say you had one sound that was mainly percussive and another sound that was more focused on the tail , you could set a delay on the tail, and then each part with sound a little bit more distinct, instead of all at once. The note on delay option is a simple concept, but very useful when more than one osc is present
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby rhino » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:21 pm

Thanks for bringing things back to mid-road again.

In light of last post, I would have to make an example of the Kawai K5000s: 128 oscillators each with an envelope, then VCFs and a VCA , followed by a fair effects section.
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby stephen » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:41 pm

I'm wondering why this is in software and not general.

Sounds like a bit of software design to me :ugeek: :mrgreen:
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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby briandc » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:17 am

Thanks for all your feedback. It's really nice to read!

I'm not a programmer, I'm just curious about synths and the different designs, how each of them processes sound signals basically.

The point that _dan mentions is a bit different from my original question, in the sense that having more than one envelope for certainly gives more control of the sound over time. And I agree, the more the merrier as far as that goes.

But it's the actual sound (harmonics, frequencies) that, theoretically, I would think are not infinite. And as such, once an oscillator or operator or whatever, is producing some of those harmonics or frequencies, they're already "in" the sound; no need for adding more oscillators to reproduce those same harmonics or frequencies since the first is already doing it.

So I ask myself: okay, if we all start with the same "palette" of sound, and use two different instruments with different but equally capable processing structures (for lack of a better term), then both should be able to reproduce the sounds of the other.

That's why I just don't see the need for 128 oscillators (or even 50 or 20). If 1 oscillator is dealing with certain harmonics, then it might be the filter (s) at that point that must "work" the sound to get whatever sonic development over time that is desired.

I can understand ninja's comment about over-simplifying things though, too. In effect, that's why I curious about your opinions about how much is "really necessary." (I'm also of the idea that a lot of modern synth sounds today are filled (perhaps overly filled) with effects. To me, that's not synthesis though..)


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Re: What does a synth need..?

Postby rhino » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:07 am

You can PM me if you want to continue this discussion.

Harmonics added together = a waveform
A waveform = harmonics added together
BUT...
Each waveform simple or complex EXCEPT A PURE SINE WAVE, will have a given set of harmonics each with its own frequency. If you want/neeed a harmonic that is NOT in the original, you must add it somehow.
Sayn you have a SAW wave at 440 Hz. The second harmonic will be 880Hz. Now, if you need a harmonic at 550Hz there is no way to extract it from the original SAW wave because it does not exist. You would need to use another oscillator to add that frequency. In fact a perfect linear SAW wave has NO odd harmonics at all.

To be fair, additive synths like the Kawai K5000 have NO oscillators - just a digital computer that takes your input - "I want this harmonic at this level, this one at this level, etc", and creates the resulting wave mathematicaly.

Closing: unless you count self-resonance, a filter can only REMOVE harmonics - NOT ADD them... If a given waveform does not have the harmonic(s) you need, they must be added from another source.
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