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A genuine question.....

For fans of synths, pianos or keyboard instruments of any sort.

A genuine question.....

Postby DanielBeach » Sat May 30, 2020 8:11 pm

Apologies for any cans of frogs or boxes of worms this may open up....

A naïve question from me, somebody who has grown up first with late 80s and 90s workstations and Romplers (SY77/Proteus FX/Korg X5) and then software instruments.

There are SO many synths on the market these days, especially analogue, or “digital analogue”. But, I don’t understand how there can be the call for so many, and how they can all be so different?

Surely if two different synths both have, say, four oscillators, all offering the same kind of waveforms, both have two LFOs, a resonant filter, and the standard envelopes, aren’t they going to be capable of producing roughly the same kind of sounds?

I’m looking at trying a few hardware synths, so I’m genuinely interested in learning. I get that S&S-type keyboards will sound different due to having a different set of samples/wavetables etc., but what about all these other synths on the market?

Daniel
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby MOF » Sat May 30, 2020 9:07 pm

Hi Daniel, it’s down to the types of filters and to a lesser extent the type of amplifiers ADS(H)R and the number of modulation possibilities.
Then the oscillator ‘sound’ as well, a Moog square wave won’t sound the same as a Korg square wave.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat May 30, 2020 9:09 pm

This post will probably get more answers if it's in the 'Keyboards' section... I've suggested to the Mods that it's moved...
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby DanielBeach » Sat May 30, 2020 9:13 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:This post will probably get more answers if it's in the 'Keyboards' section... I've suggested to the Mods that it's moved...

Apologies - I never realised there was one - my mistake!
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby James Perrett » Sat May 30, 2020 10:04 pm

Now moved to the best place...
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby The Elf » Sat May 30, 2020 10:12 pm

All cars drive along roads and take you to coast - so why so many different ones?...

There's pretty much the reason for why so many synths. It's not always about just the numbers and the basic features.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat May 30, 2020 11:19 pm

Things like onboard sequencing, arpeggiators, the ability to interoperate with other synths through a semi-modular patchbay, the keyboard length, timbrality count, polyphony ...

Different filter implementations; parallel filters, serial or switchable, different cutoff slopes, different resonance. Low-pass, high-pass, notch, comb, continually variable ...

Different modulation cabilitie; big matrixes, small matrixes, the ability to modulate modulators and set up feedback loops. Some have LFOs that can run at audio frequencies and act as oscillators in their own right, or offer FW-style modulation. Envelopes, how many, are they loopable or one-shot, how many stages they have ...

I could go on and on and on!

To answer a specific point you raised, most synths sharing the same architecture are capable of producing roughly the same sounds, yes. A lot of them might be virtually identical even but for the reasons above, and many more besides, they'll all sound different so some degree or other.

You know intuitively that people have different tastes in colour or food. The same is true of sound. How boring life would be if there were only half a dozen different ingredients from which to make things to eat!
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Dave B » Sun May 31, 2020 12:08 am

There are so many differences!

Let's take oscillators - you say that they all should make the same shapes. But firstly, some synths will offer a wider selection of basic shapes than others. Then there is the shape itself - no two manufacturers will generate the same sawtooth wave exactly the same. Each circuit will get the basic shape, but be subtly different when you get right in there. Plus there are differences in the interactions in the sync, how the pulse width is modulated, etc Not to mention that some synths may not even have those facilities at all.

Filters? Cor - they have different slopes, different ways of handling resonance ... it all adds up. Half the reason that the classic moog filter sounds so good is that it mistakenly distorts slightly when pushed - so if a filter is built properly, it won't sound like a moog filter... but we like the filter.

How many filters and how many types of filter? Fixed ones? Continuous (a la Tom Oberheim synths) Just lowPass? or High and Low? Bandpass?

Envelopes? How should the respond? Fast? Slow? Linear? Logarithmic? By how much?

LFOs - how many? How complex should they be? How many waveforms? should it delay? Should it be re-triggered each time a key is pressed? Or free running?

Modulation sources / destinations - how many? Can they be scaled?

How much headroom internally? Lots of clean tone? Or less and slightly grungy?

A brilliant example are the Dave Smith / Sequential OB6 and Prophet 6. The OB is a Tom Oberheim voiced synth and the Prophet is a classic Dave Smith. The two synths are basically the same unit but with different paint jobs and different voice cards. Functionally, they are pretty much identical. And both sound lovely. But the are subtly very different sounding synths. Ok - they both go 'beep' in very similar ways, but even blindfolded, two minutes of tweaking and I would know one from the other quite easily.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun May 31, 2020 1:30 am

I've often had the same thoughts as the OP. I understand the repsonses but mostly they explain why synths with different architectures/options sound different but that wasn't the question.

Isn't a sawtooth wave just a sawtooth wave irrespective of how it's generated?
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby zenguitar » Sun May 31, 2020 1:45 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:Isn't a sawtooth wave just a sawtooth wave irrespective of how it's generated?

Theoretically, Yes. But reality rarely lives up to theory; real world materials, tolerances, and circuit designs all fail to live up to the theory. And the great news is that, theoretically, it is possible to understand in great detail how reality falls short of the theoretical ideal.

And that enables us to build models of how reality fails to live up to the theoretical model, and from there we arrive at analogue models of real world hardware.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun May 31, 2020 2:46 am

zenguitar wrote:
Dynamic Mike wrote:Isn't a sawtooth wave just a sawtooth wave irrespective of how it's generated?

Theoretically, Yes. But reality rarely lives up to theory; real world materials, tolerances, and circuit designs all fail to live up to the theory.
Also, how the sawtooth wave is derived has a bearing on how it sounds as well.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby ef37a » Sun May 31, 2020 6:38 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:I've often had the same thoughts as the OP. I understand the repsonses but mostly they explain why synths with different architectures/options sound different but that wasn't the question.

Isn't a sawtooth wave just a sawtooth wave irrespective of how it's generated?

I'm going to put my lumpen size 13s in here with you Mike! We were generating pretty damn good sawtooths WITH VALVES more than half a century ago for TV scan (and scopes in labs) surely generating a 'perfect' ramp with modern technology is turning wine into water?

Dave.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby Arpangel » Sun May 31, 2020 6:58 am

Some keyboards are so radically different from each other it’s like comparing a cello to a flute.
I started on a VCS3, and went on to a DX7 and.a Juno 6, all these things are on different planets.
You have to decide what it is you want if for first of all, what you feel comfortable with, and what floats your boat, there are lots similar synths, sure, but that’s because these days we have a larger choice, and things are generally cheaper to make, across all types of synthesis, you can even design your own synth without breaking the bank using modular.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby nathanscribe » Sun May 31, 2020 10:13 am

Arpangel wrote:what floats your boat

This is the only piece of advice you need, really.

I've said before that I've sold plenty of great sounding synths that didn't fit my style or that I just didn't like using. How you feel about going about the sound shaping procedures on offer is just as important as how much you like the sounds themselves. And, the only way to know is to try things for a while.

I wish your wallet luck.
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Re: A genuine question.....

Postby BJG145 » Sun May 31, 2020 11:35 am

It's mainly about the colours, whether someone prefers red, orange, purple.

Image

If they can't decide, they get a Moog Grandmother.
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