Analog Oscillators: Any difference?

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Analog Oscillators: Any difference?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:55 am

I remember once that someone here posted a sound clip which purportedly had several demonstrations of some oscillator waveform all together, and there was seemingly no difference between them, be they analog or digital or anything else.

I found that particularly disconcerting, especially because I felt that I perceived a difference in various oscillators between keyboards, even when the filter was completely open.

In the spirit of this, I recorded the waveforms from the Minimoog, the ARP 2600, and the Korg MS-20 and put them in a video on YouTube.
While I wouldn't say I could necessarily distinguish which was which, I can discern that there are differences between them. In some cases, the differences are quite stark.

Because of how I recorded it, I didn't realize that one of them had gone out of tune (but had found its way BACK to tune during the process). This, to some degree, makes the discernment a bit more challenging... but it is also very real. Also, there seem to be artifacts generated by some of the conversions that take place between recording and posting on YouTube... I suppose someone with more time than I have could figure out what is going on with that. ; )
In any case, despite the variables, the timbres are the important thing... and there are differences!

I have no idea what was going on with that original clip I heard... but I'll tell you that in this series, a digital waveform would stand out quite distinctly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L89eqV_BlB8

Drop by and have a listen.

Since this is likely to generate conversation (and perhaps discourse!), I thought I should post it here in General. If this is inappropriate, I apologize, mods!
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Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Jun 11, 2008 2:26 am

YouTube's not the best thing for sonic comparisons...

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jun 11, 2008 2:33 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:YouTube's not the best thing for sonic comparisons...
True!
But if you can't tell the difference between two sounds on the internet (even sounds with subtle distinctions), how can you tell the difference between two sounds?
mp3s are not the best representation of a recording. h**l, CDs aren't even a particularly accurate representation of a recording.
Even with the corruptions delightfully added by CD, iMovie, and YouTube, there are timbral differences distinguishable between the waveforms.
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Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:13 am

I'm not saying you can't hear timbral differences, but the amount of aliasing in the youtube audio codec doesn't really show off analogue oscillators to their fullest advantage. :) I'm actually pretty sure that
Automatic Gainsay wrote:but I'll tell you that in this series, a digital waveform would stand out quite distinctly.
would depend a lot on the digital synth. I think a good analogue sounding VA like an Ion would fit right in if it was masked by that amount of aliasing and fuzz. It probably wouldn't sound identical to any of those three but it wouldn't sound any more 'digital' than they did.

Whoever said all oscillators (including analogue ones) sound the same obviously has no idea about analogue circuit design. The mixture of harmonics is influenced by the circuit topology, headroom and slew rate of the circuit, even different capacitors have different frequency responses. All the circuits are aiming for an 'ideal' Triangle, Saw or Square but they miss by varying amounts in different directions, so they sound different.

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:59 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:I'm not saying you can't hear timbral differences, but the amount of aliasing in the youtube audio codec doesn't really show off analogue oscillators to their fullest advantage. :) I'm actually pretty sure that
Automatic Gainsay wrote:but I'll tell you that in this series, a digital waveform would stand out quite distinctly.
would depend a lot on the digital synth. I think a good analogue sounding VA like an Ion would fit right in if it was masked by that amount of aliasing and fuzz. It probably wouldn't sound identical to any of those three but it wouldn't sound any more 'digital' than they did.

Whoever said all oscillators (including analogue ones) sound the same obviously has no idea about analogue circuit design. The mixture of harmonics is influenced by the circuit topology, headroom and slew rate of the circuit, even different capacitors have different frequency responses. All the circuits are aiming for an 'ideal' Triangle, Saw or Square but they miss by varying amounts in different directions, so they sound different.
Do you think that your last paragraph would apply to the Ion, etc. as well? I was shocked at how messy the original files sounded... not all of the distortion you're hearing is codec based! Anyway, I would expect that modern synths would be far more precise and stable... none of the recordings are precise OR stable!
Anyone who wants to record pure examples of VAs and send them to me or post them is welcome!
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Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:10 am

The last paragraph or the last sentence?

I think a lot of VAs try to model the imperfect osc shapes of older machines and probably achieve varying amounts of success. I'm just heading out now but I'll record some samples from the machines I have around the studio when I get back if I get the time.

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Post by sentientprogram » Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:37 am

Very intresting. To my suprise I prefered the oscillators of the MS-20 and 2600, I thought the mini had the best square though. I assumed the mini was going to take it all. :lol:

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Post by theglyph » Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:39 am

It can be said that Buchla's oscillator core is triangle while Moog's core is sawtooth! The waveshaping and high frequency compensation for both types of cores can be quite different depending on the oscillator circuit's topology.
The resulting harmonic content for say a triangle wave for both types of cores can therefore be quite different and in the case of the Moog is usually adjustable!!

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Post by Big Gnome » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:10 am

Interesting topic. I heard a clear difference between the three in the triangle and square waveforms (didn't notice any difference in the saws though); I was especially stuck by how brash the Moog's square was.
Nevertheless, they were quite similar, and I can' t help feeling that the same waveform on any synthesizer will get you 98% of the way there, depending on the synth's other facilities, the player's performance, and the nature of the recording.
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Post by Yoozer » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:06 am

If you want to find the difference, the best idea is to hook up an oscilloscope.

I've seen the Moog Modular waveforms on a video someone from the AH mailinglist made (feel free to correct me) and these oscs showed an almost PWM-like behavior (a quickly moving center)
Automatic Gainsay wrote: I found that particularly disconcerting, especially because I felt that I perceived a difference in various oscillators between keyboards, even when the filter was completely open.
Our brains are particularly good in masking things and making them up from whole cloth, influenced by mood, and our auditory memory isn't exactly reliable. That's why they invented blind A/B tests. Since a large part of the fun of synthesizers is also in the interface, a truly fair comparison is to put a DSP in a Minimoog shell - a synthesizer Turing test so to say. Besides, the open filter test tones are rarely used in a musical context.
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Post by Neonlights84 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:08 am

Big Gnome wrote:Interesting topic. I heard a clear difference between the three in the triangle and square waveforms (didn't notice any difference in the saws though); I was especially stuck by how brash the Moog's square was.
Yea, I find the Moog square to be fairly, well, unsqaure sounding. It tends to sounds like a slightly glassier sawtooth wave. I normally just use the square on my LP to fatten up the low end on a bass patch.
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Post by Tyler2000 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:45 am

I just had a cool idea inspired by this thread. What if there was a sticky where everybody post examples of the raw waveforms from all thier synths. Of course, repeats should try to be avoided, but there tons of synths. It's such a key part of how a synth sounds, I would love to be able to check out the raws from a bunch of synths, especially the noise. I know the noise waveform is COMPLETELY different on all my synths (that have it).
so what do I put down here now?

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Post by Murderhausen » Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:27 am

I'll guess A= MS20, B= Arp, C= Minimoog. Some feedback, at least eventually, would be great.
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Post by Murderhausen » Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:29 am

Or, perhaps now that I have finished watching the entire video, I can tell that I was only right about the MS20. This is, of course, only if you kept the secret and the unknown examples consistent with one another.
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Post by Jack Spider » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:43 pm

I was correct (or possibly lucky) with my guesses for the Minimoog, but it was still a tough call!

Tyler - that's a damned fine idea.
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