Analog Oscillators: Any difference?

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Post by CS_TBL » Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:19 pm

+1 for a final/definitive investigation. Raw sawtooths of all sorts of synths, analogue, digital, softsynth, put next to eachother, and then we've all the differences at our fingers. In addition to pointing out differences, it may also be a means to finally tell which wave sounds 'fat' and which wave doesn't sound 'fat'.

For the best comparisons: clean sawtooths, no filters, no post-EQ, no vibrato, no added random pitch fluctuations. And, how about a sampled C of each octave?
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Post by kayvon » Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:44 pm

I think this test, as the one that AG mentioned inspired the thread are a great start but they don't reflect the real world use of these oscillators and as such don't give us a great deal of insight on the strengths of each. Also, other factors in the signal chain will likely have an influence on the sound of the oscillators.

It'd be more telling to tap off the osc pre filter, pre vca and then do something like trigger them with a sequence across the whole of their range and also tune their second oscillators against each other in close unisons/octaves. Also how about sizeable pitch sweeps? These type of tests I'm sure would give us a closer representation of any differences.

I recall something Dave Bryce wrote on another forum about how it's very difficult to properly compare oscillators of synthesizers as other parts of the signal chain have an effect on them. I recognised the Minimoog square as it was more buzzy but who's to say that was the actual oscillator and not distortion introduced by the VCF/VCA?

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Post by rjd2 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:05 pm

the first thing that came to my mind was how i had to struggle to differentiate the sounds in the context of a sustained note with no filtering/mod/etc, and yet MOST of the time, a mini or odyssey/2600 is almost immediately identifiable when i hear it on a record, in the context of music.

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:28 pm

kayvon wrote:I think this test, as the one that AG mentioned inspired the thread are a great start but they don't reflect the real world use of these oscillators and as such don't give us a great deal of insight on the strengths of each. Also, other factors in the signal chain will likely have an influence on the sound of the oscillators.

It'd be more telling to tap off the osc pre filter, pre vca and then do something like trigger them with a sequence across the whole of their range and also tune their second oscillators against each other in close unisons/octaves. Also how about sizeable pitch sweeps? These type of tests I'm sure would give us a closer representation of any differences.

I recall something Dave Bryce wrote on another forum about how it's very difficult to properly compare oscillators of synthesizers as other parts of the signal chain have an effect on them. I recognised the Minimoog square as it was more buzzy but who's to say that was the actual oscillator and not distortion introduced by the VCF/VCA?
Hey, kayvon... great points!
Truly, the osc-only part of this test isn't really definitive of anything other than that the oscillators of these synths sound at least to some degree different when the filter is fully open. It could very well be that the subsequent modules of each synth is affecting how that osc sounds.

The tests you describe would be infinitely more definitive than those I've made!
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Post by OriginalJambo » Thu Jun 12, 2008 1:10 am

For a start AC, there seems to be some funky noise (almost of the "white" variety) in that video. I'm not talking about a little harshness that you'd expect with compression, but in the sawtooth sections (and the square too somewhat) it sounds downright terrible. YouTube compression shouldn't screw with the signal that much surely.

Anyway, despite this the difference in the oscillators is clearly audible. Here's my take:

I think the MS-20 has the cleanest and most ideal triangle - soft and mellow. The Moog and ARP sound more filtered square waves than anything else! Not like triangles at all to my ears.

The sawtooths are all very similar.

The MS-20's square sounds woody - like a square should. The Moog's square is way, way brasher and buzzier than your average square. I think this is part of the Moog sound of course. Surprisingly the ARP is also very buzzy too.

There are no doubts in my mind that there are definite differences in the sounds of most of these waveforms. However, the oscillators alone may not account for this - as another member has already pointed out overdriven VCFs and VCAs could also be to blame.

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Post by Neonlights84 » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:40 am

OriginalJambo wrote:For a start AC, there seems to be some funky noise (almost of the "white" variety) in that video. I'm not talking about a little harshness that you'd expect with compression, but in the sawtooth sections (and the square too somewhat) it sounds downright terrible. YouTube compression shouldn't screw with the signal that much surely.

Anyway, despite this the difference in the oscillators is clearly audible. Here's my take:

I think the MS-20 has the cleanest and most ideal triangle - soft and mellow. The Moog and ARP sound more filtered square waves than anything else! Not like triangles at all to my ears.

The sawtooths are all very similar.

The MS-20's square sounds woody - like a square should. The Moog's square is way, way brasher and buzzier than your average square. I think this is part of the Moog sound of course. Surprisingly the ARP is also very buzzy too.

There are no doubts in my mind that there are definite differences in the sounds of most of these waveforms. However, the oscillators alone may not account for this - as another member has already pointed out overdriven VCFs and VCAs could also be to blame.
Good catch Jambo, and I'd have to totally agree. The MS-20 seemed to have the most honest depictions of the various waves. It sounded digital in comparison to the other two, in the fact that each wave sounded like what it claimed to be. The moog square, as i stated earlier, isn't really square sounding.
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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:19 am

Neonlights84 wrote:MS-20 seemed to have the most honest depictions of the various waves. It sounded digital in comparison to the other two, in the fact that each wave sounded like what it claimed to be. .
Ha ha, guess which is my least favorite. :wink:
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Post by urbanscallywag » Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:49 pm

Could it be the lack of a temperature compensated exponential converter in the MS-20 that gives it a somewhat sterile sound compared to the Moog and ARP?

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Post by neandrewthal » Fri Jun 13, 2008 5:37 am

urbanscallywag wrote:Could it be the lack of a temperature compensated exponential converter in the MS-20 that gives it a somewhat sterile sound compared to the Moog and ARP?

I think that is intentional on Korg's part as the philosophy behind their choice of a linear VCO was to avoid the instabilities associated with the exponential converters in v/oct VCO's, or at least that's what I read in the manual for the MS-02 interface.
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Post by tunedLow » Fri Jun 13, 2008 5:55 am

For what it's worth I've heard on more than one occasion people slamming the Doepfer VCO (at least the cheaper one they make), and really praising the Plan B. I think ReWire and speak to that.

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Post by clubbedtodeath » Fri Jun 13, 2008 7:25 pm

urbanscallywag wrote:Could it be the lack of a temperature compensated exponential converter in the MS-20 that gives it a somewhat sterile sound compared to the Moog and ARP?
I have no idea, but I'd hardly call the MS-20 'sterile'. I would say it perhaps sometimes lacks a bottom end, but it is anything but sterile.

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Post by OriginalJambo » Fri Jun 13, 2008 7:29 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:Ha ha, guess which is my least favorite. :wink:
Surely not this little guy?

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I'm gutted I never got to use that MS-20 lying in storage at my University...

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Post by michael stein » Fri Jun 13, 2008 7:42 pm

I dont know if this has anything to do with my .com being "moog like" but it seemed easy for me to call out the MiniMoog b/c it sounded the most like my .com Oscillators.

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Post by REwire » Fri Jun 13, 2008 7:44 pm

I couldn't tell any of them really apart and I have (had) all three (recently sold the 2600 for an Odyssey that sounded similar). Your Arp2600 Pulse really had none of the open hollowness I got out of mine; I think it shows up better in lower notes. I don't have any Roland monos now but the SH-5 Pulse was also seriously boomy. The Mini Pulse is the least hollow sounding of all I own. To me, the three oscs waveforms and pitches and filter combos you chose are not to me what makes those three synths special.

I've found that the vintage monosynths synths I've kept hold of over time have had something ultra unique that sets them apart:

MS-20 - Dual LP and HP Filters with Resonance
Odyssey - Fat Square Wave
Minimoog - Moog Filter, Drifty Oscs
Synthacon - Evil Band Pass Filter and Metallic sounding Oscs
EML 101 - Variable Filter and Fat Oscs
Synthi - Scrapey Angular Filter and Massive Oscs
Buchla 259 Modular Osc- Vactrol Waveshaping
Oberheim SEM - Band pass and variable LP to High Pass Filter. Sizzly Oscs.

And on the modular side, much comparisons have been done between Cwejman, ASolutions, Systems, Doepfer, MFB and Plan-B and I still like the Plan-B most. It is most similar to my vintage Buchla 259.

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:54 pm

REwire wrote:I couldn't tell any of them really apart
All of the samples sounded exactly the same to you? Or, you couldn't identify which was which? Identifying which was which was only a fun thing I added... the main point was that there are aurally distinguishable differences between the sounds.
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