Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by JSRockit » Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:51 pm

Yoozer wrote:No, those aren't VA oscillators.
Why not? What's the difference between Virtual Analog and Digital Oscillators (NOT DCOs)?
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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:00 pm

JSRockit wrote:
Yoozer wrote:No, those aren't VA oscillators.
Why not? What's the difference between Virtual Analog and Digital Oscillators (NOT DCOs)?
Nothing... only a VCO is going to be heard to be different

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by mute » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:54 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:
JSRockit wrote:
Yoozer wrote:No, those aren't VA oscillators.
Why not? What's the difference between Virtual Analog and Digital Oscillators (NOT DCOs)?
Nothing... only a VCO is going to be heard to be different
Just realized you said (NOT DCOs) in caps. lol me. my bad.

ehh.. that's crazy talk.

A DCO is an analogue oscillator that is digitally clocked instead of using voltage control (except the casio CZ's iirc which use the same term, those are digital through and through). It was cheaper to produce and addressed the timing "issue" regarding the oscillator tuning that "plagued" VCO's... which people now see as an endearing character of VCOs instead of as a fault.

A V/A and a DCO are nothing alike. V/A's use DSP code and microprocessors to generate the oscillator waveforms. DCO's do it in various ways.. the Rolands use a BBD setup.

There are plenty of posts about this here @ the forum and a decently detailed article about it in an old interview about the Juno @ soundonsound. There are also several interviews with Dave Smith where he explains in good detail the differences between VCO's and DCO's.

Do not confuse Digitally Clocked, with Digital.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by Ashe37 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:18 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:For a discrete analog filter I'd expect it to cost < $15 in parts (per voice) in volumes over 100 off. Even the pcbs are dirt cheap in volume - and remember that several voices worth of filters will easily reside on one pcb. In fact the irony is that a high end DSP will cost -more- than analog filter components on a per voice basis remembering that most VAs contain several DSP chips.
The DSP in the Virus Ti (and several other VAs use the same) is less than $12 apiece in volume.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by XpanderXt » Tue Aug 11, 2009 12:51 am

Also remember that the synth company does not make that much from a product if they sell via a dealer/distributor network.
The company pays for development, where no money is made, just spent for 9 months to 2 years.
They then have to buy parts, typically 30 - 90 days ahead of production. Money output again with no change of return for a time.
They then have to deal with manufacturing/tooling which can be $30,000 - $70,000/shipping/getting the product to pass all the different standards/box production/etc.

then when a dealer takes a couple, the dealer typically pays 30% - 50% off the MAP price you see.
If it goes through a distributor, they get a cut.

The manufacturer ends up with a lot of costs and little profit compared to the dealer. The majority of synths do not sell more than a couple of thousand units. Amortize all the above costs out and see what prices things have to be to break even (many companies don't do this and go under). If they know a market is dead or dying, it does not make any sense for them to take an expensive long shot bet.
This is why nobody is doing it much.


There are plenty of excellent sounding VA filters out there on products. There were plenty of crappy sounding analog filters.
Just because one is analog and one DSP, does not make one better than the other.
Also remember that most DCO's from very popular "vintage" synths had little to do with sounding analog and many VA's sound much more analog than those DCO's.
The biggest issue is that people are placing a lot of value on something that may or may not have much to do with the sound, in this case VA vs Analog.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:51 am

Ashe37 wrote:
HideawayStudio wrote:For a discrete analog filter I'd expect it to cost < $15 in parts (per voice) in volumes over 100 off. Even the pcbs are dirt cheap in volume - and remember that several voices worth of filters will easily reside on one pcb. In fact the irony is that a high end DSP will cost -more- than analog filter components on a per voice basis remembering that most VAs contain several DSP chips.
The DSP in the Virus Ti (and several other VAs use the same) is less than $12 apiece in volume.
Yes - ok I will go along with this and in hindsight I think here lies the answer. It is true that the cost of DSPs has dropped dramatically in the past few years. The advantages of flexbility and cost must just be too tempting for most.

Mind you I think this is clouding my original response - I wasn't implying that all of the DSPs would be replaced with analog - only those that were handling the filtering. I still think with some creative signal routing in DSP code and a bank of discrete analog filter stages bolted to the DSPs you'd get your result.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:03 am

XpanderXt wrote:Also remember that the synth company does not make that much from a product if they sell via a dealer/distributor network.
The company pays for development, where no money is made, just spent for 9 months to 2 years.
They then have to buy parts, typically 30 - 90 days ahead of production. Money output again with no change of return for a time.
They then have to deal with manufacturing/tooling which can be $30,000 - $70,000/shipping/getting the product to pass all the different standards/box production/etc.

then when a dealer takes a couple, the dealer typically pays 30% - 50% off the MAP price you see.
If it goes through a distributor, they get a cut.

The manufacturer ends up with a lot of costs and little profit compared to the dealer. The majority of synths do not sell more than a couple of thousand units. Amortize all the above costs out and see what prices things have to be to break even (many companies don't do this and go under). If they know a market is dead or dying, it does not make any sense for them to take an expensive long shot bet.
This is why nobody is doing it much.


There are plenty of excellent sounding VA filters out there on products. There were plenty of crappy sounding analog filters.
Just because one is analog and one DSP, does not make one better than the other.
Also remember that most DCO's from very popular "vintage" synths had little to do with sounding analog and many VA's sound much more analog than those DCO's.
The biggest issue is that people are placing a lot of value on something that may or may not have much to do with the sound, in this case VA vs Analog.

I totally agree with the commercial reasoning - I design equipment for a living and we have to juggle the costs all the time.

I used to feel the same way about VA filters as XpanderXt until I restored my Prophet 2002 sampler - it is only when you start playing with analog filters fed with digital signals that you realise just how they can morph a cold digital sound into an organic sound. This is definitely the case with the Prophet where the filters go into self oscillation and can distort in very subtle or completely OTT ways. You can sit the prophet's filters right on the edge of self oscillation and then let the sound source ping it off and back out of oscillation - great! :D

That said the VA filters are getting better. The filters in my Supernova are ok but somehow sterile and a little thin. The filters in my Blofeld, on the other hand, are really quite impressive for an emulation.

In my opinion what makes something sound organic are the tiny imperfections. In a VCO synth it's the oscillators free running in phase and frequency and in analog filters it's slightly unpredictable nature of it's response to both CV and the signal itself. The result is you play the same sound 10 times and it's very slightly different every time ie. it has a life about it. Emulate that and I suppose things get a little closer to the real thing.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by Ashe37 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 4:26 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:Yes - ok I will go along with this and in hindsight I think here lies the answer. It is true that the cost of DSPs has dropped dramatically in the past few years. The advantages of flexbility and cost must just be too tempting for most.

Mind you I think this is clouding my original response - I wasn't implying that all of the DSPs would be replaced with analog - only those that were handling the filtering. I still think with some creative signal routing in DSP code and a bank of discrete analog filter stages bolted to the DSPs you'd get your result.
Yes, I agree. They probably also don't like the idea because the design wouldn't be very 'clean'- putting the filter after a DAC, and then if your effects are digital, you'd need to ADC it back in to the DSP.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by steveman » Wed Aug 12, 2009 4:36 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:I wasn't implying that all of the DSPs would be replaced with analog - only those that were handling the filtering. I still think with some creative signal routing in DSP code and a bank of discrete analog filter stages bolted to the DSPs you'd get your result.
Thing is AFAIK there aren't dedicated 'filter' DSPs, it's all one (or 2) DSP's, Can't just replace parts. Getting all those CVs out would be probably cost as much as the filters.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by cartesia » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:07 pm

otto wrote:
cartesia wrote:I think VA with analogue filters is a good compromise between number of voices/analogue sound/cost
I'm not sure I follow. As far as compromises go, there are plenty of older analog polysynths that are very affordable. So why compromise when you can get a fully analog synth (if you are ok with calling DCO fully analog) for a couple to a few hundred dollars, the same price as a used, cheap VA. Also, I think you might be making an assumption that the analog filters are just automatically good. Not all analog filters are created equal. I also think their is an erronous assumption that somehow this will make it cheap. VA's just have volume sales on their side. The market was flooded with VA's not so long ago and I imagine this is why you don't see a lot of new ones coming out.
How many multitimbral analogue synths are there (with high polyphony as WELL) that can compete with the cost of a VA and a reasonable analogue filter to run it through?

You can't compare voices between an analogue synth with 1 timbre/ 4 voice polyphony to a 16 timbre/24 note polyphony VA

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:41 pm

cartesia wrote:
otto wrote:
cartesia wrote:I think VA with analogue filters is a good compromise between number of voices/analogue sound/cost
I'm not sure I follow. As far as compromises go, there are plenty of older analog polysynths that are very affordable. So why compromise when you can get a fully analog synth (if you are ok with calling DCO fully analog) for a couple to a few hundred dollars, the same price as a used, cheap VA. Also, I think you might be making an assumption that the analog filters are just automatically good. Not all analog filters are created equal. I also think their is an erronous assumption that somehow this will make it cheap. VA's just have volume sales on their side. The market was flooded with VA's not so long ago and I imagine this is why you don't see a lot of new ones coming out.
How many multitimbral analogue synths are there (with high polyphony as WELL) that can compete with the cost of a VA and a reasonable analogue filter to run it through?

You can't compare voices between an analogue synth with 1 timbre/ 4 voice polyphony to a 16 timbre/24 note polyphony VA
True... but then again do you need or want all that polyphony?? There seem to be a ton of people out there happy with monosynths and VAs with very low note poly such as the original Nord Lead.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:41 pm

cartesia wrote:
otto wrote:
cartesia wrote:I think VA with analogue filters is a good compromise between number of voices/analogue sound/cost
I'm not sure I follow. As far as compromises go, there are plenty of older analog polysynths that are very affordable. So why compromise when you can get a fully analog synth (if you are ok with calling DCO fully analog) for a couple to a few hundred dollars, the same price as a used, cheap VA. Also, I think you might be making an assumption that the analog filters are just automatically good. Not all analog filters are created equal. I also think their is an erronous assumption that somehow this will make it cheap. VA's just have volume sales on their side. The market was flooded with VA's not so long ago and I imagine this is why you don't see a lot of new ones coming out.
How many multitimbral analogue synths are there (with high polyphony as WELL) that can compete with the cost of a VA and a reasonable analogue filter to run it through?

You can't compare voices between an analogue synth with 1 timbre/ 4 voice polyphony to a 16 timbre/24 note polyphony VA
True... but then again do you need or want all that polyphony?? There seem to be a ton of people out there happy with monosynths and VAs with very low note poly such as the original Nord Lead.

Remember not all of us want multitimbrality and therefore huge polyphony - in fact the idea of using one synth for a whole recording is positively horrible! :)

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by XpanderXt » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:58 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:
I used to feel the same way about VA filters as XpanderXt until I restored my Prophet 2002 sampler - it is only when you start playing with analog filters fed with digital signals that you realise just how they can morph a cold digital sound into an organic sound. This is definitely the case with the Prophet where the filters go into self oscillation and can distort in very subtle or completely OTT ways. You can sit the prophet's filters right on the edge of self oscillation and then let the sound source ping it off and back out of oscillation - great! :D

That said the VA filters are getting better. The filters in my Supernova are ok but somehow sterile and a little thin. The filters in my Blofeld, on the other hand, are really quite impressive for an emulation.

In my opinion what makes something sound organic are the tiny imperfections. In a VCO synth it's the oscillators free running in phase and frequency and in analog filters it's slightly unpredictable nature of it's response to both CV and the signal itself. The result is you play the same sound 10 times and it's very slightly different every time ie. it has a life about it. Emulate that and I suppose things get a little closer to the real thing.
As you say, there are some really good VA filters now. I agree on the Blofeld. I also like the Micron filters, MPC5000, the Arturia Origin and the Waldorf XT (not analog sounding though but nice). Arturia and Applied Acoustics have some really nice filters in their plug ins.

Fxpansion has some plug in synths coming out and their filters possess the sound quality you describe. you can set them on the verge of oscillation where they go in and out and feel like they are balanced on the edge of a cliff. I heard some examples over a year ago and it was amazing. They were showing them at Winter NAMM and it has come even further.

The other problem as someone mentioned is that you don't have a filter DSP chip. The whole synth is done in a single DSP in all the ones I know of. To get it so that you have the voices split out to D/A then to filters and then back to A/D's and back into the DSP for the VCA and other processing would cost a lot for very little sonic gain.
Getting better filter algorithms and faster DSP is a better solution and a more realistic one.

Things that had DCO's did it not only for the stability but for the cost. It was all the DSP they could do. There was no affordable DSP that could begin to do what a modern VA synth can with filtering, multiple voices and programing matrices back in the 80's. Even my Oberheim Xpander has DSP LFO's and Envelopes. It was cheaper to give you 5 of each in software than hardware. But something as simple as LFOs and Envelopes was a major tax on the processor. That's why the envelopes are slow and the LFO's are unstable.

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by OriginalJambo » Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:08 am

XpanderXt wrote:That's why the envelopes are slow and the LFO's are unstable.
Just like analogue ones then? ;)

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Re: Why can't anyone release a small VA with analog filters ?

Post by XpanderXt » Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:05 am

OriginalJambo wrote:
XpanderXt wrote:That's why the envelopes are slow and the LFO's are unstable.
Just like analogue ones then? ;)
sort of but more like hyper analog. It's funny to hear them slow down the more stuff you have going on.

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