What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by calyx93 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:33 pm

Well, now after some quick research, the RMI Harmonic Synthesizer from '74 might just be the first D/A hybrid - here's the synthmuseum.com link which features a passage from the brochure/ad copy - and it certainly mentions that it utilizes a voltage controlled filter.

http://www.synthmuseum.com/rmi/rmihar01.html

Back to the PPG 1020 - anyone know exactly when this synth made it's debut?
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by gs » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:45 pm

GameChanger wrote:
Stab Frenzy wrote:
GameChanger wrote:What was the first digital-analog hybrid synth?
Define digital-analogue hybrid synth first, and then someone can answer your question.
I was thinking more along the lines of what keyboard/s started the digital analog hybrids of the 80s. Digital Waveforms, but Analog Filters, Evelopes, Etc.
It sounds like you are not asking about the very first pioneering hybrid synths but the ones in the 80s that made hybrid synthesis popular/useful/affordable ("keyboard synths" not "computer systems" - i.e. Synclavier, Fairlight).

Digital Waveform synthesizers: I would start with the PPG Wave and then work my way through Korg DW line / Kawai K3 / Ensoniq ESQ-1.

Early samplers technically should count as hybrids, since a sample is just a very long non-looped waveform, and most samplers can produce a single-cycle looped waveform just like the digital waveform synthesizers can. Start with Emu Emulator I/II and work your way through Ensoniq Mirage, Emu Emax 1, Korg DSS-1, Sequential Prophet 2000, Akai S900 -- up until they stopped putting analog filters on samplers.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by Micke » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:02 pm

According to most sources the 1020 appeared in 1976. Here's what Wolfgang Palm writes
in "The PPG Story: Part 4 "Digital Age":
"Technologically, I had made noticeable advances. One big problem with analog synthesizers always was the inherent pitch instability. Even with the Moog models, this was the case. Especially with temperature changes, the devices stopped being in tune!
That's why I had the idea to create digital oscillators. The first synth with DCOs (digitally controlled oscillators) was the 1020. Additionally, it had the advantage to provide more waveforms than the Moog (or all other analog synthies that only had sawtooth, pulse and triangle waves). Using digital technology, it was no problem to create waveforms with different sound spectra."


However, it's not clear to me whether its ocillators were all-digital or not because he talks about both *digital oscillators*
and *DCO's*...
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by rhino » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:40 pm

Stiring the pot a little.
One problem that keeps confusing threads such as this is that the term "DCO" is often used to mean one of two very different things:

A DIGITAL CONTROLED OSCILLATOR (DCO) originaly meant a analog VCO controled by a computer. Example: Roland JX-10, Akai AX-80, etc. In this setting, there is an actual analog oscillator controled by a CV. That CV, however is generated by digital circuits. The CPU reads the keys, octave setting, detune, portamento, auto-glide, vibrato, pitch envelope, pitch wheel etc., and outputs the correct binary representation of the CV. This is fed to a D/A converter and becomes the analog CV to the oscillator(s). 99% of these synths also have a feed-back loop to make sure the VCO tracks the CV exactly.... think of it as constant auto-tune.
The point is that the audio waves are generated by an actual analog oscillator, but constantly monitored by a digital CPU.

A DIGITAL WAVE GENERATOR is like the Korg DW-series: A digital sampler playing back a short loop of audio stored in memory. The CPU - as above - takes into consideration all the pitch factors for this note and modulated the output pitch of the sample. In this setting, these is no free-running analog oscillator, but a digital representation of an audio waveform scanned at a controled speed and converted to audio by a DAC.

My point is: A synth with DCOs is most likely NOT a hybrid... The actual audio wave comes from an analog oscillator no matter how deep it is buried in the digital circuitry.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:59 pm

I agree with gs and rhino just said.

The problem with the notion of a "hybrid" is that while a lot of people talk about hybrid this and hybrid that, it's really not a distinct or even sometimes distinguishable aspect. You may not be able to tell, in some cases, that a hybrid has a digital oscillator, or that it has an analog filter.

I think the term "hybrid" is distinctly misleading because in any other arena, a "hybrid" is something made of two different things in order to improve upon those two things... and that's just not how it came about. It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!" It was more like, "digital waves will give us more timbral variety and more stability." The analog filter was just a filter... no one was calling it an "analog filter" at that point. It was simply "a filter." It's hard to see these things from the perspective of now. No one called synthesizers like the ESQ-1 a "hybrid" until way into the nineties, and only when it became important for some to distinguish between various types of "vintage" synthesizers.

And while I totally agree with rhino, there was a period in the early part of the aughts when analog enthusists outright rejected DCO synths as being digital. This was because the pitch stability of them contrasted with the more fluid pitch of many (especially older) VCO synths. I know a lot of you wouldn't believe this, but in that time, Roland Junos were a dime a dozen, extremely cheap, and the synth you bought when you couldn't afford a "real analog" synth. At that point, no one every talked about them having a "warm sound," or anything of the sort. There had been an interesting shift.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by calyx93 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:28 pm

I asked Mr. Palm himself these questions: In what year did you produce/release the PPG 1020? Were PPG the first synthesizer company to produce a true digital/analog hybrid (digital oscillators through analog filter & VCA) synth?

And this was his answer: "Hi John, if i remember correctly, i developed the 1020 in 1976 or '77.
i dont think there was another (commercially available) synth with digital osc. at that time."

He uses the term digital oscillators in his response to me, and in Micke's quote from the PPG story, he mentions the availability of other waveforms and new spectra - so I can only assume that they're digitally generated waveforms, not just DCO's. You don't exactly see any typical DCO's offering more than just the standard waves or variations upon the standards (Alpha Juno synths).
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by redchapterjubilee » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:41 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
No. I think it was more along the lines of "Why can't we get a synthesizer into every home or gig rig of someone who plays keyboards?" and one of the chief complaints from people who gigged them was that true analog was unreliable. Another tact was probably "How can we make one keyboard fit the needs of one player as opposed to one player needing four keyboards for various sounds?" Hence, we get synthesizers that begin to be used in more of an emulative purpose, and not vaguely emulative like string synths (which I have been fooled by before) or stage pianos. With digital control and ultimately digitally-sampled waveforms you begin to offer synthesizers that can fit the bill of becoming "The One Synth" for live players AND be able to have them a bit more reliable AND more affordable. Talk to old school diehards like we spend so much time deifying on this board and many of them loath the instruments that made them famous. Sure they sounded great but they were a nightmare to use. We who use vintage synths are more in the vintage preservation society end of things who tend to value certain qualities that other more sane people would say are drawbacks.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:02 pm

redchapterjubilee wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
No. I think it was more along the lines of "Why can't we get a synthesizer into every home or gig rig of someone who plays keyboards?" and one of the chief complaints from people who gigged them was that true analog was unreliable. Another tact was probably "How can we make one keyboard fit the needs of one player as opposed to one player needing four keyboards for various sounds?" Hence, we get synthesizers that begin to be used in more of an emulative purpose, and not vaguely emulative like string synths (which I have been fooled by before) or stage pianos. With digital control and ultimately digitally-sampled waveforms you begin to offer synthesizers that can fit the bill of becoming "The One Synth" for live players AND be able to have them a bit more reliable AND more affordable. Talk to old school diehards like we spend so much time deifying on this board and many of them loath the instruments that made them famous. Sure they sounded great but they were a nightmare to use. We who use vintage synths are more in the vintage preservation society end of things who tend to value certain qualities that other more sane people would say are drawbacks.
The phrase you quoted was one I disagreed with, too...

I still don't necessarily agree with the notion that people wanted "more reliable" synths. Certainly, stability is a nice feature... but in the old days, we all just tuned like guitars do, and it wasn't a big deal except for people who didn't know how to tune, or didn't notice when they were out of tune. Of the synths I've ever had fail in a live setting, two of them were digital and only one of them was analog. The analog "failure" was merely a bit of dirt in the back tuning knob of an SH-3a, and tuning it from the front temporarily fixed the problem... whereas my EPS-16+ failed completely, as did my E-synth. I have toted the Minimoog, the PS-3100, SH-1000, Juno 106, CS-50 (yes, I'm serious), SH-3a, MonoPoly, well... let's just say that nearly every vintage analog synth I've ever owned has shared a stage with me at least once... and none of them actually failed... even though some were mostly 15-20 years older than they were back at the time where they were new. [this is not to say that analog synths never failed, of course they did... and frequently... but I don't think DCOs or digital waveform oscillators actually improved reliability]

All of that minutiae being said, I totally agree with your replacement phrase for the motivation of synth designers in the "hybrid" times. It really was about appealing to the largest market with the synth that would cover more bases than more primitive analog synths. I've told the story a hundred times on VSE, but everyone was just THRILLED that the ESQ-1 was a synthesizer which could finally do a "decent" piano sound!

In addition to that, it was only the old folks who wanted to embrace analog filters at the dawn of the consumer "hybrid." The rest of us wanted new digital sounds which sounded nothing like the corny stuff from the 70s.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by ninja6485 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:04 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
the ensoniq mirage manual would disagreewith you. i pleaded with it in your defense, but it just sat there content with getting dustier. :dontknow:
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:37 pm

ninja6485 wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
the ensoniq mirage manual would disagreewith you. i pleaded with it in your defense, but it just sat there content with getting dustier. :dontknow:
So, are you saying the manual says that Ensoniq was saying that the Mirage, due to combining digital wave oscillators (which it lacks) and an analog filter, is the best synthesizer (?) ever?
Because that'd be weird. And with at least two pretty large glaring untruths.
Maybe I need to argue with that manual directly.
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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by ninja6485 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:42 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:
ninja6485 wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
the ensoniq mirage manual would disagreewith you. i pleaded with it in your defense, but it just sat there content with getting dustier. :dontknow:
So, are you saying the manual says that Ensoniq was saying that the Mirage, due to combining digital wave oscillators (which it lacks) and an analog filter, is the best synthesizer (?) ever?
Because that'd be weird. And with at least two pretty large glaring untruths.
Maybe I need to argue with that manual directly.
it's still not talking to me, i think i offended it. it's having a rough nite...
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by GameChanger » Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:25 am

Automatic Gainsay wrote:
ninja6485 wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:It wasn't like companies said "If we could create a synth which combined the benefits of digital wave oscillators and analog filters, we'd have the coolest synth ever!"
the ensoniq mirage manual would disagreewith you. i pleaded with it in your defense, but it just sat there content with getting dustier. :dontknow:
So, are you saying the manual says that Ensoniq was saying that the Mirage, due to combining digital wave oscillators (which it lacks) and an analog filter, is the best synthesizer (?) ever?
Because that'd be weird. And with at least two pretty large glaring untruths.
Maybe I need to argue with that manual directly.
You may need to argue with more then one manual then because the K3 raves about the benifits of both digital & analog:

"the Kawai K3 synthesizer's digitally programmed sound sources give you the best of both worlds, lifelike samples and complete control of analog articulation"

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by steveman » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:42 am

rhino wrote: A DIGITAL CONTROLED OSCILLATOR (DCO) originaly meant a analog VCO controled by a computer. Example: Roland JX-10, Akai AX-80, etc. In this setting, there is an actual analog oscillator controled by a CV. That CV, however is generated by digital circuits. The CPU reads the keys, octave setting, detune, portamento, auto-glide, vibrato, pitch envelope, pitch wheel etc., and outputs the correct binary representation of the CV. This is fed to a D/A converter and becomes the analog CV to the oscillator(s). 99% of these synths also have a feed-back loop to make sure the VCO tracks the CV exactly.... think of it as constant auto-tune.
The point is that the audio waves are generated by an actual analog oscillator, but constantly monitored by a digital CPU.
Actually this isn't a DCO. What you are describing is a VCO polysynth, ie. scan the keyboard digitally, get a note value, generate CV from a D/A conversion of the this etc. This is how the tuning button on the Prophet 5 worked (mostly...). I notice also you mention VCOs.... All early 80s VCO polysynths used this method, as did the Andromeda - that latter of course uses the feedback path to ensre tight tuning.

There's no voltage control involved in a DCO. A master clocked is divided down to provide as many notes as are needed on the keyboard - note all the notes are derived from the same master clock, hence the reason DCO synths are often described as having a 'flat' sound versus free running VCOs. A DCO is a programmeable counter followed by a waveshapers. The ouputs from the counters clock are square / pulse waves so the waveshapers give us saws/triangles/PWM squares etc.
Detailed description of Roland DCOs here :Electric Druid
rhino wrote: My point is: A synth with DCOs is most likely NOT a hybrid... The actual audio wave comes from an analog oscillator no matter how deep it is buried in the digital circuitry.
Agree, DCO's are nothing to do with hybrids IMO. Shall we say the audio wave comes from an analogue source though? ;)

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by moremagic » Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:58 pm

Very true, steveman. One thing, though, a few DCO synths used multiple analog HF master oscs to add a bit of life back

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Re: What was the first digital-analog hybrid?

Post by rhino » Sun Oct 24, 2010 10:44 pm

steveman wrote:Actually this isn't a DCO. What you are describing is a VCO polysynth, ie. scan the keyboard digitally, get a note value, generate CV from a D/A conversion of the this etc. This is how the tuning button on the Prophet 5 worked (mostly...). I notice also you mention VCOs.... All early 80s VCO polysynths used this method, as did the Andromeda - that latter of course uses the feedback path to ensre tight tuning.

There's no voltage control involved in a DCO. A master clocked is divided down to provide as many notes as are needed on the keyboard - note all the notes are derived from the same master clock, hence the reason DCO synths are often described as having a 'flat' sound versus free running VCOs. A DCO is a programmeable counter followed by a waveshapers. The ouputs from the counters clock are square / pulse waves so the waveshapers give us saws/triangles/PWM squares etc.
IMHO what you are describing is a divide-down system used in string machines and organs (and a few combo instruments like the Apr Quartet. This is NOT how most polysynths work.
As for CVs while there ARE exception - Most DCO synths use a RC circuit to generate a ramp waveform. Commonly, the CPU and counter(s) send out a 'reset pulse' at the correct time to restart the wave for the next cycle. Trouble is, if the ramp rate is constant, higher frequencies will have lower output levels...the oscillator will be reset longer before it reaches peak voltage. SO, a CV is generated to increase the charge rate of the capacator. The faster 'rise time' allows the cap. to reach the same terminal voltage before the next cycle.
I think we are getting off topic by not agreeing on a definition of DCO. I stick with "an analog oscillator whos pitch is ultamatly controled by a digital command."
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