Sweet spot synths

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KBD_TRACKER
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Sweet spot synths

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:16 am

I am seeing people talking about the sweet spot of synths. So I was wondering if this is a recent topic in synth-land. Clearly it is about the settings configuration that specifically procure "desired" or "useful" or "pleasing" sounds.

One could say that a sweet spot for person X is not necessarily a sweet spot for person Y and that person Z might not like at all this sweet spot. But generally it seems that there is a consensus about what a synth sweet spot is (and also whether there is NO sweet spot for that machine).

But I wonder if people talked about sweet spots for a jupiter 8, or a korg mono poly, or a minimoog, or even an andromeda.
For example the minibrute sweet spot seems (among other things) about not raising the osc. levels above a certain level (and not touching the "metallizer" knob...). For that synth the sweet spot seems very sharply defined and very small in its "area".
In other words staying within the minibrute sweet spot implies being VERY careful about certain settings and ignoring/not using the rest of the parameter range for many buttons or knobs. (minibrute used as an example, nothing derogatory).

So do all synths have a sweet spot ? Is this good ? Does one feel that all these parameter ranges NOT being very"useable" are sort of a waste of circuitry (and of course money) ? Why do manufacturers create certain machines with such a tiny sweet spot and with such contrasting sound in-SS outside-SS, and others are blessed with such large sweet spot that indeed it is not anymore a sweet spot per se ? Finally is a synth sweet spot unpremeditated by the manufacturer ? Is it a result of components or design choices ?

All these questions interest me because it feels often in modern machines that VERY FEW and NARROW settings are useable in a musical way, and the rest of the machine capability is about producing ungodly, demented screechings, squealings and howlings, etc.
(which to be just, may be viewed as highly respectable in some circles ...).

(Disclaimer: not to say that my programming "skills" could not explain this personal experience :mrgreen: )

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by tomorrowstops » Mon Jun 29, 2015 1:36 pm

Interesting topic...

I consider the concept of 'sweet spot' as a timbral reference which I think is largely defined by filter design.

To me, a great sounding instrument maintains a pleasant (non-fatiguing) timbre no matter what knob tweaking brings. A well designed filter circuit would have to sound great at low, mid and high frequencies (as well as resonant ones!)

And, of course, its subjective to the ears of the beholder. I described my tastes in terms of 'pleasant', but then there is the concept of 'harsh' as well, which can definitely be desirable as well!

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by Hybrid88 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:20 pm

tomorrowstops wrote:...To me, a great sounding instrument maintains a pleasant (non-fatiguing) timbre no matter what knob tweaking brings...
This. It's really the explanation behind why the phrase "sweet spot" is thrown around so much.

Basically, I see it as you've described, a synth that sounds good on a very wide range of settings. The complication comes with the fact that a lot of people think harsh grating noise is "pleasant" too, so you're going to see a bit of debate on the matter ;)

The easiest way I can think of explaining it is to just recommend you try a vintage Minimoog in person, and you'll instantly understand what it means. On a lot of synths when you have an ok sound, if you tweak it an infinitesimal amount it falls apart and just sounds c**p. On the Minimoog, (and most classics you hear about all the time) you can really tweak it to the extremes and it still sounds 'right'. Hard to explain in words but it's got a lot to do with tone and what we find pleasing to listen to.
KBD_TRACKER wrote:...So do all synths have a sweet spot ? Is this good ?
I believe so yes, although the caveat as with most things is that it is on a spectrum from wide to narrow. Some synths are great workhorses with a wide variety of useful tones, and others... well they're the one trick pony's (forgive the equine metaphors haha) :)

Is it good? Well, it means you can either spend a lot of time and effort collecting a crapload of pretty limited sounding synths that you may or may not wish you didn't bother with, or you can just buy a few quality synths and keep using them for many years. The choice is yours as they say. :geek:

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by sam » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:43 pm

Some synths you have to work with to find those sweet spots, ie the andromeda needs work but on the other scale a Juno 60 or even jupiter 8 is full of them...in fact it's difficult to make a 60 sound not sweet.
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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by minime123 » Tue Jun 30, 2015 8:46 pm

there are a bunch of synths that are useless for certain types of sounds but which are great for others. the roland jupiter-6 (whose resonance can suck) and eml-101 (whose resonance can also suck) are two great examples, as is the korg ps3100/ korg ps3300. some others sound good no matter what, such as the minimoog model D and roland juno-60.
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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by Rokk » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:11 pm

It depends in what context we talk about the sweet spot. We can talk about finding spots where a particular synth sounds good or we can talk about synths with a sweet spot all over them.

I played many different synths in the past 14 years. I'd say Roland Junos have a very wide sweet spot. Basically they never sound bad, no matter what you do.
Yamaha AN1x also has a pretty wide sweet spot. Sweet until you hit oscillator phase problems when played polyphonic stuff.
I find Arturia Minibrute, contrary to what people say to have quite big sweet spot, too. Sure, it will start growling and screaming when you push it, but that sounds good. It rarely sounds bad, actually. But of course, this is subjective. I mean, I had synths that sounded awful when pushed, so Minibrute gets thumbs up for this.
Nord Lead 2/2x also has sweet spot all over it. The filter can screw it up sometimes, but the rest works in any setting.

On the contrary, Yamaha DX7 has very narrow sweet spots here and there and you really have to learn where they are. You find it, the synth sounds great and then just another tweak and you're in a sour spot :)
Another synth with a narrow sweet spot imo is Oberheim OB12.

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by briandc » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:48 pm

Is it about finding a sweet spot, or about discovering the synth's character? I've spent hours with a synth, not able to find sounds that really mattered much. Then one day, neat stuff started coming out, and it was a pleasure to use.

Now, I may have hit a sweet spot. But to me, it seemed I was discovering the personality of the synth for the first time. (One of the most exciting things about sound synthesis, I'd say!)
And I think that there is much more personality to be discovered, if I get the time to tweak it enough.

Sometimes it takes patience. And what one synth's settings will give, another synth at the same settings will not. And in my humble opinion, the textbooks don't help much when it comes to getting to know a synth. (In fact, the textbooks might even be a hindrance!)


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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by synthRodriguez » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:11 am

I played a lot of synths and after many years afforded an OB-Xa. That (properly calibrated) thing is just one giant sweet spot. Woof.

It needs effects to make it truly useful of course as with all the old gear, but damn. It's hard to find any patch on the thing that sounds bad, whatever that subjective term means. I know what it means to me.

YMMV.

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by mute » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:36 am

Yes and no.

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Re: Sweet spot synths

Post by briandc » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:44 pm

I'd like to bump this thread, I think it's a really good topic; perhaps one of the most important as far as synthesizers go.

Are there any synths that do NOT have a sweet spot? I don't think so. I think each has it's own; perhaps some synths have "larger" sweet spots, in that it is maybe easier to find good sounds, and others have "smaller" sweet spots, that the average user might not discover unless they have the patience. Personally, I think every synth has areas where it "shows its character."

I spend quite a bit of time with software synths, and I would say that most of my time is spent looking for sweet spots. It's part of the fun of trying out different instruments. Of course, depending on what type of sound you're looking for (as has been mentioned earlier here), you may find more or less.


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