Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

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Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 29, 2016 1:44 pm

Often people discuss the sonic characteristics or "flavor" of various filters, whether Curtis, or Moog or Steiner Parker, etc.. Now, about the oscillators: I would assume each one has its own way of creating a square wave (more or less square,..) or saw wave (more or less saw-like, ..) , so that looking at it with an oscilloscope one could tell the waves differences.

But more realistically sound-wise, if you could take different oscillators from different manufacturers (all VCOs or all DCOs), all set to the same frequency and same wave forms, and all hooked to the same VCA, could one really distinguish them ?

I am asking this because usually the timbre of acoustic instruments is defined by the overtones or harmonics, but here comparing square waves with square waves, or triangle waves with triangle waves, the overtones should be identical in % and distribution whatever the different manufacturers.
And so if you could remove the oscillators from say a minibrute and replace them with ones from say a moog little phatty or vice versa, one could maybe imagine that there would not be much sound difference at all .... (of course assuming electrical compatibility between the different circuits and osc. components).
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Mooger5 » Fri Jan 29, 2016 2:59 pm

Wave shapes vary across the range. Triangle core vs saw core sync different. A square wave derived from a saw core isn´t a perfect square. There´s the crossover distortion in triangle waves. V/Oct vcos vs linear can detune different. Noise in the power rails and temperature instability add jitter to the frequency. All of these have some impact in the harmonics. That said, two distinct saws at full buzz can sound similar enough that no one could probably tell the difference.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by pflosi » Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:11 pm

Short answer: yes :thumbright:

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Bitexion » Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:15 pm

If you zoom in on the waveforms of various analogue synths, you will see they don't look quite the same. None have perfect sawtooth shape, perfect square shape. There's always some anomaly, like spikes at the end of each pulse, or misshapen sawtooth with spikes at the "sharp ends" etc. Those create slightly different tonal characteristics. Which is why some like one VCO better than another. Mostly just nerds like us who even care.

There is no "best" oscillator, because every human being perceives sound differently.

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by commodorejohn » Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:42 pm

Yes, definitely. I can hear a clear difference between the sawtooth waveform on my MS-20 Mini, JP-6, and JX-10.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Solderman » Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:08 pm

As a more visual example, the rectangle waveform in the MFB Kraftzwerg, which apparently is the same as his previous Synth II product, is practically a weaker amplitude sawtooth waveform, within a synchronized dc offset on each side, that inverts after the duty cycle completes. Here's a screenshot of two of those waveforms mixed, one an octave above the other:
Image

Notice the start of each interval has a bit of wobble that is slightly different each time. To me, this shape makes the waveform sound fuller than a traditional rectangle shape, but as you can see, it also takes up more headroom, especially at full filter cutoff settings.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Walter Ego » Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:44 pm

Solderman wrote:As a more visual example, the rectangle waveform in the MFB Kraftzwerg, which apparently is the same as his previous Synth II product, is practically a weaker amplitude sawtooth waveform, within a synchronized dc offset on each side, that inverts after the duty cycle completes. Here's a screenshot of two of those waveforms mixed, one an octave above the other:
Image

Notice the start of each interval has a bit of wobble that is different each time. This would likely register audibly as noise. To me, this shape makes the waveform sound fuller than a traditional rectangle shape, but as you can see, it also takes up more headroom, especially at full filter cutoff settings.
(In answer to the OP) I have no expertise in this area, but what I glean is that the above example illustrates what Voltage Controlled Oscillators do--they oscillate based on voltages. Voltages which are a part of the physical world. And as such, they are subject to everything that physical objects are subject to. But it's done with transistors and physical circuits that attempt to approximate those waveforms using different methods. It's a very different method from creating a wave in a purely digital domain and sending it out a DAC to a filter or running it through a digital filter. You can create "perfect" waveforms digitally, but they tend to sound more basic without the same kind of subtle character differences that come from different types of VCOs or other ways of generating a waveform. For example, you can use a vacuum tube as an oscillator, the way Metasonix does in his instruments, but if you look at the waveforms with the filter completely open, you'll see major "imperfections". That's part of the draw for analogue instruments. The more finely tuned and stable the waveform becomes, the more clean it usually sounds. The new Minilogue demos I've heard sound great, but I have to admit most of the demos have a very clean and bright sound. I'm guessing this is because the oscillators are very stable and able to generate highly controlled waveforms.

This is a little OT, but I really like the sound of the Monotron oscillators actually. If you look at the waveform on an oscilloscope, it appears to be something between a pulse and saw. When you hit the cross modulation sweet spot, it appears as a kind of fractal toothed saw/pulse. Sorry, I don't have an image example to post.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by madtheory » Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:25 pm

There is definitely an audible difference. As mentioned tuning and scaling will vary too. There aren't that many synths that use a DAC and a look up table. There's a wide variety of ways to do a DCO, all of which are audibly different, and none of which sound like a DAC setup.

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:45 pm

commodorejohn wrote:Yes, definitely. I can hear a clear difference between the sawtooth waveform on my MS-20 Mini, JP-6, and JX-10.
I understand, but you could not really compare because the final sound of the oscillators go through the MS20, JP6, JX10, etc. own VCA, filter, mods, etc. Not to mention the practical impossibility of setting exactly identically for each compared synth the mass of settings and parameters involved in.

My argument was that the main personality of a synth doesn't really come from the oscillators, which probably are quite sound-generic and not very "special" sonically, but from the circuitry that goes after the oscillators.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:57 pm

Bitexion wrote:If you zoom in on the waveforms of various analogue synths, you will see they don't look quite the same. None have perfect sawtooth shape, perfect square shape. There's always some anomaly, like spikes at the end of each pulse, or misshapen sawtooth with spikes at the "sharp ends" etc. Those create slightly different tonal characteristics. Which is why some like one VCO better than another. Mostly just nerds like us who even care.

There is no "best" oscillator, because every human being perceives sound differently.
Somehow, I believe that looking at a wave form through a scope can be sort of self-fulfilling: the hear wants to hear what the eyes see. So that albeit no square wave is ever similar to another, what comes out of the synth is mainly determined by the post-osc. "personality" of the filter, VCA, mods, LFOs, etc. In other words leaving aside minor micro-differences in wave shape, most oscillators imo are sort of generic, like different brands of milk: they do differ but overall very little in comparison with what's done to them .

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Solderman » Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:01 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote:My argument was that the main personality of a synth doesn't really come from the oscillators, which probably are quite sound-generic and not very "special" sonically, but from the circuitry that goes after the oscillators.
Since the oscillators are the tone source, they are indeed more of a "raw-materials" aspect of subtractive synthesis. However certain VCO characteristics such as tuning drift, interval timing imperfections or other distortions and pitch scaling issues, all reveal themselves as less tonal personality and more musical behavior that may or may not be useful.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Jan 29, 2016 11:58 pm

Once you play a modular system with different oscillators you realise they all sound quite different. Why else would there be hundreds of different oscillators for sale if they all sounded the same?

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by commodorejohn » Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:17 am

KBD_TRACKER wrote:I understand, but you could not really compare because the final sound of the oscillators go through the MS20, JP6, JX10, etc. own VCA, filter, mods, etc. Not to mention the practical impossibility of setting exactly identically for each compared synth the mass of settings and parameters involved in.
Well, yeah, technically you can't remove the oscillator from the entire rest of the signal chain (except on a modular.) But leaving the filter wide open with resonance off is (with rare exception) as close as makes no difference on almost any synthesizer (barring, say, the third-revision Odyssey where the maximum cutoff was well within audio range.) And within those parameters, there's definitely a noticeable difference.

And yeah, oscillators are only the starting point of sound creation on a synthesizer (except when you're working with FM.) But raw materials make a difference in the end product, no matter how much munging you do to them in between.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:48 am

There definitely is a clearly audible difference between the oscillators of a Mk. 1 Odyssey and later revisions of the Odyssey. Early Odysseys tend to sound fuzzy and drifting, later Odyssey veer towards the sterile.

Oscillators are the ground coffee beans from which you brew your favourite drink -- the filter just makes sure that as little coffee powder as possible ends up in the pot.

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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Broadwave » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:51 am

ppg_wavecomputer wrote:There definitely is a clearly audible difference between the oscillators of a Mk. 1 Odyssey and later revisions of the Odyssey. Early Odysseys tend to sound fuzzy and drifting, later Odyssey veer towards the sterile.
I completely agree with you - The sync/ringmod combo on the MKI also sounds far more aggressive :twisted:

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