Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

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

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:00 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:Once you play a modular system with different oscillators you realise they all sound quite different.
Interesting. But like 2 identical resistors with same ratings from different manufacturers may not have exactly the same value, I imagine it's all about degrees.
I was just wondering about the extent (and musical import) of these oscillators differences.
Stab Frenzy wrote:Why else would there be hundreds of different oscillators for sale if they all sounded the same?
Well ..... I can not really answer that without the risk of sounding cynical.

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

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:30 am

An oscillator is not at all like a resistor, comparing the two is a bit pointless. ;) An oscillator is a collection of components arranged in different ways by different designers to achieve approximately the same thing in different ways, but the different techniques used change the outcomes and so they have different characters.

You don't have to take my word for it, if you've already made up your mind that doesn't really effect my life, but if you're interested in learning something then there are a lot of knowledgable people who are willing to share that knowledge with you.

If I get some time to spare I'll record the square waves from a bunch of different oscillators in my system and post them for you to have a listen.

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

Post by pflosi » Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:05 am

Even the two available square waves on a Cwejman VCO6 sound different to each other... And especially, react completely differently to PWM.

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

Post by madtheory » Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:09 pm

Broadwave wrote:
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:
Most likely due to noise, like the sawtooth example posted earlier.

A wide open filter is fairly transparent, a VCA less so. But I would guess that the imperfections in any oscillator are several orders of magnitude greater than VCA distortions.

But Stab is right. The best proof is a bunch of square wave recordings from his oscillators. Or maybe he will withhold that evidence because it will prove that all oscillators are the same, but we are all subject to cognitive bias :)

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

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:24 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:An oscillator is not at all like a resistor, comparing the two is a bit pointless. ;) An oscillator is a collection of components arranged in different ways by different designers to achieve approximately the same thing in different ways, but the different techniques used change the outcomes and so they have different characters.
My point about resistors or capacitors or transformers or whatever..... was that for a given rating or specific purpose or characteristic there will always be variations due to process variability. I don't expect 2 oscillators putting out a square wave at 440 Hz to be an exception.
Stab Frenzy wrote:You don't have to take my word for it, if you've already made up your mind that doesn't really effect my life, but if you're interested in learning something then there are a lot of knowledgable people who are willing to share that knowledge with you.
Of course, no disrespect intended .. :). I do not have my mind made up yet, but I do believe that the "finger print" sound of a naked oscillator may be far less determinant to the overall sonic personality of a synth, than is commonly held.
Stab Frenzy wrote:If I get some time to spare I'll record the square waves from a bunch of different oscillators in my system and post them for you to have a listen.
That would be an interesting comparison, assuming that each oscillator is to be tuned to the exact same frequency, same wave form, same dB level, and whose output is to be processed the same way.

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

Post by GuyaGuy » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:19 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote: My point about resistors or capacitors or transformers or whatever..... was that for a given rating or specific purpose or characteristic there will always be variations due to process variability. I don't expect 2 oscillators putting out a square wave at 440 Hz to be an exception.

Of course, no disrespect intended .. :). I do not have my mind made up yet, but I do believe that the "finger print" sound of a naked oscillator may be far less determinant to the overall sonic personality of a synth, than is commonly held.
It's not all that esoteric and it's concretely demonstrable--not just a matter of opinion. Like others have explained, a square wave from a synth is rarely a perfect square and a sine rarely a perfect sine. The variation of the waveform compared to other oscillators results in a comparatively different sound. Now whether or not it defines the the personality of a synth or is all that important gets into opinion.

Anyhow, here's just one more example:

Image

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

Post by commodorejohn » Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:09 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote:Of course, no disrespect intended .. :). I do not have my mind made up yet, but I do believe that the "finger print" sound of a naked oscillator may be far less determinant to the overall sonic personality of a synth, than is commonly held.
It really depends on the synthesizer. Sure, I'm probably not going to hear raw oscillators in the mix and go "oh, that's a Jupiter-6!" or whatever. On the other hand, the incredibly distinctive oscillators are the main reason I can tell that the synthesizer on this song is an Odyssey, without any kind of official inside information (no other synth I've heard sounds quite like that when doing that.)
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Sat Jan 30, 2016 7:29 pm

GuyaGuy wrote:
KBD_TRACKER wrote: My point about resistors or capacitors or transformers or whatever..... was that for a given rating or specific purpose or characteristic there will always be variations due to process variability. I don't expect 2 oscillators putting out a square wave at 440 Hz to be an exception.

Of course, no disrespect intended .. :). I do not have my mind made up yet, but I do believe that the "finger print" sound of a naked oscillator may be far less determinant to the overall sonic personality of a synth, than is commonly held.
It's not all that esoteric and it's concretely demonstrable--not just a matter of opinion. Like others have explained, a square wave from a synth is rarely a perfect square and a sine rarely a perfect sine. The variation of the waveform compared to other oscillators results in a comparatively different sound. Now whether or not it defines the the personality of a synth or is all that important gets into opinion.

Anyhow, here's just one more example:

Image
Thanks for putting up these graphs.
But looking at the 2 curves the minimoog wavelength is 10 units, that of the voyager is 9.5 units so already there is a frequency setting discrepancy of 5%: they are not tuned. If I remember correctly the difference in frequency between A and A# is only about 4.3 % ......

As far as the (bi) amplitude that of the minimoog signal is 5 units, that of the voyager is 6 units, so that there is an amplitude discrepancy: their sound level is not properly matched: the voyager raw oscillator will sound 20% louder.
End result: of course these oscillators won't (and can't) sound alike: they are not properly set to sound alike.

But to be fair there is a bottom notch on the voyager wave that's not present on the minimoog's. So here there is a difference that's not due to mismatched settings, and which might lead to an intrinsic sound "difference".
The question remains: is this notch going to be more than barely perceptible, particularly after post-osc. processing... ? :)
Last edited by KBD_TRACKER on Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by madtheory » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:50 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote:The question remains: how perceptible that notch is, particularly after post-osc. processing...
Go do some tests with all of the oscillators you have available, and read up on filter and VCA specs so you can see how they may affect the tone. But it is negligible. That spike there is not caused by the filter or the VCA of either Moog. If the filter or VCA distorted that much in normal use, it would imply that it is broken. VCA distortion wouldn't show up at that V/div setting on the 'scope. You should see what level they're at on the data sheets of, for example, CEM or SSM stuff.

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

Post by Ashe37 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:04 am

Take those images of the two different waveforms, run the audio through spectrum analysis, and show it to us. I can practically guarantee there is a different in harmonic distribution, which would basically prove the point: different oscillators sound different.

Or we could just ask Urs Heckman.

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

Post by Walter Ego » Sun Jan 31, 2016 3:57 am

Pretty much everyone who has responded on this thread has said some version of the same thing: yes, oscillators have unique tones and sonic characteristics.

Here's another example that someone else may have to volunteer some technical knowledge for. KORG used the same OTA filter in the later MS-20 models, Poly-61 and Poly-800. Maybe in the Mono/Poly and PolySix as well? I don't know. At any rate, the oscillators sound different from each other in each of those instruments; they have a unique sound even though they share the same filter circuit.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by piRoN » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:48 am

KBD_TRACKER wrote:Thanks for putting up these graphs.
But looking at the 2 curves the minimoog wavelength is 10 units, that of the voyager is 9.5 units so already there is a frequency setting discrepancy of 5%: they are not tuned. If I remember correctly the difference in frequency between A and A# is only about 4.3 % ......
Um... so? You should be looking at the shape of them, which is visibly different. The first one is showing visible "shark-finning", has otherwise good linearity of the slopes, and no visible reset glitch. The second has better symmetry, significant nonlinearity in the slopes, and a visible reset glitch at the bottom.
KBD_TRACKER wrote:As far as the (bi) amplitude that of the minimoog signal is 5 units, that of the voyager is 6 units, so that there is an amplitude discrepancy: their sound level is not properly matched: the voyager raw oscillator will sound 20% louder.
End result: of course these oscillators won't (and can't) sound alike: they are not properly set to sound alike.
I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say here.
KBD_TRACKER wrote:But to be fair there is a bottom notch on the voyager wave that's not present on the minimoog's. So here there is a difference that's not due to mismatched settings, and which might lead to an intrinsic sound "difference".
The question remains: is this notch going to be more than barely perceptible, particularly after post-osc. processing... ? :)
As has been said repeatedly by everyone else in the thread: yes. Along with the aforementioned other significant differences between the two. And that's before you get into frequency-domain stuff like pitch variation (fluctuations in the expo converter etc.), tracking and scaling, bandwidth limitations, etc, etc...

I'm about 90% of the way through designing a discrete oscillator at the moment, and I can list pages of points in a design where you can get variation of the output. And differences can be audible well before you can pick them out easily on a scope - the human ear is an incredibly fine instrument.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by Steve Jones » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:15 am

Some VCO's do indeed have a sound, I hear that every day at my workshop. I wonder if an un-mentioned factor that might possibly effect the sound of different VCO's is slew rate? It's one thing to look at scope traces showing waveforms comparing different VCO's running at a set frequency but what happens when you play a note two octaves higher?

I would be interested to see what happens in various VCO's when they change frequency - Do they do it gracefully or do they ring or change level or wave symmetry as they stabilise at the new note or do other odd things when their CV jumps to a new level and they have to shift frequency suddenly.
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Re: Do different oscillators have their "own" sound ?

Post by pflosi » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:32 am

Steve mentions a very important point. Modulation is key. How does it react to pitch CV? How about supersonic FM? PWM? Sync? How does it sound if you mix several of the oscs (out of phase w/ each other or not)? Octaves apart? And so on.

OP, do you not have different synths in any form? Can be anything, VST, whatever you want. Why not compare for yourself?

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

Post by madtheory » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:43 am

piRoN wrote:
KBD_TRACKER wrote: End result: of course these oscillators won't (and can't) sound alike: they are not properly set to sound alike.
I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say here.
It's probably a bit pedantic. But it is a consideration. For a proper AB test, any differences we can eliminate should be eliminated. It's well known that if A is louder than B, A is perceived as sounding "better". The pitch also will affect the perception of loudness.

So if we're doing a blind AB listening test, not using an oscilloscope to display waveforms, it's important to "level the playing field".

To hear if the oscillator changes shape when frequency is changed, or takes time to settle, we could probably use a MIDI file. But then it gets complicated- MIDI processing delay in the synth, scaling and tuning differences, etc. All interesting, but a little outside the scope of the original question which is purely about timbre.

And we should test DCOs as well, not just VCOs.

Surely someone did this test years ago already on muffwiggler?

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