Synthesizers and their (true) sound

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Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by briandc » Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:20 pm

Hi all,
I'm posting this topic here, as the definition "synth technology" seemed most relevant (although it might be appropriate under the lounge section too).

I wanted to hear your opinions regarding synths and how their original sounds may or may not include added effects for.. well, added effect. Back in the days, I think synths probably couldn't permit chorus, reverb and EQ to "liven them up." But my Motif (for example, but I'm sure there are many others) seem to have lots of "added flavor" to their original sounds.

If we "strip down" the added effects of synths we get a much different (maybe less inticing?) result.

So how much do you rely on effects to make your synths sound good? Do you consider added effects "cheating?" So some synths sound particularly good solely because of the added effects? Do some synths have effects added under the hood, unbeknownst to the user?


All comments welcome!

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Feb 17, 2016 1:32 pm

As filters, equalizers, delays, chorus, flangers, phasers and schroeder-reverbs all rely on delay-lines, there's no point in assuming that some are "legal effects" and others aren't. I'd say that all these effects are welcome parts of any synthesizers. So there's no reason to be snobby about having less of 'm. :-)
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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by briandc » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:01 pm

CS_TBL wrote:As filters, equalizers, delays, chorus, flangers, phasers and schroeder-reverbs all rely on delay-lines, there's no point in assuming that some are "legal effects" and others aren't. I'd say that all these effects are welcome parts of any synthesizers. So there's no reason to be snobby about having less of 'm. :-)
So then when we talk about the specs of any given synth, shouldn't we talk about the *whole* processing line, from beginning to end? Generally this doesn't happen. There's talk about filters, waves, modulation, etc. But what if it's the reverb or some other "non-synth-specific" element that's making what you hear particularly good?


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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by madtheory » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:18 pm

Digital eq is delay, yes, but analogue eq is not.

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by pflosi » Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:38 pm

Analogue EQ is phaseshift :thumbleft:

Phasers are strictly talking not delays either, but allpass filters (making use of phaseshift as well) or comb filters.

People definitely talk plenty about effects. And the recording chains as well. Comps, EQs, preamps, AD / DA, monitoring, speakers, etc. No shortage of stuff to read on the webz.

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:41 pm

briandc wrote: So then when we talk about the specs of any given synth, shouldn't we talk about the *whole* processing line, from beginning to end? Generally this doesn't happen. There's talk about filters, waves, modulation, etc. But what if it's the reverb or some other "non-synth-specific" element that's making what you hear particularly good?
I'd say that the effects are an integral part of sound. So, a synth should also be judged by its effects. Heck, the influence of all the effects may be larger than the influence of oscs and filters...
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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by Mooger5 » Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:37 pm

The band Global Communication aka Link: aka Jedi Knights use and abuse effects. In fact they stated they don´t care about timbre as much as the effects. Their sound is all about the effects.

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:42 pm

briandc wrote:But what if it's the reverb or some other "non-synth-specific" element that's making what you hear particularly good?
Exhibit A:

Image

Remove the chorus and bass boost baked into the HPF and there's not much to get excited about ;)
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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by pflosi » Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:55 pm

Counter example:

Image

Engage the effects if you want to make it sound cheap and plasticy :thumbright:

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by briandc » Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:55 pm

So if the Juno 106 has bass boost "baked into" the HPF, how can it be compared to other synths (unless they have the same baked filter)? Otherwise, it would be an apples-and-oranges type of thing.
At the same time, if a person wants to emulate a 106, they will need to know that having a HPF won't be sufficient..


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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:00 pm

briandc wrote:how can it be compared to other synths
Well, maybe you shouldn't.

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:42 pm

briandc wrote:So if the Juno 106 has bass boost "baked into" the HPF, how can it be compared to other synths
At the lowest setting of the Juno's HPF the filter is wide open and there is a bass boost created with EQ. As you start to close the filter, the boost is filtered out. On the Juno 6 the HPF is a continuous control, on the other Junos, it is a switch. When switched from 0 to 1, you get the flat sound of the Juno which is less beefy (doh). There's nothing in the manual telling you that there is a built-in bass boost. Is that cheating?

It's just a feature to make the synth sound thicker than it would otherwise. So if you played a Juno alongside some competing polysynth and thought, "wow this thing is super fat and that other synth is a wimpy POS" do you even care that it is just EQ? After all, you could EQ the other synth easily enough and then maybe you'd like it over the Juno.

The only reason anyone even knows about the bass boost is because years ago some folks opened a Juno up and looked at the circuitry trying to see what Roland did to make it sound so good. The answer was they EQed it ;)
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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Feb 17, 2016 8:54 pm

briandc wrote:So if the Juno 106 has bass boost "baked into" the HPF, how can it be compared to other synths (unless they have the same baked filter)? Otherwise, it would be an apples-and-oranges type of thing.
Why are people so obsessed with comparing synths? They're not made for comparing, they're made for playing. :idea:

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by monolith » Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:42 am

meatballfulton wrote:
briandc wrote:But what if it's the reverb or some other "non-synth-specific" element that's making what you hear particularly good?
Exhibit A:

Image

Remove the chorus and bass boost baked into the HPF and there's not much to get excited about ;)
I hardly ever use the chorus on my Juno, or at all on synths. Coming from a guitar background, I've always found chorus a one way ticket to a horrible sound (with a few exceptions ) but when I got in to synths I was and still am amazed how most discussions about a synth always have many people saying "but put some chorus on it and sounds 10x better" I understand it's all subjective, but it seems like chorus is such a crutch for synth heads. Or maybe just those of an '80's inclination. I don't get it! :D

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Re: Synthesizers and their (true) sound

Post by Solderman » Thu Feb 18, 2016 5:56 am

I tend to put effects into two categories: Parallel and Serial(aka. Insert)

In the case of parallel, the perceived sound is the balance and interaction between the wet and dry signals, so this isn't really synthesis, it's mixing. It's additive. To "liven them up" is likely the goal of the combined tracks in any mix, the whole becoming more than the sum of its parts. Room reflections are a common example. Any sonic process where psychosomatically you expect to hear a room reflection but don't hear one, only a quiet dry sound, could be seen as sounding less full and less natural and thus perhaps not as good, like something is missing. Conversely however, for a very wet sound, the effect can obscure the source so much it's noticeably only an effect.
For instance, a long reverb decay added to a piano sample as the source might sound very similar to a synthesized piano sound as a source, if the effects balance is less dry. Any effect such as this that uses regenerative feedback is adding to the original while depending on it. Another example would be instead of mixing in a delay, mix several takes of the same part, but alter their start time. It's become like a delay, only not an exact copy of each other, so could instead be thought of more like many "true" sounds added together into one performance, which delays and chorus effects are often meant to economically mimic.

In the case of serial, this could be thought of as being closer to actual synthesis, or part of a chain that makes up one "true" sound. This is especially true in modular or semi-modular, where an effect can be inserted basically anywhere after at least one oscillator. Some effects can even respond to control signals, also perhaps used elsewhere in this chain, to make sound creation part of the cohesive whole, still perceived as one "true" sound.

For the process of re-amping, the microphone is sometimes also picking up room-reflections, so could perhaps be thought of as both.

So how different would a filter/EQ be to bit-reduction or some other distortion in the serial context? Maybe one is additive of harmonics and the other subtractive. Even a sub-oscillator is an effect in this context. Something like pitch-shift is mostly the same sound just perceived differently. Then algorithmic effects like granulation or wrapping with one signal, or effects like ring-modulation, vocoding or convolution that combine two or more signals, will create something totally different.

And fwiw, I think some synths benefit from no serial effects because they have identifiable character that is complex as changes occur in the synthesis chain itself. Anything from two oscillators beating at a similar pitch in an odd way, to pre-filter or amp distortion, to non-linearities in how modules react to control signals, to phase distortions caused by the modules themselves, to just adding in more noise. A "perfect" design lacks these flaws as features, perceived as a more interesting dry sound.

Finally, I think the Juno chorus is considered such an integral part of its sound because of expectations of the user as to what they think a synthesizer should sound like, namely should feign the effects of two detuned oscillators mixed when having the limitation of only one available. The Jupiter 4 also does this, but it's very apparent in unison mode that the VCO's are NOT in perfect tune with each other like in the Junos, so you can get more interaction between voices without the Jupiter 4 chorus activated.
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