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Beginner's question about oscillator
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Beginner's question about oscillator
Branconnier
Hi everyone, I'm new to the modular.

I need some explanations about the oscillator.

What's is the difference between a wavetable oscillator, a complex oscillator and a standard oscillator?

What is the use intended?

Any suggestions?

Thanks
mosorensen
There are a thousand different types of oscillators, so this may be overly simplified, but the basic idea is the following:

A standard oscillator can generate basic waveforms, like a sine wave, a triangle, a saw, and a square, at different frequencies. Some oscillators have separate outs for each waveform, others have a selector to select the waveform. They may also have various other features.

The standard oscillator is a basic building block of synths. Their problem is that they pretty quickly sound pretty boring. And you need more complex waveforms, and changing waveforms, to make the sound interesting.

One way to do this is to change (or modulate) the oscillator's frequency quickly. That takes two oscillators, where the output of the first one determines the frequency of the second one. This is frequency modulation (FM), and it creates a much broader range of sounds (or timbres). You could patch that up with two standard oscillator modules, and many people do that. But since it is a standard setup, it is natural to combine the two oscillators in a single module (along with other features, typically a wavefolder). In a nutshell, that's a complex oscillator.

Another way to make interesting waveforms is to have the oscillator just output them directly. For example, the oscillator could read the waveform in a table (you see where this is going), and the waveform in this table can then have a complex harmonic pattern. By moving though the table, selecting different waveforms, the sound can change in interesting ways. In a nutshell, that is a wavetable oscillator.

My own view (and many will disagree) is that there are so many fascinating oscillators available today, that there is not much point in getting a module that is just a standard oscillator (say, Make Noise STO). The two basic'ish oscillators I use are Plaits (Mutable Instruments) and Twin Waves (Klavis). Both are excellent. They can both do the basic waveforms, when needed, but they also do so much more than that.
luketeaford
An oscillator is something that repeats and is therefore suitable for pitch-- you may know the basic type of functions like sine wave, triangle wave, square(pulse), ramp/sawtooth from hardwired synths.

A wavetable oscillator looks up the values to create a complex waveform and map that to pitch-- that's kind of a bad explanation, but you get the idea. It generates a rich timbre.

A "complex" oscillator is a marketing term that usually means there is a dedicated modulation oscillator (which may go into LFO territories) and have some normalized connections to the "primary" oscillator. Frequently linear/exponential FM and/or amplitude and shape controls are common.

In common patching strategies that mimic hardwired instruments, the oscillator determines the pitch of the sound.

In modular patching, you may choose to use an oscillator as a clock, as a modulation source (at audio rate or not), as an input to a sample and hold, etc.
dburpasaurus
mosorensen wrote:


My own view (and many will disagree) is that there are so many fascinating oscillators available today, that there is not much point in getting a module that is just a standard oscillator (say, Make Noise STO). The two basic'ish oscillators I use are Plaits (Mutable Instruments) and Twin Waves (Klavis). Both are excellent. They can both do the basic waveforms, when needed, but they also do so much more than that.


Very nice explanation of the different types btw.

I am going to refute your last point even though you admitted many will disagree hyper - mostly just for the sake of providing the OP with some additional info.

Two "basic" oscillators with some clever modulation could easily generate very unique and interesting results just as well as a wavetable osc could. Arguably going this route allows the signal path to be more "custom" and therefore can be catered to someone's individual sound. You could obviously modulate a wavetable osc the same way and perhaps get an interesting result as well although sometimes modulating an already complex waveform doesn't add much to the timbre it just makes it - noisier. I love wavetable oscillators and I am not advocating against them, but they (along with complex oscs) are generally more expensive and take up more space compared to a more basic osc. Funds and space permitting, it could be valuable to have a couple basic oscillators for exploring a more "modular" approach to interesting timbres in addition to a couple more interesting oscillators or even samplers.

I used to be convinced I needed the fanciest, most intricate osc to get an interesting sound until I saw some (much more knowledgeable) modular artists get really creative with just a pair of dixies, for example.
Grumble
Quote:
There will be phase shift between input and output and oscillation occurs when phase shift equals or exceeds 180 degree at any frequency where the open loop gain is greater than unity (actually always in practice at a range of frequencies.)

So I wonder, is it even correct to call a wavetable oscillator (and digital oscillators as a whole) an oscillator?
Shouldn’t this type of devices be called Generators?
MarcelP
Grumble wrote:
Quote:
There will be phase shift between input and output and oscillation occurs when phase shift equals or exceeds 180 degree at any frequency where the open loop gain is greater than unity (actually always in practice at a range of frequencies.)

So I wonder, is it even correct to call a wavetable oscillator (and digital oscillators as a whole) an oscillator?
Shouldn’t this type of devices be called Generators?


Oscillation is regular variation about a point - a pendulum swinging to and fro, walking thither and yon, emotions swinging from depression to euphoria - regardless of why it happens. So a wavetable oscillator is an oscillator.

Though I take your point - from early physics lessons we tend to think of oscillation as occurring, in a physical sense, as positional variation around a point due to instability in a system - ie pendulums and simple harmonic motion - but remember a dot on a rotating wheel is also simple harmonic motion and an oscillation.
cptnal
I like this one. Loopop demonstrates how you can recreate a wavetable oscillator with analogue components. Illustrates the concept nicely.

Branconnier
Thanks a lot for the explanation!
Blairio
mosorensen wrote:
My own view (and many will disagree) is that there are so many fascinating oscillators available today, that there is not much point in getting a module that is just a standard oscillator (say, Make Noise STO).
and

An STO is far from standard, incorporating as it does wave folding/shaping and an s-trig controlled sub oscillator .

If by standard you mean that the oscillator produces a selection of basic waveforms, then a Doepfer A-110 is a better example, and none the worse for it.
Cybananna
Some of my favorite oscillators are standard oscillators. You can modulate them how you want
cptnal
Cybananna wrote:
Some of my favorite oscillators are standard oscillators. You can modulate them how you want


Indeed. One of the attractions of modular is being able to build things yourself from the basic building blocks. If anyone reading hasn't tried it, give it a go. This is fun!
Branconnier
I have take a look to many video. It seems that DPO often come first in research. So, I am looking for a DPO or C-SL. Any other suggestions. Since, I'm a noob with modular, what would you recommend and why?

Many thanks
lisa
Branconnier: There are several based on the same (Buchla) design. Both of those you mention are great and each bring their own functions to the table.

If you want to start with something much smaller and cheaper but still two oscillators and very powerful, check out Klavis Twin Waves. Lovely module.
tito_tunes
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that complex fancy oscs are inherently better.

I prefer to start with the basic shapes (from my pair of trusty Dixie II+) and use patching to create complexity, such as FM, Syncing, Wavefolding, Waveshaping, Ring Mod, Filtering, Dividing and many combination of the above.

Also nothing has the BASSS of a simple analog sine, especially with a touch of distortion. SlayerBadger!
PietroC
First Beware of Interchangable terms in Modular world
So Many terms are misleading and a personal journey to decipher through
And Many Techniques / Complex modules can be Achieved / Imitated / Duplicated with basic modules
and
Read Manuals of the modules to understand basics

Given that most oscillators are a mix of basic waveforms ( SINE, TRIANGLE, SAW ( RAMP) , PULSE ( SQUARE ))
AND Most Sounds are Sine Waves Stacked on top of each other
-Mixing different waveforms together creates complex waveforms ( Also a form of Additive Synthesis )
- In a Wavetable oscillator when you are morphing between any different waveforms. Those in between spots are complex waveforms as well


Wavetable oscillators have so many more waveforms but usually are digital for space optimization ( I believe )

The Digital Ones are more common, some allow loading of custom wavetables using a Program Mentioned below

You are on the right path looking into a Wavetable Oscillator
( A Free program to let you get acquainted with the concept of Wavetable
Synthesis called Wave Edit by Synthesis Technology ) Lets you create your own waveforms and organize it in a graph. Amazing program in my opinion

There are Oscillators that are all 3 in 1 ( Wavetable / Basic / Complex )
Grumble
Quote:
A Free program to let you get acquainted with the concept of Wavetable
Synthesis called Wave Edit by Synthesis Technology.
Lets you create your own waveforms and organize it in a graph. Amazing program in my opinion


Thanks, great idea! nanners
cornutt
MarcelP wrote:


Though I take your point - from early physics lessons we tend to think of oscillation as occurring, in a physical sense, as positional variation around a point due to instability in a system - ie pendulums and simple harmonic motion...


Yeah, that's one of the first things they tell you in electrical engineering -- an oscillator oscillates because of natural resonance in the circuit. That doesn't describe a digital wavetable oscillator. Thing is, it doesn't describe an analog VCO either. The VCO is of a category of circuits called "relaxation" oscillators, which oscillate not because of natural resonance, but because something in the circuit forces it to. In the conventional sawtooth-core VCO, that something is the reset circuit. It's more akin to those novelty things you see in fountains sometimes, where a pivoting bucket is filled by a stream until the water reaches a certain height, at which point the bucket becomes over-balanced and it tips and dumps the water out. Then the empty bucket swings upright and starts filling again.
Grumble
Quote:
- but remember a dot on a rotating wheel is also simple harmonic motion and an oscillation

If I remember correctly, this is just a graphical representation of an oscillation in order to explain the relationship between amplitude and phase of a sine ( or cosine) wave? meh
Grumble
Quote:
it doesn't describe an analog VCO either.

Well... not all analog VCO’s
if I cranck up the emphasis of my transistor ladder filter, it starts to oscillate (very nice sine wave) and is still voltage controlled.
cornutt
Grumble wrote:
Quote:
it doesn't describe an analog VCO either.

Well... not all analog VCO’s
if I cranck up the emphasis of my transistor ladder filter, it starts to oscillate (very nice sine wave) and is still voltage controlled.


True, and VCAs are used for that some. My experience is that it's hard to get them to scale properly, though.
teezdalien
PietroC wrote:
Wavetable oscillators have so many more waveforms but usually are digital for space optimization ( I believe )

The Digital Ones are more common, some allow loading of custom wavetables using a Program Mentioned below


I'm not sure there is such thing as an analogue wavetable oscillator.
PietroC
Quote:
TEEZDALIEN
I'm not sure there is such thing as an analogue wavetable oscillator.


I guess in analog its called Wave Morphing cause of less volume of possible waveforms

The Only Wave Morphing Analog OSC i know of is

Neutron as two morphing oscillators
as well as a RXMX can enable any multi-waveform OSC/s to do analog waveform-morphing

Im sure other companies have some as well
artieTwelve
tito_tunes wrote:
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that complex fancy oscs are inherently better.

I prefer to start with the basic shapes (from my pair of trusty Dixie II+) and use patching to create complexity, such as FM, Syncing, Wavefolding, Waveshaping, Ring Mod, Filtering, Dividing and many combination of the above.

Also nothing has the BASSS of a simple analog sine, especially with a touch of distortion. SlayerBadger!


IMO, this is the best answer. But... if I were just starting out now, I'd download https://vcvrack.com/ and play with that for a while before buying anything.
elodin
I am relatively new to modular, so grain of salt. I started with braids as my first oscillator. I have now removed it from my case and am using Even VCO which is a fairly basic oscillator. I have found that I learn a lot more about patching when my oscillator only outputs 5 wave forms.
frijitz
Grumble wrote:
Quote:
it doesn't describe an analog VCO either.

Well... not all analog VCO’s
if I cranck up the emphasis of my transistor ladder filter, it starts to oscillate (very nice sine wave) and is still voltage controlled.

Right. Another example is my 6/8 phase VCO, which is a limit-cycle oscillator, specifically an analog computer for a a ring of damped integrators.

Ian
Estes
Listen to those oscillators and then decide wether you like them or not. I started with modular cause I wanted to get analoge oscillators and analog sound processors such as tubes etc. I personally dont like too much ditigal oscillators, but this is just my taste.
As an example listen to a analog Metasonix oscillator here:
https://soundcloud.com/roblesofficial/metasonix-r-53
The Grump
Branconnier wrote:
I have take a look to many video. It seems that DPO often come first in research. So, I am looking for a DPO or C-SL. Any other suggestions. Since, I'm a noob with modular, what would you recommend and why?

Many thanks


First, I would recommend something a LOT less complex than a DPO or Cs-L. Not to be patronizing, but in all honesty, those are a lot of oscillator for someone whose only knowledge of the difference between them is something someone told him on the interwebz.

Before you go dumping a bunch of cash on the newest hottest shit, why not check out VCV Rack, so you can see and HEAR for yourself how these things behave, and what the characteristics actually DO? It's free, it's easy to use, and while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a sound can easily defy all of them.

Yes, it's fun to explore as yet uncharted territory, but just bumbling around, helplessly trying to figure out why your new expensive thing won't stop sounding like shit, or not make any sound at all, because you didn't take the time and effort to learn the basics is a pretty sorry state to be in. So it's good you ask these things now before just jumping in and buying the hot topics.

Check out what you can do with a couple of Befaco Even VCO's in VCV Rack. Watching videos is cool, but actually exploring them yourself, for free, is what's up. And no, it's not the same experience as patching and tweaking knobs in meatspace, but it can be very informative, and answer a lot of questions. Reading manuals definitely helps, but nothing like playing with the things, even digital simulations of them.
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