SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

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Mr. Aloud
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SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 09, 2020 6:53 am

Title says it all. As my background is the analog side of things, standard subtractive architectures, nice VCOs with simple waveforms....which of the two is easier to get your head around?

I´m primarily interested in morphing musical timbres and blend a little (!) noisyness in and out, like sequencer lines and chopped pads in a techno context or AS-606 style ambient drones that evolve endlessly. I´m not looking for harsh noise and too much experiment, that comes later.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Struggle » Mon Mar 09, 2020 6:58 am

SWN was way more immediate and fun to play for me, but I would take the E352 over either of them. It was easier for me to get nice smooth/less harsh timbres from it.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:28 am

Oh, I will take a closer look at that one then. I remember reading the name, but never did my homework on that one... off to youtube then :)
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by SavageMessiah » Mon Mar 09, 2020 2:41 pm

They're not really directly comparable IMO (though I don't have a SWN). It's best to think of shapeshifter as a bonkers complex oscillator that happens to have wavetables. To get smooth timbres out of it, sync really helps. Fortunately internal sync to the non-FMd pitch of osc 1 is a button press away. If the thing you're interested in is wavetables, I'd add the piston honda mk3 to your investigation. If it's complex digital oscillators in general, check out the hertz donut mk3 as well. All of the oscillators mentioned (and the E352, too) are incredibly flexible and powerful so it really boils down to how you like to work :despair:

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by VibratingMotorGate » Mon Mar 09, 2020 2:51 pm

The most appealing aspects of the Shapeshifter to me is the Multiwave functionality (Cheetah ms800 vibes), plus the plethora of syncing and modulation options... plus some other stuff.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by nios » Mon Mar 09, 2020 3:17 pm

Also check out the Piston Honda mkIII, it can be either smooth or rough-sounding (it has a 'tone' control) and gradual or sudden transition in wavetable morphing. Plus it's much more hands-on than Shapeshifter in terms of controlling both oscs at once; the display is usually more of informative than a necessity and it feels real nice to have tons of direct controls but also some info.

In contrast I feel the SWN for its polyphonic complexity could have had a display screen to help declutter the panel. I've also not been terribly impressed by what I've heard of it; the 'sphere' thing sounds analogous to really any three-axis table system, which is what the E352 and Piston Honda have (but I don't think SS does). Three-axis systems are really quite great and open up a lot more tone variation when CV'ing them all, just saying. Nevertheless if it was strictly SWN or SS I'd go with SS.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by SavageMessiah » Mon Mar 09, 2020 3:26 pm

Yeah SS wave morphing is usually 1 dimension, with 2 if you set up Mod B to do bank morph. The morphing doesn't seem as smooth as piston honda to me. SS sorta makes up for the extra dimensions of morphing by using FM or the combo modes, using sync to keep things relatively sane, and morphing both osc at once.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Zymos » Mon Mar 09, 2020 3:38 pm

Had SS for a while, I felt like its strength was harsher sounds, which was not what I was after. I've had SWN since it was released and am pretty happy with it. My only actual complaint at all is that every other voice is hard panned left or right.( I've asked about a per voice pan setting, but so far nothing- they added some major features shortly after release, and it's been a while, so not sure if they are still developing it.)

I like how you can easily record new waves into it, polyphony, built in LFOs....
I find it pretty easy to navigate after spending some time with it- almost everything, including most of the secondary functions, is labelled on the panel.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Hovercraft » Mon Mar 09, 2020 4:04 pm

SWN is probably the most self-contained of wavetable modules with it's six oscillators/VCA's/LFO's-it's a complete synth. It's been fun to use and highly useful in my system. You have to add your own wavetables if you want to get the most out of it, though. SWN is set up to easily input and process your own wavetables. The included wavetables run on the glitchier/noisier side of things, but as someone primarily using it for melodic ambient--it opens up once you load in and create a few of your own wavetables. It's super nice using it as a polyphonic synth voice and having the VCA's and LFO's that can be individually controlled. The LFO's can also be routed to other destinations in your system.

Shapeshifter is a great sounding module, and I think it would also be a super solid addition to a system. I tried the E352 and wasn't too excited by it, but if you want a bunch of fairly smooth pre-loaded wavetables--it would be worth considering.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by helix » Mon Mar 09, 2020 5:03 pm

if youre in the uk i'm selling my shapeshifter

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:43 pm

Thanks for all your replies! Didn´t exactly help me come to a conclusion, but that´s a good thing for now. I realized I need to do more research. Granted, the whole idea started with "Hm, I´ve only got a bunch of classic VCOs so far" and "hey, let´s look into that morphing stuff, why not get a wavetable OSC". Probably not the most educated position when forking out a few hundred bucks :).

Will dig deeper for the other names you mentioned.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by cptnal » Tue Mar 10, 2020 4:03 am

I find it helpful to think of Shapeshifter as a complex oscillator, which happens to comprise two digital wavetables rather than the traditional analogue carrier/modulator configuration.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Besfar » Wed Mar 11, 2020 4:11 am

Shapeshifter is great, but less immediate than other oscillators. Can sound a bit harsh, and can contain some unwanted artifacts if not treated properly. But its a univers of alien language and otherwordly sounds.

Wish they would include a possibility to bandlimit the sounds, for ultra smoothness.

As others have said, i wouldnt buy it for its wavetable capacity. The wavetables are more of a starting point, and go from there.

Im not selling mine until the next version comes along.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:55 am

So I looked back and forth and now I´m less decided than ever :lol:

What I found:
If demos are of the techno variety, it´s a shapeshifter most of the time. Not saying SWN, PH or E352 can´t do that, but it seems they get less often used in this context. That may be just be based on history and availability, not sure. You find quite a few of them used, so either people found better modules and switched - or they simply didn´t want to spend the time that is needed to get your head around this thing.

My two objections against shapeshifter are: It´s quite old, digital doesn´t age well, so it may lack processor horsepower compared to newer units. And it´s not easy to use custom waveforms, so how likely is it that I will really miss that feature.

- Most SWN demos tend do be ambient and drones. Could be chopped with a VCF/VCA I guess, but are people using the SWN for stuff like the video below? I like 4ms and look at the DLD and SMR as high on the list.

- E352 does great morphing and sounds awesome for certain sounds. But like SWN I haven´t seen any demo that makes me say: That´s the sound I´m looking for.

Listen to what the shapeshifter is doing herethis (and the infamous mylermelodies), that´s the kind of stuff I´m after.

It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by mdoudoroff » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:01 am

Just to lob a monkeywrench into the works, have you checked this thing out?



It’s not a wavetable oscillator, it‘s a parametric one. But it’s so parameter rich, I think it plays in the same timbral territories as both wavetable oscillators and complex oscillators.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Manzanedo » Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:35 pm

Mr. Aloud wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:55 am

My two objections against shapeshifter are: It´s quite old, digital doesn´t age well, so it may lack processor horsepower compared to newer units. And it´s not easy to use custom waveforms, so how likely is it that I will really miss that feature.
Keep in mind that the Shapeshifter is built on a FPGA not a microcontroller, unlike most other digital modules. This is a significant technological difference. I would not worry about the Shapeshifter lacking in that regard, even when compared to newer MCU-based devices. Its designer (Jim Clark) is an interesting guy. It might be worth having a look at his CV. It is a special module.

It is not convenient to use custom wave shapes. That is true. I have really found that I just treat it as a sound source and don't focus too much on the wavetable morphing as its main strength. It has immense sound sculpting abilities. If you're after that beautifully interpolated wavetable morphing, then there are others which may offer a predefined set of wave shapes that get you closer to that right away, and also the ability to more easily switch wave shapes.

Beyond that, I think every oscillator mentioned is probably very good, and definitely fun to use. It might just come down to a matter of taste, and which demos and specs jump out at you the most.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 23, 2020 1:38 pm

Thanks for teaching me three things.
1. There is a plethora of English phrases I´m happy to pick up.
2. There is always one more module you didn´t think about.
3. This place starts to look like a subdivision of gearslutz, because I always end up with an answer close to "all of them" :mrgreen:

Regarding the Polygogo... hands-on concept, sounds good, but looks a bit too garage at the moment. Can´t even find a manual on their website, so I´ll keep an eye on that one. Let´s see when the support situation improves. There is an interesting 40min presentation hosted at Schneiders Laden, done by Max from E-RM.



I´d say my best bet is to get a shapeshifter now, as it´s classic and proven and quite available in the used market. Then see which way Polygogo goes (now that sounds odd), maybe add a smoothie like e352 on the way there.


Thanks to all, awesome help in getting my head straight.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by cptnal » Mon Mar 23, 2020 2:39 pm

Bear in mind also that Shapeshifter has been around a lot longer. I'm not recommending one over the other, but Shapeshifter will inevitably be better represented in the literature.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by chem101 » Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:03 pm

I recently got a Shapeshifter and I like it. I have yet to really find "that sound" with it, but being as it is new I have barely scratched the surface. One thing it did allow me to discover was that I really prefer more immediate modules. I also have an Erica Black Wavetable VCO and that little bastard is just right for me. Very straightforward, no menus and awesome rich sound. Granted the unit can't do nearly as much as the Shape, but at this stage I can do more with it due to the workflow. It "feels" like a regular analog VCO.

That said, the Shape patched up through the Stereo Dipole can create flat-out jaw dropping stereo effects, which is really why I grabbed it (second hand $350, a no brainer). It's growing on me by the day. I feel like once you dive into it, learn a few of it's tricks and quirks, it will reward you. I am a big proponent of the "get it now so you can learn it" mentality, and the Shape will have you itching to learn.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by helix » Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:23 am

I think they're so different they're hardly worth comparing.

Shapeshifter is grat if you like nasty gritty noisy. SWN seems much more suited to ambient textures and the beautiful tones. Shapeshifter CAN do these, but not in anyway like the SWN. I actually just sold my shapeshifter and put the money towards a DPO. Which i have found immediately more satisfying and controllable. Ive seen what the shapeshifter can do, and it's incredible for certain stuff, but those things turned out not to be my kinda vibe.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by helix » Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:24 am

Im actually thinking erica synths graphic osc to be the next big OSc buy for me, that sounds unreal.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Tue Mar 24, 2020 10:22 am

helix wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:24 am
Im actually thinking erica synths graphic osc to be the next big OSc buy for me, that sounds unreal.
Do you happen to know if their format is compatible with the Synthesis Technology´s wavetable editor?
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by Benoist » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:52 pm

Based on your original post : it's a match between SWN / E352 / Piston Honda, ruling out Shapeshifter and Graphic VCO.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by SavageMessiah » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:23 pm

Manzanedo wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:35 pm
Mr. Aloud wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:55 am

My two objections against shapeshifter are: It´s quite old, digital doesn´t age well, so it may lack processor horsepower compared to newer units. And it´s not easy to use custom waveforms, so how likely is it that I will really miss that feature.
Keep in mind that the Shapeshifter is built on a FPGA not a microcontroller, unlike most other digital modules. This is a significant technological difference. I would not worry about the Shapeshifter lacking in that regard, even when compared to newer MCU-based devices.
To clarify the degree to which even the old FPGA in the SS outperforms the microcontrollers in most digital modules: digital modules are generally not operating at sample rates above 96Khz, 48Khz is probably more common. The SS does most signal processing at 25MHz and then has to downsample to 96Khz so that the DAC can actually produce audio. It's pretty crazy.

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Re: SWN, Shapeshifter, which one first?

Post by helix » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:25 pm

Benoist wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:52 pm
Based on your original post : it's a match between SWN / E352 / Piston Honda, ruling out Shapeshifter and Graphic VCO.
I'd agree with this too.


Not sure about the erica's wavetable uploading to be honest. I'd say it's not suited to your regular shapes though that's for sure. The thing sounds capable of similar things to software like Serum, which is insanely powerful as an osc. (too powerful for my PC to be able to run it properly ha!)

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