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Eurorack wavetables or VST based wavetables and why?
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Author Eurorack wavetables or VST based wavetables and why?
skiddlydatdoot
Hi,

I was wondering what are some good reasons to use a eurorack based wavetable module (like say the ShapeShifter) over a VST based wavetable (Like say Serum). I was curious as to what would be some distinguishing aspects of either in terms of sonic capabilities. Companies like Expert Sleepers have really broken down the barriers for routing between both worlds and I'm really pressed to come up with some good reasons for purchasing a hardware based wavetable or other digital modules over VSTs and vice versa. I recognize that you can only get some sounds from some modules, but if there are some clear reasons for buying these types of modules I'm probably ignorant of them.

Thanks for any and all replies!
Rigo
Not all people use their modular connected to a computer, but they might still like some wavetable sounds. I would call that a very good reason for wavetable modules hihi
skiddlydatdoot
Rigo wrote:
Not all people use their modular connected to a computer, but they might still like some wavetable sounds. I would call that a very good reason for wavetable modules hihi


I was kind of hoping maybe there was something truly unique about eurorack wavetables or a particular eurorack wavetable that has something no VST could ever have. I'll likely still purchase one because the only role I want my computer to play in my studio is a recording tool, but was hoping there was something special behind them as well.
joskery
I think it's mostly a workflow/ergonomics issue. Can't see how digital modules in Eurorack format could have something huge over a VST.

But, the workflow/ergonomics thing is a biggie. For me, at least.
Shledge
Neither, I'd rather a dedicated wavetable synth for polyphony - they lend themselves well for icy pads. cool
skiddlydatdoot
Shledge wrote:
Neither, I'd rather a dedicated wavetable synth for polyphony - they lend themselves well for icy pads. cool


Well that's an interesting response, what makes you say that exactly? I understand the ShapeShifter has a chord mode. What could a dedicated wavetable synth have over a module of that sort? Do you have a particular synthesizer in mind?

joskery wrote:
I think it's mostly a workflow/ergonomics issue. Can't see how digital modules in Eurorack format could have something huge over a VST.

But, the workflow/ergonomics thing is a biggie. For me, at least.

Yeah that's the obvious benefit for sure. Definitely a big one for me as well, I find my creativity is kind of hindered on the computer.
HIMA
skiddlydatdoot wrote:
What could a dedicated wavetable synth have over a module of that sort?


Try make a chord progression with some less than typical voicings with the shapeshifter... Dead Banana
akrylik
Don't all VST modulations have to be down-sampled to like <100Hz and furthermore bitcrushed to MIDI's 7-bit (0-128) levels? You will get a VERY different sound modulating a wavetable in the modular than in your DAW.
Tropic Al
Main difference would be moduation.
Much much easier (and more fun!)to patch CV between modules
than trying to do the same with a VST
James Lowe
If it sounds good on either.. It sounds good. If it doesn't.. Make it smile
Ramases
Tropic Al wrote:
Main difference would be moduation.
Much much easier (and more fun!)to patch CV between modules
than trying to do the same with a VST


Absolutely.

Pretty much one of the main reasons for any modular synth in my opinion is CV control over (in this case, wavetable oscillator) parameters.

You can certainly bring external sounds from VSTs into a modular and/or control VST parameters with one (via some form of CV to midi/OSC etc conversion) but it's not quite the same as that immediate CV control.
boom blip
Shapeshifter is a computer, CV control and tactile interaction is what makes any module special and will never be replaced by software, but wavetables are wavetables on your computer or otherwise.
skiddlydatdoot
Tropic Al wrote:
Main difference would be moduation.
Much much easier (and more fun!)to patch CV between modules
than trying to do the same with a VST

akrylik wrote:
Don't all VST modulations have to be down-sampled to like <100Hz and furthermore bitcrushed to MIDI's 7-bit (0-128) levels? You will get a VERY different sound modulating a wavetable in the modular than in your DAW.

Ooooooh, I hadn't even thought of that! That's pretty much a deal breaker for me. I was kind of eying up the ES-8 which they announced Windows firmware for and thinking about different options. But if I'm understanding you correctly, the modulation signals would - to some degree - be digitally "stepped" so to speak? My follow up question is do digital modules interpret modulation signals using something other than MIDI's 7-bit levels? And if so would you happen to know what that may be?
slow_riot
VST and AU are quite restrictive in several ways that I found very frustrating. Automation by the host is resticted to 0-127 steps (last time I was using them anyway). The way voice handling works you are limited to very specific methods of polyphony. I would love to be able to assign multiple voices to specific individual oscillators, rather than set up 1 patch per voice.

So for me, patchable voltage control contains far fewer restrictions and opens up many alternative ways to handle multiple voices. This makes a huge difference in electronic drones where you need very specific control of each oscillator, which are often linked through FM.

With that being said, I am not drawn towards the modern tendency for function heavy, menu driven digital modules. The first thing I thought about the Shapeshifter was that it's "a VST in a module".
slow_riot
skiddlydatdoot wrote:
My follow up question is do digital modules interpret modulation signals using something other than MIDI's 7-bit levels? And if so would you happen to know what that may be?


Digital wavetable modules use very powerful processors which effectively cram a whole computer into a single IC. They have onboard DACs and ADCs to get information in and out of the "real" world, I found that most of these chips have 2 high resolution ADCs for outputs, and generally 10 or 12 bit DACs for inputs. I believe some manufacturers are using dedicated 16 bit DACs for inputs instead of the onboard ones, though that's probably the exception rather than the rule.

12 bits would be fine for wavetable scanning. What I would love to see is tuning of these controls when scanning harmonic content. We have a 1v/octave standard for control of frequency, why not use this for harmonic content too?
mbartkow
boom blip wrote:
Shapeshifter is a computer


Not exactly. AFAIK, it is FPGA-based, hence it's more like a dedicated (digital) hardware designed for a particular task rather than a general purpose CPU running some code. The key difference is computational efficiency. PFGA technology allows to realize tasks that require throughput rates 50-100 times greater than modern processors can deliver.
suthnear
Eurorack: you like making music with a modular and want typical wavetable sounds in your modular. Necessarily monophonic unless you want to incur vast expense. Shapeshifter is pseudo polyphonic in only the very most basic sense: there's no way to articulate each voice. With any wavetable module the range of modulation possibilities are limited only to however many CV inputs the module you choose has and what other modules you have in your case. With the exception of the waldorf module (which I haven't used) it's generally not possible to easily change the wavetables. And the wavetable selection tends to be somewhat limited compared to hardware and VSTs. [EDIT] Oh, one aspect of wavetable synthesis that seems to occur with modules but not the other types is smoothly scanning across the bank of tables, as well as in the tables themselves. The piston honda 2 extends that to a third dimension in that you can even scan across the various ROMS that hold the banks.

VST: you like making music with a computer and want typical wavetable sounds in your daw. Polyphonic. Most decent VSTs handle internal automation at much higher rates and resolution than MIDI permits but this is limited to whatever modulation scheme is built into the VST. Outside of that you're in the same boat as hardware synths, i.e. using MIDI. Note that a number of the better wavetable VSTs make it very easy for you to add and modify wavetables. As noted, this is not something that is true of modular or even hardware wavetable synths (although there are a few tools about that do make life somewhat easier).

Sound is something else entirely but pretty much none of them are an effective substitute for any other if that particular sound is what you want.
vibralux
Call me crazy but for me its the sound... I have not yet found anything in VST format that sounds as powerful and raw as Shapeshifter or Orgone. Plus workflow....
contrasttx
akrylik wrote:
Don't all VST modulations have to be down-sampled to like <100Hz and furthermore bitcrushed to MIDI's 7-bit (0-128) levels? You will get a VERY different sound modulating a wavetable in the modular than in your DAW.


The host can access VST parameters directly and control them with full resolution. There is no 7-bit limitation in that case (this is easily demonstrated with macro controls in a DAW like Ableton or Bitwig). It's also possible to control plugins by MIDI and in that case you do have MIDI limitations of course.

Without getting into all the details VST2 automation is somewhat limited in terms of time resolution. With a sample rate of 44100 and a block size of 256 the max update rate is ~170hz, but the exact maximum frequency of updates depends on the sample rate, block size (usually but not always = audio buffer size), and host or DAW, some of which have extra options or unusual behavior. Fruity Loops for example has a variable plugin buffer size option that it tries to use to make things sample accurate, but it doesn't work with all plugins. Also in any case, it's common for plugins to apply some smoothing to prevent any unintentional steppy sounds.

In principle with VST3 automation timing should be sample accurate, but as VST3 is not all that widely supported and many VST3 plugins and hosts don't fully implement everything, I'm not sure what the reality of the situation is.

As far as the question in the OP, wavetables are a very general concept and there is lots of variation in the modules and plugins. It's not really much different than asking, why use modules instead of plugins period? So just answer it for yourself the same way you'd answer that question. smile
kwaidan
To my knowledge, there are three truly polyphonic Eurorack wavetable modules: the Studio Electronics Quadnic, the Flame 4vox, and the Analog Systems RS-270.

With the 4vox, you can change wavetables.
phosfiend
If this (and pt 1) can't convince you, then I sure as hell can't:

shredsickgnar
Modulation and sequencing.

Modulation has been covered. Sequencing in eurorack is a unique experience compared to working in a DAW. Eurorack has some awesome sequencers that get even more awesome when you use two or more together. Rene, Pressure Points, Verigate, Stillson Hammer, Turing Machine, Wogglebug, it goes on and on. Using Eurorack to sequence a Wavetable VCO will take you to a different place than a VST in a DAW.
SB-SIX
Using wavetables as lfo or fm source is not possible in vst land afaik.
BaloErets
I was there to use the first VST fx, and I was there to hear the fist VSTi. I completely fell in love with Arturia's Moog Modular and Arp 2600, amoung other Modular VSTi, but the one that really did it for me was (and always will be) Reaktor. I became quite compitant with building my own instruments.

I've spent the last 1/2 year transitioning from the VSTi world and the modular world. Was always something that I wanted to get into, but simply could not afford it in the past.

So to get to the point; After 1/2 a year mingling with a 9U 104 HP system (I'll put a pic below), what are my thought?

Am I making more music?
Depends.. I'm making music that I was never capable of making before. I am indeed not composing as much on a structural level, but I'm convinced that I could compose music better that ever before.

Why? I have discovered more about sound design in the last 6 months that I have in the past decade (2 years of which I did college studies in Computer Assisted Sound Design).

How does this relate to Wavetables, and which one is better?
The closest you will get to the real modular world in the VSTi framework is Reaktor Blocks. Very inspired by Eurorack, sounds absolutely incredible, and is extremely modular. 2 of the 1st modules I bought when building my system was the ES-3 and ES-6, to meld Reaktor and Eurorack together. To have some LFO's/Envelopes and other similar Mod sources and/or Utilities that I could send from Reaktor to the modular. As time moved on, and space became more and more limited, both of those modules moved out, and I couldn't be happier.

From my perspective, there are 2 specific benefits that the eurorack world has over any VSTi you could possibly name;

1) Interactivity
Your VSTi is a self contained VSTi... but imagine that world where you could send the Velocity info from a sequencer in Omnisphere to scan your wavetables in Serum... Imagine if you could take the triggers from an Envelope in Abysnth, and have that trigger an event in another VSTi. All of your instruments become a network of communication which creates this pseudo entity-instrument. If you have the time and patience, you could create a similar environment in Reaktor (and in a very limited sense, perhaps Reason) but that will bring me to point #2;

2) In-ter-act-tiv-it-ty or You and the Machine
The hands on approach and the physical interaction in creating that communication network brings a satisfaction that I cannot explain. You have almost a limitless choice of what your signal path may be, but at the same time, all of your options are staring at you right before your eyes. From a thread today I discovered somethings I could do with some certain modules that have been staring at me for the past 3 months, but would have probably taken me decades to figure out on my own.

What are your priorities? To become more efficient in your productions? Then probably modular is not the way to go. But if you want to discover yourself more as a sound designer, and learn tools and techniques that you can use to implement into your compositions. If you want to discover composition on a different level with a different mindset, then I would highly encourage you to give it a try.

It alters your approach somewhat in the same way as discovering alternate turnings on an instrument. Still making music, but approaching it on an entirely different level.
Funky40
vibralux wrote:
Call me crazy but for me its the sound... I have not yet found anything in VST format that sounds as powerful and raw as Shapeshifter or Orgone. Plus workflow....

same for me and my ears:
all the VSTi´s i heard the last 9 weeks, since i´m back to computer have still that "for me" VERY recognisable VST sound,
while i found in the past -and still find today- that the digital modules have something ...as vibralux sayed: raw and powerful ! (edit: refering to wavetable Synths/VCOs ofcourse)
no clue where that difference is coming from ? hmmm..... no clue if my ears or I am stupid hmmm.....
and then as aformentioned: modulation and sequenzing AND: patching sync....and patching glitchy funk into it that way


still: me: totally pro VCDO/FMVDO btw. wink
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