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Drive using amplifiers
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Drive using amplifiers
AW198
Probably a stupid question, but I'm curious to know.

When you amplify an audio signal which is already at full amplitude by using an amplifier module, and then patch the output of the amplifier to, let's say, a filter, where does the signal distort? At the output of the amplifier or at the input of the filter? Basically would you get the same distortion whatever you patch the output to, or would you get distortion based on the module you patch into?

I'm wondering whether I can test out the various possible distortions in my modular by getting an amplifier and boosting the signal or not.
ranix
the effect that results is more or less just clipping - why not get a clipper/rectifier if you're getting dedicated hardware?

I'd say the location of the clipping depends on how the output is achieved. Most modules will have a buffer on the output like a tl074 and that output buffer would clip if its input level exceeds the supply voltage.

Amplifying a signal too much to cause clipping and then attenuating the result later to taste is a normal thing to do

note that most VCAs aren't amplifiers, they're attenuators. An interface for external instruments or microphones is probably a true amplifier. Signal processors and the like which are meant to amplify DC control voltages often won't work at audio rates. I like having an amplifier in my cabinet for external instruments, it's very useful.
AW198
As I said, I was curious about this approach to see if I could get some good different distortions out of my modular by amplifying the signal before inputs. Could someone who perhaps does DIY tell me the answer for sure please? w00t
milkshake
AW198 wrote:
Probably a stupid question

Not at all.

AW198 wrote:
When you amplify an audio signal which is already at full amplitude by using an amplifier module, and then patch the output of the amplifier to, let's say, a filter, where does the signal distort? At the output of the amplifier or at the input of the filter?

It depends.
On what the clipping level of the signal coming out of the amp is, and what the clipping level of the filter input is.

AW198 wrote:
Basically would you get the same distortion whatever you patch the output to, or would you get distortion based on the module you patch into?

Anything is possible here.

AW198 wrote:
I'm wondering whether I can test out the various possible distortions in my modular by getting an amplifier and boosting the signal or not.

YES!

But don't use loudspeaker amps, use the Doepfer A-183-3 or similar.
Or: https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=200771
KSS
Let's simplify your questions.
Does gain staging have an effect?
Do amplifiers distort at higher levels?
Do different amplifiers distort in different ways, even at normal levels?
Does signal input level to a filter affect its response?
Yes to all. Next question.

Can any or all of these be used intentionally for pleasant results, where pleasant means to the ears of the beholder?
Again, Yes.

Choice of VCA or other module or device doing the amplifying will change the sound. Confirming that the output level matters.

Some filters are more sensitive to input levels than others. Some have more pleasant or musical response to being over or underdriven. Confirming that the input level matters.

The meeting of the two is an area of important and satisfying discovery often missed by those with too few VCA's or mixers. Or limited use of those they do have already.
AW198
I think my question is being misunderstood, although I'm grateful for the responses. I know about gain staging, what distortion is, how it's musically useful, that everything distorts in different ways, etc.

I simply would like to know if amplifying a signal with an amplifier module will give me clipping on the output of the amplifier or on the input of the next module I patch into, so that in case of the latter I can buy an amplifier and use that to test what inputs of my modular sound good (to me) when driven.

Can someone say which of the 2 it is? hmmm.....
Rex Coil 7
AW198 wrote:
I think my question is being misunderstood, although I'm grateful for the responses. I know about gain staging, what distortion is, how it's musically useful, that everything distorts in different ways, etc.

I simply would like to know if amplifying a signal with an amplifier module will give me clipping on the output of the amplifier or on the input of the next module I patch into, so that in case of the latter I can buy an amplifier and use that to test what inputs of my modular sound good (to me) when driven.

Can someone say which of the 2 it is? hmmm.....
The best answer is "it all depends". Part of the problem you're having is the words you're using when you're communicating. When communicating with synth heads on this issue, you must stop using the phrase "amplifier module" .... because that refers to something different than what you want. Instead, use the phrase "overdrive module" or "increased clean gain" to describe a module that makes more gain to distort the next module. If you want a module that makes distortion inside of itself, that's called a "clipping module" .. or "distortion module". Start there, and you will have better results in discussions.

Crucially, what format is modular are you working with is also an essential part of the discussion. Euro? 5U? Other?

I have a highly modified 5U system. I use feedback loops in Dot Com mixer modules to create ~driven~ sounds. The opamps in the mixer circuit boards are what is distorting in that case. However, at the same time the output gain (output loudness) can also overdrive the input stage of the next module in line due to it's increased signal level caused by the feedback loop. The feedback loop (I make) in the mixer not only increases gain levels to the point it creates distortion inside of itself (by overdriving the opamps inside of it) but it also increases the output level so much that it can also push the next module into distortion. It does both.

There ARE modules that are specifically designed to distort on their own, while also allowing you to keep their output gain levels at unity gain. You can also set those types of modules to produce clean gain, to be able to make the next module in line do all of the distorting. And, you may also mix the two types of use together. Make it distort on it's own AND increase the output gain so it will also make the next module distort.

So as you can probably (hopefully) see, distortion can be created within a module, or it can be created by hitting the input stage of the next module with a lot of gain which will overdrive the input stage of the next module making the signal distort there. And/or both. It all depends on the modules involved.

So ... an overdrive module (or "clean gain multiplier", or any number of other descriptors) simply amplifies the signal and makes the next module distort. A clipping or distortion module creates distortion inside of itself. But know that sometimes these functions cross over between each other.

If you want to experiment with driving your existing modules into a state of distortion (aka "clipping"), then you want a module that allows you to increase it's output gain. They do exist, in many designs, makers, and formats. But in the synthesizer world, modules that create more clean gain are not referred to as "amplifiers". That word is reserved for "Voltage Controlled Amplifiers" ("VCA") which aren't really "amplifiers". So when discussing this topic, avoid use of that word if you want to have people understand you're meaning.

What you (seem) to want is a module that will create "clean gain" ... enough of which to make the next module overdrive into distortion (aka "clip" ... or "clipping"). And ~yes~, there are MANY available ... but for assistance or guidance you need to tell us what format you're using.

Bye bye. thumbs up
KSS
AW198 wrote:
I simply would like to know if amplifying a signal with an amplifier module will give me clipping on the output of the amplifier

Yes. Or no. Depends upon the things we've brought up our previous replies.

Quote:
or on the input of the next module I patch into

Yes. Or no. Depends upon the things we've brought up our previous replies.

Quote:
Can someone say which of the 2 it is? hmmm.....

The reply above is not in any way meant to be snarky, mean, poor or otherwise negative. It is an attempt to show that the answer is not the simple one or the other you seem to want.

A YES! was given by milkshake to your question about trying it out. Good advice. With the added good advice to use something from a eurorack range.

What that really means is be careful that any outboard gear you use will not exceed the hard limits of the modules you're trying it with. Safest answer there is no more than +/-12V. But many modules can accomodate higher levels without problem. Your best bet there is to directly ask the mfr involved or accept that you're on untested ground and will have personal responsibility if something gets broken.
AW198
Ok cheers, that's cleared it up. As ever, it seems the answer is 'it depends' Guinness ftw!
AW198
Rex Coil - I said 'amplifier module' because the image I had in my head when typing was the Doepfer A-183-3. After a quick Modgrid browse I realise that I was in fact probably meaning a voltage controlled amplifier!
ranix
AW198, I typed a rude response because your first reply irked me but deleted it when I realized other posters had already handled the issue more gracefully.
mt3
AW198:
First, your vids are held in beautiful repute. Kudos.

I have wondered about this as well, though primarily for software gain staging rather than hardware. I don't have an answer but I imagine if you can answer it for software then you have the answer for hardware.

Sidenote, this is quite an amazing resource in general for evaluation and comparisons of such questions:
http://www.bohnes.de/e_module.html
AW198
mt3 wrote:
AW198:
First, your vids are held in beautiful repute. Kudos.

I have wondered about this as well, though primarily for software gain staging rather than hardware. I don't have an answer but I imagine if you can answer it for software then you have the answer for hardware.

Sidenote, this is quite an amazing resource in general for evaluation and comparisons of such questions:
http://www.bohnes.de/e_module.html


Thanks mt3 love
I'll check out that link, looks interesting
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