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How should I describe Digital Synths?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author How should I describe Digital Synths?
boe_dye
When trying to explain analog synths, I find that your standards (VCO, LFO, Envelope, HP / LP, Function gens, and FM) are pretty easy to explain in simple terms, however I'm finding a bit of difficulty in trying to explain things like what Plaits or the telHARMONIC, or even a what Wavetable does.

They aren't in the realm of Analog, and yet I don't think it's correct to describe them in the same sense as a DX7 (That's Akemies Castle, and easy enough), and they definitely aren't sample based, so where should I put them in the conversation or explanation?

Be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter!
hawkfuzz
seriously, i just don't get it who do you need to describe this to though?

It just like a amp modeler or cab simulator...
joem
Re: Plaits, have you looked on the MI website? It seems pretty well described there:

Quote:
8 synthesis models for pitched sounds

- Two detuned virtual analog oscillators with continuously variable waveforms.
- Variable slope triangle oscillator processed by a waveshaper and wavefolder.
- 2-operator FM with continuously variable feedback path.
- Two independently controllable formants modulated by a variable shape window (VOSIM, Pulsar, Grainlet, Casio CZ-style resonant filter…).
- 24-harmonic additive oscillator.
- Wavetable oscillator with four banks of 8x8 waves, with or without interpolation.
- Chord generator, with divide down string/organ emulation or wavetables.
- A collection of speech synthesis algorithms (formant filter, SAM, LPC), with phoneme control and formant shifting. Several banks of phonemes or segments of words are available.

8 synthesis models for noise and percussions

- Granular sawtooth or sine oscillator, with variable grain density, duration and frequency randomization.
- Clocked noise processed by a variable shape resonant filter.
- 8 layers of dust/particle noise processed by resonators or all-pass filters.
- Extended Karplus-Strong (aka Rings’ red mode), excited by bursts of white noise or dust noise.
- Modal resonator (aka Rings’ green mode), excited by a mallet or dust noise.
- Analog kick drum emulation (two flavors).
- Analog snare drum emulation (two flavors).
- Analog high-hat emulation (two flavors).
Dragonaut
I think the answer would definitely depend on the oscillator or synth and the person you were describing it to.
commodorejohn
A digital synthesizer is an algorithm or series of algorithms intended to transform a linear counter into a sequence of varying amplitude values. As for what exactly it does to achieve that or what the end result is, that's entirely dependent on the synthesizer in question (a wavetable, for example, is just a lookup table with the counter outputs used as an address/index.)
Nino
Without modulation digital oscillators tend to spit out more complex voltages than analogue.

Digital modules are digital and analogue, analogue modules are analogue only.
noisewreck
The difficulty as I see it is that there are many types of synthesis that exists in digital realm, and often combines with other synthesis methods.

Native Instruments’ range is a good example, for example when you compare Massive, Absynth and FM8, which are decidedly very digital in nature.

So, perhaps a better approach would be to discuss synthesis types rather than an umbrella term such as “digital synth”.
thetwlo
a good start would be books by Curtis Roads:
https://www.amazon.com/Curtis-Roads/e/B000AQ4N20/
boe_dye
commodorejohn wrote:
A digital synthesizer is an algorithm or series of algorithms intended to transform a linear counter into a sequence of varying amplitude values. As for what exactly it does to achieve that or what the end result is, that's entirely dependent on the synthesizer in question (a wavetable, for example, is just a lookup table with the counter outputs used as an address/index.)


Yes, I think this is what I was looking for. I found myself in conversation not giving a convincing explanation of it, and so I was hoping for some greater knowledge on the matter, that you have thankfully provided!

Cheers!
Homepage Englisch
In my opinion, there's a problem with nomenclature. Back in the day, there was a number of electrophone instruments, often, but not always with keyboard interface attached: novachords, claviolines, theremins, mellotrons, trautoniums, synthesizers, and more. After 1984 or so, with DX7, we kept calling those new digital devices "synthesizers", even if they're fundamentally different. Yes, most of them are keyboard electrophones, but the differences in workflow, execution and sound are bigger than differences between piano and celesta. And even in describing how "digital synths" work depends on the type of synthesis: samplers, FM, phase distortion, LA and so on.
boe_dye
Homepage Englisch wrote:
In my opinion, there's a problem with nomenclature. Back in the day, there was a number of electrophone instruments, often, but not always with keyboard interface attached: novachords, claviolines, theremins, mellotrons, trautoniums, synthesizers, and more. After 1984 or so, with DX7, we kept calling those new digital devices "synthesizers", even if they're fundamentally different. Yes, most of them are keyboard electrophones, but the differences in workflow, execution and sound are bigger than differences between piano and celesta. And even in describing how "digital synths" work depends on the type of synthesis: samplers, FM, phase distortion, LA and so on.


This is actually where the confusion I kept having was coming from, and I think you made a good point regarding the nomenclature. I hear 'digital synth", and I think DX7, but the DX7 is a type of digital synth. SO when I was trying to describe digital, i'm automatically going to the DX7 as a bench mark, and then I'm found asking "So what is the difference, and what am I missing?".

This is good, thank you!
strangegravity
01000100 01101001 01100111 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101100 00100000 01010011 01111001 01101110 01110100 01101000
in_sherman
they sound quantized. Analog does not because there are no discreet values, it is fully continuous with infinite resolution imparting a "wooden" timber to your sounds
MarcelP
in_sherman wrote:
they sound quantized. Analog does not because there are no discreet values, it is fully continuous with infinite resolution imparting a "wooden" timber to your sounds


I often wondered why my piano playing is described as “wooden” - I should try a digital piano!
cornutt
What you are touching on is "methods of synthesis", that is, the basic means by which electronic instruments create sounds and timbres. The most common ones are:

1. Subtractive: create a waveform containing a number of overtones, and then use filters to selectively remove or emphasize certain overtones.
2. Additive: combine a number of simple waveforms (usually sine waves) to build up overtones.
3. Amplitude modulation / frequency modulation / phase modulation: use one waveform to modulate the generation of another waveform, thereby creating a waveform with a pattern of overtones determined by the mathematics of the modulation.
4. Sampling: record a sound and then use various means to alter the playback of the sound.
5. Resynthesis: imposing the spectrum of one sound on another sound.
6. Physical modeling: emulating the behavior of a vibrating physical object.

Some of these, notably subtractive, are more easily done with analog circuitry. Others, such as additive and sampling, are more easily done with digital. However, all of them have been done with both.
Pelsea
It's not a matter of digital vs. analog circuitry it's the approach to making sound. Most instruments use one of these:

1. Mechanical--sound is the result of the vibration of wood, wire, membranes etc. interacting with a physical resonator. The inclusion of amplification does not alter the process.

2. Sampling--recordings of the above (or other things) are played on demand. Mellotrons are a common example of analog sampling, although Pierre Schaeffer did things with phono disks that were awfully close.

3. Electronic modeling of physical processes. Could be analog or digital. No one says the model has to be particularly accurate.

4. Mathematical modeling of physical processes. Again, analog or digital. The difference between this and 3 is that you develop an equation that describes the process, then repeatedly solve the equation.

A modular synthesizer is just a handy way of combining all of those possibilities in a box.
Dcramer
strangegravity wrote:
01000100 01101001 01100111 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101100 00100000 01010011 01111001 01101110 01110100 01101000

we're not worthy
matthewjuran
in_sherman wrote:
they sound quantized. Analog does not because there are no discreet values, it is fully continuous with infinite resolution imparting a "wooden" timber to your sounds

The mainstream view is the quantized signal is converted back to a fully continuous one with enough resolution to be equally detailed to analog for humans. The digital output rate for the instrument just has to be above 40kHz with a 16 bit resolution or better.

I wrote out an explanation of digital recording in this other thread that might be helpful: https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=205261
boe_dye
strangegravity wrote:
01000100 01101001 01100111 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101100 00100000 01010011 01111001 01101110 01110100 01101000


HAHAHAHAHAHA

You guys have given me so much to work with on my future conversations and explanations -- thank you and keep it coming!
milkshake
matthewjuran wrote:
in_sherman wrote:
they sound quantized. Analog does not because there are no discreet values, it is fully continuous with infinite resolution imparting a "wooden" timber to your sounds

The mainstream view is the quantized signal is converted back to a fully continuous one with enough resolution to be equally detailed to analog for humans. The digital output rate for the instrument just has to be above 40kHz with a 16 bit resolution or better.

I wrote out an explanation of digital recording in this other thread that might be helpful: https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=205261


Thanks for that reply matthewjuran, there's just soo much misconception about digital and analogue technology.

An analogue signal having infinite resolution is just wrong wrong wrong.
For the ones who want to learn a bit more: A Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon.
Maybe the most important aspect of this paper is that a "bit" is a unit of information and it applies to both analogue systems and digital systems.


One other often misunderstood thing is that digital audio is a stream of numbers that represent a continuous signal. There are no steps in a digital signal. The confusion arises from sample editors. What you see in a sample editor is NOT the actual signal!
nigel
milkshake wrote:
One other often misunderstood thing is that digital audio is a stream of numbers that represent a continuous signal. There are no steps in a digital signal. The confusion arises from sample editors. What you see in a sample editor is NOT the actual signal!

The digital "signal" is just a sequence of sample values, so really it's nothing but a series of steps. However it can be used to exactly reconstruct the original (bandwidth limited) signal.
cretaceousear
hawkfuzz wrote:
seriously, i just don't get it who do you need to describe this to though?
It just like a amp modeler or cab simulator...

This comment is wrong. sad banana
Amp modellers/cab simulations are not the same thing in any way whatsoever - modellers are akin to convolution reverbs.
milkshake
nigel wrote:
milkshake wrote:
One other often misunderstood thing is that digital audio is a stream of numbers that represent a continuous signal. There are no steps in a digital signal. The confusion arises from sample editors. What you see in a sample editor is NOT the actual signal!

The digital "signal" is just a sequence of sample values, so really it's nothing but a series of steps. However it can be used to exactly reconstruct the original (bandwidth limited) signal.


A digital signal only has 2 values, that's what makes it so robust.
Iow digital audio is a row of binary numbers.

When you say steps, people confuse it with the picture in a sample editor.
Misk
definitely depends on the algorithms being used, but in general, you could just say "math". A digital signal is a series of steps, sure, but what you're hearing is the result of the way those 1s and 0s are interpolated as well.
Drakhe
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