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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!
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