Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wave, Hello!

While my Buchla 200e is still waiting patiently for it's repaired parts to be returned I thought I'd experiment a bit with some other manufacturer's modules that offer one thing the Buchla is well known for; Wavetable Synthesis.

I've been a huge fan of the sound of scanning wavetables since I first heard them on old industrial and pop records in the 80s. The PPG was world famous as used by Thomas Dolby among others. And Buchla came out with their cranky aliasing original 259 VCO waaaaay back in the late 60s and early 70s. Today you can get amazing wavetable synths from the Waldorf Microwave XT and even some virtual analog emulating synths like the magnificent Korg MS2000 have a Wavetable Oscillator in them. Not to mention VSTs, other software emulations, etc.

What once was the domain of binary hacked ROMS and freakish controlled voltage patchable modules can now be found on everything from Iphones apps to Atari and SID chip emulators.

But, as with most things software only, the spirit and soul of the machine tend to get a bit compromised when you take out... well, the machine! It's the interface of having LFOs and knobs and jacks run amok on a non-quanitized pinging, scraping wavetable that makes that raw digital-yet-organic connection synthheads so love. Enter the updated Wavetable Modular modules to the rescue.

My main modular system is in ModcanA format. As a result I have accumulated a few different versions of wavetable modules , each quite unique. Modcan currently offers two different modules the VDCO 58 and the Wiard/Blacet Miniwave. I also have one of their long discontinued original wavetable modules the 19A Wavetable oscillator. This has almost been one of my favorites due to it's "old school" musicality. It just sounds so smooth in it's own angular-digital way.

Both the Miniwave and the original 19A are carrier wavetable oscillators which require an external signal to drive them (usually a good solid Square wave does the trick). The VDCO is quite ingenious and actually offers more of a dynamic synthesizer all-in-one type module with frequency modulation being a bit part of it's operation as well as having a series of wavetables that modulate and affect the over all sound. It also , like the original Wiard Waveform City module of which the Miniwave descended, has it's own internal modulator (in the case of the 58a it's a form of sine wave).

OK what does all this mean? Well, for me, it's kind of the synthesis (sorry!) of man/machine/ and Sound (yes that has a capital "S". Analog modular oscillators by default have the means to be modulated and warps, but a wavetable oscillator, well, that is created to be warped and mutated. Tossing an LFO into one you can scan the various segments of sound and have a steady "note" sound like a highly programmed sequence (which, in a way, it is). Win frickin' WIN!

I used Wavetable synthesis extensively on my Baseline CD by Sweeping The Noise Floor. There are various modules floating in and about, the Waldorf and other Wavetable oriented synths, and more. Check out the link above for samples and you'll hear waveforms growing and creeping about throughout almost everything.

While down in the lab this afternoon I also whipped up a short demo of the above three modules sweeping, pinging, and all around wave tabling to give an idea of some of the mayhem that these offer. Quite different than the 259 or 259e but then again, that's the point, right?

This is certainly not a fully realized song but I couldn't resist getting a little arty and to me a wavetable just sounds good in some feedback controlled spring reverb. So, you get that.

Modular Synth Wavetable Demo by DAEDSound

Other modules used in this are a Cyndustries Programmer and MixSix, and a customized Doepfer Reverb module made into ModcanA format for me by the genius of MegaOhm Audio.

Scan on!

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