Synthesizer

    Plug and Play synthesizer

    Analog oscillators and filters actually produce sounds or show behavior, while digital sounds are always reproductions of sounds or behavior. Some stage-synth classics still hold a strong fascination on me, but today I rather focus on modular systems.

    They provide a universal and open approach. They always deepen and concretize the awareness of tonal processes. A modular system offers all possibilities for the interpretation of existing electronic works. Circuits can be implemented and can meanwhile be interwoven with digital processes at any point.

    With Modular Synthesizers, a distinction is made between Operating and Control Voltage. While the operating voltage varies with different formats - usually between 12, 15 and 18 V, the control voltage (CV) is 10V pp (pp=peak to peak) and volt/octave (i.e. 10 octaves) in most systems. This way, different formats can be "patched" together to form one instrument - they just need different power supplies.

    Nevertheless, there is still a (digital) 12 bit FM synthesizer included in my setup: a Yamaha TX81Z. These devices from the 80's have, for technical reasons, a very unique sound. More about it below.

SOMETHING GOOD IN 2021? A Volks-Synthesizer!

2600 Blue Marvin und Gray Meanie

Behringer has really come up with something! Already with the 2600 (black/orange) the company convinced, now with the models "2600 Blue Marvin" and "2600 Gray Meanie" Behringer knocks out the teat:

A 2600 Gray Meanie or Blue Marvin for € 619.-!!

A jewel! A synthesizer for the people! I am really deeply impressed. You could also say totally stunned.

My first synths back in the early 80s were "ARP Instruments", Rhodes Chroma and ARP 2600, and until 2012 my analog synths were mainly made by ARP - which is why ARP, so to speak, is my "synth home". Of course, I couldn't resist the B-ARP - and am thrilled.
All my concerns are pulverized, the expectations exceeded by far.


2600 Gray Meanie


My Hybrid-Synthesizer Project

and some technical details
  • A hybrid (analogue and digital) instrument, as I'm looking for, requires analog modules with control voltage inputs for the control of the parameters. The CV voltages are to be generated and received by the computer.

    An overview of what "hybrid" means in this case and how, by what means, interfaces and devices I try to implement this. The key is the conversion of "Audio to CV" in the computer. From a stereo channel 40 channels CV can be extracted!

    The next picture shows some "digital modules" in Max/MSP.

    There is a cost divide - e.g. a noise module may be easily replaced by software, but probably costs less than one audio channel of the audio interface for noise and a second channel for random CV (via audio-to-CV). I had bought quite a few hardware modules just to study them and maybe replace them with something similar (programmed in Max/MSP). Thus a whole series of digital clones emerged. Of course, the sound should be the main factor in the end.

    The good thing about this undertaking is that it can be done with all synth formats if CV IO's are available.



    Hybrid-Synth

Analog Modular-Synthesizer

Buchla, MOTM and Eurorack

    Since 2015 my "main" format is the Buchla 200 Series - the "Electric Music Box" of the 70s. In this format everything is something special - Banana plug, unipolar, Tini-Jax, 1.2V / oct - and most of the modules in my instrument are not from the 70s, but fresh clones.

    The instrument is foldable and amazingly light - and therefore very easy to transport. The most difficult thing is "the market" - the clones are not available through the normal music trade.



    Buchla


    A more noble matter is the 5U MOTM format. Musical and technical maxims determine a consistent form, which seems strengthened by experience and analysis of the weaknesses of historical modular systems. Above all, the high quality of the parts used should be mentioned, which, in addition to excellent audio quality, also leads to a very good feel.



    MOTM


    The 3U Eurorack format offers the largest module selection and the most favorable forms of a modular synth. Due to the high circulation, there is also a lively used-market. Due to the large selection of modules and designs it's optical a "choppy" format.


    Especially the simple transportability is, of course, a striking argument. This suitcase was only about 28 x 28 x 48 cm, 10 kg weight and it can be transported completely cabled - also in the airplane.



    Eurorack

Historic Stage-Synthesizer

Gallery of synths
  • my electronic instruments over the time

    As luck would have it, the establishment of the synthesizers as an instrument fell precisely into my youth and the digitalization towards the end of my studies. As a pianist with an inclination to electronics, I was always exposed to the tension field of the developments, but had only a few instruments in focus - mostly they were initially unaffordable (1 $ was 3 to 4DM).

    Still, there were some synths (and samplers) I dealt with over the course of time. Some instruments and their control are closely related to the music I have made and some of the instruments I mourn a little, but I am still glad to use them no more today.

    Those who have left a deeper impression are: Minimoog Model D, Moog Prodigy, EDP Wasp Deluxe, Casio CZ101, Yamaha TX816, Yamaha TG77 and the AKAI 1000 sampler - from the 70s to the 90s. I only skipped the synths from ARP - they have their own page (see right).



    Read more


    ARP Instruments

    ARP's instruments have a special significance in my life: my first two synthesizers were the Rhodes Chroma and the ARP 2600 - two veritable battleships that have shaped me. When I began to use analog synthesizers for my "hybrid project" again, 10 years later, ARP was my first choice, naturally. Great instruments that are uncomplicated to maintain, easy to transport and can also be easily customized or modified.

    ARP built wonderful synthesizers, whose tonal variety, complexity (even technically) and character still convince today. Especially in my second attempt, I learned a lot about ARP, because I met Eric van Baaren (SaintEric.eu), who adapted the instruments to me superbly.

    Therfore the ARPs have an extra page with a lot of Odyssey.


    My ARP Archive

My Digital Synthesizer

12 bit FM
  • Yamaha TX81Z

    Ever since I returned to synthesizers again, I've been thinking about my wonderful setup from around 1986-93. The core was a lot of Yamaha synths (DX7, TX816, TG77 and SY99) and an AKAI sampler. The problem back then was that 2x 12U racks (each weighing more than 50 kg), two big synths with keyboard, mixers, pedals and computer were just too much luggage. For my plans at that time "the key" was how Yamaha synths (and AKAI samplers) could be completely controlled via SysEx - and learning SysEx was also my entry into computer programming.

    In April 2018 I bought again a Yamaha synth, the TX81Z. 1U, 3.5kg plus [restrained] sentimentality for €150 - there were simply no arguments against it.

    The TX81Z was built in 1986/87 and has 8 voices with 4 operators each (operators are oscillators) - two less than the DX7 (6 operators). The TX81Z is data compatible with DX21/27/100 (4 operators), but has an improved high quality sound due to the LSI Tone Generator. In addition, the really annoying noise of DX7/TX816 was defeated and for the first time FM could be realised with non-sine waves (8 waveforms in the TX81Z). Also new were an envelope shift and three unique effects, one of which can be selected per performance set.

    The performance set is a compilation of sounds, including polyphony and range assignment per sound (max. 8 voices). So up to 8 different sounds (one voice each) can be played at the same time and keyboard splits or layers can be created by the extent and positioning of the sounds. This is very well thought out and allows complex setups.

    A great instrument that still has some friends today. Because of Korg Volca and Yamaha Reface, both of which I don't like for different reasons (Volca doesn't sound good and Reface is not completely MIDI controllable), the prices for TX81Z seem to be in the basement right now. I paid € 152.00 (excellent condition!) - per voice (a' 4 operators) that's € 19.-!!!

    A beautiful site with much love and all information: the Yamaha* TX81Z Homepage



    TIP FOR POTENTIAL BUYERS (AND OWNERS)

    Because we don't live in a diabolical world, every device has its own unique problems: many TX81Zs make noises that are caused by vibrational resonances on the housing and are perceived as a permanent buzzing sound or a kind of whistling. This problem comes from the PSU and has existed throughout the manufacturing process - there even was an internal Yamaha paper showing a rather complex and expensive workaround. My TX81Z had this whistle in a very extreme way, but a technical genius, who I am pleased to know, has freed me from it. How he did it, can be seen on the photo with the silver screws in the case lid.

    If it is possible, you should ask the seller about the humming!

    As an FM synthesizer, the TX81Z is one of the best existing options!


    12 Bit

    Actually, "more" stands for improvements. But there is a special feature to be noticed in the FM synthesis: When the later Yamaha synths - I think from the DX7 II on, but certainly from the TG77/SY77 - came with 16 bit, some aspects had been significantly improved, but FM suddenly seemed very tamed. This was not pleasing for everyone, especially a part of the "FM purists" mourned the more brute directness of the 12bit resolution.


    TX81Z Editor

    Programming the sounds on the device can only be seen as a punishment, but nowadays computers are available everywhere and so are editors. This is a panel from the freeware CTLR-Package.

    8 bit

    Of course I do not control the TX81Z with the editor, but with Max. With 97 parameters it is a quite clear device. The parameter control on devices of this generation works exclusively via SysEx, which is a nice change when programming, because SysEx is hexadecimal. The hexadecimal notation makes it possible to express even 3-digit values up to 255 (0 to 255 = 256 steps = 8 bit) in two digits. The letters A-F are therefore used in addition to the digits. The current parameter value, which is usually the penultimate number of the SysEx message, is in 7 bit: 0 to 127, or in hexadecimal: 0 to 7F. The digits, separated by spaces, are bytes (see next picture).

    Hexadecimal notation from:
    0=0, 1=1, ... 9=9, 10=A, 11=B, ... 15=F, 16=10, 17=11, 18=12, ... 25=19, 26=1A, 27=1B, ... 31=1F, 32=20, 33=21, ... 41=29, 42=2A, ..., 48=30, ... 159=9F, 160=A0,...170=AA, ... 247=F7, 248=F8, 249=F9, 250=FA, 251=FB, ... 255=FF.



    The 8 Algorithms of the TX81Z (Interconnection of the operators/oscillators).