[Potato Chips]: Opinions on wavetable synthesis

Hello friends! I’m currently working on 2 new wavetable synthesis modules for the plugin and am looking for what direction to go in. I’ve developed two wavetable oscillator modules for this plugin already – 106, and GBS – that use the same UX for wavetable selection, namely, a five page waveform table with graphical input and a knob that allows smooth morphing between the pages using linear interpolation (please see https://github.com/Kautenja/PotatoChips for more details, GBS is a mostly-finished WIP). I like this design because it’s very simple to use and understand, and stays relatively true to the capabilities of the retro architectures (small RAM space). However, I don’t believe repeating this design two more times for the new wavetable engines will be very useful (or fun for me).

SO, I am looking for ideas and opinions. No need to answer all these questions or anything, just general prompts for thought.

  • What wavetable synthesizers do you like and why?
    • Specifically, what eurorack format wavetable synthesizers do you think are cool?
  • Are there particular features that you absolutely adore when playing with wavetable synthesizers?
  • Is it important for you to be able to input custom waveforms, or do you prefer having a large bank of preset waveforms (or both)?
  • Do you find it fun or useful to sample waveforms from audio or CV in real time?
  • Is it important for you to create waveforms based on harmonics?
  • Would CV control over the 32 samples in the waveform be of interest to you?

Any input anyone has would be cool, a preemptive thank you!

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I’ve been playing with the one from iggy.labs, and then comparing it against Nysthi’s 7seas. Unfortunately, I got as far as getting the same sound from each, then got distracted and ended up building a patch that used neither.

I like the idea of putting in custom waveforms, but in practice they tend to sound alike. I might be doing it wrong.

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I never even thought about this, but it would be a super cool feature !

Sounds exiting Christian!

The WT VCO I hear most people rave about is the Qu-Bit Chord. I don’t think it’s because of its raw sound quality but because it can make beautiful chords with wavetables, so that might be a feature worth considering.

In VCV Rack we have a cadillac of a WT VCO, the Blamsoft Wave, which is just gorgeous. So probably not so much point in straight up duplicating its functionality.

When I recently built my first Eurorack system I got the Erica Synths Graphic VCO, which is a WT VCO. It looks great on paper but I’m not so sure it delivers on it. Thing about WT’s is that it’s incredibly easy to make it scream and howl in 722 different ways, which is rarely useful. So to me, it’s good if a lot of work goes into making the subtle sounds and changes work well. Also, being able to upload your own wavetables, made with e.g. the Waveedit program from Andrew Belt would be incredibly useful. But a nice bank of carefully chosen presets is also very useful.

Hands-on harmonics control via a knob or two sounds like a very interesting and useful feature, as does the sample control. Off the top of my head, if I were to specify features for an interesting WT VCO it would be something like this:

  • A modest size bank of preset/inbuilt wavetables, carefully chosen for musical relevance, with a range from the soft, subtle and gentle, to the harsh and screaming.
  • The ability to upload/add user supplied wavetables made with Waveedit, 8 tables should do it.
  • Being able to play chords, with at least a mix/unified output. Look at the Qu-Bit Chord. Very attractive feature. Of course in VCV Rack we almost get that for free, with the polyphonic cables and the various chord modules, so maybe simply making it polyphonic will do it.
  • The ability to both morph smoothely between waves but also to change between them discretely.
  • A sub-oscillator output, selectable 1 or 2 octaves below would be useful. It’s just a copy of the main waveform.
  • The ability for very simple modification of a waveform in the module might be very interesting. I’m think of a knob to choose the placement, and then a knob to choose the level of inserting quite simple sinusoidal “bumps” in the current waveform.
  • If you can hack it, a simple harmonics knob to dial harmonics up/down would be very interesting.
  • Leave effects and filters to external modules. I think it’s perfectly valid to advertise that “this module should definately be coupled with a good LP filter after it”.
  • Again, I don’t think you should simply copy the Blamsoft Wave. Instead, come up with simple controls that offer very musically relevant control over the tone and timbre of the result. That’s where the gold is, IMHO.

It’s fine if it’s a bit large, the important thing is sound quality, that’s what will keep me coming back to it. If it’s a screaming, aliasing mess I don’t think I’ll be very interested.

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Nysthi’s 7Seas (as refered to upthread) can sample live audio. It’s another texture but maybe not as game changing as you might think (though someone else might do something more interesting than me).

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I like WT synths a lot, in the vst world I like the old PPG very much, it had superb wavetables and can produce many different timbres of sounds. A new and pretty good WT VSTi is U-HE Hive 2 imho, it can also do really a broad pallette of sounds.

here in VCV land I like the blamsoft wave very much and the new iggylab table is nice just to load in your own samples.

I don’t own eurorack modules so I won’t comment on these.

I would like a WT module that can load user wavetables and that can layer some tables (like Hive) and that has a nice filter onboard, which can cut the often harsh noises coming from the tables :wink:

As Lars already mentioned a chord function would be a nice addition too.

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you can easily do chords with different tables with poly7seas ok course you need a poly control to address the current table for the current voice (dynamic applied to X Y ? )

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I definitely would need a manual to understand this, or a detailed video tutorial , or a private lesson or … so sorry, I’m such a stupid idiot.

Thanks everyone for providing some insight!

I didn’t realize NYSTHI had a wavetable oscillator out there. For some reason mine is bugging out with this clicking/popping every half second, but I get the gist of what the module does. I’m a big fan of the Blamsoft WTO, it’s very close in look and feel to what I imagine a modular serum could be like.

It looks like 7Seas and TinyTricks both offer some degree of live sampling, but after playing with both I too struggle to apply that feature in a creative or meaningful way. I still think it would be a neat feature to develop further, but feel like some work needs to be done to sample the audio in a unique and interesting way. User wavetables can achieve a similar level of functionality anyway, I suppose.

@LarsBjerregaard thanks for enumerating these features, I hadn’t thought of many of these ideas and think they’re great. I’ll need to grab the manual for the Qu-Bit and watch a few videos to get a feel for it. I hadn’t heard of this Erica WTO either, but watched a video and definitely see what you mean about it pushing out pretty harsh and heavy sounds. I really like the idea of a chord-based WTO, particularly because these two chip emulations I’m working on are 5 channel and 6 channel respectively, which works out conveniently. I also like the idea of allowing for discrete morphing in addition to the smooth morphing; I’m not aware of a WTO that does this currently. When you say ability for simple modification, do you mean something like grabbing a point in the waveform and extruding it upward or downward smoothly (i.e., bringing the neighboring points with it along a smooth curve)? That would be pretty cool if so, I may have to grab NumPy and mess around with some maths to see what can be done there :slight_smile: I agree totally about the effects too, I’d much rather just offload that to downstream modules and air on the side of simplicity; do one thing and do it well.

I saw this new Loopop video yesterday about a Kickstarter called the TheoryBoard (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jy6RQJnra3M), which is a chord-based MIDI controller. It gives me a few ideas related to chords that could work well here. I think a cool way of integrating a sub oscillator into the chord WTO would be to output the root note at n octaves lower, for instance. Following the design of the “strum” feature on the theory board would be a neat way of layering tables too, either just a copy of the table per chord note, or potentially a different wavetable per note.

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These 2 are definitely cool:

• E352 Cloud Terrarium

• Piston Honda Mk3

not a wavetable VCO but worth checking out for some inspiration on a different approach maybe:

1010/MOK Waverazor

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Another one to check out is the bidoo limonade module :slight_smile:

I haven’t looked into the source code, though, or tested it myself.

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Ah that triggered a question, “one of these is flipped, which one?”

Looking at the scope I think it’s you :wink:

Can you explain? I’m not sure what’s flipped. :slight_smile:

Edit: oh I see it. I must investigate! I have no idea why it looks like my playback is backwards. :thinking:

Do you mind posting a bug report on GitHub for me with the sample you used? (I don’t want to take over this thread :slight_smile: )

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Indeed. In that way the Wave is actually a semi-modular synth. My suggestion to you would be, to leave out all the non-essential functionality (like filters and modulations, etc), other modules in Rack will do that better, and besides that’s “The Modular Way” ™ - Simply concentrate on the WTO part and provide something unique.

Yes, I would focus on being able to supply user-wavetables. In that way the user can use a program which is already optimized for that, and supply their own carefully crafted waves, as well as grabbing great waves from other users. That’s a superior concept methinks.

Actually, having thought about it some more, I would completely leave out the chord aspect of the WTO. The big difference between Eurorack and VCV Rack is that we now have polyphonic cables in Rack. And with that we have loads of great chord modules in Rack as well, that can transfer multiple notes and chords in one cable. So it would be a waste of effort to replicate that in the WTO I think. Instead just focus on making the WTO fully polyphonic, which means that together with the existing modules in Rack, beautiful chords will be going into and out of the module, and it can also just be used monophonically of course. You get all that for free. Again, it’s the modular way, and saves you from reimplementing existing features from other modules, and instead concentrate on what can make your WTO great.

The Erica Synths Graphic VCO does that. In fact I think most/many of the Eurorack WTO’s do that.

Yes, exactly! So the idea is, that you have loaded a waveform and now you can further modify it in that way. No need to expose it to CV, it’s just a “simple” form of in-module waveform making/editing. You can do a lot by just loading e.g. a sine and then modify it in that way. The Erica Graphic VCO does that. And no need to get into fancy (and difficult) GUI programming for grabbing and pulling waves. A simple knob to control position and another knob for controlling amount up/down will do the trick nicely.

Exactly! The Modular Way…

Like I mentioned above, I would forget about chords in the module, you get that for free from Rack and other modules. Having said that… yes, that might be a cool idea for the sub-osc output. To output either the full polyphonic notes of the main-osc, or to flip a switch, making it monophonic and then select to output the root, or the third, or… :slight_smile:

Or here’s another idea: The sub-osc can operate in two modes - polyphonic or monophonic.

In the polyphonic mode (default) the sub-osc simply outputs what the main-osc does, but at one or two octaves lover, selectable by a switch.

In the monophonic mode the sub-osc still outputs the same waveform as the main-osc, but it has a seperate V/Oct input, which can now be fed by any note you want, and that note is automatically transposed one or two octaves down (again, selectable). In that way, you can e.g. tap one of the notes from the chord module feeding the main-osc to drive the sub-osc, or feed it from a completely seperate sequence. Lots of great options with that one :slight_smile:

Looking forward to what you’ll come up with…

7seas (and poly) supports same wavetables of morphing terrarium and piston honda mk3

and remember that in swarm mode you can have till 25 vcos for a single voice

7 Seas and Poly 7 seas are both very processor hungry. Try adding extra thread in the engine menu.