Today’s a quickie, poorly written, and it pertains to FXpansion’s Strobe synth, but it’s a good bit of knowledge to keep in the brain no matter what kind of synth you’re using.
One of the cool things about FXpansion’s modulation system is that it allows a great deal of routing flexibility–there’s a hardwired signal flow, and a few modulation sources and destinations with dedicated knobs (envelope-to-pitch, LFO-to-filter, keytracking to filter) but the way the TransMod system (whoa futurespeak) allows you mess with the default routing is pretty cool. Here’s a quick example that can be extended to all kinds of other stuff:
Here’s a simple Strobe patch. It’s a punchy, slightly gritty sine bass with a long release. By default, the Amp envelope shaping happens at the very end of the signal path. Which is cool. But in this example, the envelope is modulating a few things before the voice even reaches the Amp stage. First, it’s directly controlling the oscillator’s output before it reaches the filter. This is cool because the filter has great overdrive characteristics that depend a lot on the level of the input signal. So instead of feeding it a constant-volume tone to work with, it’s getting the enveloped oscillator to work with, giving it a nice gritty overdriven attack with a smooth, deep decay. I’ve further exaggerated this effect by modulating the filter drive with the amp envelope. Keep in mind, the amp envelope is still modulating the signal post-filter so the sound retains its punch and shape, which it would lose if we’d simply moved the envelope to its pre-filter location. Thinking this way lets you get a lot more depth out of a simple synth than you’d think. (One sweet thing about this patch, for example, is that when the oscillator’s amplitude drops to a level where it’s not overdriving the filter, the filter self-oscillates and fades in with a cool creepy feedback, which, since the filter’s keytracking is all the way up, follows the input pitch. A little reverb on the mids and this sound is terrifying. Bing zing!)
In other news, I’m making an incredibly unpopular move here–I’m using my soapbox to call bullshit on the Lil Phatty. Yeesh. $1300 for a monosynth with four encoders to program it? Sweet, all the limitations of analog combined with the incredible inconvenience of menu-based digital! One of the reasons my TX81z was so cheap is because no one wants to be bothered to program it. This is…well, a little bit better than that. I play a Lil Phatty at at a friend’s studio periodically, and every time I go there, I expect that I’ll somehow start to like it. Not yet. I run it through a huge bass amp and yes, the sound can be vast and savage and incredible. But so can the sound from this, if you know how to program it. Having to shift through eight pages of parameters to use the single envelope knob (for example) is a bit much. They couldn’t have given us at least dedicated ADSR knobs and provided pages for amp and filter? Yeah, Moog can shit on a paper plate and get away with selling it for a mint because of their LEGENDARY NAME but if anyone else had released this synth it would have raised some WTF eyebrows. Says me.