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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040137 04/22/20 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
Thanks for posting these. I'd encourage you to keep going. A lot of instrument videos are rambling, and repetitive. You are keeping them organized and to the point. I'm looking forward to hearing your take on accessing the expression and how easy/hard it is to get it, and how easy/hard the programming is to take full advantage of it.
Oh, I plan to keep going, but with the text of the thread able to hold all the techy details, I can keep videos focused on hands-on stuff.

What do you mean by "accessing the expression"? I am not sure I follow what you'd like me to dive into here. Do you mean modulations as a form of expression, or playing technique, or...?


I am trying to get at how much work is it to get the sound engine to respond to playing nuance? Do you have be very careful about how you assign modulation to get musically useful results, or is it like a Dave Smith instrument where you almost can't make it sound bad because the parameter values are so well chosen? Are sounds expressive with just the poly-AT, or are you also finding that you want to modulate lots of other things to improve the expression? What are those things, and what works?

I'm on the Osmose waiting list, but if I wasn't, I suspect this machine would be very interesting. It sounds great.

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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040141 04/22/20 08:39 PM
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Thanks for the oscillator text and videos. Very helpful. I think that the Hydrasynth is part of a new vanguard of synths that advances the art, specifically advancing the purpose of an oscillator. In vintage analog synthesis, the waveforms are very simple - and very static. Unless you detune them, or use an LFO to create PWM, etc the waves are also very static. In fact, they are "perfect". Too perfect. They lack any complexity that our ear associates with natural sounds. In the real world, things that vibrate do so in complex ways that the simple envelopes only kind of get at. The envelopes do track the general volume profile of a given sound.

But what is missing is that the sound is modulating in many ways that the envelope doesn't suggest. Each harmonic is ringing and falling silent in its own ways, sometimes being amplified by resonance or damped by nodal points in the instrument. Plucked strings may start out vibrating vertically, and then switch to horizontal as they loose energy and other strange and wonderful phenomena.

I have noticed that newer instruments are innovating in the oscillator section. The Bowen Solaris does this. There are many, many other waves, and you can scan through them with envelopes, LFO's, etc. There are "rotors" that do a circular vector synthesis with waves, ring mod and more - all under advanced modulation matrices. The Schmidt 8-voice has a very non-traditional oscillator section, that again is built to create dynamic complexity at the oscillator itself, long before any filtering. The NonLinear Labs C15 has very powerful oscillators and resonators to shape the sound, often without any traditional "filtration". The Korg Wavestate offers a different take. The Hydrasynth has complex oscillators in its own way. There are modular synth oscillators that also perform these feats. It is a trend that is gathering speed and momentum in newer instruments.

It is a different way of thinking about subtractive synthesis. It says that interesting timbres can be created just by dynamically varying the synthesized wave and having the harmonic content rise and fall over time without (or at least before) filtration. In my experience, this is quite welcome and does a lot to improve the musical quality of the sound. A searing triangle lead is what it is, but it is not nuanced, and velocity/keyboard tracking only does so much.

I think it is very clever that they have grouped similar waves so that one can get "related" variation. Under the right envelope, I'm sure interesting things are possible. I know I've certainly worked on the Solaris with scanning backwards and forwards through wavetables at different rates. If arbitrary multi-point envelopes are available (8pt on the Solaris) even more possibilities occur that can add a lot of interest to sounds.

It is also my experience that subtle changes can do a lot. It isn't necessary to mix a bell wave with a trombone wave to find interest. Small shifts in timbral balance under the right modulation work a treat. It seems to me that the Hydrasynth is built to do this. You don't want all the things on "full volume"... you want to bring them in and out in a musical way.

Powerful stuff.

Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040236 04/23/20 05:29 PM
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Dr. Mike, what a great review and deep perspective of synth history you are sharing with us all! I for one appreciate the way you began with comparisons to the CS80l!

Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
Concerning future videos for this thread: Any videos beyond this next set (about Mutants) will depend on feedback and demand.

It would very interesting to understand the "gestural value" of Mutants: that is ... can you change the Mutants in real time in a musical way? I see that very cool Mutants like FM-Line and Ring Modulator are able to significantly alter the timbre and am wondering if they respond musically to changes in pitch and amplitude coming into them. Back in my AN1X days, I loved sweeping the oscillator pitch going into the Ring Modulator, to quickly add some inharmonic partials as Vangelis does here at about 21 seconds....



Would it be possible to dive into the inharmonic stuff and come back out easily with this synth? Can Mutant parameters be modulated easily and ergonomically?

(Apologies for the excessive Vangelis content ...)

Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Nathanael_I #3040303 04/24/20 02:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
I am trying to get at how much work is it to get the sound engine to respond to playing nuance? Do you have be very careful about how you assign modulation to get musically useful results, or is it like a Dave Smith instrument where you almost can't make it sound bad because the parameter values are so well chosen? Are sounds expressive with just the poly-AT, or are you also finding that you want to modulate lots of other things to improve the expression? What are those things, and what works?

I'm on the Osmose waiting list, but if I wasn't, I suspect this machine would be very interesting. It sounds great.
I am on the Osmose waiting list as well, but I may get off it if I continue falling in love with the Hydrasynth this way.

I would put it more in the Dave Smith category; I will talk about the Mod Matrix soon, but it's very easy to work with and follow, and setting up expression control is not a problem at all. You can take apart one or two patches that have expression that you like, and you'll instantly get how to do it.

Also, re: your other post: I would agree. For many years, oscillators were just kinda THERE, and the real action happened later in the audio chain, but new digital technology is letting us get at a lot more interesting sounds before we even get to the filter. I must emphasize the total ease with which one can work with the WaveScans as "mini wavetables"... the old PPGs would need to have large wavetables with actual waves placed in them at odd positions to adjust fade times, whereas here we get a bit more control and it's a lot less likely to break your widdle head.


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040312 04/24/20 03:50 AM
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Very cool! This is good Dr. MIke. Your review is clearly pulling out enough for me to put the pieces together on what the instrument is about. Looking forward to whatever else you have time to share on this one.

Thanks for the hard work - I know it is time consuming. (But a great way to learn the instrument by going through it all....)

Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Nathanael_I #3040341 04/24/20 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
Very cool! This is good Dr. MIke. Your review is clearly pulling out enough for me to put the pieces together on what the instrument is about. Looking forward to whatever else you have time to share on this one.

Thanks for the hard work - I know it is time consuming. (But a great way to learn the instrument by going through it all....)
Thanks in return, Nathanael. It's useful for me, too, and I am glad it's helping out. I will be posting at least one more video today; I really want a musical approach to the Mutants, and I will start by FM and try to illustrate the transient/envelope based modulations that are possible in the Hydrasynth. Believe me, they're in there, but a good sounding example is taking some work.

I will also squeeze in WaveStack on this one; it's literally a one-screen deal and trivial to explain.


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040708 04/26/20 05:44 PM
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Here's Part 4 of my video series about the Hydrasynth. Thanks for your patience!

This one covers the basics of two Mutants: the FM and WaveStack modules, one of which is nicely tweaky and the other of which is knuckle-dragging simple. Enjoy!



Next time, I will try to get through the OSCSync and the various PWM Mutants, and then move on to the rest of the synth. Keep those questions coming, and please subscribe and like my channel if you possibly can.

mike


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040768 04/27/20 12:30 AM
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Thanks for that. One complaint…were you wearing a lapel mic that was rubbing on your shirt or something?

Anyway, the one thing I'm (knowingly) unclear on is the relationship of the mutants to the oscillators. It seems like mutants aren't properly input/output devices, but rather modifications to the oscillator itself. But as you show, both the osc and mutant can be mixed (ie wet/dry). So that's not exactly right either. (Although from a software POV I can imagine what is really going on.)

Anyway, what is the relationship of mutant 1 and mutant 2? Is the "input" of mutant 2 osc 1 or the wet/dry mix of mutant 1 or … ?

Put another way, if I have 2 different mutant settings, does it ever matter which one is mutant 1 and which one is mutant 2?

thanks!

p.s. Are all of the mutant "knobs" (eg parameters like ratio, depth) modulate-able?

Last edited by galanter; 04/27/20 12:32 AM.
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
galanter #3040796 04/27/20 05:39 AM
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Phil! Welcome to MPN, it's really good to have you here. (Yet another place for you to bust my chops like you've been doing for the last 30 years, hooray...)
Originally Posted by galanter
Thanks for that. One complaint…were you wearing a lapel mic that was rubbing on your shirt or something?
No, that wasn't it. These videos are produced with a sometimes-difficult miking system; I am going to try to improve things for the next set, but right now speed is of the essence as I could be asked to return the Hydrasynth to ASM any day now.

Quote
Anyway, the one thing I'm (knowingly) unclear on is the relationship of the mutants to the oscillators. It seems like mutants aren't properly input/output devices, but rather modifications to the oscillator itself. But as you show, both the osc and mutant can be mixed (ie wet/dry). So that's not exactly right either. (Although from a software POV I can imagine what is really going on.)

Anyway, what is the relationship of mutant 1 and mutant 2? Is the "input" of mutant 2 osc 1 or the wet/dry mix of mutant 1 or … ?

Put another way, if I have 2 different mutant settings, does it ever matter which one is mutant 1 and which one is mutant 2?

thanks!

OK, some clarification (I hope): Mutants (or Mutators, as they're called on some modulation pages) can act as signal modifiers of an "external" sort, like FM, or they can modify and pass through an input, like WaveStack and PWM. The reason why they're a little awkward to describe is that many of them allow for input assignments from all over the architecture of the synth. An FM carrier wave from an Oscillator can be modulated by anything from itself to another Oscillator to the Ring Modulator or Noise Source to the external signal inputs.

I haven't gotten to the Mod Matrix yet, but you have 32 mod routings (not including the Macros) and they can be "stacked" to affect one another in various ways; controlling Mutants can allow for a lot of intricate (brain-hurting) patterns of influence. I am pretty sure that I could get the Hydrasynth to do any 4-op or 6-op algorithm common to conventional FM synths with the right routings, but my brain's ready to burst from all this stuff already, so I don't really have the strength to sit down with a pencil and paper and work out how to do it.

As for ordering, it absolutely does matter, because the source signal is passed from one module to the next, and there's the possibility of a dry (un-Mutated) signal being mixed with the Mutation on the way through. Parallel processing means that ordering is vital; running FM on the output of a PWM Mutant is not the same as doing FM and sending that signal to be pulse width modulated. Does that make sense?

Quote
p.s. Are all of the mutant "knobs" (eg parameters like ratio, depth) modulate-able?
Yes, every fucking one of them, and those modulations can be modulated and sidechained and grouped into Macros if you want. There are 32 global modulations assignable throughout the synth architecture, and every Macro you design can link one button and one knob to a stack of up to nine differently scaled modulations that are entirely separate from what's going on in the Mod Matrix. That's getting a little bit ahead of myself, but as soon as I release the last two Mutant videos (Part 5 tomorrow for sure, it's already uploaded and queued for automatic release tomorrow afternoon, Part 6 hopefully the day after tomorrow), I will get more into this stuff.

It's funny, I've been trying to shorten these videos so I don't lose people, but by the time I finish my explanations it's always right around 10 minutes. When we get out of Mutants, I think I'll be able to speed up, because the rest of the architecture has some nice tweaks but is much more conventional and will be much easier for folks to follow.


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040893 04/27/20 09:38 PM
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Thanks, that helps, but I still think we've got a metaphysical/ontological problem here. As in "what are mutators/mutants really?" Even that naming scheme shows there's a problem. After all, what would a mutator create? A mutant! What? So they create themselves?

As best as I can figure it out, and perhaps once I get my hands on one I'll know better, sometimes it's more like a post-oscillator input/output device (a mutator, e.g. harmonic), but usually it's an alteration to the oscillator itself (a mutant, e.g. FM).

For someone actually writing the code there is no particular reason to have a crisp ontology. You can just go in there and hack the code at will. But it certainly confounds rigorous naming!

Last edited by galanter; 04/27/20 09:43 PM.
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
galanter #3040937 04/28/20 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by galanter
Thanks, that helps, but I still think we've got a metaphysical/ontological problem here. As in "what are mutators/mutants really?" Even that naming scheme shows there's a problem. After all, what would a mutator create? A mutant! What? So they create themselves?

As best as I can figure it out, and perhaps once I get my hands on one I'll know better, sometimes it's more like a post-oscillator input/output device (a mutator, e.g. harmonic), but usually it's an alteration to the oscillator itself (a mutant, e.g. FM).

For someone actually writing the code there is no particular reason to have a crisp ontology. You can just go in there and hack the code at will. But it certainly confounds rigorous naming!
Rigorous naming was probably not on anyone's mind when they did this, brah... they probably chose names that sounded good to them. grin


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040954 04/28/20 04:45 AM
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Hey guys, here's my next video: this one's about the PWM Mutants.

I did the best I could to describe how these worked, but I plan to go back and reread my initial descriptions and see where I can clarify things. In the meantime, enjoy!



Next time: the OSCSync and Harmonic Mutants, and then on to the rest of the architecture. That set of videos should be pretty short, because once we get past these modules, the rest of the architecture is pretty conventional. I'll cover the basics of Macros and the Mod Matrix, the Arpeggiator and a few other bits and pieces, before putting the series to bed. And I do plan to do another writeup or two as well, so folks can get a feel for the details.

If there's anything in particular that people would like to learn more about, please ask. It's unclear how much longer I will be able to keep the Hydrasynth, but I plan to make the most of the time!

Thanks for watching.


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3040999 04/28/20 03:42 PM
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This last one is fascinating!!! You are doing a great job of keeping it simple and making it clear. It is the vast variables available by a bazillion simple, effective options that makes this thing formidble.

I keep wanting one of these and can see it will rob you of your sleep.
I'm not even a legitimate keyboardist. Just a button pushing, knob turning imbecile mostly.
Not in the budgeta anyway, will have to wait for the Casio version to appear at Value Village...

Oh look, a UFO!!!! *points*

(grabs Hydrasynth and runs away!!) :- D


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
KuruPrionz #3041079 04/28/20 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
This last one is fascinating!!! You are doing a great job of keeping it simple and making it clear. It is the vast variables available by a bazillion simple, effective options that makes this thing formidble.

I keep wanting one of these and can see it will rob you of your sleep.
I'm not even a legitimate keyboardist. Just a button pushing, knob turning imbecile mostly.
Not in the budgeta anyway, will have to wait for the Casio version to appear at Value Village...

Oh look, a UFO!!!! *points*

(grabs Hydrasynth and runs away!!) :- D
You are beginning to see why I am frantic to hold onto it or get one of my own... I have been informed by the ASM people in no uncertain terms that eventually they WILL need it back, but so far the outpouring of content seems to be keeping them at bay...


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041121 04/29/20 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
You are beginning to see why I am frantic to hold onto it or get one of my own... I have been informed by the ASM people in no uncertain terms that eventually they WILL need it back, but so far the outpouring of content seems to be keeping them at bay...

I bet if you write an infinite stream of articles that they will eventually lose track and forget all about it.
It's only one keyboard, your videos should sell millions of these thingies. They should be paying you!!! :- D


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041330 04/30/20 05:06 AM
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Nice work. I can see why you replied that it is kind of "Dave Smith" like in the sense that the control values all yield fairly useful results. Clearly a very capable machine, and it would take a bit to really internalize it all.

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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041504 05/01/20 02:22 AM
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I did play it at NAMM, and kept coming back to it. It is known for its digital tones, but I was able to get some really warm sounds out of it. The desktop module is tempting at that price (already have a PolyAT keyboard). But then again, I also liked the Jupiter X(m)...

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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
KuruPrionz #3041572 05/01/20 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
You are beginning to see why I am frantic to hold onto it or get one of my own... I have been informed by the ASM people in no uncertain terms that eventually they WILL need it back, but so far the outpouring of content seems to be keeping them at bay...

I bet if you write an infinite stream of articles that they will eventually lose track and forget all about it.
It's only one keyboard, your videos should sell millions of these thingies. They should be paying you!!! :- D
If I got to keep every piece of gear when someone said that about a review I wrote, there would be no room in my studio for me! grin

One of these days I should post a commentary on the life of an immersive reviewer. TL;DR -- imagine having a new piece of gear, learning to use it and get good enough with it to be able to teach novices to the point where they can make intelligent decisions about whether it's right for them, getting comfortable with it, and then having it taken away and replaced with something else. Imagine having that happen for every single item in your studio, several times a year, for decades. I weep.

Often, when a piece of hardware has been used as a review unit, the manufacturer will sell it at a discount to avoid having to bring it back into inventory and resell it as B stock. I've been able to take advantage of that a few times, but not this time, alas.... they're in such short supply! I will suffer until I can get one of my own, however long that takes.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041682 05/02/20 06:59 AM
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You must have missed the message I sent you. Too late now alas…

Mine, a keyboard, arrives tomorrow.

Neener Neener Neener!

Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
galanter #3041778 05/03/20 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by galanter
You must have missed the message I sent you. Too late now alas…

Mine, a keyboard, arrives tomorrow.

Neener Neener Neener!
Pfui. Some people's friends...


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041779 05/03/20 01:40 AM
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Hey everyone! Part 6 of the video series is up on YouTube as of now.

This one uses a very basic patch with simple waveforms so we can focus tightly on how these Mutants do their job. We cover OSCSync, which has some neat variations on the usual sync sound and capabilities; Harmonic, which focuses on particular harmonic content (partials) in a waveform and lets you accentuate or tame them; and the brand-new PhazDiff Mutant, added in version 1.4 and not yet in the manuals, which provides a sort of through-zero jet phasing sound on any oscillator. All very neat stuff!

Here's the link to the video:



Next time, we breeze through the rest of the audio architecture, and I do mean "breeze".... once we get past the Mutants, things become a lot easier for us old-phart synth types to wrap our senile heads around. I will also post a bit more about the synth itself here, as background material for the forthcoming videos.

Enjoy!


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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3041937 05/04/20 06:28 AM
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Okay, so what comes after the Mixer? The rest of the audio architecture!

I'm going to encourage folks to read this part carefully; once we're out of the Oscillators and Mutants/Mutators (nomenclature varies depending on where you look), the overall layout becomes a lot more familiar. I plan to run through most of the details here in the thread, and use my remaining videos to focus on the stuff that's unusual or unique to the Hydrasynth. Otherwise I'll be talking and shooting for two more hours, and I don't want these videos to overstay their welcome! grin

So, quick recap: Two Oscillators each run through a chain of two Mutants. A third Mutantless Oscillator, a Ring Modulator, and a Noise Source are blended together in the Mixer. From there...

Filters

Filters are the heart of most subtractive-style synths. Even without all the unique sounds pouring into them, the Hydrasynth's filters would make any digital synth proud! Both have the usual hardwired parameters: cutoff, resonance, modulation amounts from Envelope 1 and LFO 1 (these are exceptions to the "everything is done in the Mod Matrix" rule, with very good reason as we'll discuss in a moment), velocity control over the envelope, and a fairly wide range of positive and negative keytracking -- useful for tuning resonant sounds and for taking the edge off high notes.

One thing I really like about them is that they're quite different in character from one another, and you can make flexible use of them very easily. There's a control in the Mixer (or in Filter 1, a useful redundancy) that chooses between Serial or Parallel routings. In the Mixer, you can set a ratio of how much each sound source goes to one vs. the other -- 100:0 is all Filter 1, 0:100 is all Filter 2, and 50:50 sends equal amounts to both. Very straightforward.

Filter 1 is a fairly badass multimode beast. It offers models inspired by the Moog ladder filter, the Korg MS20, a "boutique modular synth" (implied to be the Moog III), and a few surprises as well.

The ladder LP filters are available in 12 dB/octave and 24 dB/octave, in their standard forms and in "Fat" versions. These are interesting; in the "Fat" models, the Hydrasynth compensates for the fact that filters lose power in the lower frequencies when the filter resonance is cranked up. The result is a boost in the lows below the cutoff frequency compared to what you might be used to. Interestingly, this difference is usually pretty subtle, and because of the way our ears work, is first perceived as "less treble" rather than "more bass."

Next up is a LP Gate filter. I really like the sound of this one; the resonance is very sweet and it sounds good when swept over large frequency ranges. That's followed by the MS20 LP and HP filters and the LP, BP, and HP "3-Ler" filters; they evoke the character of their respective parent synths very nicely, with distinctive resonant peak behavior. The last type is the Vowel filter, a sweepable formant filter that's not without its peculiarities... [footnote 1]

Another thing that's unique to Filter 1 is a Drive control, which lets you overdrive the signal either before or after the filter itself (there's a Pre/Post choice). The Drive sounds really good to my ears, although it might not hit hard enough for some folks. [footnote 2]

Filter 2 is much simpler: it's a morphing filter that can be dialed smoothly from LP to BP to HP with a specific control called, for some odd reason, Morph. (!)

The top right of the front panel has a set of five large and inviting dials that are active at all times, mimicking their counterpart parameters inside the edit pages for the two Filter modules. There's Cutoff, Resonance, Drive/Morph (affecting one or the other depending on which Filter you select), Envelope 1 Amount, and LFO 1 Amount. The latter two are bidirectional detented dials, and Filter 1/2 selection buttons are in easy reach.

Amp and FX

After the Filters, there's the Amp module, which is kept very simple with only three parameters: LFO 2 Amount, Velocity response, and overall level. Envelope 2 is pretty much dedicated to overall loudness control, although you can use it for other stuff too.

Then come the effects processors: Pre-FX, Delay, Reverb, and Post-FX. These are really good-sounding additions to the overall signal path that don't overwhelm the basic sound of the synth; you never get the impression that they're carrying most of the weight of the timbre, and in fact a lot of the better patches don't use them at all.

Pre-FX and Post-FX have identical feature sets. (As I mentioned, it's kind of a bummer that you can't swap their order with one click.) The available choices are: Bypass, Chorus, Flanger, Rotary, Phaser, Lo-Fi, Tremolo, EQ, Compressor. Each choice comes with a small number of preset templates to get you started. I think I can skip breaking each one down in grueling detail, as there aren't that many surprises -- so let me mention the ones that are there.

- The Chorus and Flanger sound good, with all the usual parameters and a pretty wide control range.
- The Rotary simulator gives you a lot of control (blend and speed of the two rotors and so on) but has an overall much tamer sound than I think most folks would like. And there's no way to switch between two speeds without programming up a Macro to do it, which is flexible but fiddly.
- On the other hand, the Phaser is to die for: all kinds of positive and negative feedback, depth and phase offset control, and it just sounds phenomenal.
- Lo-Fi combines resonant filtering with downsampling to create aliasing and the like; it's surprisingly polite but has some good possibilities.
- Is the Tremolo a real tremolo or a vibrato? Answer: both! It's mainly devoted to volume control but does have a separate pitch-variation option, and it runs in stereo with controllable phase difference between the channels.
- The three-band EQ is workmanlike rather than special-effecty, and has seven templates ("Smile", "Warm", etc) to get you started.
- The Compressor goes above and beyond by offering sidechaining options, and useful ones at that. In addition to either of the Mod input signals, it can be set to pump along with the master BPM, or you can hit the Tap Tempo button to trigger compression manually. Very cool!

The Delay has five algorithms -- Basic Mono, Basic Stereo, Pan Delay (i.e. ping-pong), LCR Delay (left-center-right-center-left panning), and Reverse. You can control the feedback frequency response, and while it won't go into runaway feedback, it sounds very tasty.

The Reverb offers Hall, Room, Plate, and Cloud algorithms, with up to 90 seconds (!) of decay time and a few high/low frequency tailoring options. Interestingly, the Reverb does offer a Freeze function, letting you grab and hold the reverb's contents forever; this can easily be set to be activated with a Macro button and is a nice extra.

Voice

The last audio module to mention is Voice, which collects a bunch of "they have to go somewhere" audio parameters where they're easy to find. The result is a really messy gumbo of options, but at least you know they'll be in the pot somewhere or another.

The first Voice page is where you set (deep breath) poly vs. mono vs. unison modes, high/low/last note triggering, number (Density) and spread (Detune) of voices in each Unison note, Analog Feel (parameter drift), Random Phase (so each note's oscillators don't always start from 0), and voice cycling modes for stereo play. On the second Voice page, you set up the pitch and mod wheels and the Glide functions.

Pitch bend range can be set from 0 to 24 semitones. You don't get the option of different ranges for up and down bends, which I really miss, and if ever a synth needed a -48 semitone dive bomb mode, the Hydrasynth is... uh... wait, you can do that with the ribbon controller. Okay, fine! Thpphhhhbbbt!

The Mod Wheel has its own global LFO called Vibrato, and this is where you can set the depth and speed (or BPM sync) for each patch. The Vibrato Depth range is a rare example of a seriously biffed parameter in this synthesizer -- even a 1 can be too much, and anything beyond a 2 is into Forbidden Planet territory.

Glide is fairly flexible, with rate, legato settings, and a finely adjustable curve from exponential through linear to logarithmic, although you need really long glide times for the differences to be really obvious. Legato glide is fun to use in Poly mode, because different voices glide to different places depending on when they're triggered, which can be delightfully messy.

Onward!

Phew! And that's all the audio stuff finally taken care of. As you can see, the Hydrasynth has everything you'd expect of a modeled digital synthesizer plus a lot more. The farther I dig into this synth, the more impressed I become. I'll be summing up the unique and interesting bits of what I've discussed above in one or two videos that will get done and posted over the next couple of days.

After that: envelopes, LFOs, the Mod Matrix, Macros, the ribbon controller, and the Arpeggiator... and then a tall one and a nice warm bath for Yours Truly. wink

Until next time... stay safe, stay sane, and stay connected!

mike




[1]

The Vowel filter's quirks

The Vowel filter is a pretty odd beast, and I think it will reward a fair bit of experimentation, but it is not the most straightforward thing to use. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bell Labs Voder invented by Homer Dudley and demonstrated at the World's Fair of 1939, it used combinations of fixed-formant filters to make vowel sounds, and a skilled operator could combine them to make diphthongs (sets of vowels that form new vowel sounds, like "ou" and "eea"). There were a few noise generators in there to create consonants, and the result was sort of like speech, but the presenters at the World's Fair were trained to ask leading questions so the audience would more easily "get" what the Voder was "saying".

That's the basis of the Hydrasynth's Vowel filter. By manipulating the cutoff, resonance, and a third parameter called Control, you can get all the usual vowel and diphthong sounds. You can choose the order in which the filter cycles through the formants -- AEIOU, UOIAE, etc. -- but from there, it takes some pretty fancy modulation with timed envelopes or hands-on controls to be able to consistently hit a specific diphthong. If you were planning to do actual speech on the Hydrasynth, be prepared for a real learning curve, if it can be done at all.

One final note: when you control the Vowel filter inside its editing page, the main display becomes a pair of lips that opens and closes and makes shapes analogous to the formants being created. It's creepy AF, but not as creepy as what the display does when you first select the Vowel filter... a pair of lips appears and blows you a kiss, complete with a tiny floating heart. I'm sorry, but ewwwwwww.

[2]

A time and a place for Gnarl

Everyone has their own tastes in how synths should sound, and I am no exception. What I have discovered over the years, though, is that I appear to be in a tiny and embattled minority when it comes to one thing: overdrive, no matter where it happens in the audio chain. Simply put, I recognize that drive has its uses in creating certain specific sounds, but aside from those few sounds, I don't want it in my audio chain. Anywhere.

Hard-driven audio sounds wrong to me, not like it's hard-edged and tough but like it was badly programmed, without regard to proper gain staging. It's noisy and grimy and I usually can't stand it, and it's sometimes painfully obvious to me that everyone else in the world thinks I'm a milquetoast for feeling that way... at least, if trends in synth design over the years are any indication.
I loved the multimode filters in the Oberheim Xpander, while most folks dismissed them as wimpy; when the first virtual analog synths came out in the late 1990s, I gravitated toward the Novation Supernova's smooth and dignified filters rather than what the Nord Lead or the Virus did.
And nowadays? God help me. The one thing I hate about the Arturia MatrixBrute are its Brute Factor controls and its overdrive-centric filters. It's a totally amazing synth in so many ways, but the grey area between "too wimpy to hear" and "overdriven to shit" where I like to work is very thin indeed. And if I hear one more synth demo that features a gleeful "And listen to how gnarrrrrrrly it can get!" followed by red hot needles driven into my eardrums and a belt sander taking off the top layer of skin from my forehead...

So, the Drive on the Hydrasynth sounds awesome to me because it's smooth, powerful, and controlled... and while various parameters in the architecture can be pushed hard if you want to, they default to behaving nicely. And I am fine with that. If you want gnarl for days, I can name another synth that hit the market in 2020 that is making fans everywhere for its gnarly sound, but which I could never own because it gives the sonic impression of a badly trained and slightly vicious 150-pound Malemute that soils the carpet anywhere it damn well wants to. (Feh.)


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042064 05/04/20 11:53 PM
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Good job Mike! Useful stuff.

Oddly enough today I discovered my first Hydrasynth thing where I went "No. This isn't a question of taste. This is just plain wrong." Yep. The vibrato range. I like to use just a little vibrato, and with the current setting of 1 I can't go further than 1/3 of the throw, and it's way too easy to go to far.

The problem with this kind of thing is always making a change that is backward compatible with existing patches. I think they could do it by adding a .5 and .25 option. That's different than the ratio settings elsewhere, but I think it would be cognitively comfortable to see those same fractions.

(Of course the internal representation in the Sys Ex protocol probably doesn't have room for it. It's one thing to change the interface, and another to change the internal representation. This could get gnarly with the sys ex having to have version numbers and code parsing different versions different ways. Yuck. But these guys are pretty bright, and I'd be surprised if they haven't already allowed for this.)

I also mostly agree with you about the joys (or not) of "drive" AKA distortion. For the most part i don't like it in synths. But in the realm of electric guitars it's really irreplaceable. However, the fetishism around specific amps and speaker cabinets is really over the top IMHO. However^2 the guitar and amp modeling realm has gotten *really* good, I'm using Helix native on my Mac with Logic Pro X and it's amazing. I'd love to do a good double blinded study with some of these guitar snobs and see if they can really tell the difference.

Back to synths, it's said that a big part of the Moog sound attributed to the filter was really the little CP3 mixer modules being overdriven. I have this module from Manhattan Audio that has a mixer that is basically the CP3 circuit. My ears say it's true. If you've had a chance to hear one, or ever get a chance, I'd be interested in what you think. Overall it's a great filter if folks are looking for a classic 60's synth sound.

https://manhattananalog.com/products/svvcf

Edit: Actually on the above web page there is a good demo.

Last edited by galanter; 05/04/20 11:57 PM.
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042068 05/05/20 12:01 AM
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New pre-/post- effect and/or filter I'd love to see them add? Something akin to the Moog 914 fixed filter bank.

Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
galanter #3042072 05/05/20 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by galanter
Good job Mike! Useful stuff.

Oddly enough today I discovered my first Hydrasynth thing where I went "No. This isn't a question of taste. This is just plain wrong." Yep. The vibrato range. I like to use just a little vibrato, and with the current setting of 1 I can't go further than 1/3 of the throw, and it's way too easy to go to far.

The problem with this kind of thing is always making a change that is backward compatible with existing patches. I think they could do it by adding a .5 and .25 option. That's different than the ratio settings elsewhere, but I think it would be cognitively comfortable to see those same fractions.

(Of course the internal representation in the Sys Ex protocol probably doesn't have room for it. It's one thing to change the interface, and another to change the internal representation. This could get gnarly with the sys ex having to have version numbers and code parsing different versions different ways. Yuck. But these guys are pretty bright, and I'd be surprised if they haven't already allowed for this.)

I also mostly agree with you about the joys (or not) of "drive" AKA distortion. For the most part i don't like it in synths. But in the realm of electric guitars it's really irreplaceable. However, the fetishism around specific amps and speaker cabinets is really over the top IMHO. However^2 the guitar and amp modeling realm has gotten *really* good, I'm using Helix native on my Mac with Logic Pro X and it's amazing. I'd love to do a good double blinded study with some of these guitar snobs and see if they can really tell the difference.

Back to synths, it's said that a big part of the Moog sound attributed to the filter was really the little CP3 mixer modules being overdriven. I have this module from Manhattan Audio that has a mixer that is basically the CP3 circuit. My ears say it's true. If you've had a chance to hear one, or ever get a chance, I'd be interested in what you think. Overall it's a great filter if folks are looking for a classic 60's synth sound.

https://manhattananalog.com/products/svvcf

Edit: Actually on the above web page there is a good demo.
Thanks for all this, Phil. I actually wonder if there is a whole lot of worry about whether existing patches will be screwed up by a readjusted Vibrato range. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a way to batch-process the patches to tweak the values; if so, they could be released as the "Version 1.5 (or whatever) updated factory sounds."

I agree that the overdrive on the Moog is one of the better ones, more thick than gnarly... but I'm not going out searching for a way to add it, certainly not if it means getting into modular. doh


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
galanter #3042073 05/05/20 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by galanter
New pre-/post- effect and/or filter I'd love to see them add? Something akin to the Moog 914 fixed filter bank.
I could get behind this. It would be easier than trying to mock up the same effect using the Vowel filter, which would be overkill for a lot less filtering.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job
Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042075 05/05/20 01:13 AM
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Every once in a while, you realize that you just have to get 'er done...

Here's the link to Part 7 of my video series. This one is over twice as long as any of the others, and I go all the way through the audio chain I describe above. Probably not enough audio examples, but maybe I can add some to later videos if people have specific things they'd like to hear.

One thing I am looking forward to is the YouTube comments on these; there are folks who haven't come to MPN yet that are asking some pretty salient questions and offering info I don't have. One contributor gave a pretty good description of the Window parameter I showed in Part 6, but she hasn't yet cited her source for the information. I hope she does, and I hope she'll respond to a direct invite to get into MPN!

Anyway, here's Part 7. Enjoy:



Next time: Envelopes, LFOs, the Mod Matrix, and Macros... which is a small enough chunk that I will be able to keep the length more palatable.

Stay well until then!

mike

Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 05/05/20 01:14 AM.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042415 05/06/20 08:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
Every once in a while, you realize that you just have to get 'er done...

I applaud for Doctor Mike! Thank you Mike!
2thu


keys My Musicthx I always wondered what happened after the fade out?
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042460 05/07/20 01:07 AM
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Just heard from ASM, they are going to need the Hydrasynth back quite soon. Will do my darndest to get the last few videos done, but paying work has to take priority and I have a deadline.... thanks in advance for your understanding, everyone.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: In The Lab: Meet the ASM Hydrasynth!
Dr Mike Metlay #3042887 05/09/20 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
[quote=galanter]
Thanks for all this, Phil. I actually wonder if there is a whole lot of worry about whether existing patches will be screwed up by a readjusted Vibrato range. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a way to batch-process the patches to tweak the values; if so, they could be released as the "Version 1.5 (or whatever) updated factory sounds."

Well, as you know a long time ago I did some patch editor and sysex app coding. But it's been years and years and things may have changed. If, for example, patch info is now stored as floating point numbers, extending the range on the synth user interface might not really impact the internal representation in a way that breaks the data format. But in the old days the internal representation and sysex was integer representation, and they typically used every single bit. So widening the range would mean either (1) adding more bits, breaking the internal data maps or (2) changing what the bits meant (i.e. 00000001 would mean a lower amount of amplitude than it did before) losing resolution and breaking people's patches.

Making a converter program isn't a big deal technically, but the user support problems are bad. They really don't want people posting to boards that "ASM screwed up the vibrato, and then my old patches didn't work any more, and then they had to release a fixer-upper conversion program, and it was a real hassle to download and use…blah blah blah." And after the 50th email complaining "I installed the new Hydrasynth upgrade, and now the vibrato is broken on all my old patches" it gets really old.

So yeah, they could release a converter program and ask every one to dump, convert, and reload. But in the real world, and especially for a new company, that could be a dangerous thing in terms of user perception.

But all of the above is sysex as it was many years ago. They seem to be really bright engineers, and they could well have anticipated this kind of need and built-in something that is more adaptive than the old fashioned rigid methods allowed.

So unless someone on the inside has something to say, I'd chalk the above up to geezer speculation.

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