Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Recommended Posts

Cherry Audio has become an undisputed fan favorite in the world of virtual instruments—and with good reason. They keep coming out with instruments that exceed expectations, at price points that are nothing short of remarkable. Whether doing on-target replicas of some of the most desirable synths of all time, or creating original instruments that add something new to any virtual instrument collection, this company shows what happens when you put together a team of hardcore synth enthusiasts who love what they do. So, it’s understandable that when some buzz bubbles up about a new instrument being in the works, people pay attention—and the speculation begins.

 

When I ran into Craig Anderton speaking with Cherry Audio founder Dan Goldstein at Synthplex 2022 last month, I had to stop and say hello.  I’m not sure Dan was ready for the shower of praise I heaped on his work…but I have no doubt that he knew that I meant everything I said. Craig and I mentioned the substantial following Cherry Audio has on MPN, and Dan suggested that it might be fun to let us help introduce the newest member of their growing family.

 

We thought, cool - a new instrument. 

 

We had no idea

 

Let’s use Dan’s own words to describe this project to you, the same way he told us about it via email:

 

“I present to you Cherry Audio’s GX-80 Synthesizer. Over a year in the making, GX-80 is our extensively circuit-modeled recreation of the Yamaha CS-80, but it goes far beyond the CS-80. We’ve included all the unique voice features of the Yamaha GX-1 organ that were cut out when they created the CS-80. The GX-1 features include a high-pass filtered square wave, band-pass filtered sawtooth wave, triangle wave one octave higher than the other waveforms, the ability to invert the filter envelope, and we’ve even included the unique GX-1 filter, which has a ton of character! In addition, as on the GX-1, you can layer two complete CS-80 voices (plus effects) together, or split them across the keyboard.  Additionally, each rank can be independently panned in stereo – you can imagine how amazing this can sound, with dual CS-80+GX-1 engines all panned in stereo. 

 

All of these features allow for absolutely massive sounds you’d never get out of a CS-80, or any other CS-80 emulation. We went to crazy lengths to match every last detail to the hardware, and it really does sound gorgeous.

   

We have two CS-80s that we studied extensively, along with the original CS-80 schematics as well as the GX-1 schematics and service manual. GX-80 plays like a nicely-calibrated CS-80. There are minute pitch and timing variations throughout the synth for an extremely realistic analog feel.”

 

 

When we received that email, our heads exploded…as I’m sure many of yours are right now.  As most of you probably know, the CS-80 is among one of the iconic, desirable, and rare synthesizers ever created.  

CS-80.thumb.jpg.45ff449a45ced58b3a0f40fc102ce57d.jpg

 

Just bringing an enhanced software version of that to market would probably have been a pretty big hit. But after playing with a beta version, the fact that it also incorporates the voice features from the legendary GX-1 knocks it completely out of the ballpark, into a realm of its own.  

GX1.thumb.jpg.2badaecb40306cb48ec9f7e9ed9373fc.jpg

Simply put, this is an instrument that could almost certainly never exist in hardware.  The investment cost and development time to bring such a thing to life would be insane, so it would have to be priced ridiculously; and, given the respective sizes and weights of the CS80 and GX-1, if it were to be built it’d probably take several people to move it anywhere.

 

I was not prepared for how much it exceeded my expectations.  The feature set is mind-blowing, the implementation of the GX-1 features into the CS-80 interface is ingenious…and the sounds…OMG. Heck, even the manual is a delight (kudos to Mitch Sigman). It presents the GX-80 in a manner that makes it remarkably easy to understand this amazingly complex beast without being overly techy or dry, and delivered in a voice that’s friendly and (unexpectedly) more than a little amusing.

 

When Craig got the beta, I realized it wasn’t just me who was flipping out. We quickly realized that an instrument like this called for a deep dive review unlike anything that had ever been tried before, so we enlisted two of the finest, most knowledgeable, and most experienced synth geeks in our industry: Dr. Mike Metlay (of Recording magazine), and industry veteran Jerry Kovarsky (who helped shape iconic instruments from Korg, Ensoniq, and others). Along with Craig and myself, we’re going to go over the GX-80 with a fine-tooth comb - exploring its historic roots, examining the technology behind it, and unveiling the enhancements that the Cherry Audio team implemented in this extraordinary instrument.  

 

 

1457123968_GX-80Alaska.thumb.jpg.eddc3e62b587369ee7216af5db98774b.jpg

 

 

Most importantly (save the best ’til last, right?), we’ll be able to do this interactively, with MPN community members and visitors having the opportunity to ask questions, and share their own observations—pro, con, suggestions for updates, presets, whatever. 

 

In addition, we reached out to Cherry Audio, and invited them to take us behind the scenes of the GX-80’s development, and share details only the folks who created it could know. Even better – because it’s a software product, any of you can download the demo and play along at home.  How cool is that???

 

However, before the team dives in, let’s listen to this incredible machine in its full glory.  While familiarizing myself with the GX, I just could not stop playing it...so I set out to create a GX-80-centric piece of music. All the synth sounds and effects, and even some of the drum sounds, come straight from the GX-80.  The non-GX-80 drum and percussion sounds are from my Alesis DM-Pro module.

 

After hearing the quality and variety of sounds in this piece, I think you’ll understand why I’m so enamored with this instrument.

 

 

Special thanks to brother Craig Anderton for doing the video!

 

Please Note!

 

We want this thread to be a valuable resource for GX-80 owners for many years to come. So, from time to time we'll edit the thread to keep the thread as compact as possible, and make finding useful information as easy as possible. Also, we'll consolidate posts if that makes it easier to find information - for example, if someone posts a question and several people answer with useful insights, we'll combine the answers in one post (of course, with credit to the people providing the answers!) so that anyone who wants to find the answer to that question won't have to go searching through multiple pages. 

 

We really think there's no better group of people to reveal everything you'd want to know about the GX-80 than the fine folks who post here on MPN. We're really excited to see what we'll find out in the weeks (and months) ahead. 

 

Thank you so much for your participation! To quote “The Great One”, Mr. Jackie Gleason: 

 

"....and awaaayyy we go!"

 

Jackie.jpg.9dbbc98c5d29891b93de04f50404ffef.jpg


😎🎉🤩

 

dB

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Wow! 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites



Initial Impressions: Craig Anderton

 

Keyboards have extended expressiveness in ways that we never imagined. Synthesizers gave us new sounds, samplers gave us freeze-dried sounds. Jan Hammer brought guitar-think to keyboards,  MPE has done some cultural appropriation of wind instruments, and home organs were the precursors to built-in recording and overdubbing.

 

But what we haven’t had is the modern equivalent of the pipe organ. No, I don’t mean a sampled pipe organ. C’mon, man! It’s not even close. A physical pipe organ is not only an instrument with a massive, awe-inspiring sonic footprint: until the invention of the telephone exchange, it was considered the most complex mechanical device ever made. In the 10th century (yes, 1,200+ years ago), the pipe organ in Winchester Cathedral had 400 pipes, needed two men to play it, 70 men to blow it, and the sound could be heard throughout the city. I rest my case.

 

Wait…isn’t this supposed to be about Cherry Audio’s GX-80? Well, let’s just say I have a somewhat different take. To me, its spiritual ancestor isn’t the synthesizer, but the mighty pipe organ.

 

Think Big. Actually, No…Think Bigger.

 

The sound is massive. Combining and enhancing a GX-1 and two CS-80s make the GX-80, as far as I know, the most ambitious commercially available virtual instrument ever attempted. It’s brilliant, daunting, huge, innovative, quirky, deep, relatively straightforward, and as textured as if you collapsed all of New York Fashion Week into a U-Haul.

 

But you don’t have to start at a level where your brain explodes, because the GX-80 persuades you to get involved with an exemplary preset collection (1,500+). Some presets are immediately useable; others just need a few tweaks. They’re all fine candidates for reverse-engineering. To dive deeper, simply try this top-secret power user tip: read the manual (which is mercifully well-written and friendly).

 

The GX-80 doesn’t think or act like a conventional synthesizer. It creates its own rules, follows its own muse, and sets a high bar for what a virtual instrument can be. By its very nature of combining two instruments with their own unique architecture and character—the GX-1 and dual CS-80s—you’ll make sounds you haven’t heard before.  

 

Legally Mandated Warning

 

I am required by law to include the following warning: this is an addictive substance.

 

When I first booted the GX-80, I wanted to see how difficult it was to create a preset. About 20 minutes later, I used it to replace a keyboard part in an existing song. Done, right? No. Then came the “what if?” moments. What if I add this layer? What if I automate the high and low pass filters separately? What if I assign aftertouch to…you get the idea. My "user" preset collection started to multiply like rabbits chowing down on rabbit Viagra.

 

I’d really like to get more into the novel ways that the architecture makes you “think different” and sound different, but I’m addicted. I want to stop writing, and return to my 21st century pipe organ. I promise, I’ll be back…I just need to find the rope ladder that lets me climb out of this delightful rabbit hole...assuming I want to…

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My initial review of the GX-80 was six words, which you can figure out for yourself if you read the following sentence out loud:

 

Foley Fathermucking Spit of COD.

 

I have worked with some pretty incredible plug-ins in my time, but GX-80 is something truly special. The sound is absolutely stunning; this is a synthesizer where "less is more" has been quietly folded up and put in an envelope and mailed to an obscure town somewhere in Central Asia. GX-80 is MORE IS MORE.

 

Look at this beautiful beastie!

 

1372459640_ScreenShot2022-11-22at11_08_57AM.thumb.png.53d011bf0a6560f0c60116d68bf8febf.png

We have so much to tell you guys about! For my part, I'll provide some context and history, talk about UI and control, and give hints on some best practices for using it.

 

But for now, I'm going back to creating new patches and creating songs for you all to listen to, with 100% GX-80 content. See you all soon!

 

 

 

  • Like 2

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Musician, Author, Editor, Educator, Impresario, Online Radio Guy, Cut-Rate Polymath, and Kindly Pedant

Editor-in-Chief, Bjooks ~ Author of SYNTH GEMS 1

 

clicky!:  more about me ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job ~ my bookmy music

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Holy Moley!  

 

My first synth was a CS-50.  So now I can have it's massive, mutated older brother in software?  I'm in!

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi everyone, thanks for being a part of our GX-80 launch! I don't think anyone at Cherry Audio got a good night's sleep last night, we're all buzzing with excitement for this release. GX-80 is a product that we've been developing for more than a year, with a single-minded goal of combining everything that's great about the GX-1 and CS-80 together into a single, beautiful instrument.

 

My team went crazy ensuring that every aspect of the software matches Yamaha's insane original vision for the GX-1 and CS-80. To say that these are complex machines would be a massive understatement. These are instruments where cost and technological limitations were not an issue. These were instruments that with velocity, aftertouch, and built-in effects years before other manufacturers even began to dream of these features. The expressiveness and musicality of these instruments is breathtaking, and we have all worked extremely hard to build a software synthesizer that's worthy of this legacy.

 

We'll be here to answer any question you might have about GX-80, it's concept, the development process, or whatever else you'd like to know! Thanks for joining us!

 

Dan Goldstein

Chief Technology Officer

Cherry Audio

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Initial Impressions: Jerry Kovarsky

 

Congrats to Dan and his team! Here's my first thoughts:

 

Some soft synths come with no expectations beyond the technology being used. It’s classic analog… it’s FM… it’s physical modeling. Others have a known reputation: a recreation of a well-known instrument like the Minimoog, or the Prophet 5. But then there are those select few that are the legends/holy grails of synth fans. Those instruments that few had, or could afford, and that defined the sound of a band, an album, a period of time.

 

That’s the situation we’re faced with when reviewing the GX-80 from Cherry Audio. The Yamaha CS-80, first released in 1976 stands at the top of Mount Olympus (Synth-lympus?) for synthesizers, and defined the work of Vangelis in his fan favorite period of time. Eddie Jobson on those seminal UK records. Toto on hits like “Rosanna”, “Africa”, and as session players for Michael Jackson on Thriller. Peter Gabriel on “Mercy Street”, and Klaus Schulze on numerous recordings., to name but a few.

 

That said, let’s get real about something: not many of us ever played one, let alone owned one. And I bet the same is true for many (most of you?) reading this. My closest encounter with one was in the early 2000’s when I got a wonderful demo of it from Eric Persing in his home studio. So I’m a little bit ahead of the class, but realistically not that much. I didn’t lay my hands on it to play it or program anything.

 

So beyond recognizing some iconic sounds from it, and knowing some facts about it (long, cool ribbon controller, polyphonic aftertouch, weighed a ton, cost more than a small home back in the day) I came to this soft synth a relative novice. So I am not going to be the expert voice that can weigh in on exactly how accurate it is to the real deal. I do know that listening to the wonderful range of presets provided, and tweaking some sounds to bring it even closer to some of those classic recordings I certainly feel it does the job. And then some! And merging in some of the most important elements of the GX-1, the even more hallowed progenitor to the CS-80 was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Cherry Audio.

 

As I mentioned, the presets that ship with the GX-80 are a stunning collection of sounds that really evoke and explore the mystique of this synth, and provide a range of sounds to reverse engineer and learn just how this beast does what it does. Which is helpful, because there are a lot of “quirks” in this synth’s design, when you come to it from our modern perspective. Some of it comes from the fact that Yamaha moved from making electronic organs, to instruments that were “variable” organs with more than a little synthesis, like the GX-1, to the CS-80, which kept a number of organ-centric features like tuning oscillators in Feet (think organ drawbars), and calling a full synth voice a Rank. And our team here is going to explore and explain those quirks as we get going.

 

In the time that I’m spending with the GX-80 I am blown away by not only how good it sounds, and how unique it sounds, but how so many of the parameters are just begging for you to interact with them as live performance controls. The Ring Mod controls are so musical to play with; something I’ve rarely done with any other synth. Velocity and after-touch have a number of dedicated controls that you can introduce and vary as you play: if you don’t map some controllers on your keyboard to these things you will only be skimming the surface of what is possible, and how expressive this instrument can be. More so than a lot of synths, the front panel needs to be played, probably more than the keys: stop shredding and hold some notes, or a chord and work the controls available to you!

 

I can’t wait to start sharing our insights and exploration of this powerful synth, and I am honored to be sharing that task with some of my dearest friends in the biz. You may even start to feel like you’re eavesdropping on a conversation with a group of synth geeks as we discuss our favorite toys. Only you too can join in on the fun. Let’s get started!

 

 

 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suggestions on How to Control the Ribbon Controller?

 

Having happily played the Memorymoon ME80 for a couple of years, I have a leg up on appreciating the GX.

 

My one real issue is how the heck to control it without buying a Hydrasynth as just a controller, to get the ribbon! That's a major component of playing the instrument. Its much of what made my brief time in front of a real one so memorable. Its an alternate synth version of a whammy bar. I can get a decent amount of poly AT from my modest little XKeys, but not that ribbon behavior. The long bends are an obvious winner, but really I enjoyed the hammer-ons that were suddenly possible.

 

Any quickie, off-the-cuff suggestions for controllers that will help in the ribbon department?

 

Responses

 

Anderton: The original didn't have a conventional ribbon controller - it doesn't really have a start and end in the usual sense, so I don't know how that would work with MIDI control. But I've been LOVING it with a touchscreen!

 

cherryDan: On the CS-80, wherever you first touch the ribbon controller is the "zero bend" point. Then, bending up or down will cause the pitch to rise or fall in a linear fashion, which is very unusual. If you touch the ribbon at the very left side and slide all the way right, the pitch will rise by 1 octave. If you touch the ribbon at the very right and slide left, the pitch will fall all the way to 0 Hz.

 

There is no way on a CS-80 to do hammer-ons, though you can touch the ribbon with one finger and then use a second finger to hammer-on. Very difficult to do while also playing notes!

 

Dave Bryce: Been using it with my Slate Raven. Interestingly, I bought the Raven mainly for its mixing functions…but I use it to control soft synths more, tbh.  Love it with the CA Oberheim 8-voice.  🥳

 

jerrythek: The ASM Hydrasynth has a great ribbon controller that can emulate the same behaviors that the CS-80/GX-80 have.

 

Dr Mike Metlay: I will talk more about the Hydrasynth as a controller in a little while; all I will say for now is that it's brilliant and does everything you need it to for the real CS-80 tactile experience. Yes, I know it's a really fragging expensive controller, but as you can read in the GearLab thread, it's also a truly brilliant synth in its own right...and spoiler alert, mixing it with GX-80 results in "one note = death".

I sold my Expressionmate some time ago and offhand I don't know of other standalone ribbon controllers, but I bet a cottage industry pops up of makerspace designs that you can add to any keyboard.

 

salire: I had a CS-80 for 12 years. I love, love, love the ribbon controller and it was a factor in going for the Hydrasynth. I am not happy with the pressure required on the Hydra to play it. It's far more than the CS-80 and I struggle with it. But I hope this pairing would allow the modes the CS-80 has for the ribbon. Very musical stuff!

 

EscapeRocks: As far as ribbon controller,  I've been messing around with this with my NI Komplete Kontrol S61MK2. I’m simply using the ribbon in pitch bend mode as assigned in the Komplete Kontrol software, since that is what the GX-80’s ribbon recognizes. 

 

While the ribbon isn't very long, since the GX-80 ribbon's zero-point is where you first touch it, it responds fine.

I have also been playing with Midi Designer Pro on my iPad to create a ribbon control.
 

Side note, I fired up Duet Display to use my iPad in monitor mode, as I used to do when used the Mac Mini in the rig. 
 

Touch screen control of the ribbon works great, as Dan has said. 

 

Tusker: My MBPpro's 5 inch wide touch pad is smaller than an iPad but is doing the ribbon work, courtesy of Audio Swift software. Sounds sweet!

Well well well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions.
    ~ from Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/22/2022 at 1:40 PM, jerrythek said:

The ASM Hydrasynth has a great ribbon controller that can emulate the same behaviors that the CS-80/GX-80 have.


I’ll have to try my Expressionmate and also my Roli Seaboard Rise 49 to see how those work…

  • Like 1
  • Cool 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How cool is that!!! I had a CS60 way back when. A guy in town modified it so I could layer and detune four oscillators against the remaining four. Fattened the sound up a lot. I also got to touch (it wasn't turned on at the time) Keith Emerson's GX-1 when a coworker and I delivered a new Ensoniq keyboard to him during a concert in Philadelphia, PA.

  • Like 1

Wm. David McMahan

I Play, Therefore I Am

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious about sweet spots. Having some experience with the CS-80, CS-50, and Jupiter 8, I find them similar in their vast sweet spot, as in it's difficult to make an ugly sound. I don't know if this was an accident of design, or engineers carefully making musical choices in scaling their controls.

 

Did you work with scaling the params to respond like the original, or take a "wider response is better" approach?

  • Like 1

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, matted stump said:

-I'm curious about sweet spots. Having some experience with the CS-80, CS-50, and Jupiter 8, I find them similar in their vast sweet spot, as in it's difficult to make an ugly sound. I don't know if this was an accident of design, or engineers carefully making musical choices in scaling their controls.

 

Did you work with scaling the params to respond like the original, or take a "wider response is better" approach?

 

Hi! We worked with two different CS-80s, and in many cases the calibration of each instrument and the calibration of individual voices differed noticeably. For example, the maximum attack time on the VCA and VCF envelopes ranged anywhere from around 750 ms to 980 ms, depending on which CS-80 we were analyzing, and which voice we were playing. The Yamaha VCA chips specify a maximum attack time of 1000 ms, and since at least some voices came very close to that, we went with a maximum attack time of 1000 ms in the software.

 

Another example is the Sub Oscillator (LFO) speed control. One unit's LFO could go slower than the other unit. So we went with the widest possible range, the slowest available LFO and the fastest available LFO. We're talking about a relatively small difference, but we wanted to make it possible to recreate any sounds that we could create on either CS-80.

 

In pretty much every case the controls are scaled to match the hardware as close as possible. But since each CS-80 is a bit different, and individual voices on any given CS-80 can differ considerably, and since small movements of these controls can cause major audible differences, you'd still have to use your ears to match the hardware to the software even with the controls in identical positions. 

 

The CS-80 is very much a synthesizer with major sweet spots. It's really interesting, we noticed quite a bit that using features like the ring modulator can cause all sorts of inharmonic sounds, and then suddenly create something really beautiful and musical, just by careful adjustment of the controls. Once you hit those sweet spots, the results can be incredibly beautiful.

 

- Dan @ Cherry Audio 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

42 minutes ago, cherryDan said:

 

Hi! We worked with two different CS-80s, and in many cases the calibration of each instrument and the calibration of individual voices differed noticeably. For example, the maximum attack time on the VCA and VCF envelopes ranged anywhere from around 750 ms to 980 ms, depending on which CS-80 we were analyzing, and which voice we were playing. The Yamaha VCA chips specify a maximum attack time of 1000 ms, and since at least some voices came very close to that, we went with a maximum attack time of 1000 ms in the software.

Interesting. This is the kind of thing someone who just plays an instrument (that would be me!) doesn't realize is a thing. But your approach makes sense. Find out the max a parameter can do, based on analyzing several of the originals, and choose that as the "standard" going forward. Smart.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of the ring modulator, the CS/GX version has a reputation for being more musical sounding than others. Did you find any reason for that when you modelled the circuit? Was the topology different than typical ring modulators?

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ring Modulator Deep Dive

 

Stand by for long winded answer about the ring modulator.  There is nothing special about the ringmod circuit in the CS-80.  It uses a 1496 balanced modulator chip like a zillion other synths.  The 1496 is meant for use in radio circuitry and is repurposed for audio use.  What makes this ringmod musical is the fixed patch Yamaha has placed it in.  As you know, a ring mod takes two input signals and produces a single output signal containing the sums and differences of all the spectral components.  In most other synths, these two signals come from two VCOs, both in the audio range.  This results in the usual inharmonic, clangorous sounds.  In the CS-80, one of those signals is your synth sound and the other comes from a dedicated sine oscillator that has a very wide range, going from sub audible (slow LFO), up into the mid audio.  The pitch of this oscillator can be tuned manually and modulated with a dedicated AD envelope generator which can provide a very wide sweep.  This sweep triggers on every new key.  The opening sting on the old Dr. Who theme is exactly that.

 

Another cool feature is the MOD paddle which is essentially a crossfade from dry through fully ringmodded sound.  There are cool effects to be had on the way.  If you listen carefully when the mod oscillator is sub audible, you will hear the character of the modulation change in interesting rhythmic ways as you move the paddle.

 

Yamaha was certainly not the first to use a ring modulator in this way.  Louis and Bebe Barron made extensive use Louis's hand-built vacuum tube ring modulator on the masterpiece soundtrack to Forbidden Planet.  It is absolutely everywhere throughout the score.  My brother Fred and I had the privilege of having a private lunch with Louis and Bebe back in the early seventies (yes, we're old) where I relentlessly hammered Louis with questions (he didn't remember much).  We have always been Forbidden Planet fanatics, as witnessed by my brother's website, the-robotman.com, where you are invited to spend exorbitant sums of money.  Louis's ring modulator with slow modulation is on particular display in this clip at 1:36.  I bet it would be no problem to reproduce that sound on the GX-80.  Some ringmod and a slow drag down the ribbon should do the trick.

 

I'm more than happy to answer any other questions.  I'll get down into the weeds as deep as you like (or can stand).

 

--mb

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Mark for that detailed explanation. I knew that there was something special (to my ears) about the Ring Mod, as I have been drawn to playing it in ways that regular ring mod circuits/implementation never inspired.

 

3 hours ago, MRBarton said:

Stand by for long winded answer about the ring modulator.  There is nothing special about the ringmod circuit in the CS-80.  It uses a 1496 balanced modulator chip like a zillion other synths.  The 1496 is meant for use in radio circuitry and is repurposed for audio use.  What makes this ringmod musical is the fixed patch Yamaha has placed it in.  As you know, a ring mod takes two input signals and produces a single output signal containing the sums and differences of all the spectral components.  In most other synths, these two signals come from two VCOs, both in the audio range.  This results in the usual inharmonic, clangorous sounds.  In the CS-80, one of those signals is your synth sound and the other comes from a dedicated sine oscillator that has a very wide range, going from sub audible (slow LFO), up into the mid audio.  The pitch of this oscillator can be tuned manually and modulated with a dedicated AD envelope generator which can provide a very wide sweep.  This sweep triggers on every new key.  The opening sting on the old Dr. Who theme is exactly that.

 

Another cool feature is the MOD paddle which is essentially a crossfade from dry through fully ringmodded sound.  There are cool effects to be had on the way.  If you listen carefully when the mod oscillator is sub audible, you will hear the character of the modulation change in interesting rhythmic ways as you move the paddle.

 

 

 

I'm more than happy to answer any other questions.  I'll get down into the weeds as deep as you like (or can stand).

 

--mb

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How to Get the Ring Modulator Effect Vangelis Used

 

One of the things about ring modulators that people tend to forget is that they do a lot more than gonk. (For the uninitiated, 'gonk' is a term for highly discordant inharmonic ring modulator output. The term originated with the DOD Gonkulator Modulator guitar pedal, which ring modulated the guitar input against an internal oscillator set to a frequency that wasn't in any particular pitch (at A=440, at least) and which couldn't be adjusted. So. Much. GONK.)

 

As Mark pointed out above, if one input is below the human hearing range (i.e. an LFO), it affects the other input without producing an output of its own. This produces an amplitude modulation we hear as tremolo. You can try this with the GX-80 to hear the effect, as follows:

 

1. Hit the NEW button to get an initialized single patch.

 

2. Set the Ring Modulator controls as follows, remembering that the paddles, like organ drawbars, have more effect as you pull them DOWN:

a. Set Attack Time to 0 and Decay Time at 50%

b.  Turn Depth, Speed, and Mod all the way up -- I mean down -- aaarrrgh, to MAXIMUM.

 

3. Press one or more keys simultaneously. You will hear that opening sting from the 1980s Doctor Who theme, just as Mark mentioned!

 

4. Now set Decay Time and Depth to 0 as well. Press a key. You will hear that lovely gonk.

 

5. While holding down a key, slowly move the Speed from maximum to minimum. You'll hear the sum and difference frequencies gradually change, and at about 55% and below, one of the two frequencies will drop below human audibility. What's left is a very clean tremolo effect that gradually gets slower as you turn down the Speed to 0.

 

This smooth movement between tremolo and gonk is used again and again in much of Vangelis' work. You can hear it more on his studio albums than on soundtracks like Blade Runner or Antarctica. Because of the unique design and throw of the CS paddles (which nobody has ever reproduced in modern form but really really should), you can play the Speed and Mod controls very musically; there's a short video of Vangelis demonstrating the CS-80 where he smoothly morphs between two of his most famous signature timbres with an idle flick of a finger. Fascinating stuff.

 

If I had a wish for a change to this, I would ask the Cherry Audio guys to give the sine wave in the RM a wider sweep, or a switchable option for that. The gonk isn't gonky enough for me, and I would love to be able to create a really slow tremolo, like one complete cycle every 30 seconds or so. But that's just me.

 

Hopefully that makes sense?

  • Like 2
  • Cool 1

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Musician, Author, Editor, Educator, Impresario, Online Radio Guy, Cut-Rate Polymath, and Kindly Pedant

Editor-in-Chief, Bjooks ~ Author of SYNTH GEMS 1

 

clicky!:  more about me ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job ~ my bookmy music

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Dr Mike Metlay said:

Hopefully that makes sense?

 

Gonk? It was a great explanation. Thank you.

 

Coupled with MR Barton's description of the dedicated Sine carrier wave, it would explain why the GX/CS synths sounded so sweet even while um, gonking ... 😅

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ribbon Controller Deep Dive: Lin and Semi Modes

 

On 11/22/2022 at 5:26 PM, salire said:

I had a CS-80 for 12 years. I love, love, love the ribbon controller and it was a factor in going for the Hydrasynth. I am not happy with the pressure required on the Hydra to play it. It's far more than the CS-80 and I struggle with it. But I hope this pairing would allow the modes the CS-80 has for the ribbon. Very musical stuff!

 

Hi Salire, welcome to MPN. Stick around, it gets crazier :D

 

To answer your question about the ribbon, the GX-80 has two ribbon modes: Lin and Semi. Lin is the one you're familiar with and works as expected.

 

For those who don't know how the CS-80 ribbon controller works versus, say, the ones on the Micromoog or Liberation or Prophecy or AN1x, etc., it's time for a tutorial.

 

By and large, there are two ways in which the frequency of an oscillator in an analog synthesizer can track a control voltage.

The most common is logarithmic tracking, usually written as volts per octave or V/oct. The most common scaling is 1 V/oct; under these circumstances, if a control voltage of 2V (with respect to ground) produces an A440, a 3V CV will produce an A880 and a 1V CV will produce an A220. One volt per octave, get it?

 

However, some synths use linear tracking, usually written as Hertz per volt or Hz/V. In linear tracking, control voltage tracks with frequency, not pitch. At (for example) 220 Hz/V, then going from A220 to A440 requires double the voltage, but from A220 to A880 requires four times the voltage.

 

1 V gives A220

2 V gives 220 + 220 = A440

3 V gives 220 + 220 + 220 = 660 Hz,  very close to an E

4 V gives  220 + 220 + 220 +220 = A880

etc.

 

So what does this have to do with pitch bend in general and ribbon controllers in particular?

 

Most pitch benders track logarithmically. Let's say a bender for a 1 V/oct synth is set up to add one volt fully sharp and subtract one volt fully flat. As you can see, that gives you one octave of up or down bending from center. Many synths let you adjust this amount. In Semi mode, the GX-80 works this way; you can set up to 12 semitones of bend in both directions (but not with independent sharp and flat ranges, which in this case isn't much of a limitation -- we'll get to that in a second).

 

However, the ribbon on the CS-80 tracks linearly, starting from wherever you touch it. What that means is, if the ribbon is set to go up one octave at full upbend (scaling to whatever reference voltage you're using), then... well... let's do the math:

 

Up bend from A220: 220 + 220 = 440, hurr durr.

BUT!

Down bend from A220: 220 - 220 = A BIG FAT ZERO.

 

That means that the CS-80 ribbon bends up one octave, but downbends drop all the way to DC. This produces these enormous whammy-bar-slack-strings downward sweeps below the frequency threshold of human hearing. Simulating this behavior on a digital synth is why many Roland synths have separate up and down bend ranges, usually up to one octave sharp and four octaves flat.

 

The GX-80 ribbon in Lin mode works exactly as the CS-80's did; bend zero starts wherever you first touch, and the extremes are at the two ends. If you start the bend too close to one end or the other, the range can be foreshortened. In Semi mode, the bend starts where you touch the ribbon and is limited to whatever range you set. (I wouldn't mind 24 or 48 semitones rather than 12, but that's just me.) Hammer-ons do work... but only if you keep one finger on where you first touched the ribbon, and only sharp (the plug-in is looking for the highest "voltage" on the ribbon).

 

Extra pro tip: Lin always works the same way, but if you flip the Porta/Gliss switch while in Semi, the ribbon bends by semitone steps rather than smoothly. Bonus!

 

One more thing: when you touch the ribbon, your original position is shown in green and your current position in red. The graphics jump around a bit because the plug-in doesn't know which way you'll bend until you do it. In a future version, I hope that Cherry Audio puts the initial position marker wherever you first touch the physical or on-touchscreen ribbon, rather than starting at one extreme or the other. But that's just me.

 

Okay, enough enlightenment for one day. More later, folks!

 

PS: Salire, it's interesting that you find the Hydra so stiff in the aftertouch action; I haven't had much trouble with it and I'm pretty picky about that stuff. I admit I haven't spent much time on a CS-80, but the Prophet-T8's aftertouch sensors weren't much more loose than my Hydra's, if at all. But that's just me and I'm a hamfisted keyboard murderer.

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 3

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Musician, Author, Editor, Educator, Impresario, Online Radio Guy, Cut-Rate Polymath, and Kindly Pedant

Editor-in-Chief, Bjooks ~ Author of SYNTH GEMS 1

 

clicky!:  more about me ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job ~ my bookmy music

Link to comment
Share on other sites

32 minutes ago, Dr Mike Metlay said:

The GX-80 ribbon in Lin mode works exactly as the CS-80's did; bend zero starts wherever you first touch, and the extremes are at the two ends. If you start the bend too close to one end or the other, the range can be foreshortened. In Semi mode, the bend starts where you touch the ribbon and is limited to whatever range you set. (I wouldn't mind 24 or 48 semitones rather than 12, but that's just me.) Hammer-ons do work... but only if you keep one finger on where you first touched the ribbon, and only sharp (the plug-in is looking for the highest "voltage" on the ribbon).

 

[...]

 

One more thing: when you touch the ribbon, your original position is shown in green and your current position in red. The graphics jump around a bit because the plug-in doesn't know which way you'll bend until you do it. In a future version, I hope that Cherry Audio puts the initial position marker wherever you first touch the physical or on-touchscreen ribbon, rather than starting at one extreme or the other. But that's just me.

 

Dr. Metlay,

 

I'm not sure if this is exactly common knowledge or not, but the CS-80 actually has two different ways to bend the pitch. One is via the ribbon, and the other is via this pitch wheel with integrated master pitch control. The pitch wheel bends around 7 semitones up and around 4 semitones down, basically giving you the ability to bend up or down to a chord's 5th. Rather than trying to support two different types of pitch bend controls, and in the interests of making GX-80 respond to MIDI pitch bend in a useful way, we removed the pitch bend wheel and replaced it with the ability to switch the ribbon between linear and semitone mode, and we expanded the semitone range from the original +7 semitones to as much as +12 semitones. 24 or 48 might be useful for some, but it's well outside of what a CS-80 can do.

 

image.png.f1af5b634018ab38bac29485c4861a40.png

 

As for the current position "jumping around a bit," that's only true with MIDI pitch bend, and it's necessary in order to support the full MIDI pitch bend range up and down. After all, a pitch wheel isn't a ribbon, and we want the entire bend range to be available to anyone using MIDI to bend the pitch. If you click on the ribbon with your mouse, or use a touch screen to control the ribbon, the ribbon will work exactly as the CS-80 hardware does:

 

image.png.3720b4e9f2383ffb1569dcf7dc0afd68.png

 

If your physical ribbon transmits MIDI pitch bend, there's no way via MIDI to know where on the ribbon your first touched it. But it's not true to say the on-touchscreen ribbon doesn't put the initial position marker where you first touch. Try it! It does, and it's fun!

 

- Dan @ Cherry Audio

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ring Modulator Audio Demo Link

 

OK, here's an example of what I am finding I like to do with the Ring Mod, by playing it in real-time (as an overdub) to a lead sound. This is a late-night little jam/improv I threw together. Everything is from the GX-80 except the drums/percussion, which comes from Stylus RMX (Spectrasonics). I didn't spend any time trying to master it...just living in the moment. You can hear everything from the tremolo effect, to full gonk, as Dr. MM taught us. I hope you enjoy.

 

Ring Mod Mood

  • Like 6
  • Cool 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, jerrythek said:

OK, here's an example of what I am finding I like to do with the Ring Mod, by playing it in real-time (as an overdub) to a lead sound. This is a late-night little jam/improv I threw together. Everything is from the GX-80 except the drums/percussion, which comes from Stylus RMX (Spectrasonics). I didn't spend any time trying to master it...just living in the moment. You can hear everything from the tremolo effect, to full gonk, as Dr. MM taught us. I hope you enjoy.

 

Ring Mod Mood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • Like 1
It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some further thoughts:

 

After spending too many overnight hours playing with the GX-80, I began to program it and the Cherry Audio ELKA as if they were my only synths for my gig rig.

 

So far, with the exception of piano, they cover everything I need.  I am not a software engineer, so I can't say how they do it, yet so far in my testing, the GX-80 seems to have a more robust basic tone when doing A/B to similar sound I currently get from Arturia Jup V or Pro-V, and those 2 aren't bad at all either.

 

Side note on Cherry Audio:    I got the rackmode effect stack when it was on sale last week or so

At my gig last Saturday, my piano was PianoTeq Standard YC5 (modified to my taste, running thru their Rackmode 10-band EQ, with just a hint(very little) of their 12-stage Phaser. Instantly humanized the PianTeq

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, jerrythek said:

OK, here's an example of what I am finding I like to do with the Ring Mod, by playing it in real-time (as an overdub) to a lead sound. This is a late-night little jam/improv I threw together. Everything is from the GX-80 except the drums/percussion, which comes from Stylus RMX (Spectrasonics). I didn't spend any time trying to master it...just living in the moment. You can hear everything from the tremolo effect, to full gonk, as Dr. MM taught us. I hope you enjoy.

 

Ring Mod Mood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow, that's an imagination-bending demonstration of some of the unusually expressive things this instrument can do. Thanks, Jerry.

  • Like 3

Numa C2x, Reface YC, XK-3c, Mainstage/ReMOTE61SL, VR-09, X-50, JunoDS61, Montage 8, Karma, V-Synth, JD800, Jv80, XV-88, D-50's, TX-816, T8, Tempest, OB-6, DeepMind12, Prophet-X, SLEDGE, TS-10, MR-Rack, s70xs, B3/Leslie, Wurly, Piano, Mini-Korg, CS-2x, JP-8080, RA-50?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Historical Perspective: Part 1

 

Just for fun, here's some information on the synth whose design elements make the GX-80 plug-in so unique: the Yamaha GX-1. A lot of people talk about the GX-1 in vague and worshiping terms, but very few people actually know what's going on inside it. So let me school y'all.

 

Full disclosure: a lot of this comes from the GX-1 chapter in my book SYNTH GEMS 1, which was vetted for accuracy by well-known musician and writer Gordon Reid, who owns one of them. (Yes, he owns a GX-1 and keeps it in good repair himself. Long story in there, but not for now.)

 

Origin story: The  1975 keyboard family welcomes a really disturbing new baby

 

As Craig pointed out earlier, the GX-1 does not come from the world of synthesizers. Keep in mind that in 1975, there was no such thing as a polyphonic synthesizer in the sense we know today. (Siddown, Poindexter, I know that the Oberheim Four-Voice came out the same year, but the tech behind the GX-1 existed years earlier.)

 

To a keyboardist of any time period after the invention of keyboards, "polyphony" was a very straightforward thing: you pressed a key, you heard a sound. It didn't matter how many keys you pressed at once, each one of them made its own sound. That's how every keyboard ever made worked, except for monophonic synthesizers, and they weren't real musical instruments anyway. (Siddown, Poindexter, and learn to recognize sarcasm before that cute little vein in your forehead pops.)

 

Full polyphony was available in the form of specific types of analog sound generation – most notably top-octave divide-down synthesis, which created plenty of polyphony but with limited articulation of individual notes – but a synthesizer with unique articulation for each of its multiple voices was unheard of.

 

By the way, top-octave divide-down was the methodology behind string ensemble keyboards such as the Freeman String Symphonizer, ARP/Solina String Ensemble and Omni/Omni II, the Roland RS-09 and SH-09, the Korg Delta and Lambda, etc. They are a fascinating topic in and of themselves, but that's for a another post in a different thread. Where was I? Oh yes.

 

In that era, mono synths and string machines aside, there were two electrified keyboards that ruled the roost in modern music: the electric piano and the electric organ. They were heavy, sometimes temperamental, and expensive, but they were what keyboardists knew and used.

 

The vast majority of research in electric pianos was to make something affordable and portable that sounded and played something like what an acoustic piano might sound like maybe if you crossed your fingers and wished real hard. However, because the organ was designed to create a whole bunch of different kinds of sounds, people focused on the latest and greatest organs the same way we focus on the latest and greatest synthesizers. The organ was everywhere: homes, clubs, theaters, churches, you name it. Hell, you could go to a pizza parlor and have the organist take requests while you ate! Whoever could build the best organ would rule the modern music world, and every organ manufacturer wanted a piece of that very big pie.

 

That included Yamaha, whose line of Electone organs rose up to challenge the big names in organ construction like Hammond and Baldwin. The Electones had been around since the late 1950s, and they served as the vehicle for new technologies that were intended to build a better organ... while still providing a familiar user experience for the organist.

 

So there's Craig's original point, in somewhat more detail: the GX-1 wasn't marketed as a synthesizer, because "polyphonic synthesizer" was an oxymoron. It was the latest and greatest flagship Electone organ, designed to highlight new technology that had started to appear as early as 1970 (look at a picture of the EX-42 and gasp in disbelief – no, that's not a GX-1, it's five years older).

 

As far as organists were concerned, it was a pretty impressive new beastie, even if it was limited in some ways, and had a few bizarre new ideas that they weren't super sure about. But it hit the world of tech-forward music like a rocket-assisted runaway train hauling a full load of jet fuel. (There actually was such a thing, but that's another story for another post in another thread, probably on another website. Where was I? Oh yes.)

 

So that sets the stage: an organ designed to give organists new expressive capabilities, that just so happened to be built around concepts we would view today as "synthesis". The fact that it was massively polyphonic (with a voice count not to be equaled by another analog synth for a very, very, VERY long time) with expressive capabilities essentially unknown in a modern keyboard (which must have seemed magical)... AND with user-editable timbres that were also user-programmable (wait, WHAT?!), was pretty much lost on its intended audience. But who the hell gives a rip what organists think anyway? (Siddown, Poindexter.)

 

Next time: the tech. Prepare to have your minds blown. (I may momentarily digress to teach you a bit about the bizarre envelopes on the GX-1 and CS-80... which are not bizarre at all, once you get the idea of what they're supposed to do.)

 

  • Like 8
  • Haha 1
  • Love 1

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Musician, Author, Editor, Educator, Impresario, Online Radio Guy, Cut-Rate Polymath, and Kindly Pedant

Editor-in-Chief, Bjooks ~ Author of SYNTH GEMS 1

 

clicky!:  more about me ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job ~ my bookmy music

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a great writeup, Mike. I just want to add that Yamaha doesn't use the word "synthesizer" anywhere in their documentation of the GX-1. In fat, they refer to the analog synthesis technology as "natural sound," a new kind of feature for an organ.

 

Interestingly, the GX-1 isn't particularly great at making traditional organ sounds. You have at most four sine waves per key (if you link the top and bottom keyboards together), so making authentic big 9-drawbar Hammond organ sounds is out of the question.

 

Your Synth Gems 1 book was a great source of information for us at Cherry Audio, as we first explored what made the GX-1 unique. I have to admit that I had all sorts of misconceptions about what a GX-1 was at the start of this project, and I get the feeling that many other people do, too. People expect it to be the most incredible synthesizer they're ever seen. In fact, it's a rather limited preset-based organ, with important performance controls at your fingertips, but absolutely no synthesizer parameter controls. Plus, there are only 10 preset sounds per keyboard.

 

But it unquestionably led to the creation of the CS-80, and that's an incredibly impressive instrument.

 

Dan

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, this review is above and beyond (and no, I am NOT Poindexter... 🤣).

I don't really play keyboards to speak of, nothing against them but I'm too busy playing guitar. 

That said, today I bought, downloaded and mostly installed the Cherry Audio GX-80 on my primary recording computer. 

The first time I open it a Cherry Audio window will appear and I must put magic stuff in that to authorize my new synth. Not there yet and it may be a while, my condo is still being repaired for water damage 11 months later. It looks like they are getting close though. Meanwhile, I didn't put it on my trusty laptop, which is getting kind of ful of stuffs. 

 

Anyway, I HAD to have it, the sounds are too cool. It will be fun to see how it responds to the Fishman Triple Play or one of the softwares that Craig A recommended but I haven't gotten for my guitar yet. And I do have friends who can play keys, and keys they can play on. 

 

It amazes me that I can have the sounds of a keyboard that is made of unobtainium and therefore priceless and another rare bird that fetches $60k if you can pry one away from the current owner and it's just $60 for all those sounds. I like that!!!!!

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...