THINGS I LIKE ABOUT ANALOG SYNTHESIZERS
where are my synth heads?
- •The oscillators have characterThe sine wave is smooth, sometimes a little overweight, powerful in the high registers, sometimes boring but always fundamental. The square is playful, childlike, full of odd harmonics and very binary in its approach. The sawtooth is sharp, incisive, fun and serious, modern, edgy in a predictable way. And white noise? The wildcard.
- •The envelope section is poeticAttack. Decay. Sustain. Release. Release. Sustain. Sustain release. Release attack. Sustain decay. I don't know, seems wise somehow.
- •Knobs and slidersThis is what really makes you feel like you're sculpting a sound with your own hands. Or flying an aircraft. That intersection between science and art and engineering happens in this tactile area.
- •The LFOThe LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator modulates audio at a speed that is actually perceptible to the human ear (like the way the pitch of a police siren rises and falls). At this speed you can actually hear and understand the waveform shape and get a better sense of the physics involved. The classic "car alarm sequence" from cars in the 90s sounds a bunch of LFO shapes and speeds one after another - sine, sawtooth, reverse sawtooth, and square are all audible (wish I could hum it for you)
- •No latencyThis is really a digital-age issue as latency didn't even exist in the 70s, 80s, and most of the 90s I'm guessing. With a computer or digital recreation of this type of synth there is a delay between playing and hearing that can be so small as to be basically imperceptible...but it still sucks and reminds you that you're doing virtual synthesis instead of the real thing
- •They sound so goodAnalog vs digital sound has been a debate in the recording and pro-audio world since I was a teenager reading recording magazines. Digital recording vs tape, digital synths vs analog, and now digital amps, digital effects, even digital guitars (I have one) have entered the fray. It's an interesting area to debate with people. I find most musicians my age do have real affection for the analog, even though they may admit that technically, it may sound identical to high end digital.