Beat Magazine Feb 2009

2/2/2009 6:14 PM
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*) What inspired you to Synplant and the unusual design of the synthesizer?

I set out to deliberately create a synth that had an extremely slimmed down user-interface, but still with a lot of sonic potential. Actually, the very first idea was to create an entirely GUI-less power-synth :) This is where the concept came up of having different sounds on different keys and letting the mod-wheel decide how far the sounds should "grow" from each other.

The graphical concept then came quite naturally because of the terminology and metaphors I used to describe the synth. I wanted the GUI to put the user into the right state of mind so to speak.

*) Synplant is capable of very rich and complex sounds. Please tell us more about the synthesis architecture working inside of Synplant.

Beneath the leaves and branches you will find something of a virtual analogue synthesizer. It was built from ground up to work well with the concepts of randomly mutating and morphing parameters. There are a couple of oscillators based on phase-modulated sine generators as well as a third sub-oscillator that amplitude modulates the others. The oscillators can frequency-modulate each other which explains the wide diversity of timbres that you can achieve.

In some senses, this is the perfect user-interface for fm synthesis because you never know how to program fm anyhow.

There are a two saturating filters in parallel and then everything goes through a reverb with a built-in chorus / unison and finally a limiting saturator on the master.

The parameters in Synplant are far from linear and there is quite a lot of randomness going on inside the engine as well. I wanted Synplant to sound synthetic but in an organic way, if that makes any sense? :) The engine works very differently from the razor-sharp and exact MicroTonic.

*) Synplant allows to “manipulate the genes” of a sound. It would be nice to have a structured graphical editor for the “genes” - probably like a conventional synthesizer editor. Are you planning to implement something along those lines in a future version of Synplant?

Yeah, this is a common request, but I am not sure how well it would work. First, there are 37 genes / parameters in Synplant. A GUI for 37 controls would be much bigger than Synplant is today. Foremost however, I think that offering a conventional synthesizer editor would lead users to expect that the genes would work as parameters on a conventional synthesizer too and they don't. The genes are configured so that random mutations can create useful sounds, and not as much to be easily edited by a human. There are some pretty peculiar concepts in there like the envelope which is far from a conventional ADSR. So even if the idea of a more structured editor isn't bad, I think it would have to be more abstract than a conventional synthesizer GUI.

*) Did you ever thought about programming an effect plug-in based on the Synplant engine?

It could be an interesting challenge. Without having actually experimented with it, I think it could turn out a bit less efficient to explore the parameter space of an effect in this manner as opposed to a synthesizer. One reason being that we have another variable, and that is the input audio. In Synplant, you just have to click and drag a branch a couple of times to know what sound that branch produces. With an effect you may need to take things a bit slower, because the result is also affected by the input signal. But for sure, if you just want to quickly come up with random effects, I see no reason why the Synplant principle should not work.

*) Which is the next project you’re working on?

My latest project is called Kasper and he is a three months old little boy. I expect to work on this project for many many years to come.