Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

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Robrecht
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Re:

Post by Robrecht » Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:07 am

Robrecht wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 4:38 am
Even though multiple outputs would be ideal, the single output works well for me through any filter (Ripples, Wasp, Moog).

In my experience, the retrigger option is key. If you're holding a chord with your right hand and playing a bass line on the left, you don't want to retrigger the filter envelope (and re-articulate that higher sustained chord) with every bass note.

Conversely, a lead melody over a sustained chord works best if the filter envelope is retriggered with every lead note, and the fact that the chord goes through the same filter opening and closing again doesn't matter that much, as it's in a lower register.

By setting the retrigger behavior appropriately, I don't really miss having a separate filter envelope per voice, thanks in part to the individual VCA envelopes. Also, sending that mono output through a good stereo reverb makes it super lush and wide.
I still stand by this statement very much –– a bit of chorus by modulating a short stereo delay plus some stereo reverb makes the DCO sound as lush and wide as I could ever want –– but I was thinking about the following concept.

Since the sixteen oscillators are derived from a single analog core, they are produced as a single signal and can't be separated, right? But what if you were to add a second, identical oscillator core?

I know you can control the amplitude of each of the sixteen oscillators independently, since they all have their own ADSR envelope. So in theory, you could coordinate two oscillator cores so that they both play exactly the same notes, but core A grades the amplitude of its 16 oscillators from 100 to 0%, and core B does the same but from 0 to 100%. If the mono outputs of both cores are hard panned left and right, that should give the impression of 16 oscillators spread evenly across the stereo spectrum, no?

Like, oscillator 1 has an amplitude of 100% in the left channel and 0% in the right channel; oscillator 2 is at 93.4% left and 6.6% right; oscillator 3 at 13.3% and 86.6%, and so on until oscillator 16, which is at 0% left and 100% right.

OK, that's the theory. Now I'm imagining a small expander module -- let's say 4HP -- with the following components:
  • One oscillator core just like the one in the main module
  • A knob and corresponding CV input for stereo spread (from mono/centered to super wide)
  • Optionally, a bipolar knob and CV input for stereo movement, making all the oscillators continually shift to the left or to the right at a speed determined by the knob/CV
  • A single audio output, positioned so it would line up next to the main module's output (when the stereo expander is installed to the left of it), to form a stereo pair to be panned left and right
  • Two ribbon cable connectors on the back, so you can connect both the main module and the existing expander simultaneously
Since you need a pair of identical oscillators from core A and core B to give the impression of one panned oscillator, the net number of available oscillators would still be 16, so the 16 LED "star" interface of the main module could continue working in the same intuitive way.

Of course, this would require a big firmware update and there are probably lots of technical hurdles I haven't thought about. But it would be fun, wouldn't it? :mrgreen:

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Re: Re:

Post by tisaalho » Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:17 am

Robrecht wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:07 am


OK, that's the theory. Now I'm imagining a small expander module -- let's say 4HP -- with the following components:
  • One oscillator core just like the one in the main module
  • A knob and corresponding CV input for stereo spread (from mono/centered to super wide)
  • Optionally, a bipolar knob and CV input for stereo movement, making all the oscillators continually shift to the left or to the right at a speed determined by the knob/CV
  • A single audio output, positioned so it would line up next to the main module's output (when the stereo expander is installed to the left of it), to form a stereo pair to be panned left and right
  • Two ribbon cable connectors on the back, so you can connect both the main module and the existing expander simultaneously
Since you need a pair of identical oscillators from core A and core B to give the impression of one panned oscillator, the net number of available oscillators would still be 16, so the 16 LED "star" interface of the main module could continue working in the same intuitive way.

Of course, this would require a big firmware update and there are probably lots of technical hurdles I haven't thought about. But it would be fun, wouldn't it? :mrgreen:
Great minds! This is something we've been thinking about for some time. However, we'd need to also generate the digital control signals for the output expander (there's no way to share them from the main unit), so it's not enough to duplicate the analog part, but we'd have to also throw in another microcontroller. It could be a smaller/cheaper unit though, since it wouldn't need to deal with the UI, tuning equations etc. Then there's the problem that there's really no digital bus suitable for the units to communicate in the expander cable... except if we press into service an existing bus which is used for factory testing and toggling the expander LEDs. Then comes the question whether this relatively slow bus could push all the necessary control data from the main unit in time. At the back-of-the-envelope -level, the answer appears to be maybe just barely. Which means that it would indeed be a very non-trivial effort to write the firmware, with a small but non-negligible chance that it won't work after all.

How much do you think such an expander should cost, when compared with the existing one? How about if, at the same time, it would actually produce 3 extra outs (since the analog section wouldn't be that expensive to triplicate once the communication would work) for total 4 voice true polyphony? :hmm:
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by loydb » Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:19 am

Whatever it cost, I'd buy one... but I would think $200-$250 would probably be the pain threshold for many people. The problem seems to be that the audience would be mostly limited to people who already own one, but I guess you already have experience with that.

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by Robrecht » Thu Jun 25, 2020 2:25 pm

tisaalho wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:17 am
Great minds! This is something we've been thinking about for some time.
Thanks for your extensive reply! Really cool that you guys were thinking along the same lines. And of course, as I expected, it is a lot more complicated than I imagined. :)
tisaalho wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:17 am
How much do you think such an expander should cost, when compared with the existing one? How about if, at the same time, it would actually produce 3 extra outs (since the analog section wouldn't be that expensive to triplicate once the communication would work) for total 4 voice true polyphony? :hmm:
My initial thinking of adding just one extra output was that the panning of all the voices could then take place inside the module (using the complementary amplitudes thing between the cores), including some CV-able modulation of stereo spread and placement, so it would deliver a ready-to-use stereo signal with all the voices already panned from left to right. That would simplify its use further along in the chain: just one stereo filter needed etc. (something like, I don't know, the upcoming Neutron Flux filter? ;) ). Also, fewer outputs could possibly help keep the module small.

But now, I can imagine that the amplitude coordination between two cores required for such granular stereo panning would add another layer of difficulty for the firmware, especially given the limited digital bandwidth of the expander cable. Would separate outputs for four (unmixed) voices actually be more feasible?

Having four separate outputs would of course be amazing in itself. And more in the spirit of modular, I guess: panning and mixing would then occur downstream, in dedicated modules, and each voice could go through its own filter for true polyphony (although when using MIDI, that would require additional gate outs as well, I guess?).

So: convenience or flexibility? Hard to say what most users would prefer. In my case, and given what I have available in my rack, I think I would slightly lean towards the convenience of a ready-to-use stereo output. But I'd love it either way.

Edit: I've been reading it as an either-or situation, but if you meant having both the stereo option and the separate outs per voice selectable in the same module, that would be amazing! In my mind, these options would roughly correspond to the two existing options for playing polyphonically: simple stereo if you're playing over MIDI, four separate outs if you're going full modular and using the four CV ins (in that case you'd likely have gates to go with those CVs already, from the same external source, for triggering separate filter envelopes).

Price is a difficult question, too. Something in the neighborhood of the existing expander's price, I guess, for most people? Or a little more in my case. Which may still not be proportional to the amount of work it would require, if it is at all feasible.

I hope more people will pitch in to give an idea of the market!

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by yaongi~ » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:05 am

tisaalho wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:17 am
How much do you think such an expander should cost, when compared with the existing one? How about if, at the same time, it would actually produce 3 extra outs (since the analog section wouldn't be that expensive to triplicate once the communication would work) for total 4 voice true polyphony? :hmm:
The opportunity to have true polyphony really makes a difference, I think - at least when evaluating investing in the module (as I am). Having the choice between a mono out, stereo spread, or 4 voice polyphony - sounds pretty cool to me.

Can't say what the cost should be, but even having that as an option makes the basic setup more desirable, since it gives the knowledge that it can be expanded, if need be.

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by dip_registered » Tue Aug 11, 2020 10:39 am

Has anyone found a good MIDI type B (from keystep) to TRS 1/8 cable to use with the expander? I’m having no luck finding one!
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by tisaalho » Wed Aug 19, 2020 2:27 am

dip_registered wrote:
Tue Aug 11, 2020 10:39 am
Has anyone found a good MIDI type B (from keystep) to TRS 1/8 cable to use with the expander? I’m having no luck finding one!
Quick note: the expander input is bipolar, i.e. type A and B will both work.
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by dip_registered » Tue Sep 22, 2020 11:47 pm

Finally got my MIDI cable working! Excited but can't figure out how to get polyphony? With the midi plugged into TRS and playing fine, except no polyphony. Am I missing something?

Edit: Quickly got it. Keystep was in chord mode :foul:
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by hzzzu » Wed Sep 23, 2020 2:59 am

dip_registered wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 11:47 pm
Finally got my MIDI cable working! Excited but can't figure out how to get polyphony? With the midi plugged into TRS and playing fine, except no polyphony. Am I missing something?

Edit: Quickly got it. Keystep was in chord mode :foul:
Cool! Didn't know the Keystep had a chord mode though I have one. Should I do a basic MIDI polyphony video of this. Do you feel it's intuitive enough to get the polyphony going on the DCO?
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by chris_sd » Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm

hzzzu wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:05 am
Hi! My name is Heikki and I’m from a new manufacturer called Supercritical Synthesizers. We started this as a hobby project with two other people (including our engineering genius Timo, tisaalho on MW) almost two years ago and now we decided to release it to public. The first product is the Demon Core Oscillator and accompanying it is the Demon Core Expander module.
Is there any pathway in the Demon Core Oscillator or Expander that converts the signal from an analog signal to a virtual analog signal?

For example on the oscillator there is a DCO which is an analog signal, but it then gets routed into some circuitry that creates 16 different voices that can have slight tuning differences - Does the signal remain analog or is slight aliasing introduced? Is this all done in the analog domain?

Then on the ADSR, the Expander seems to allow ADSR on each of the 16 voices independently and I'm not sure if the signal remains in the analog domain?

I'm very interested to buy one of these :)

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Re:

Post by chris_sd » Thu Nov 05, 2020 4:21 pm

tisaalho wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 6:56 am
The update fixes two things:
1. Since the control for the amplitude in the virtual VCA's is digital, there is some inherent noise when the amplitude is changing, and this was audible on medium attack and release. However, the level of the noise was _much_ higher than strictly necessary, and the new firmware takes advantage of that to reduce the noise to essentially inaudible.
I am curious to ask how the virtual VCA operates on the signal? Does it cause aliasing? It seems that you went to a lot of trouble to create an analogue signal from the DCO and then put it into a virtual VCA that converts it to a digital signal? Unless I'm not understanding completely?

I also wanted to ask: Do you use subdivision of the master clock to form the reference frequencies to form the 16 analog voices? And then I'm assuming that to produce the instability in tuning, you make the subdivision of the master clock slightly inaccurate? I'm wondering how you managed to keep this all analog :)

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by cinnatoastg » Fri Nov 06, 2020 7:23 am

chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm
Is there any pathway in the Demon Core Oscillator or Expander that converts the signal from an analog signal to a virtual analog signal?

For example on the oscillator there is a DCO which is an analog signal, but it then gets routed into some circuitry that creates 16 different voices that can have slight tuning differences - Does the signal remain analog or is slight aliasing introduced? Is this all done in the analog domain?
I think you may be confused on the terms you're using.

Analog Signal - Continuous signal, smooth, no steps
Virtual analog - A type of synth that uses DSP/software to generate it's sound

Maybe you meant digital? Unless there are AD or sample rate converters there would be no aliasing, so no would be a safe assumption. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong though.

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by mskala » Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:17 am

cinnatoastg wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 7:23 am
Maybe you meant digital? Unless there are AD or sample rate converters there would be no aliasing, so no would be a safe assumption. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong though.
Temporal aliasing is still possible when the timing of an analog circuit is controlled by a digital circuit that can only switch on the transitions of a fixed clock. The makers of the Demon Core have refused to explain exactly what they're doing, but it sounds a lot to me like they're using a digital system and ADC to control a single analog integrator's rate and reset, and calling the result 16 channels of "analog." If so, it's quite reasonable to ask whether frequency aliasing is a possibility.
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by cinnatoastg » Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:32 am

mskala wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:17 am
cinnatoastg wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 7:23 am
Maybe you meant digital? Unless there are AD or sample rate converters there would be no aliasing, so no would be a safe assumption. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong though.
Temporal aliasing is still possible when the timing of an analog circuit is controlled by a digital circuit that can only switch on the transitions of a fixed clock.
I've got reading for today, thanks!
mskala wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:17 am
The makers of the Demon Core have refused to explain exactly what they're doing, but it sounds a lot to me like they're using a digital system and ADC to control a single analog integrator's rate and reset, and calling the result 16 channels of "analog." If so, it's quite reasonable to ask whether frequency aliasing is a possibility.
It's totally reasonable. But the way it was worded was super confusing, it's absolutely not VA if there's an analog core, that's just my being anal about definitions... As far as to how they are getting past that analog core... :despair:

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by chris_sd » Fri Nov 06, 2020 12:51 pm

mskala wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:17 am
Temporal aliasing is still possible when the timing of an analog circuit is controlled by a digital circuit that can only switch on the transitions of a fixed clock. The makers of the Demon Core have refused to explain exactly what they're doing, but it sounds a lot to me like they're using a digital system and ADC to control a single analog integrator's rate and reset, and calling the result 16 channels of "analog." If so, it's quite reasonable to ask whether frequency aliasing is a possibility.
I agree! I hope I'm asking only asking reasonable questions. My reasons are obvious, I spend my whole day working with virtual synths in VST, so when I relax in the evening with modular, I want to remain in the analog domain.

I'm not trying to bust Supercritical's balls, I'm just trying understand if their device fits in with the philosophy of what I'm trying to do. If they have some intellectual information that they are trying to protect, I totally get it, but they could just come out and say: We've found a way to solve this particular problem, but we'd rather hold on to the information as to how we did to to protect our business. Fine :) But just say so.

I'm assuming that their DCO is a quartz crystal timed DCO and not a VCO timed DCO which is fine with me, I don't mind analog signals produced by CPU timing (I just don't want to work with digital rendering such as a NCO in my evening projects).

I don't exactly know how they could use one DCO to produce 16 analog voices (and with random detuning) without aliasing - wouldn't that be 16 DCOs? If someone can explain it to me, then I'm buying one.

As for the expander, yeah what "exactly" does a 16 voice virtual ADSR do? Digital volume timing on a pure analog signal or does the signal cross into the digital domain at any point?

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by tisaalho » Fri Nov 27, 2020 7:12 am

Hi all, sorry for the slow reply, we've been super busy with getting the Neutron Fluxes out the door (but now the first shipment is on it's way to our distributor!).
chris_sd wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 12:51 pm

If they have some intellectual information that they are trying to protect, I totally get it, but they could just come out and say: We've found a way to solve this particular problem, but we'd rather hold on to the information as to how we did to to protect our business. Fine :) But just say so.
This is exactly the case, and I don't think we've been hiding that in any way? Nonetheless, let it be stated here directly: we've put over two years of work from the initial proof-of-concept to making the DCO work in practice. While I'd actually love to tell everybody how it works, we simply cannot justify giving out the exact idea behind it if we want to try to make a living out of this. That's why we're only giving a high-level overview.

Anyway, your questions are perfectly reasonable and I'll try to answer your questions to the extent that I can:
chris_sd wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 12:51 pm

I'm assuming that their DCO is a quartz crystal timed DCO and not a VCO timed DCO which is fine with me, I don't mind analog signals produced by CPU timing (I just don't want to work with digital rendering such as a NCO in my evening projects).
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 4:21 pm

I also wanted to ask: Do you use subdivision of the master clock to form the reference frequencies to form the 16 analog voices? And then I'm assuming that to produce the instability in tuning, you make the subdivision of the master clock slightly inaccurate? I'm wondering how you managed to keep this all analog :)
It's not an NCO (nor is it FPGA -based), and yes, there's a 72MHz quartz crystal based oscillator which ultimately provides the master clock. We're not making the division inaccurate, we're simply adjusting the periods of the individual waveforms. The stability control, if you're referring to that, simply modulates these periods in a way that mimics the instability of a VCO. Everything remains an integral number of cycles of the master clock, and hence no aliasing.
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm

Is there any pathway in the Demon Core Oscillator or Expander that converts the signal from an analog signal to a virtual analog signal?
No.
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm

For example on the oscillator there is a DCO which is an analog signal, but it then gets routed into some circuitry that creates 16 different voices that can have slight tuning differences - Does the signal remain analog or is slight aliasing introduced? Is this all done in the analog domain?
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 4:21 pm

I am curious to ask how the virtual VCA operates on the signal? Does it cause aliasing? It seems that you went to a lot of trouble to create an analogue signal from the DCO and then put it into a virtual VCA that converts it to a digital signal? Unless I'm not understanding completely?
It is precisely, not approximately, aliasing free. The timing generation is actually before the analog core (and I probably shouldn't even be giving this much away), and all frequencies generated have an integer period in terms of the master clock cycles, which means there's no aliasing. For the VCA part, see below.
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm

Then on the ADSR, the Expander seems to allow ADSR on each of the 16 voices independently and I'm not sure if the signal remains in the analog domain?
The Expander really just adds more controls and connectivity, the amplitude control is also done before the analog core. User cioaudio on this thread already figured out this part pretty much spot on: just as in a normal DCO, we can use the offset compensation/reset level controls to adjust amplitude. So the term "virtual VCA" here points to the fact that no amplification actually takes place, rather the signal is generated with the desired amplitude to start with.

Finally, let me link a short demonstration explicitly demonstrating that there's no aliasing in the Demon Core Oscillator. Note that I'm using a perfectly ordinary (Steinberg UR22mkII) audio interface, and the free Voxengo Span plugin, so anyone who has our DCO can check this for themselves instead of taking our word/video for it: Demon Core Spectrum Analysis

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them, and I'll answer as much as I can.
chris_sd wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:11 pm

I'm very interested to buy one of these :)
Cool!
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by dip_registered » Sun Dec 20, 2020 11:27 am

It’s such an awesome vco. I unfortunately can’t afford to keep mine! Available in the for sale/trade section.
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by NomnoMPE » Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:20 pm

Kind of an old thread - but just wanted to reiterate that if you guys ever make an expander with the 4 voices out, I would buy it in a heartbeat!!!

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by slumberjack » Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:11 am

I'm sorry to say that the intransparency of this company makes me not wanting their products. Of course we live in a free world and it maybe is the right decision from a specific POV but that is certainly not mine. Maybe it's because I'm uneducated in electronics but still two years after launch there is no real explanation about how magically they reinvented the weel aside from all the other manufactorers incl. the global players in the market.

I just don't buy it.

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by tisaalho » Tue Apr 20, 2021 3:51 am

slumberjack wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:11 am
...all the other manufactorers incl. the global players in the market.
You just answered why we don't want to give the details away ;) Can you imagine how quickly some of the global players could outcompete us production wise if they knew all the details, with their literally thousandfold bigger production capacities? We're still just three guys, and the final assembly and testing is done on Heikki's kitchen table.

It's of course healthy to be skeptical about our claims. However, anyone can check the claims regarding aliasing using an ordinary sound card and, for example, the Voxengo Span (or any other audio analysis software).
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by hzzzu » Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:07 am

Look at that!

The Perfect Circuit people made a cool video about different approaches on eurorack polyphony. It's featuring the DCO, the Acid Rain Chainsaw and the 4ms/Matthias Puech Ensemble oscillator.

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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by Mad_Rasputin » Wed Jun 23, 2021 11:30 pm

slumberjack wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:11 am
I'm sorry to say that the intransparency of this company makes me not wanting their products. Of course we live in a free world and it maybe is the right decision from a specific POV but that is certainly not mine. Maybe it's because I'm uneducated in electronics but still two years after launch there is no real explanation about how magically they reinvented the weel aside from all the other manufactorers incl. the global players in the market.

I just don't buy it.

What is it exactly that you’re trying to say here? That Supercritical are lying about everything? That the synth is in fact not analog after all? I mean, it seems kinda arrogant to make such an implication, especially considering your (noted) lack of knowledge about electronics..

And I don’t understand how you’re getting out of this that they’re claiming to have magically reinvented the wheel. I’ve read no such statements here. There are plenty of eurorack outfits that don’t make their designs available to the public. You have to be careful about stuff like that when it can affect your livelihood. Say they make everything open to whomever wants to look.. next thing you know, we’d be seeing Behringer release their own DCO! /s
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by Gringo Starr » Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:47 am

hzzzu wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:07 am
Look at that!

The Perfect Circuit people made a cool video about different approaches on eurorack polyphony. It's featuring the DCO, the Acid Rain Chainsaw and the 4ms/Matthias Puech Ensemble oscillator.

The Demon Core and Chainsaw sounded different but equally as beautiful imo. Damn I’d like to have them both.
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by hzzzu » Mon Jul 19, 2021 5:06 am

This is a patch that bends the idea of octave stacking. The expander has an alternative CV mode (Hold FUNCTION and click MODE, the expander leds blink quickly) which turns the four CV inputs to control 1. Sync Time 2. Sync Random 3. Octave stack size 4. Octave stack interval. FM amount attenuates all of these.

The octave stack doesn’t need to be an octave. Here it’s set to a 5th and then the stack amount is varied. With minor 3rd you can do huge diminished chords.

Some dirty intervals can also be done. The tuning doesn’t have to be accurate all the time.

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Jesper(modclubhouse)
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Re: Our answer to modular polyphony: Supercritical Synthesizers

Post by Jesper(modclubhouse) » Fri Aug 20, 2021 5:11 am

I shared this in another thread but might make more sense here:


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