Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

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eb00
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Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Sun May 02, 2021 8:43 pm

Still pretty new-ish to this, been plugging away at my current set of toys for about a month or so now, and learning a ton. I've been making a ton of noise with Plaits and Basimilus Iteritas Alter. I can see why they are both popular items, and I'm having no problems with getting a wide range of fun and crazy sounds out of them. Absolutely no regrets with either.

From an educational experience standpoint though, I sometimes wonder if it would be a good idea to add a more basic and simple(ish) analog oscillator to experiment with as well. A short list I'm considering (also open to suggestions):
  • Make Noise STO
  • Doepfer A-110
  • Intellijel Dixie II+
I know that Plaits has a lot of those classic sounds covered in it's top option on the left/green menu (pair of classic waveforms), but it's not actually analog. And it seems like it does a lot of the actual changes/modulation on it's own with things like Waveshaping/folding built right in. And while that is convenient to explore, it feels like I'm learning to drive a Porsche with automatic transmission. While I can learn about what different things and techniques sound like, I don't fully learn how it works.

So, will I actually learn anything from adding one of those more simple analog oscillators, and trying to figure out how to do all things with modules that manipulate them ? Or should I just continue getting deeper into it with these two?
Last edited by eb00 on Sun May 02, 2021 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Sun May 02, 2021 9:26 pm

I prefer the Dixie. I have a dixie II. I don't know if I would want the dixie II+ because of the size but I guess if that is one of your only VCO's then there is no problem with it. A-110 is a saw core so your tri and sin will have a glitch. the STO is only desirable because of the sub oscillator but you can replicate that with a clock divider or a sub oscillator module. the STO is a triangle core like the dixie but the dixie can do both VCO and LFO so it is really a better investment unless you want all the features of an STO in a small cheap package.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by KSS » Sun May 02, 2021 9:44 pm

The porsche analogy is spot on.
But it's not the oscillator that missing, it the ability to craft your own levels and modulations. Read the first line of my sig.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Sun May 02, 2021 10:08 pm

EATyourGUITAR, thanks for the feedback. It would be nice to save a few HP if the basic sound and and modulation capabilities are there, which it looks like it is. I will consider the smaller Dixie models.

KSS, that is a good line. Appreciate that for sure.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by Lokua » Sun May 02, 2021 10:09 pm

I'd recommend a WMD/Spectrum over a Dixie 2. They cover the same territory but Spectrum tracks better and I almost never need to tune it, while I have to tune the Dixie 2 every time. The spectrum octave switch is much more practical as well. It's too easy to accidentally knock the Dixie frequency knob when changing octave, and the switch requires considerable force. Not playable at all. The Spectrum also holds tune better than Dixie in fm scenarios. They both offer a special derived waveform that is a mix of square and saw, yet the Spectrum has two flavors PLUS those flavors are affected by pulse width control while the Dixie's is not. And the Spectrum has adjustable sub octave as well. The only thing Dixie has the Spectrum doesn't is the flip sync, which is cool but more a nice to have rather than a giant selling point.

Anyway, you didn't ask for it but just an opportunity to hype what is an amazing bread and butter oscillator which is objectively better than a Dixie in every way in my few years if owning both. That said the Dixie is still a good choice, just not a better one unless that minor hp difference really matters.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Sun May 02, 2021 10:42 pm

Hey Lokua, I did not specify in my original post, but I am absolutely open to suggestions. I'll actually edit to say so.

The WMD Spectrum sounds great, I will look into that one too, thanks for the recommendation. It looks very flexible with some interesting possibilities.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by hinterlands303 » Sun May 02, 2021 11:12 pm

eb00 wrote:
Sun May 02, 2021 10:42 pm
Hey Lokua, I did not specify in my original post, but I am absolutely open to suggestions. I'll actually edit to say so.

The WMD Spectrum sounds great, I will look into that one too, thanks for the recommendation. It looks very flexible with some interesting possibilities.
The Spectrum sounds great, but you have to be okay with insanely bright blue LEDs. I recently sold my pair of Spectrums because, after using them for several years, I just couldn't handle the LEDs anymore. It's a great sounding VCO though. The only thing I disliked about it (other than being blinded by it) was the switch to choose between linear and exponential FM since I often like to use both at the same time.

My current bread and butter oscillators are the Doepfer a-111-2 high end VCO, Electrosmith 3340 VCO, and Malekko Richter Oscillator II (although it has a few extra tricks up it's sleeve so I'm not sure it's entirely bread and butter). They're all fantastic and I absolutely think it's worth working with (relatively) simple analog VCOs. That's where the fun is for me - using these simple waveforms to create complex and interesting timbres.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by transistorresistor » Mon May 03, 2021 2:10 am

I wouldnt even frame it as an educational process, even though unquestionably it will be. Analog oscillator will be entirely complimentary to what you have now. Plaits was my first eurorack module, totally got me hooked and I still have it in the rack and use it often but view it much more like a multitool than anything proper i rely on these days.

The oscillators I got next were doepfer a-111-3 and a pittsburgh lifeforms primary. If you are going to add just one analog oscillator to what you have, I would recommend not getting one with an octave switch. Other folks might have different views, but you are going to want to experiment with using it to FM what you got, and using what you got to FM the new thing. The a-111-3 (which the same core as the a-111-2 recommended and the same chip as the electrosmith) has such a great quality to the low end, that thing makes such a cool fucking sound, cant recommend it enough. It is also cheap af and 4 hp. easy gamble. The pittsburgh primary is a really rock solid bread and butter but also has a really interesting wave folder with lots of options to animate so you can grow quite a bit into that as well.

I think a significant feature to consider is if you want octave switching or not. Personally, I wouldnt, but there are tons of reasons why you might, just gotta figure out which benefits your direction. The ability to fully sweep frequency is something I would want in my only analog oscillator in the rack.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by Agawell » Mon May 03, 2021 4:58 am

personally I would concentrate on modules to support what you have already (modulation, utilities etc) rather than adding another vco and not having the modules to support it fully - but I have no idea what you already have other than a couple of voice modules
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Mon May 03, 2021 8:34 am

transistorresistor wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 2:10 am
I think a significant feature to consider is if you want octave switching or not. Personally, I wouldnt, but there are tons of reasons why you might, just gotta figure out which benefits your direction. The ability to fully sweep frequency is something I would want in my only analog oscillator in the rack.
Interesting point. I think i will eventually mostly use this to produce musical bass lines and/or leads in traditional music scales. I don't expect the need to widely vary with dramatic sweeps between extreme high and low in any kinda of rapid succession, so maybe the octave switcher is good thing?

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Mon May 03, 2021 8:40 am

Agawell wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:58 am
personally I would concentrate on modules to support what you have already (modulation, utilities etc) rather than adding another vco and not having the modules to support it fully - but I have no idea what you already have other than a couple of voice modules
At the moment I have: Pam's New Workout, Ripples for a filter, Maths, and a Befaco ADSR, (also some VCAs). I'm normally running this in tandem with Ableton via Midi to CV as well, so I've been able to sequence some fun stuff that way and experimenting what what kinda of signals I can get going.

Eventually I'd like to use Ableton less for controlling my rack, but that's a few more modules (and paychecks) away at the moment.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by pugix » Mon May 03, 2021 9:44 am

I'll just mention the Synthesis Technology E300 Ultra VCO. It is an extremely well engineered analog oscillator. I have a pair of MOTM-300 oscillators, the predecessor design, in 5U.

https://synthtech.com/eurorack/E300/
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon May 03, 2021 8:29 pm

the spectrum, the A110, the E300 are all saw core. the FM of a triangle core is a different sound. also, the sine waves are cleaner. I use my dixie II for an LFO most of the time. if I use it as a VCO it is for noise. there is no quantizer, sequencer or keyboard in my system. I never noticed the tracking problem but I also never tested it. if you want a triangle core VCO that tracks well you can get a rubicon (not rubicon II). ask intellijel if there is a rubicon II (rev 2) that fixes the DC coupled FM input (there was a missing capacitor). at some point, you need some LFO's. I would recommend the joranalog generate 3 but I don't know if you have enough LFO in your system to make use of it. the bubblesound uLFO is both a VCO and an LFO with way more features compared to a dixie. I have no idea how it tracks. it is famous for crazy long cycles up to 1 hour in LFO mode.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Mon May 03, 2021 9:28 pm

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 8:29 pm
the spectrum, the A110, the E300 are all saw core. the FM of a triangle core is a different sound. also, the sine waves are cleaner.
Hey EATyourGUITAR, appreciate the knowledge. You also said before: "A-110 is a saw core so your tri and sin will have a glitch".
What did you mean before about a glitch?

Obviously I'd like to push the sounds I can get out of this to the limit (or as much as I can) and make some crazy stuff, but also I would like to make some traditional techno-ish bass and lead sounds. And make them "fat & ripping" sounding sometimes. Sometimes cleaner, sometimes dirtier, but at my choosing I guess. Does one of those cores get the "fat ripping" sound better or is it really just how you modulate and it's up to you?

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon May 03, 2021 10:04 pm

Fat bass lines are mostly stacked saw waves. Any saw core + the chainsaw module will get that sound. Choosing the right filter is also a big part of a good bass line. If you like the TB303 then you want a slew on the pitch CV that can be toggled on or off. Sometimes you want a sequencer with the slew built in so you can program what notes have glide. Glide = slew. MS20 filter is a good example of a classic fat bass line. The Moog filter clones like the ajh or the aion modular or the Rossum evolution or even the doepfer ladder filter are all great. There are too many filters to list. The jove. The STG post lawsuit filter, the sea devils filter. There are about 200 filters to choose from. You might want a VCADSR with some LFO modulating decay time.

Sometimes the most raw bass line is actually a square wave with nothing on it. You hear it on drum n bass records from the 90's. Just a tiny bit of sine LFO to the FM input. Maybe some sine modulating PWM slightly. Very simple but still effective at that one trick pony.

If all you want is dirty bass lines then you don't really need or care about clean sine waves, triangle core FM sounds etc.. something about the Moog model D and the Moog modular was how the VCO would not track in tune properly. That undesirable defect became a feature after it became iconic. There is no good and bad about it. Only a matter of preference really.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Mon May 03, 2021 10:18 pm

Great info, lots to consider. Thanks for all that info!

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by KSS » Tue May 04, 2021 1:13 am

To answer the glitch question,
A saw core has a finite time built in as the waveform goes from max to min as quickly as possible. Triangle does not. The distance the saw or ramp has to 'go' is greater. The electronics to do this take more time than simply reversing the direction, which is what happens to make a core triangle.

Most analog oscillators create all the other waves from their core wave. This means that little blip aka discontinuity from the slice of time it takes to reset the saw or ramp core shows up when it's converted to -usually- first a triangle. Then that blip in the triangle becomes part of the sine when only the triangle's 'corners' are rounded to turn from TRI to SIN.

Turning triangle cores into saws or ramps makes a different blip but for the same reason. The discontnuity of a ramp or saw compared to the continuous nature of a triangle ot sine wave.

This is why different cores are chosen for different uses. And why it pays to have at least one of each type in a system.
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One of the things that made the ARP 2500 great is that its VCOs have a dual core. There is both saw and triangle being co-generated.
Its saw and TRI-SIN are all free of the blips of conversion.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by pugix » Tue May 04, 2021 10:58 am

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 8:29 pm
the spectrum, the A110, the E300 are all saw core. the FM of a triangle core is a different sound. also, the sine waves are cleaner
Paul Schreiber about his E300 design:

"The VCO core is a new sawtooth-based circuit with improved linearity and a unique saw-to-triangle converter with no glitch in the transition peaks."
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Tue May 04, 2021 12:50 pm

Huh, so it sounds like that might just be the best of both worlds!

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by hamildad » Tue May 04, 2021 2:31 pm

I had a Dixie and a STO, they were mismatched cops that were put together to crack one big case

They may not always have got along, but in the end they respected each others methods, and got the job done no matter what the pencil pushers in city hall might say..

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by sduck » Tue May 04, 2021 8:22 pm

I love having a bunch of plain jane analog VCOs available. They're often what I go to first when experimenting with musical ideas - if you can make something cool happen with just the 4 basic waveforms, imagine what you can do with something more complex.

Of course I'm old enough to have been around when that's all we had - I grew up in Ithaca, just down the road from Trumansburg, in the 60's and 70's so I only got exposed to west coast stuff a bit later.

Quite often the first things I go for in my 5U system is the 3 MOTM 300 VCOs - they're easily my most used modules. Stack those saw waves into octaves, you get a mighty bass sound, or lead voice, or whatever. For the euro, I tend to go for the e370 as my first voice of choice, but also have a bunch of Befaco Even VCOs in there for the analog sound when I want it.
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by defragmenteur » Tue May 04, 2021 9:02 pm

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Sun May 02, 2021 9:26 pm
I prefer the Dixie. I have a dixie II. I don't know if I would want the dixie II+ because of the size but I guess if that is one of your only VCO's then there is no problem with it. A-110 is a saw core so your tri and sin will have a glitch. the STO is only desirable because of the sub oscillator but you can replicate that with a clock divider or a sub oscillator module. the STO is a triangle core like the dixie but the dixie can do both VCO and LFO so it is really a better investment unless you want all the features of an STO in a small cheap package.
The STO can run as an LFO if you feed the v/oct with negative voltage.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Tue May 04, 2021 10:32 pm

pugix wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 10:58 am
EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 8:29 pm
the spectrum, the A110, the E300 are all saw core. the FM of a triangle core is a different sound. also, the sine waves are cleaner
Paul Schreiber about his E300 design:

"The VCO core is a new sawtooth-based circuit with improved linearity and a unique saw-to-triangle converter with no glitch in the transition peaks."
I found the original thread with scope screenshots. you are right. it looks perfect.

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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by KSS » Tue May 04, 2021 10:52 pm

Paul said Dave Rossum and he designed that together.

Hard to go wrong with *either* of those names attached, With both? It's gonna be good great!
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Re: Simple Analog vs Slightly More Complex for a rookie

Post by eb00 » Tue May 04, 2021 11:12 pm

I'm also considering something more along the lines of: Instruō's Tš-L.
https://www.instruomodular.com/product/tsl/

As I'm trying to keep my rack confined to a 7U Intellijel 104hp case total, this looks like one that has some fun abilities and can keep it simple as well.

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