String: Critique

The previous post attempted to cover the basics of String, describing its inner and outer workings, and attempting to unravel its mysteries. (That was a pun: string, unravel... okay, it was weak, I admit!)

Now our focus shifts towards the more problematic aspects of the interface and design of String.

String: Description

String: the last of the OP-1's many and varied synthesis engines to be covered in this initial run of blog posts.

I'd like to thank everyone who has offered encouragement and appreciation (and suggestions and corrections!) on the forums; this has been a considerable effort and, while it's generally fun work, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who's interested in such minutia.

At any rate, with the end in sight -- at least the end of this initial pass through the marvelous, wonderful world that is the OP-1 -- let's press on and take a look at String.

Pulse: Critique

The previous post discussed the basics of the Pulse synth engine: an oscillator composed -- unsurprisingly -- of two pulses, whose amplitude and relative position could be manually adjusted as well as modulated by a dedicated LFO, before being fed through an adjustable lowpass filter with a decaying cutoff envelope. At least, that's my best guess! :)

As always, I'm now going to try to discuss the most notable flaws or awkward design decisions of this synth engine, in terms of both synthesis and user interface. It bears repeating that this isn't intended to be a criticism of Teenage Engineering or an indictment of Pulse; it's simply useful and interesting to identify, examine, and consider the weakest aspects of a design -- especially when the design is software-based and thus relatively fluid and malleable.

Let the scrutiny begin!

Pulse: Description

We're nearing the end of this first series of articles, which have been an attempt to document the OP-1's current bevy of synthesis engines.

It's funny, I've been discussing them in the order in which they're listed in the menu, and I only now just realized that this is in fact alphabetical order! Maybe I'm not the best person to be methodically documenting things, if I can completely overlook something that obvious...

Anyway, the subject of this article is the penultimate synth engine, Pulse. (I'm going to leave the synth-sampler for later.)

Phase: Critique

The previous post was an attempt to explain/introduce the OP-1's Phase synthesis engine; how successful of an attempt it was is debatable, but it's at least an initial stab in the dark and will be updated in the future with corrections or supplemental info -- if you have any thoughts or ideas, please hit up the forum thread linked to at the bottom of the post.

Now that we've established -- no matter how shakily -- what's happening inside Phase, and put forth some guesses at to how, it's time to look with a critical eye and ask why its current design was chosen, and whether there are any avenues for improvement in future iterations of the software.

Phase: Description

We are now definitely on unstable footing; in order to prepare this article I resorted to recording and analyzing recorded waveforms in a DAW. This is unfortunate, not only because it's very tedious, but also because it represents what I think is an unhealthy shift away from the ethos that Teenage Engineering have imbued into the OP-1.

Instead of engaging with the synth in realtime and constructing rich (if inaccurate) mental models, I found myself laboriously transcribing its output and endlessly scrutinizing waveforms in an attempt to discern the underlying mathematical models; this felt wrong. Yet, without such tools I wouldn't be able to explain at all what's happening under the hood of Phase.

This is the slippery slope at which I find myself: should I return to synths previously discussed and apply the same mechanical scrutiny? Looking at the waveforms would make the shape of Digital's main and sub oscillators perfectly clear, but using the computer screen to do a job best suited to my ears seems like a perversion of the OP-1 spirit.

For now, I will avoid re-examining previous synths "under the microscope" in preference for an approach more akin to taste-testing them. With Phase I will have to rely somewhat on the clinical results, and even then I'm afraid you will find many gaps and unknowns; as usual, there will be a forum thread linked at the bottom of this post, so if you have any insights or corrections, please let me know!

FM: Data

Here are the lists of frequency and topology settings that I've compiled; there are probably some errors, and they certainly aren't very nice to look at, but this might at least help you to get your bearings a bit.