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Boring synth stuff

Uber Supersaws in Sytrus

Supersaw. It’s the sound of growling drum n bass, cheesy anthem trance and southern hip hop, maybe. A bunch of saw waves stacked up and slightly detuned, going in and out of phase with each other. Technically, it’s called unison, and it doesn’t have to be saws. Maybe someday the pulse of modern music will consist of  supersquares. Ha, bad pun. Sytrus has a lot of really cool unison features that let you really tweak the buzzing cutting apparatus.

On the main page of Sytrus, up in the top, where it says ‘main’, the unison controls are in the top left, where it says ‘unison’. The little square labeled ‘ord’ determines how many waves will be stacked up on each other, the order of the unison, and there are sliders to control the pitch and volume of them. There are other sliders, but they aren’t that important. Directly below the order square is a tiny square button that is very important, labeled ‘osc’. With this button on, the unison only affects the oscillators, with it off, the filters and stuff will get copied and detuned and panned around. That might be useful for pads and stuff, but most of the time I turn that little button on. The unison settings are applied to every oscillator. But what if you want some oscillators to not have unison?

Whoa-ho, in each oscillator page, there’s a tab labeled ‘UNI’. Increasing the order of the unison adds more little lines to the little graph there, and here we can completely customize the unison on every oscillator. With the UNI tab selected, we can set each stacked wave to have a different volume, pitch and everything else. If you want one oscillator to not have any unison, putting points at the very bottom of the graph at every line, including the edges of the graph, except one will make all the stacked waves silent. That’s pretty cool. I’d suggest using the ‘snap’ feature of the envelope editor, down at the bottom.

The same thing can be done with the pitch of each stacked wave, so some oscillators are more detuned from themselves than others. If you start putting points all over the place in the UNI PITCH graph, you’ll notice that it increases or decreases the pitch by ridiculously insane amounts, not appropriate for subtle detuning. This is because of a rather large knob directly above the UNI tab button labeled ‘PE’. The PE knob sets how much the pitch is affected by the envelopes in the pitch tab. Normally, it’s set to an octave, and the UNI PITCH graph really only has a resolution of 1%. If we turn the PE knob to something more sensible, like 100 cents, each 1% in the UNI PITCH graph, or envelope, will correspond to just one cent, and then we can easily make pretty precise adjustments, in the same way as the volume.

To the left of the PE knob, there is another knob in the center labeled ‘PHS’, this stands for phase, and adjusting it will…adjust the phase. To the right of this knob is another supremely important little button, the global phase button. When this button is off, the phase of the oscillator resets every time a new note is triggered, so all the stacked detuned waves start at the same place. Sometimes, this sounds cool, but sometimes it doesn’t, so you have the option to let the phase of all the waves run free, regardless of whether a note is being played. When a note is triggered, the waves keep going from wherever they were before, it’s like they keep going, behind the scenes.

The unison envelope can also adjust how much each stacked wave is affected by incoming frequency or ring modulation, in the same way as the volume and pitch. This is really cool. One of the detuned waves could be subjected to some frequency modulation, while the others aren’t. Wow.

Here’s a picture, and remember, Vfffftt.

SuperSaws in Sytrus

This looks complex, but it really isn't.

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