Friday, 10 January 2020

Wave futures now: the novel Korg Wavestate synthesizer

Korg Wavestate (photo by Korg)

Wave sequencing exploded into public consciousness with the Korg Wavestation at the beginning of the 1990s.

The synth engine's core concept was innovative and powerful enough for this type of synthesis to survive well into the 21st century - not only as software synth re-incarnations, but also as key parts of flagship workstations like the OASYS and Kronos.

There are many reviews and demos out there of the new Wavestate synth, so here one would focus on the specifics of wave sequencing (as there are occasional misunderstandings in various forums or different digital waveform-based synthesis methods are conflated), and would highlight the central idea that truly makes the Wavestate a stunning development in wave sequencing synthesis.

The synthesis method pioneered by the Wavestation is not to be confused with mere memory-stored waveforms-based synthesis, where digital samples are just played back from memory as the oscillator part of the synthesis chain. In this sense, "romplers", as some call these, are very far from wave sequencing. Similarly, the PPG Wave-like revolutionary wavetable synthesis is eminently different, in that case we have snippets (e.g. single-cycle periods) of waveforms stored in adjancent tables of samples, and the synths is sweeping across these tables in a cyclical fashion.

The crux of the wave sequence-based synthesis is that waveforms played back from memory can be, well, sequenced: one can define consecutive time slots during which different digital waveforms' samples are played back. One can have cross-fade between these, again with pre-defined duration - or no cross-fades at all, i.e. the different waveforms abruptly transition from one to another.

Even if, absurdly, one has never heard wave sequenced sounds by 2020, it is perhaps easy to imagine the sonic possibilities.

If one wishes long evolving pads, then one can use in the wave sequences long cross-fade times with atmospheric sounds used as individual "slots" in the wave sequence. The result can be a moving, changing, evolving sound that is eminently different from other synthesis methods' results.

If one wishes to achieve rhythmic sounds with lots of changes and even full-blown grooves, then one can assemble a wave sequence with the desired timings, loops, and no cross-fades at all, for example.

Transitioning rapidly between components of the wave sequence can lead to phenomenal spectral movements, especially if one can alter the individual parts of the wave sequence.

The possibilities are endless... and Wavestation has rightly become one of the most unique-sounding and characteristic synths of recent decades, with instantly recognisable sounds.

In OASYS and in the Kronos HD-1 engine one could have the joy of finding the full wave sequencing capabilites of the mighty Wavestation, with some extra features added in - including user interface aspects, whereby managing wave sequences has become sublime via large touch screens.

Then comes the Wavestate...

If one has heard and/or grasped the essence and the possibilities of wave sequencing synthesis, then one can perhaps imagine what happens when KORG decides to add individual real-time control to all key parameters of wave sequences, structures them into multiple so-called lanes - and even adds randomisation capabilities.

Not only one has now real-time control via knobs in order to on-the-fly alter the wave sequences' component parts, but there are deep modulation possibilities for these parameters.

Well, with the many examples provided on SoundCloud, one doesn't have to merely imagine the resulting sonic power.

Thus, Wave Sequencing 2.0 is not an overstatement.

The cherry, well, a whole orchard on the cake is that Wavestate has numerous classic and digitally modeled filters (incl. those from the legendary MS-20 and Polysix), up to 14 simultaneous effects (incl. the perhaps most realistic and astonishing reverb, the O-Verb available on Oasys and the later Kronos), and even vector synthesis (via a joystick that we have seen on previous flagship models).

Latter allows real-time control between 4 layers of sounds, and the movements of the joystick can be captured and reproduced as part of the synth patch.

There are gigabytes of on-board waveforms, including the full Wavestation offering... so user can spend quasi-infinite amounts of time creating wave sequence Universes...

Photo: Korg

No comments:

Post a Comment