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Sunday, July 22nd, 2018 10:39 pm

Synth Glossary

A filter filters out certain frequencies in the sound. There are four main types: a low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and notch, which are covered elseware in the glossary. Filters have two controls - the frequency control selects at which frequency the filter should start operating and the resonance control creates a peak just before the bit where it starts filtering out frequencies. This is used to create acid-type sounds....


"...Back in 1983, the Poly-1 was a workhorse: dependable, with strong, easy-to-achieve sounds. It was Korg's first instrument to abandon knobs and switches, yet all the main parameter headings and value ranges are etched onto the casing in Korg's '80s-style, pseudo-computer writing. Getting lost on the Korg Poly-61 is, well, unlikely, even for a novice.

"The digital controlled oscillators are streamlined. DCO1 offers sawtooth, pulse, and square waveforms; DCO-2 the same minus the pulse option. The oscillators can be tuned separately, but not set at different volumes. DCO-2 can only be switched off. An equally simple filter section sees lowpass, resonant filtering that has to be shaped by the same ADSR envelope generator available to the amplifier. The filter can track the keyboard, but the shared envelope generator is a definite limiting factor. The LFO can affect the oscillators or the filter, but sine wave is the only option. So smooth vibrato is okay, but hard-edged trills are out.

"This modest set of controls makes the Poly-61 a breeze to use, however. Most anyone will be encouraged to start programming from day one; this makes an excellent synth on which to learn about analog synthesis.

"And indeed, people are encouraged, because the Poly-61 sounds clean and purposful. It specializes in harder, Clavi-type analog sounds, but the extra thickness afforded by the dual-oscillator design makes thick, full string patches work well, in a synthy, as opposed to lifelike, style. Unfortunately, Korg ditched chorus (found on the earlier Korg Polysix), which can add greater swirl. "A further loss from the Polysix is the unison keyboard mode. On the Poly-61, you must employ the chord memory to stack up the oscillators, and though this is an undeniably handy feature for instantly creating fat bass sounds, the results are not programmable. Overall volumes is non-programmable as well. "This list of losses and ommissions must be weighed not only against a fine arpegiator, which can be clocked externally from similar-vintage, Korg drum machines and against the luxury of being able to step througn the presets from a footswitch, a feature that is an unrivaled plus for live playing. "Along with what was the then called 'digital access control' design (i.e., no knobs and switches -- the dawning of the era of programming as typing), Korg inaugurated the joystick controller for pitch bend and modulation effects. It was and remains a bit dinky, though Korg stalwarts are, by now, well used to the device. "MIDI was right around the corner as the Poly-61 appeared, and Korg was quick to offer a MIDI retrofit. A year later, the Poly-61M came with a retrofit as standard. These were early MIDI days, so anomalies, weirdnesses and limitations on the MIDI side abounded. MIDI also sounded the death knell for the dreaded (and temperamental) cassette interface method of external storage. Ironically, though, the Poly-61's cassette interface is both quick and stable."

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