Do Androids Dream of Electric Synths?

Imagining an instrument from a clean sheet of paper is an essential part of the design process. It can remind us of the extent of possibilities – and, sometimes, why compromise is necessary. The German site Amazona.de this week unveiled mock-ups of an instrument conceived by their community. The design looks terrific, and the specs (below) do read like the sorts of things synthesists would want. My only concern is that the results could be very cost prohibitive; the obvious remedy it seems would be to use digital oscillators in place of the eight-voice “true analog” spec described here. (I’m of the “if it sounds good, it is good” school. And with that compromise, the rest of this becomes very feasible.)

Potential spec creep aside, I do love the layout and the mock-up designs, however. And that’s why this sort of exercise matters. Amazona.de are lucky to have a great designer to make those mock-ups seem real. Stephan Gries created the renders, working in the awesomely-powerful modeling tool Rhino 3D. His background is in construction in mechanical engineering, but he tells CDM he’d love to work in visualizing music hardware professionally.

One regularly-asked question is why hardware doesn’t take new forms. (The original Minimoog, while ultimately using a conventional design, even featured space-age, futuristic alternative versions.) With this kind of visualization in reach, I think it’s possible hardware designers will take more risks, partly because they’ll be able to better present their ideas to would-be users. So, with that spirit in mind, I’m pleased to share some of Stephan’s work, not only on the Amazona dream synth, but Doepfer and Cwejman models, too.

Virtual analog, indeed: it’s simulated, but gear pr0n nonetheless. Congrats to the Amazona.de community and to Stephan for the great work.

[Tyrell is an] experiment carried out by your colleagues from Germany from
the online magazine for musicians AMAZONA.de.

With a multitude of campaigns at various levels AMAZONA.de ran a one-year survey and together with their readers invented the dream synthesizer. This synthesizer promises huge market potential.

Its exciting features include:
· 8 voices / true analog
· 2 oscillators
· Oscillator sync, FM, ring modulation and pulseb modulation
· Wave-forms sinus, saw and two different noise waves (morphing from sinus to saw)
· Multimode filter and band-pass filters
· Arpeggiator
· Two ADSR envelopes
· Three LFOs
· Midi, midi-clock for ARP and CV/gate in/out

Detailed layout and technical plans are all complete. All we need now is a brave producer
to make the TYRELL dream come true.

As mentioned above, it is an experiment.

We certainly have faith in our idea – and as you know, faith can move mountains.

You will find the whole story here:
http://www.amazona.de/index.php?page=26&file=2&article_id=3191&page_num=1

And more renders, of real analog gear…

  • http://hendersonsix.com Henderson

    Are the first few images actually renders in Rhino? Either way, it looks yum.

  • Peter Kirn

    Everything you see is rendered in Rhino.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelknubben Michael

    Are you sure of that, Peter?

    Even on the website's gallery everything's rendered in third-party render engines such as V-ray or Maxwell

  • Peter Kirn

    Sorry, I should say modeled in Rhino… need to ask what he's rendering in. ;)

  • Steven

    change the orangey-yellow to dark blue and it REALLY resembles the old Roland JP-8000 VA

    it actually was a pretty solid synth in terms of design/layout

  • benitodelpierro

    I do a lot of 3D-work myself (professional and private) and I really can say those renders are really, really good. Stephan should of course go on working on his career as a renderer. And the Tyrell-Synth does look really sexy ;)

  • matrigs

    srsly ?

    after dozens of years making nearly every synthesizer with the same boring scheme consisting of  a osc section, envelopes, lfo, and filter section the DREAM synthesizer consists of exactly the same ? 

  • Ecklie

    Maybe they should take this to Dave Smith? Oh, wait, he already made the Prophet 8,,,

  • http://hendersonsix.com Henderson

    @Peter The reason why I ask is that I used to use Rhino a couple of years ago (for designing speaker enclosures – fun times), but those renders are fantastic!

    Anyway – that aside, the ability to design these musical-interfaces virtually has been there for a long time. Where the innovation is really happening is the connection CAD software such as Rhino, SolidWorks, even Blender etc has with the physical world of manufacturing. The existence of online rapid-prototyping studios are allowing bedroom designers who operate on a much lower budget to experiment with new materials, interface designs, and sizes. As you said Peter, you hope to see more risks – but what might enable some of these crazier risks to escape the confines of the hard disk drive is the improvements in the economies of – and access to – rapid prototyping technologies. Wouldn't mind a laser-sintered theremin parrot actually ;)

  • http://www.authenticfilms.com Charles

    Yeah, as a "dream synth" it's surprisingly similar to a lot of existing synths; I was expecting something more extravagant (like the Bahn Sage). The distinguishing features would be the ability to sweep things like the filter type or number of poles, but in most respects it's pretty similar to a Prophet 08. It's not that hard to imagine this in production even with 8 analog voices. And maybe something's getting lost in translation, it's not clear to me whether it's supposed to have multiple filters, or it just has a very flexible multimode filter. It's hard for me to get excited about a synth with only one filter these days (especially if it's digital, and very especially if it's imaginary).

    The renders do look spectacular.

  • http://antisound.net stk

    After a *year* of surveying all they can come up with is an 8-voice, 2 osc subtractive synth?

    Seriously lacking in imagination.

  • Bodhi

    I agree with stk, but maybe there's neat features missing from the description?

    On the other hand, the Cwejman S1 is great! I'd never come across it before. It's a bit ironic that I find out about a cool modular from a 3d render…

  • usedtobe

    with sync, fm, and ringmod, this thing kind of reminds me of the korg mono/poly. single filter sure would be kind of lame, as it is on the mono/poly. (but only kind of, as it is with the mono/poly) If they gave you flexible stacking options and an internal arpeggiator, it would almost be identical, and the mono/poly is literally one of the most ridiculous analog mono synths ever made. sounds sweet to me! yeah and those renders are creamy nice

  • Random Chance

    My, what a trainwreck of a design. The knobs and sliders are about the only thing I like. Yeah, hard to please at times. That would be my problem if this thing sounded great, were affordable, and available for paying customers. As it is every bit of bickering about how unimaginative (and I dare say downright ugly, especially given the freedom afforded by using a professional 3D modelling tool) it is, is a non issue.

    The renderings are quite nice. But why does the article have to mention the modeller (and not the renderer or rest of the toolchain) with the marketing speak compatible attribute "awesomely-powerful" attached? Is this also a tech demo for the tool in question? Are there any affiliations between the person who made the models/renderings and the company that produces the modeller? I am just asking because it's similar with Blender: They create new features, then make a movie with the new version and widely promote it to spread the word that Blender is really awesomely-powerful. In Blender's case one might argue that it's OK because Blender is open source and free software that in some ways still suffers from the unfavourable things people who were repelled by the non-standards UI wrote about it. 

  • http://æ.cun y

    lol

    a dream synth ?…really ?

    or just a post to promote the 3D guy and Rhino ?

    aahhhh…yes…the dreamy bit could be the price…simply unaffordable.

    anyone with a spare Oscar ?…I am dreaming that.

  • http://www.bubblesound-instruments.com david

    it loos great, but yeah, 16 VCOs is a lot. the real mistake i see here is using the traditional sawtooth core VCO design that EVERYONE uses. this is an expensive, parts intensive design which is quite large as well.

    a simpler triangle core design would track as well and with 3 simple wave shapers you've pulse, saw and sine outs, too. plus the VCOs end up sounding more buchlaish.

  • http://lowbroweye.com Anthony Bowyer-Lowe

    Whilst "more of the same but better" is inevitable when design is performed by committee over an extended duration, I have to agree with others that the Tyrell appears to be remarkably unprogressive.

    I may be jaded, but "2 ADSR envelopes" hardly counts as an exciting feature to me and I'm not seeing any risks taken with the visual design either compared to, say, what Teenage Engineering are producing.