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Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?

Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« on: December 08, 2018, 12:35:57 AM »
Hello!  It is my opinion that certain Sequential/DSI synths sound harsh in the upper mids/highs to me.  I only own the Prophet 08 and Prophet 12 (thinking about selling my 08 for a rev 2) so I thought it had to be the Curtis filter, but I have listened to lots of demos of other Sequential/DSI synths and I still can hear the harshness.  I think the harshness is only present when the filter more open, so that must mean it's not the filter and that it's possibly the oscillators or the combination of all the components?  Someone also told me that SMPS (switching mode power supply) pollutes audio and that DSI/Sequential synths use it, though that's probably not the reason for this.  Can anyone tell me why this "harshness" is present?   

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2018, 07:26:22 AM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2018, 08:26:52 AM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.
But that wouldn't explain the lack of low end which is also what most people (including me) say about the REV2. The lack of low end plus indeed high harmonics together participate to the harsh perception.

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2018, 09:29:23 AM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.
But that wouldn't explain the lack of low end which is also what most people (including me) say about the REV2. The lack of low end plus indeed high harmonics together participate to the harsh perception.
Iíve not measured the output but I donít think thereís a lack of low end. But if more highs and upper mids are present like they are in the Rev2 then the bass is less noticeable. In other words thereís not less bass thereís more treble/upper mids. Feed it through an EQ with the treble rolled off a bit and youíll hear all the bass that is allegedly missing.

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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2018, 11:48:03 AM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.
But that wouldn't explain the lack of low end which is also what most people (including me) say about the REV2. The lack of low end plus indeed high harmonics together participate to the harsh perception.
Iíve not measured the output but I donít think thereís a lack of low end. But if more highs and upper mids are present like they are in the Rev2 then the bass is less noticeable. In other words thereís not less bass thereís more treble/upper mids. Feed it through an EQ with the treble rolled off a bit and youíll hear all the bass that is allegedly missing.

That makes sense. I don't think it's lacking in the low end, in fact I most often attenuate low end with EQ because I personally think there's a little too much energy straight out of the jacks. I haven't measured it either, but it would be interesting to see. I also find the sub-osc a great improvement from the P'08 in this regard, because it works great at oomphing up the bottom end if/when you want to. So I can roll off the lowest frequencies a bit with EQ, and still get that fatter low-end whenever I want to without tinkering with the EQ and sound image between different sounds.
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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2018, 03:07:36 PM »
The Prophet '08 certainly can be made to sound harsh, but I don't think it is harsh by nature.  Audio modulation, a narrow pulse wave, PWM that is too deep or rapid, excessive resonance, sharp envelope settings, and the wrong filter type will all contribute to making a patch sound overly harsh.  Consider using darker cut off frequency settings, the 2-pole filter, and the sawtooth/triangle wave combination.  There are many ways to soften and warm-up a sound, including some judicious EQ adjustments.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 03:09:09 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2018, 08:35:39 PM »
I'm pretty much convinced that the "harshness" comes from the Curtis LPF. Because when comparing a classic, identical patch, with 2 oscillators sawtooth, slight detuning between the two, with a filter sweep, both on the OB6 and REV2, the harshness is clearly audible on the REV2, but not on the OB6. Especially when playing a 3 notes chord.

Minimoog D (vintage), OB6 (Desktop), Oberheim Matrix-6 (MIDI Controller), Prophet REV2-16, DeepMind 12, VC340

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2018, 03:15:17 PM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.
I don't hear "harshness" when I just hear a saw wave from a digital VST such as Serum.  I feel like I can hear this "harshness" in the P6 and PX as well just from YouTube demos I see/hear, but it's definitely more present to me in a synth like the 08/rev 2.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 03:17:40 PM by Shay »

LoboLives

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2018, 03:46:42 PM »
Thereís gain staging in the synths so things sound harsh because the filter is being driven naturally hard. Dave is a big fan of overdrive. The key is in the mixer section and filter cutoff. Less is more.

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2018, 05:10:01 PM »
I can definitely get where your coming from but that sound is part of what drew me to the p8/rev2. I don't really see it as bad or harsh, just the character of the synth. I'd call it chalky if anything.



Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2018, 05:10:19 PM »
Thereís gain staging in the synths so things sound harsh because the filter is being driven naturally hard. Dave is a big fan of overdrive. The key is in the mixer section and filter cutoff. Less is more.
But that's not the reason for the "harshness" I hear in the rev 2/08.

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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2018, 05:24:24 PM »
What people are hearing as harshness isnít due to driving of the filter or mixer headroom.  Now I donít hear anything harsh about the Rev2, nor do I feel the Rev2 is lacking in the low end, Hell we have a Moog and even so we use the Rev2 on 90 percent of our bass lines.  I get it may not be as thunderous in the lows as a monosynth but Iím happy that itís not as we love the sonic character of the Rev2 and really every DSI synth. 
SEQUENTIAL Pro 3, DSI Prophet 12, DSI Prophet Rev2-8, Moog Subsequent 37, Roland Alpha Juno 2, Novation Bass Station 2, BOSS VE500, MOTU Micro Lite, AKAI APC240 MKII, SSL Fusion, UAD Apollo X6, MacBook Pro 2017, ADAM A7X Monitors, Logic X
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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2018, 05:53:34 PM »
Agreed that the REV2 can do bass sounds, though not as good as a Minimoog D but pretty darn good nonetheless.
And I agree with LoboLives about the gain staging in the DSI synths. But even though the Curtis filter can be slightly overdriven, the result is far less pleasant than the same thing happening on a Moog ladder filter. Hence the perceived harshness perhaps ?
Minimoog D (vintage), OB6 (Desktop), Oberheim Matrix-6 (MIDI Controller), Prophet REV2-16, DeepMind 12, VC340

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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2018, 06:07:00 PM »
Yeah the curtŪs filter cannot be driven so anything harsh yíall are hearing it not due to the gain staging or the curtis filter. 

Im really curious about all this though!   How is the Rev2  sounding harsh?  Maybe itís not the synth for you, maybe need you a prologue hell i dunno, Luna and I will be keeping our Rev2 killah, beautiful lush sexy daddy synth that gets dark and rough as fuk! And we lllooooove it!!    The Rev2 is one skraight vibing machine!  We wouldnít want to live without it!
SEQUENTIAL Pro 3, DSI Prophet 12, DSI Prophet Rev2-8, Moog Subsequent 37, Roland Alpha Juno 2, Novation Bass Station 2, BOSS VE500, MOTU Micro Lite, AKAI APC240 MKII, SSL Fusion, UAD Apollo X6, MacBook Pro 2017, ADAM A7X Monitors, Logic X
www.syzygyxmusic.com
https://syzygy-x.bandcamp.com

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2018, 08:42:55 PM »
Thereís gain staging in the synths so things sound harsh because the filter is being driven naturally hard. Dave is a big fan of overdrive. The key is in the mixer section and filter cutoff. Less is more.
There's no individual oscillator volume control though so the only way to back off the volume is to use just one oscillator and blend toward the oscillator that's off. In comparison Moogs and the Matrixbrute and many other synths have a gain stage between the oscillator and filter section to get different timbres from the filter. Sure wish the Rev2 had that!

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2018, 08:45:25 PM »
The oscillators are more hi-fi compared to a lot of other synths. A Moog square wave, for example is rounded off both in terms of shape as well as EQ, whereas the Rev2ís are brighter. Some people call that harsh or buzzy or modern. Really itís that more of the audio spectrum is present.
I don't hear "harshness" when I just hear a saw wave from a digital VST such as Serum.  I feel like I can hear this "harshness" in the P6 and PX as well just from YouTube demos I see/hear, but it's definitely more present to me in a synth like the 08/rev 2.
Maybe you should define "harsh" since it's subjective. Do you mean brassy? Trebly? Bassy? Midsy? Overdriven? Fizzy? Clangorous?

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2018, 10:30:56 PM »
In an attempt to demonstrate the perceived harshness, I've carefully programmed a similar patch on both my REV2 and OB6. It's a simple "string machine" type patch with two sawtooth oscillators slightly detuned, with the LFO slightly modulating the frequency of OSC1, and the filter slowly closing without any resonance. Of course the analog nature of the OB6 created a slightly different detuning than on the REV2, even with the Osc Slop parameter set to 7.
Also I couldn't quite get the envelopes to be identical because the curves of the two machines are different, but it's close enough for the purpose of this attempted demonstration, recorded in lossless .wav format (44K 16 bit). Of course recorded straight from the synths without any effects at all.
 
First is the REV2 and then the OB6.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/9mha8813qjc3fpw/DSI%20Harshness%202.wav?dl=0

Notice how smoother the OB6 sounds and how brash the REV2 is.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 11:21:36 PM by AlainHubert »
Minimoog D (vintage), OB6 (Desktop), Oberheim Matrix-6 (MIDI Controller), Prophet REV2-16, DeepMind 12, VC340

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2018, 10:38:34 PM »
After playing a P-5 for years, i welcomed the "harshness" of the P-08.  i consider it "clarity".   I felt the P-5 missed a clarity that the P-08 has.  For me, it is a positive feature.
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Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #18 on: December 09, 2018, 11:03:24 PM »
Maybe you should define "harsh" since it's subjective. Do you mean brassy? Trebly? Bassy? Midsy? Overdriven? Fizzy? Clangorous?
Yeah. Harsh, brassy, fizzy, annoying, trebly, midsy, brash, bright, aggressive, rough, course, nasty, abrasive, unpleasant, sharp, etc. must I go on? haha

But I have just done some tests comparing my 08 to Serum.  It's actually hard for me to tell the difference on some patches I made on Serum and the 08.  But I realized it must be the Curtis filter that is causing my perceived "harshness".   I think the Curtis filter sounds fine when the cutoff is lower, but when its all the way open, its still affecting the high frequencies.  In Serum, you can bypass the filter and get a lot of bright high end.  But when I kept the filter on in serum with the cutoff all the way open, I got a similar sound to what I'm hearing on the prophet.  It would be great to be able to bypass the filter like on the prophet X!  I think what I'm hearing is actually a loss of super high's, and perhaps turning the resonance up could fix that a bit. 
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 11:11:28 PM by Shay »

Re: Why do Sequential/DSI synths sound "harsh" to me?
« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2018, 11:21:53 PM »
After playing a P-5 for years, i welcomed the "harshness" of the P-08.  i consider it "clarity".   I felt the P-5 missed a clarity that the P-08 has.  For me, it is a positive feature.
Totally agree with you on that one. I love this so called harshness that isímore like richness to me, or indeed clarity. Had a Peak just before the Rev2 which had amazing features but dull sound. This being said there is no good or bad sound, just things you like or sounds for different usages. I would recommend the Peak to the people who find the rev2 harsh, it sounds way more creamy. Rev2 is a bit like a harpsichord while the Peak would be a piano...
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 11:25:14 PM by Tugdual »