Analog: A Virtual Analog Synthesizer with Unmatched Realism and Sound Quality

Mar 24, 2023

Analog is a virtual analog synthesizer developed in collaboration with Applied Acoustics Systems. This modern instrument does not attempt to emulate a specific vintage analog synthesizer but instead combines different features of legendary vintage synthesizers. Analog generates sound by simulating the different components of the synthesizer through physical modeling technology. This method uses the laws of physics to reproduce how an object or system produces sound, and the mathematical equations describing how analog circuits function are solved in real time. The result is unmatched sound quality, realism, warmth, and playing dynamics.

Analog's signal flow diagram is shown in the figure. The synthesizer has two oscillators and a noise generator as primary sound sources, each of which can be independently routed to two different multi-mode filters, each connected to an amplifier. The signal flow can be run through the filters in series or parallel. The synthesizer also features two low-frequency oscillators (LFOs) that can modulate the oscillators, filters, and amplifiers, and each filter and amplifier has its own envelope generator.

The Analog interface has two parts: the display and the shell. The shell contains the most important controls for a given section, while the display updates to show parameter visualizations and additional controls for the selected section. In addition to the synthesis modules, there is a Global section that contains general performance parameters such as instrument volume, vibrato, and polyphony.

Analog's two oscillators use physical modeling to capture the character of vintage hardware oscillators. The F1/F2 slider controls the balance of the oscillator's output to each of the two filters, and the Shape chooser selects the oscillator's waveform, including sine, sawtooth, rectangular, and white noise. The Pulse Width parameter is enabled when rectangular is selected, allowing for the adjustment of the pulse width of the waveform. The Octave, Semi, and Detune knobs function as coarse and fine tuners, and oscillator pitch can be modulated according to the settings of the Pitch Mod and Pitch Env parameters. The Key slider controls how much the oscillator tuning is adjusted by changes in MIDI note pitch, and the Pitch Env settings apply a ramp that modulates the oscillator's pitch over time. The Sub/Sync parameters allow for the application of either a sub-oscillator or a hard synchronization mode, and the Level slider sets the output level of an additional oscillator, tuned an octave below the main oscillator when the Mode chooser is set to Sub. The internal oscillator's frequency, set by the Ratio slider, restarts the oscillator's waveform when the Mode chooser is set to Sync.

Analog's Noise Generator produces white noise and has its own low-pass filter. The generator can be turned on or off using the Noise switch, and the output level is adjusted using the slider to the right of the activator. The F1/F2 slider controls the balance of the noise generator's output to each of the two filters, and the Color knob sets the frequency of the internal low-pass filter. Higher values of the Color knob result in more high-frequency content. The Noise Generator has only shell parameters, so adjusting them does not change what is shown in the display.

Analog’s two multi-mode filters have a flexible routing architecture, multiple saturation options, and a variety of modulation possibilities. All filter parameters can be set independently for each filter, and the filters can be toggled on and off using the Fil 1 and Fil 2 switches in the shell. The chooser next to the filter activator selects the filter type from a selection of 2nd and 4th order low-pass, band-pass, notch, high-pass, and formant filters. The Freq knob adjusts the resonance frequency of the filter, while the Res control adjusts the amount of resonance. The Reso control cycles between vowel sounds when a formant filter is chosen. In Filter 1, the To F2 slider allows adjusting the amount of Filter 1's output that will be sent to Filter 2. The Follow switch below Filter 2's mode chooser causes Filter 2's cutoff frequency to follow the cutoff of Filter 1. In addition to the envelope controls, the displays for the filters contain various modulation parameters and the Drive chooser. Cutoff frequency and resonance can be independently modulated by LFO, note pitch, and filter envelope via the sliders in the Freq Mod and Res Mod sections, respectively. Positive modulation values increase the cutoff or resonance amounts, while negative values lower them. The Drive chooser in the display selects the type of saturation applied to the filter output, with the Sym options applying symmetrical distortion and the Asym modes resulting in asymmetrical saturation. Higher numbers result in more distortion, and Drive can be switched off entirely by selecting Off in the chooser.

Analog has independent envelopes for each filter and amplifier, and each envelope is a standard ADSR design and features velocity modulation and looping capabilities. The Attack slider sets the attack time, and can be modulated by velocity via the Att<Vel slider. The Decay slider sets the time it takes for the envelope to reach the sustain level after the attack phase, while the Sustain slider sets the level at which the envelope will remain from the end of the decay phase to the release of the key. The Env<Vel slider modulates the overall envelope level by velocity, and the S.Time slider can cause the Sustain level to decrease even if a key remains depressed. The Release knob sets the release time, the time it takes for the envelope to reach zero after the key is released, and the Slope switches toggle the shape of the envelope segments between linear and exponential. Legato enabled allows a new note that is played while another note is already depressed to use the first note's envelope at its current position. Enabling the Free switch causes the envelope to bypass its sustain phase and move directly from the decay phase to the release phase, while the Loop chooser offers several options for repeating certain segments of the envelope while a key is depressed. AD-R mode repeats the attack and decay phases until the note is released, then the release phase occurs. ADR-R mode includes the release phase in the loop for as long as the key is held, and ADS-R mode plays the envelope without looping, but plays the attack and release phases once more when the key is released.

Analog's two LFOs can be used as modulation sources for the oscillators, filters, and amplifiers. Each LFO has independent parameters, and the LFO 1 and LFO 2 switches in the shell toggle the respective LFO on and off, while the Rate knob sets the LFO's speed. The Wave chooser in the display selects the waveform for the LFO, with choices including sine, triangle, rectangle, and two types of noise. With Tri or Rect selected, the Width slider allows adjusting the pulse width of the waveform. The Delay slider sets how long it will take for the LFO to start after the note begins, while Attack sets how long it takes the LFO to reach its full amplitude. With Retrig enabled, the LFO restarts at the same position in its phase each time a note is triggered. The Offset slider adjusts the phase of the LFO's waveform.

The Global shell and display parameters adjust how Analog responds to MIDI data, as well as controls for performance parameters such as vibrato and glide. The Volume control in the shell adjusts the overall output of the instrument, and the Vib switch turns the vibrato effect on or off, while the percentage slider next to it adjusts the amplitude of the vibrato. The Rate slider sets the speed of the vibrato, and the Error slider adds a certain amount of random deviation to the Rate, Amount, Delay, and Attack parameters for the vibrato applied to each polyphonic voice. The Amt<MW slider adjusts how much the modulation wheel will affect the vibrato intensity.

The Uni switch in the shell turns on the unison effect, which stacks multiple voices for each note played. The Detune slider next to this switch adjusts the amount of tuning variation applied to each stacked voice. The Voices chooser selects between two or four stacked voices, while the Delay slider increases the lag time before each stacked voice is activated.

The Gli switch turns the glide effect on or off, with the Time slider setting the overall speed of the slide. The Keyboard section in the display contains all of Analog's polyphony and tuning parameters. The Octave, Semi, and Tuning controls function as coarse and fine tuners, while PB Range sets the range in semitones of pitch bend modulation. Stretch simulates a technique known as stretch tuning, which is a common tuning modification made to electric and acoustic pianos. The Error slider increases the amount of random tuning error applied to each note.

The four Quick Routing buttons in the left side of the display provide an easy way to quickly set up common parameter routings. These can be used to route the LFOs, envelopes, and other modulation sources to the desired parameters in the synthesis modules. Overall, Analog is a powerful virtual analog synthesizer that combines the best features of vintage synthesizers into a modern instrument that is highly versatile and customizable. Its physical modeling technology allows for unmatched sound quality and playing dynamics, making it an excellent choice for professional musicians and producers.

Analog's intuitive interface makes it easy to navigate through its extensive feature set, with the display updating to show parameter visualizations and additional controls for the selected section. The shell contains the most important controls for a given section, while the display provides more in-depth control options.

It is important to note that Analog is not available in the Intro, Lite, and Standard Editions, but only in the Suite edition of Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation software. This ensures that Analog is a powerful and high-quality synthesizer that is ideal for serious music production.

In conclusion, Analog is a highly sophisticated virtual analog synthesizer that is the result of a collaboration between Ableton and Applied Acoustics Systems. Its physical modeling technology is based on the laws of physics and uses mathematical equations to simulate the different components of the synthesizer, resulting in unmatched sound quality, realism, warmth, and playing dynamics. Its interface is intuitive and easy to use, making it an excellent choice for both professional musicians and producers. Whether you're looking to create vintage sounds or push the boundaries of modern electronic music, Analog has the versatility and power to meet your needs.