They said we were mad… MAD!!!
And, in fairness, perhaps they had a point. This one is a little weird. But it’s also good fun, unusual, and has a charm all of its own. StyloSynth is a nifty little 3-oscillator polysynth whose secret identity is that it’s built from a stack of vintage Stylophones.
Everyone knows that the character and identity of any classic synth start with the sound of its oscillators: they’re the basic building-blocks of its sound. What’s not been known – until now – is that, in the dark, when they’re alone, every Stylophone dreams of being an oscillator in a massive analogue polysynth…
In the case of StyloSynth, those oscillators are sampled from all the Stylophones we could beg, borrow, or scrounge from car-boot sales. The “Modern” oscillator is a vicious-sounding square wave, sharply distorted, with a lot of buzzy overtones. The “Vintage” oscillator is a much mellower vibe from a classic 60s Stylophone which we chose for its rounded, woody timbre. And the “Stacked” oscillator is our answer to Roland’s “SuperSaw”: except that where they layered and detuned seven sawtooth waves, we just stacked up a bunch of Stylophones instead. It’s rich, thick, and luscious right out of the gate; add the other oscillators and you can start to redefine phat.
Each of the three oscillators can be adjusted in level to get a starting sound, which then passes through a dual-mode high / low pass resonant filter with ADSR envelope and LFO control of cutoff; a standard Amplifier envelope, again with ADSR; and a lush Chorus control.
An Oscillator Drift knob sets the amount by which the oscillators randomly vary in tuning from each other, accentuating an already vintage vibe from subtle to extreme. Finally, on the rear panel, a Spread control spans everything from full stereo width down to mono, to help you seat the StyloSynth in your mix with precision.
StyloSynth excels at pads, where its subtly detuned oscillators and vintage electronics really come into their own; but it can put in a sweet little lead sound as well, and some great grungy square-wave basses, too. (Crank up the resonance for a really boingy sound!) And of course it’s fully polyphonic, and the little pen thingy doesn’t break off.
StyloSynth: what Stylophones want to be when they grow up.
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“Over the last two issues, we’ve looked at two collections of instruments from new manufacturer Rhythmic Robot. This month we’re going to explore RR’s Laboratory. For a bit more explanation of what’s behind these 24‑bit mono Kontakt instruments (which require the full version of Kontakt, rather than just the player), go to the first of our Rhythmic Robot reviews (/sos/may12/articles/beat_room.htm).
Rhythmic Robot | Laboratory
The Laboratory is where the Professor and his assistant Mongo construct new instruments out of whatever spare parts happen to be lying around. For example, they made a polyphonic synth from vintage Stylophones. Stylosynth has three oscillators and, although it doesn’t sport a mass of controls, its samples have a warm and pleasant tonality. The synth’s three oscillators are Vintage, Modern and Stacked. Modern is rather bright and slightly distorted, Stacked is a pile of old Stylophones in some warped version of unison, and the Vintage setting is mellow and generally the most pleasant. You are free to mix them all together in any combination and this layering generates some reasonably lush synth patches. Stylosynth has a resonant filter with velocity control, plus two envelopes and an LFO that modulates the filter. There’s a chorus that doesn’t quite replicate Stylophone vibrato, but I doubt this will be an issue for anyone — except maybe Rolf Harris.
Although Stylosynth is capable of blips and pads, it’s not in the same league as Tubes and Wires, or TW1. This is the most expensive of the collection (still less than £20) and is based on samples coaxed from venerable signal generators. TW1’s three oscillators are named after the devices that spawned their waveforms: the Advance H1, the Taylor, and the charmingly named Goodwill Function Generator. Images of each wave are shown on the rear-panel oscilloscope, and it’s these that give the TW1 its wayward but distinctive character. After the oscillators, the architecture is simple enough. There’s a dual-envelope structure with a resonant low‑ or high‑pass filter and extra buzz supplied by “rail voltage”. This simulates overheating the circuitry, Louis and Bebe Barron would have been proud! Turn to the rear panel for a basic chorus and phaser.
Last up are two similar synths, the Bad Bad Bass and Bad Bad Lead, also full of valve oscillator samples. The main differences between the two synths are the source waveforms — low and aggressive or high and snarly — and there’s a degree of overlap if you already have the TW1. Their primary oscillators are backed up by an additional, filthy, sine wave, and from then on there’s a filter section comparable to Stylosynth’s and optional poly or mono operation. In the shape of Drift, Drive, Distortion and Compression, you also get Rhythmic Robot’s familiar tools for gaining attention.
This little collection scores highly for its raw valve tones and for its simplicity, an attribute often overlooked when throwing everything but the kitchen sink into sample libraries. It’s true that, with patience, you could probably find a selection of signal generators in junk shops and at car boots, then painstakingly sample them to create your own unique instruments. Alternatively, these are priced so that you don’t have to! ” – Sound on Sound magazine
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