Wavetable synthesis appeared in the early 80s with the first digital hardware synthesizers from PPG and Waldorf. The method still does not lose relevance due to its flexibility. In this article, we will try to understand what wavetable synthesis is, how it works, and talk about some of the most popular wavetable software synthesizers.
How Wavetable Synthesis Works
Wavetable synthesis is a method of digital sound synthesis where an oscillator signal is generated by looping through a table of values that form a waveform. Although similar to the sampler synthesis method, they differ in that wavetable synthesis is based on the cyclic playback of a table set, rather than on a single playback of a piece of audio material.
This allows you to transform and manipulate the sampled sound. By changing the rate at which the cycles pass through the table values, the wavetable oscillator can generate different frequencies of the periodic waveform. The wavetable synthesis signal generation scheme is similar to the subtractive method, but here the wavetable oscillator takes the place of the analog oscillator.
Subtractive synthesis signal generation scheme:
Instead of electrical components that generate basic waveforms, wavetable synthesizers use a series of values that are stored in a table. For example, a traditional sawtooth wave is stored as a file in a table with 256 entries. Each entry is an amplitude value for one section of the wave. Thus, iterating over each sample in the table at 440 complete cycles per second results in a sawtooth wave with a frequency of 440 Hz.
The use cases for Wavetable- and subtractive synthesis are similar. Here, too, you can influence the amplitude using the ADSR envelope and adjust the frequency balance using a filter. The difference here is that wavetable synthesis takes many more forms than traditional analog oscillators (VCOs). This means that the signal can be generated from complex or asymmetric waveforms. This is convenient for those who need to synthesize complex textures.
Wavetable synthesis capabilities:
- Create brighter or harsher sounds.
- Super-fast attacks or crisp bass that won’t sound muddy or loose.
- Dynamic pads with constantly changing texture.
Today, wavetables can be more easily created using music software directly on your computer. The sound quality alone has changed from 8 bits increased to 64-bit. Modern software
Wavetable synthesizers have many advantages and enrich the musical world enormously.
A selection of the best wavetable software synthesizers:
- Xfer Serum wavetable synthesizers have an active community of experienced users, where you can find manuals and presets. The typical growl sound is created by modulating the wavetable position. As a basis for this you need a wave in OSC A that brings the corresponding harmonic material.
- Tone2 Icarus 2 is a synthesizer workstation because it is no longer just a flexible wavetable soft synth, but the plugin offers a total of 54 synthesis forms. Icarus 2 has 566 new presets (1,600 in total), MPE support, a random preset function, drag & drop displays, display of the current LFO and step LFO values, a revised effects section with 21 new templates, a new patch browser , numerous additional waveforms and drum samples and so on.
- Ableton Wavetable. The Ableton Suite version includes the Wavetable virtual synthesizer. The tool has a clear interface and a rich palette of sounds. A synthesizer that brings Ableton Live’s minimalist look and can be operated directly with Ableton’s controller Push. Wavetable brings a lot of familiar things with it. However, the amount of modulations and the possibility of importing your own samples as wavetables, make the synth an independent and very powerful instrument. Import your own audio files into Wavetable with a simple drag-and-drop operation. This enables completely new sounds.
- Tone2 Gladiator3 continues to be a powerful secret weapon for complex and expressive synth sounds. Its strengths are above all digital sounds rich in overtones, lively sequences and arpeggios and modern dance sounds. Beginners and preset friends will be happy about 1200 inspiring patches, while sound designers will appreciate the enormous flexibility of the synthesizer.
- Arturia Pigments 3. This is a versatile software tool that uses additive, granular, wavetable synthesis, and analog modeling. Wavetable engine works with 160 wavetables. A.S.M. Hydrasynth. Modern digital hardware synthesizer that works with 219 waveforms and a 32-slot modulation matrix.