I’m just curious if anybody has used both Ambika and an Arturia Microfreak and has any thoughts about how they compare for sound? Maybe there is no comparison and Ambika is just 100% better in every regard?
The most obvious difference between Microfreak and Ambika is that Ambika has real 6 voice polyphony, while Microfreak is almost like a 4 voice paraphonic synth. Each Ambika note has its own filter, envelopes, and an independent LFO, while all four Microfreak voices share everything except VCA envelope and certain oscillator modulation parameters. This means that, as a basic example, it’s impossible to make Microfreak patches where the filter cutoff follows the pitch of the played note, because all notes share a single filter, while this is the default for Ambika. At the same time, every note having an independent filter means that some of the sonic interactions that stem from four different oscillators going in to one filter aren’t possible on Ambika.
A somewhat more subtle and subjective difference is in the digital side itself. Microfreak probably uses a STM32 or similar microcontroller, at any rate something much more powerful than Atmel chips used on Ambika. Getting those chips to work as synthesizers takes lots of optimizations and math hacks, and the unique low-fi sound of Ambika and Shruthi is largely a result of the way rounding and math works on the chip. Microfreak can generate much more high-fidelity sounds from its oscillators, but even if they wanted to the rounding errors might not be possible to simulate at audio rates on Microfreak if it uses hardware DSP. The physical modeling oscillators of Microfreak probably aren’t possible on Ambika.
“Better” is probably the wrong way to think about it. Aside from the surface similarity of “Digital oscillators to analog filter” there’s a lot of differences, and different tools are useful for different tasks.