East and West-coast synthesis

This discussion was created from comments split from: Tides/Frames/Yarns available in limited quantity.

I know I’m going to sound dumb, but can anyone explain the west vs. east coast distinction and how it applies to the modular world?


In the “East Coast” instruments (basically all synthesizer manufacturers except Wiard, Buchla and Serge) you have a subtractive synthesis patch entirely oriented towards the filter. This is your classic VCO-VCF-VCA connection with ADSR type envelopes. The envelopes generators typically have only a single output. The oscillators usually have very simple waveforms such as sawtooth and square wave. This patch makes sense for playing with a black and white type keyboard. It produce a limited but pleasing range of timbres and is easy to operate and understand.

In the “West Coast” instruments, there are 3 possible synthesis modes. Additive, non-linear waveshaping and dynamic depth FM are the primary synthesis modes. “East Coast” subtractive synthesis is typically not DIRECTLY supported. It was not in the Buchla or Serge (no 24 dB/Oct. resonant filter). Good aproximations of subtractive synthesis can be patch on the Serge with cascaded filters. These instruments are oriented towards controlling with a multiple output sequencer or multiple output complex envelope generator instead of a black and white keyboard. They produce a larger and more importantly, different set of timbres than the simpler “East Coast” instruments.

The classic patch in a “West Coast” instrument involves two blocks. The first is a complex oscillator which supports both non-linear waveshaping and dynamic depth FM (Buchla 259 and Serge NTO). The second signal processor is a Lowpass Gate or “frequency and amplitude domain processor”. The primary timbre generation is done directly with the oscillator, and the Lowpass Gate just tweaks the amplitude and frequency character. These two blocks are designed to be controlled by one complex envelope generator with multiple outputs routed to all the timbre factors.

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Oh this is the first time I’ve heard of it. I don’t go on muffs, so that might explain it…

I feel like it might be like the distinction between “Garage” and “Bassline” house music, Coke and Pepsi, Western Grey Squirrels and California Ground Squirrels: a matter of taste, style and how big the tuft of it’s tail is.

Thanks for taking the time to explain, @schrab. Much appreciated. :slight_smile:

I still don’t understand “South Coast”. The East/West gangsta rap thing I have down pat. 2Buch vs. M.O.O.Gie Smalls

After getting deep into this one could go down the Texas/Deep South route with some Jolly Ranchers and Promethazine/Codeine cough syrup. The latter isn’t really available even as a prescription drug on this side of the pond. For that we thank you.

Ironically: One of today’s leading West Coast modular companies - Make Noise is located in the same Asheville, NC as Moog Music.

My east/west coast comparison

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Preparing for a battle rap.

Thanks, i was also feeling a bit dumb reading some of the discussions… Can we have it mixed please? West coast sounds great but i happen to love dark and heavily filtered sounds. Also the modular i’m building now mostly consists of DIY modules and i notice most of those are more oriented to the East coast. Any examples of good west coast DIY?

Get a good filter or two and you can do East Coast just fine.

If anyone hasn’t heard it in person, the Koma SVF filter is mind blowing- so is the price!

West coast DIY: Look at all the waveshapers, Ian Fritz has the 5-pulser, Wavolver (I and II), CGS has the Serge Wave Multipliers and Wave Folders. Plus there’s more out there that deserves a look and building.

For more West Coast-ish VCOs you have the obvious choice of the J3rk 258j and his new dual mirror core VCO, there are also LPGs from DJ Thomas White etc if you want to make Buchla Bongos and other fun stuff.

@RyanA4: Do eet!

Do you have one? I went with an MMG since I needed a filter and a LPG…it was too good of a value and space saver.

But…wow…that Koma filter is something special.

I assume there’s some gain involved in the audio path, but who cares- it sounds like a dream…ESPECIALLY with a pulse wave going into it. Just an amazing module…

I should get a MMG (or the sadly discontinued QMMG) from Make Noise, but I’m rocking a DIY LPG from Thomas White with the Fonik expansion board. It’s a fantastic module. The lazy cop-out is to use it to rhythmically chop and filter pad sounds, but it can do soo much more if you experiment.

I have that Koma filter on my radar, but for the moment I use the MI Ripples, the Korgasmatron II plus a DIY 291 clone, my own DIY dual/stereo CEM3379 and a Bionic Lester for really really nasty sounds. The Lester and a phaser is my fave for nasty bass, or run the Ripples thru a phaser for lush swirling… or just plop the VS.

Thought you had the Bubblesound SEM too? I recommend their VCOb feeding its pulse into the Koma SVF…Surprising the two modules weren’t made for each other- the patch sounded AMAZING with nothing but an amp and a sequencer. Plus, consider the mix output CVed in patch with Frames…really opens up the possibilities for the use of a filter with something that morphs…and now I regret not buying it…

Ripples is an incredible filter as well- I tried a lot of filters today (costing $50-100 more), and Ripples beat almost every other one for musical stuff- and it also gets nasty and begs for live tweaking.

Yups, I’ve got the SEM VSF too. I just haven’t had time to play around too much with it yet. My modular has mostly been assembled from 2nd-hand modules - I got them in a couple of really hectic weeks. Instead of moping over my temp inability to get the new MI modules I should see it as an opportunity to patch up something with all of that gear. There’s no one around these parts that has a VCOb in stock - le sigh!

Some of the old-school sounding modules from Bubblesound and Eowave (their Germanium stuff is totally awesome sound great in a west-coast context too. Been talking to ppl and hearing some output on SoundCloud. Yum)

No US dealers for Eowave modules is a shame… the Titan stuff is cool and their ribbon controller looks amazing as well.

FWIW The east vs. west coast thing in this context has probably more to do with the history of (modular) synthesizers and the way things developed initially than with what you’re supposed to or can do today.

It’s never a bad thing to be aware of the history of anything, but it doesn’t mean you should follow what as done before. :slight_smile:

> No US dealers for Eowave modules is a shame

As a manufacturer established in the same country as them, I’m pretty sure they get their low price because they intentionally cut through the 30-35% margin of dealers and only sell through their shop.