Microwave 1, Ambika, or Multiple Shruthi?

Just curious what people think of the benefits or downsides of these various options for hybrid wavetable sounds. I’ve been looking through the forum here and for comparison videos or songs on soundcloud, but it’s hard to compare when they’re not in the same track. Sorry if this has been discussed at length elsewhere!

I’m guessing Microwave 1 sounds grittier than Ambika, but why? Lower bit resolution on the wavetables? I know the CEM Waldorf filter is a bit less syrupy than the SMR4MkII that is standard for most Ambika, but beyond this? If they were the same price, which would you choose and why (assuming the Microwave is edited by software, of course)?

Also how does an Ambika’s sound compare to a couple of Shruthis? I know the LFOs don’t sync when you polychain (and diff filters sound a bit diff of course), but I’m curious how a single Shruthi voice sounds diff from a single Ambika voice with the same filter. From what I’ve read the Ambika has higher bit waveforms and a slightly different VCA (I think), but does it SOUND much different? I’ve heard it said that Shruthis sound thicker, but why would that be? Of course, Ambika has a nicer user interface, but the XT solves that, and if I’m right the Ambika doesn’t have multimode filters like the special Shruthis, right? The problem is cost, once you put three regular Shruthi together, or one XT and one normal Shruthi, you have Ambika level costs. Even a 3 voice Ambika and a Shruthi for extra filter modes doesn’t seem to make sense unless I’m missing something.

Which would you go for: Microwave 1, Ambika, or 2-3 Shruthi with diff filters, and why?

The Shruthi filters are driving the filter signals a bit more - which gives a more pushy and aggressive tone. This feature is not desirable in a polysynth where you want the 6 voices to blend well together.

Polychaining is practical for 2 or 3 voices, where it can be fun to have variations in settings for each unit. Beyond that point, it’s a massive pain in the ass. If you play pads and chords, go with a proper poly. If you write techno or fugues, you can do with several Shruthi.

Ambika has a multimode filter - I think it might be great to have one or two voicecards with it, but for pads/strings I prefer the SMR4.

Microwave 1 is more aggressive - CEM filters are rough, it doesn’t do anti-aliased saw/square (so it’s a bit hard to make it sound “analogue”). Can be an advantage or annoying. With an external chorus Ambika can do pretty convincing Juno/JX sounds - they would be harder to do with a Microwave.

The Ambika is also a bit nicer to program because it has more pots and a bigger display.

The Microwave 2/XT is also worth considering.

Unlike the MW 1, it doesn’t have analogue filters, so it doesn’t sound at all analogue. It’s great on its own terms, though.

There is a good software editor for it, too, that allows you to load in your own wavetables, amongst other things.

a|x

Thanks Olivier and others!

So am I right that the filter is only multimode on Ambika if the SVF card is installed? It’s based on an SSM chip if I’m right, I’m guessing it’s not as sweet as the SMR? I’m also guessing there’s no way to drive the filter as hard on the Ambika so that it can do more aggressive single line Shruthi type duties as well? I’m not looking for something that ‘sounds analog,’ I like the stranger hybrid character you get, particularly when you drive the filter just a little (not Polivoks style, mind you).

This video in particular sounds great to me, I worry that if I go Ambika the sound might not have this much punch, but I do imagine doing some of these sounds with release time, not playing chords really but letting single notes drift, which requires polyphony:

@puggle yes, you’ll only get multi-mode filters on SVF voice cards. The SVF filter is 2-pole, and isn’t based on SSM chips. They sound good, but as Olivier says, for polyphonic playing, the SMR or 4P 4 pole low-pass filters probably work best.

My Ambika has 4x 4P and 2x SVFs, which I think is a good compromise, as I like band and high-pass filters, and don’t usually play chords of more than 4 notes.

a|x

> So am I right that the filter is only multimode on Ambika if the SVF card is installed?

Yes.

> It’s based on an SSM chip

The circuit is based on a quad-VCA IC (2164) that was manufactured by SSM then AD, then CoolAudio. So you can say to yourself “Yeah it’s SSM! like the prophet!” or “It’s made by and for Behringer”. The reality is that the IC doesn’t matter much, it’s the circuit that’s built around it and the input levels, types of capacitor, etc. that define the sound more than the IC.

> it’s not as sweet as the SMR

It’s only 2 poles, so it doesn’t make super smooth and dark pads.

> I’m also guessing there’s no way to drive the filter as hard on the Ambika so that it can do more aggressive single line Shruthi type duties as well

There’s a built-in pre-filter fuzz which can help.

But we’re talking about minor differences here.

> This video in particular sounds great to me, I worry that if I go Ambika the sound might not have this much punch,

You don’t have to worry, there’s nothing in this video that can’t be done with Ambika.

Had forgotten the v2164 was a remanufactured SSM chip.

a|x

I’d say that the wavetable engine in the MW1 is more sophisticated, so if wavetable is your thing then you need a MW1, 2 or XT.

But Shruthi and Ambika have oscillators that a MW doesn’t.

Ambika should cover most bases just fine as opposed to a few Shruthi then. I’ve already got an Anushri with a multimode filter in it, so that can process external audio quite nicely, if paraphonically, for some bandpass chords on occasion. Forgot about the overdrive and bit crusher before filter. The Ambika’s got SO much under the hood it’s easy to forget all the options, so many synthesis types and extra goodies!

My only concern is that some of the videos I hear of Ambika sound a little thin to my ears with the SMR4, especially the lower mid-range. There’s a darkness that the Microwave has that is missing on the SMR4. I did find a few 4P demos recently, just a few, and they sound fuller in the lower mids and very vintage (to my ears). I’m not as big a fan of the 4P for monophonic sounds, it lacks the syrupy goodness of the SMR4 and seems to distort a lot, but maybe for chords the 4P is fuller and darker in the low mids? Am I right that the 4P filters would sound closer to the Microwave type sound, more like an American polyphonic/CEM sound than Japanese, if with digital hybrid goodness before the filters?

Here’s a demo where the 4P Ambika just sounds great to my ears:

This does sound very CEM to me (I’m one of the few people that likes CEM filters, I think!).

Digitally generated oscillators are never gonna have that thickness you can get from analogue.

Microwave 1 is comparable to a PPG Wave. You either want that sort of tone or you don’t,

Who cares about fatness anyway, you’re listening to the raw sound with no FX or processing.

One Shruthi sampled and multi tracked is always an option.

Ignoring the whole digital/analogue thing, you can’t get a better monosynth than the Shruthi. It’s still my go-to, so getting one Shruthi and then a poly synth later is a very viable option. Monotimbral poly synths are overrated when it comes to writing music. :wink:

Record your MW1 through a Neve 1073 or an ISA one preamp, if you need analogue saturation…it’s all just a matter of processing - it’s 2015 !
But honestly, what i like most about the Shruthi is that this baby has the hottest output i have ever seen in a synth, in most cases i have to attenuate it…

When you say hottest output, are you talking the way it overdrives the filter and VCA?

Loud output. Some synths are really quiet, so you have to use the gain on your mixer to bring them up to an acceptable level (generally you want to reduce volume not boost and create noise).

Well, it doesn’t really matter whether the noise is generated at the output stage of the synth or in the mixer… :wink:

Generally the noise in the synth is part of its character :slight_smile: the noise produced by boosting the signal in the mixer is just the circuitry of the mixer or noise introduced into the cable by other devices in the vicinity.

There’s a not insignificant amount of music where noise and distortion introduced by the mixer plays a pretty significant role. :slight_smile:

En contraire…there is a lot of music where noise and distortion introduced by the mixer plays a pretty significant role !
That’s what i wrote above, this addresses to all analogue studio consoles as SSL, AMEK, Neve whatsoever, as their saturation and harmonic distortion of their preamp input and output stages coloured the music of decades in a characteristical and musical manner.
As long as the mixing engineer knew what he was doing, of course.

And this is the point when a hot input signal comes to be an advantage, as it pushes the input stage to saturation without forcing the output stage to be overdriven…this giving you real good control of its destination/location in the stereo image. And the “dirt” of course…

In a total digital environment, when mixed or even reamped by plugins/DSPs this looses its significance and importance, as there are other techniques in foreground.
But even here is valid: “it’s never bad to have enough headroom”.

The argument for the brilliance of valves for amplification was less stages required to boost the signal. So less noise. Or so I was told many years ago.