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Designing a Synthetic Machine with Absynth


Absynth is one of my favorite tools for sound design, though I don't get a chance to use it nearly as often as I'd like. It has an extremely deep and flexible synthesis engine, yet remains accessible and fun to work with. In just a short amount of time you can have a unique, original sound to use in almost any musical or sound design application.

In this tutorial, we'll be working exclusively inside of Absynth 4, creating a synthetic mechanical sound by using Absynth's amazing breakpoint envelope system.

Tools Used

  • Absynth 4 - Native Instruments

Step 1

After launching Absynth, we'll go to the file menu to create a new sound, which I've called "AudioTuts_SyntheticMachine".

Step 2

Next we'll move to the patch window, where we'll set up the basic elements of our sound. On first opening, the Patch window will have only OSC A active, with a default Sinewave as the ocsillator.

We'll change the oscillator type to Fractilize, and select Noise 1 from the Simple Waves menu. We'll set the Transpose field to -45 units.

In the Mod tab of Osc A, we'll set displace to 35 units. In the Uni tab, we'll set Trans to 5 units. I've taken screenshots of each of these settings below, so you can get a feel for them. We'll skip some of the screenshots for the other oscillators to keep things moving.

Step 3

We'll now add some modulation and filtration to this oscillator. Click on the Filter section for Osc A, and set the filter type to Comb and the frequency of this filter to 55Hz.

Enable the Mod section for Osc A and set the Modulator for Freq Shift, using Simple Waves -> Saw_real as the wave type and 7Hz as the frequency. We'll leave feedback at .35.

Here's a screenshot of those final settings, along with a sample of the sound we've got so far.

Oscillator A

Step 4

Next, we'll create a drone sound using Oscillator B.

  • Enable Osc B and set the oscillator type to FM.
  • Select 'Subtle Harmonic' from the Morph Waves section of the Wave Selector window.
  • In the Mod tab, select Saw_smooth as waveform, and leave all other settings at their defaults.
  • Set the output volume of this Oscillator to -6dB.
  • We'll skip the Filter and Modulation sections for this oscillator, so here's our resulting sound:

Oscillator A and B

Step 5

Next we'll create some high frequency content to add to our machine.

  • Enable Osc C and set the oscillator type to FM.
  • Select 'Infected Harmonies' from the Morph Waves section of the Wave Selector window.
  • Set Trans to 19 units. Leave all other settings at their defaults.
  • Set the second section to Filter, using a Comb filter at 220Hz with feedback of .5
  • Set the output of Osc C to -3dB.

Our final output of the three oscillators is almost complete. Here's what we've got so far:


Oscillator A, B and C

Step 6

The final step on the Patch page is to route the Master Output through the Pipe effect - one of my favorites!

  • Click on the Effect slot, and select Parameters...
  • In the next window, select the Pipe radio button.
  • Set Output L's Position to .8
  • Set Output R's Position to .2
  • Set the Input Position to .5

Step 7

The final step in our sound is to create some additional motion in the sound by using Absynth's powerful Breakpoint Envelope system. There are a nearly infinite number of ways to modulate your sounds using the Envelope system in Absynth, so we'll just experiement with a few of them.

  • For all three Oscillators, we'll soften the attack of each sound.
  • We'll then add a new Envelope, routed to the Main Pitch of Oscillator B.
  • Extend the end of the envelope, set the envelope to Loop mode and add break points to taste.
  • Add another new envelope, routed to Filter C1 Frequency.
  • Extend the end of the envelope, set the envelope to Loop mode, and add break points to taste.

The final product may look something like this:

And the final output, played back at various pitches:

Final Output

Absynth is a very deep synthesizer, and we've only scratched the surface of its capabilities. If you enjoy this tutorial, let us know in the comments!

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