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Cost of DCO's vs VCO's Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 24th August 2007
  #1
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Cost of DCO's vs VCO's

Just curious what the costs of developing DCO's vs. the cost of developing VCO's is. Assuming VCO's are a lot harder to dial in hence the increased costs of the end product.
Old 24th August 2007
  #2
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I know that some VCO synths have a system that automatically tunes each osc when you turn it on. That could be a pain tto implement, but would probably be necessary. To be honest, the only thing i can imagine where you MIGHT actually notice a difference between a DCO and the saame osc circuit controlled by CV (aside from the DC version staying in tune better, which you could compensate for with programming if you wanted to) would be audio rate pitch modulation. I could be wrong, but I would guess that if you were to use some complex external signal to modulate the pitch at audio rates, a DCO would probably not perform as well as a VCO. For anything else I really don't see what the fuss is about.
Old 24th August 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robd View Post
I know that some VCO synths have a system that automatically tunes each osc when you turn it on. That could be a pain tto implement, but would probably be necessary. To be honest, the only thing i can imagine where you MIGHT actually notice a difference between a DCO and the saame osc circuit controlled by CV (aside from the DC version staying in tune better, which you could compensate for with programming if you wanted to) would be audio rate pitch modulation. I could be wrong, but I would guess that if you were to use some complex external signal to modulate the pitch at audio rates, a DCO would probably not perform as well as a VCO. For anything else I really don't see what the fuss is about.
I don't know.
I like some DCO synths for what they are (juno 60, Kawai SX240, Matrix 6) but they don't have what VCO based Polys do IMHO. Not knocking them as I used a juno 60 for YEARS and LOVED it as well as my SX240.
I hope the new P8 from Dave Smith does sound great and I would have thought with modern techniques there must be an improvement over old DCO's

Xpander or Matrix 12, Memorymoog, Rhodes Chroma, Jupiter 8, Prophet 5 are all rightly classics. All VCO.

What it might be is that previously they (DCO based synths) were built as cheaper synths rather than top range synths
So, I'd like to agree, but no DCO poly compares in range of sound, richness and warmth in my opinion to those VCO based synths I listed.
Old 24th August 2007
  #4
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Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
no DCO poly compares in range of sound, richness and warmth in my opinion to those VCO based synths I listed.
Really? Not even an MKS70?

I don't believe it's possible to listen to raw VCOs or DCOs - it's only possible to listen to a whole system. No matter what, the signal is going to run through the circuitry of the filter and be amplified by the VCA, right? So what you're really comparing are entire synth systems, not raw oscillators. Think about how many synths in the '80s used the same Curtis chips but sounded entirely diffferent...

In order to be able to tell how a DCO compares with a VCO, they'd have to be in the same system....which I don't think is easy to do unless you're working with a modular (are there DCO modules?). You can put them both on a scope, of course...but Dave Smith tells me that a properly tweaked DCO will scope exactly the same as a properly tweaked VCO, and I have neither the experience nor the hubris to doubt him - especially since every other synth engineer I know agrees with him.

To the best of my knowledge, DCOs and VCOs are basically the same thing. Both are analog oscillators. Both have slop and artifacts. Both have capacitors that are being charged and discharged. What gives an oscillator it's sound within a system is the way it's artifacts are handled within the system, not just the oscillator itself.

I've heard DCO based systems I like (the aforementioned MKS70, for example) and VCO based systems that I dislike (Six Trak, OB-Mx). Bottom line is that it's really the entire system you're evaluating, not the raw oscillators.

dB
Old 24th August 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
yeah maybe I'm missing something here but aren't DCOs really VCO's whose pitch is stabilized with a digital clock? hence digitally controlled? whats the big deal? Do we really need this thread to be a branch off debate thats really about the new Prophet 08? All the skeptics should just wait till it comes out.. and if you dont like it, dont buy it... seems logical to me..
Old 24th August 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Really? Not even an MKS70?

I've heard DCO based systems I like (the aforementioned MKS70, for example) and VCO based systems that I dislike (Six Trak, OB-Mx). Bottom line is that it's really the entire system you're evaluating, not the raw oscillators.

dB
Hi dB
I had a JX10 and didn't think it was great in the end. Used an MKS70 as well. Identical really.
My point is that it is the entire system as well and no DCO synth I know of got close to the great VCO synths so the entire system didn't work for me.
I don't know if the only reason was VCO vs DCO or that of overall cost or another reason.
Sixtrak was a very budget VCO based synth that offered multitimbrality, but the spec was VERY low in reality as was the price.
So I reiterate my point. The BEST polysynths in MY opinion have used VCO. I am not technical enough to say why, but am presuming VCO's are part of that.
My main point is though, that I hope if the P8 from Dave Smith is DCO that he has improved them and that it can compete with the VCO synths mentioned above (for which I forgot to add an Elka Synthex and CS60/80!)
If he manages, great and I think he can, so in short, I don't care if it is DCO or VCO as long as it sounds good
Old 24th August 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
My main point is though, that I hope if the P8 from Dave Smith is DCO that he has improved them and that it can compete with the VCO synths mentioned above (for which I forgot to add an Elka Synthex and CS60/80!)
Elka Synthex uses DCO's...
Old 24th August 2007
  #8
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Originally Posted by amino View Post
Elka Synthex uses DCO's...
Well that must be why I never owned one

But point taken
I don't mind PPG or Waldorf stuff, but I have yet to be as excited by a DCO synth (including then the Synthex which I haven't used to be fair) as any good VCO synth.
Hopefully P8 will change that. For $2k it hopefully will.
Old 24th August 2007
  #9
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Well, I really must agree with Bryce here. I couldn't care less what letter is in front of CO. There are good sounding oscillators and bad sounding oscillators. Some are good in a certain situation, some are good in other situations.

I love the SEM oscillators, but when I play a 4-voice I often only use one VCO on each SEM. That's kinda enough for polyphonic sounds...

The oscillators in the Korg MS and PS series are very stable but sound thin in my ears. They are still great synths. The MS-series has its filters...the PS series has...hmmm...some of the weirdest and most interesting synth structures out there. And still...fully polyphonic synths...with envelopes that can run for minutes...you really can't use any massive oscillators then.

I think the Waldorf Pulse has excellent oscillators. Nice and smooth with a very rich low end. I would love to build a polyphonic synth out of them, and I would happily replace the oscillators in a lot of old polyphonic synths with those.
Old 24th August 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alchey View Post
yeah maybe I'm missing something here but aren't DCOs really VCO's whose pitch is stabilized with a digital clock? hence digitally controlled? whats the big deal? Do we really need this thread to be a branch off debate thats really about the new Prophet 08? All the skeptics should just wait till it comes out.. and if you dont like it, dont buy it... seems logical to me..
Really I was just hoping to gain some insights from a cost/development perspective.
Old 24th August 2007
  #11
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I couldn't care either Amino. Don't quite know who implied I did?? I didn't disagree with Bryce. I just stated my points.
I just gave my reasons why I PREFER (ME!) certain synths (and I have used MOST analogue synths in my time) and they are IN GENERAL VCO based.
I have ZERO problem with DCO's and will gladly try the P8 much like I have used and loved DCO synths before and will continue too....

Damn, it's easy to have arguments here...
Old 24th August 2007
  #12
hello, it's my first post here and i'd say my beliefs on the theme lie in my signature.. read it.
either way, i look forward to its release, will buy this beauty, if deserves it
Old 24th August 2007
  #13
Quote:
Damn, it's easy to have arguments here...
ain't it something that happens to all forums? think it brings some life too!
Old 24th August 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Really I was just hoping to gain some insights from a cost/development perspective.
I think it can all depend HOW it is done. I am certain there are a few ways of doing it. Here is one way..

A DCO can consist of a digital counter such as the 82C53 chip. These produce square wave signals that are very accurate. The square wave can then be modified by standard analog waveshaping techniques. DCOs have been used as cheap replacements for VCOs in some synthesizers. In these applications, their greatest benefit is stability along with having no frequency drift.


Old 24th August 2007
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amino View Post
Well, I really must agree with Bryce here. I couldn't care less what letter is in front of CO. There are good sounding oscillators and bad sounding oscillators. Some are good in a certain situation, some are good in other situations.
I'd have to go wtih Morley here as all of my favorite synths have VCO's. I fell in love with the sound of them before I even knew what a VCO or DCO was!

It's really over simplifying things by trying to claim that how the oscillators are controlled does not effect the overall sound (makes me chuckle even as I type that statement!).

That said, I am a big fan of what Dave Smith has done in the past and am very excited about the 08. I had always toyed with the idea of owning a polyevolver but found it a little to digital sounding for my own personal asthetic.

I am not at all put off by the fact that the '08 has DCO's and look forward to sizing up the unit based soley on it's own unique merits.
Old 24th August 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
I think it can all depend HOW it is done. I am certain there are a few ways of doing it. Here is one way..

A DCO can consist of a digital counter such as the 82C53 chip. These produce square wave signals that are very accurate. The square wave can then be modified by standard analog waveshaping techniques. DCOs have been used as cheap replacements for VCOs in some synthesizers. In these applications, their greatest benefit is stability along with having no frequency drift.


So assuming the higher costs of the other modern analog polys has something to do with the cost of R&D. I'd imagine it takes considerable effort to dial in and stabalize a VCO based synth during development.
Old 24th August 2007
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
I couldn't care either Amino. Don't quite know who implied I did??
Me neither. Did anyone? I didn't say I disagree with you.

Before everyone starts to list all their favourite synths with VCO's everyone (not just you ) have to think about the history. Synths with DCO's started to show up for real at the same time the DX7 showed up in 1983. People then wanted synths that had a lot of voices, patch memories, were stable in tune, had MIDI and were cheap. Knobs? No, that wasn't important. It is not easy to produce good analog synths with those premises! We all know what happened. The companies that didn't follow the trend went away. And today we don't want exactly the same things in an analog synth.

If we try to make a list of all good synths with VCO's that were developed entirely after the DX7 was released (and before analog returned), it will probably be empty. MKS-80 is based on JP-6...and Xpander/Matrix-12 surely must have had a pretty long development time.
Old 24th August 2007
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
I think it can all depend HOW it is done. I am certain there are a few ways of doing it. Here is one way..

A DCO can consist of a digital counter such as the 82C53 chip. These produce square wave signals that are very accurate. The square wave can then be modified by standard analog waveshaping techniques. DCOs have been used as cheap replacements for VCOs in some synthesizers. In these applications, their greatest benefit is stability along with having no frequency drift.
Aren't quotes like this typically followed by a link to the source? heh

It is worth mentioning that DSI synths have a parameter called Oscillator Slop that slowly randomly varies the oscillator's frequency, allowing it to drift. It should also be noted that this parameter has been changed for the P'08 so that it does not perform in the same manner as it does on the Evolver synth's DCOs.

dB
DSI
Old 24th August 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
I'd imagine it takes considerable effort to dial in and stabalize a VCO based synth during development.
I don't think so. I think it takes considerable effort to develop a stable AND good sounding VCO. Especially when you want to use 16 or something in the same box and don't want it to cost a fortune.

The VCO's in MS-20 really aren't that complicated, but in my world they are just as stable as DCO's.
Old 24th August 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amino View Post
Before everyone starts to list all their favourite synths with VCO's everyone (not just you ) have to think about the history
That's just rediculous. How does that have any bearing on whether I prefer a particular synth over another?! If anything it just helps to clearly define the time period and componentry that most associate with a 'classic ' analog sound.


Quote:
Originally Posted by amino View Post
And today we don't want exactly the same things in an analog synth.

You obviously haven't looked at eBay prices recently!
Old 24th August 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Aren't quotes like this typically followed by a link to the source? heh
Was he incorrect? If so, perhaps you can point me to a link?

I'd love to get some solid info but I'm feeling like some of you are just arguing for arguments sake at this point!
Old 24th August 2007
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
You obviously haven't looked at eBay prices recently!
You couldn't be more wrong...but you obviously didn't read my post...
Old 24th August 2007
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amino View Post
You couldn't be more wrong...but you obviously didn't read my post...
Unfortuneately, yes, I have read your posts. None of which have anything to do with the topic of this thread.

In fact, I had started this thread in an attempt to get away from the same tired argument you were waging in the 08 thread.

Instead of offering any insights, you chose to dive right back into the same argument you were already boring me with!
Old 24th August 2007
  #24
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i think the oscillators DO make a difference, not that one is necessarily better than any other. VCO synths sound a little different than DCO synths (I had juno6 and mks70),
and these also sound a little different than Virtual Analogs like the Nords or Virus.
but, in addition to the oscilators, numerous other factors come into play such as filters, amps, envelopes, etc. and as long as you're making music, i'm sure you'll find something that'll help you in a track, whether it be an evolver or new prophet 08 or metasonix tube synth.
Old 24th August 2007
  #25
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Secret Friend's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Aren't quotes like this typically followed by a link to the source? heh

It is worth mentioning that DSI synths have a parameter called Oscillator Slop that slowly randomly varies the oscillator's frequency, allowing it to drift. It should also be noted that this parameter has been changed for the P'08 so that it does not perform in the same manner as it does on the Evolver synth's DCOs.

dB
DSI
Isn't it exactly that frequency drift that gives those vintage analogue boards
Morley mentioned their unique, slightly "out of control" and unpredictable character?

Why implement a DCO and an Oscillator Slop, or like Alesis, a "drift" function,
to artificially emulate what a VCO would do naturally, all by itself?

Yes, in the end I also let my ears decide what sounds good, and don't really care
if it's a DCO or VCO, nevertheless I have to agree with Morley that all my favourite
true analogues use VCOs. With a few exceptions, like the Synthex, and hopefully the Prophet 08...
Old 25th August 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Aren't quotes like this typically followed by a link to the source? heh

It is worth mentioning that DSI synths have a parameter called Oscillator Slop that slowly randomly varies the oscillator's frequency, allowing it to drift. It should also be noted that this parameter has been changed for the P'08 so that it does not perform in the same manner as it does on the Evolver synth's DCOs.

dB
DSI
can you get it a lot more "sloppy"? would be a nice to touch if you could go from mild to wild slop...
Old 25th August 2007
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cl516 View Post
i think the oscillators DO make a difference, not that one is necessarily better than any other. VCO synths sound a little different than DCO synths (I had juno6 and mks70),
and these also sound a little different than Virtual Analogs like the Nords or Virus.
but, in addition to the oscilators, numerous other factors come into play such as filters, amps, envelopes, etc. and as long as you're making music, i'm sure you'll find something that'll help you in a track, whether it be an evolver or new prophet 08 or metasonix tube synth.
I personally believe filters make up at least 50% of the sound/tone that a synth has... easy experiment, open up the cutoff on your synth and then run it through a bunch of different (analogue) filters... tweak it up and make your own conclusion...
Old 25th August 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
So, I'd like to agree, but no DCO poly compares in range of sound, richness and warmth in my opinion to those VCO based synths I listed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Really? Not even an MKS70?
I don't think so, although it was one of my favorite synths! I love the fat pads and the bottle/chug sounds, etc. (Did Clapton use that on the remake of 'After Midnight'?)

But I agree that it was not as warm and rich as the sounds coming out of the T-8, or Quadra that I had, etc. Plus it needed the built in chorus in many cases to really sound lush.
Old 25th August 2007
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
Aren't quotes like this typically followed by a link to the source? heh

It is worth mentioning that DSI synths have a parameter called Oscillator Slop that slowly randomly varies the oscillator's frequency, allowing it to drift. It should also be noted that this parameter has been changed for the P'08 so that it does not perform in the same manner as it does on the Evolver synth's DCOs.

dB
DSI
David, I find that interesting. It tells me there must be something randam about the non-digitally controlled oscillators that adds a desirable character. So there must be something to this. These kinds of things cannot always be quantized and properly emulated digitally.
Old 25th August 2007
  #30
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Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
I agree that it was not as warm and rich as the sounds coming out of the T-8, or Quadra that I had, etc. .
I think you're missing my point. That's not necessarily because of the VCO/DCO thing - that's because you like those synths better than the MKS70. You seem to think it's only the oscillators that are responsible for the sound of the T-8 or Quadra. How about the filters? And the VCAs? You can't remove those from the signal path. Don't you think they play into the way synths sound?

Like I said - you wanna hear a thin VCO system? Go find an OB-Mx - they're freaking horribly thin. Same with the Six Trak....ugh. I also feel the same way about the Prophet 600 (and Dave Smith knows it). I'd much rather have a JX-8P or a Synthex.

Quote:
I find that interesting. It tells me there must be something randam about the non-digitally controlled oscillators that adds a desirable character.
There is no doubt that VCOs are less stable than DCOs - no one is arguing that. There is also no doubt that there are people who believe that is a desirable quality - there's no arguing that either. The oscillator slop parameter provides that option, if it's something you want. Not a bad idea...

Think of it this way - the DCO is capable of either stable or unstable behavior if properly handled, where the VCO is only capable of unstable behavior. Nice to have the choice, don't you agree?

Quote:
These kinds of things cannot always be quantized and properly emulated digitally.
Always? No. Sometimes? Maybe.

Speaking as someone who's spent the last two months living with a P'08, I feel it safe to say that there are more than a few people who are gonna be very surprised by this bad boy. I just hope not too many make up their minds about what they're going to hear before they ever walk up to it.

dB
DSI
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