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why is VCO better than DCO?
Old 26th August 2011
  #1
why is VCO better than DCO?

lots of analogue vs digital discussion on the board at the moment so here's my contribution..

i've got no idea why VCO's should sound better than DCO's, someone enlighten me. what is it about using a digital reference for an analogue oscillator that makes it ugly in the ear?

i simply don't buy into this idea of osc drift being the difference in sound. surely it's the rest of the curcuit that makes the big difference in these machines, not the actual oscillator.

arnt there many kick ass DCOs available in modular formats?
does the juno6 not sound fat enough?

what is it about a DCO that makes it a dirty word?
Old 26th August 2011
  #2
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Yoozer's Avatar
The first letter.

edit: in case of the Juno all DCOs lock to a master clock. With a VCO oscillators would drift even if you'd trigger the same note for all the voices, that's why unison sounds better with VCOs (the alternative is a "spread" parameter for DCOs, but that's apparently beyond some manufacturers). The 106's unison sounds like ass. That's one possible reason, though using unison all the time is for Vengeance patches heh
Old 26th August 2011
  #3
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I don't know the technical reason why, but to my subjective ears VCO's sound:

- dirtier, grittier
- more alive
- wooden (as in what trees are made of, not as in 'wooden acting')


DCO's sound:

- cleaner
- better behaved
- shinier, more like metal


Based on nothing but what my ears tell me while playing my droney-type stuff on the following synths: Matrix 6, Alpha Juno 2, Trident, Polysix, JX-3P, Dark Energy, Bass Station and possibly others I'm not right now remembering.


Got loads of audio, here's one little comparison:





The Matrix and Polysix playing similar-ish paddy lead type stuff...they sound great, really like them both...but I do hear a difference in inherent character.


And that's the difference between DCO's and VCO's...they each have an inherent character over the other. I'll leave it to others to techically explain why or how that may be...or indeed for others to objectively argue there is in fact no difference except in the ears of the beholder.
Old 26th August 2011
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
The Matrix and Polysix playing similar-ish paddy lead type stuff...they sound great, really like them both...but I do hear a difference in inherent character.
To really be sure of the difference you'd have to pop out the VCOs and pop in DCOs in the same synth - identical amplification, identical filter, identical everything. Otherwise the character difference could be attributed to something else.
Old 26th August 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
To really be sure of the difference you'd have to pop out the VCOs and pop in DCOs in the same synth - identical amplification, identical filter, identical everything. Otherwise the character difference could be attributed to something else.
+1


i've got dco and vco (probably like most sluts around here!) and i have to say i appreciate a lot Dco's behaviour for EDM. not that i've extensively tested many anyways
Old 26th August 2011
  #6
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I would say sometimes better: VCO drift away in pitch and that makes it more fat or alive (or whatever people name it). That is a good thing when it's somehow controlled. But it's a bad thing when it drift away too far and creates problems with the pitch.

DCO came just because VCO many times were unstable. The good and bad thing with DCO is just that they are stable and not drift away.

A misunderstanding, when talking about analog technology, is that DCO are digital oscillators. But booth VCO and DCO are analog, but Voltage controlled pitch or Digital controlled pitch, booth with pros and cons.
Old 26th August 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
To really be sure of the difference you'd have to pop out the VCOs and pop in DCOs in the same synth - identical amplification, identical filter, identical everything. Otherwise the character difference could be attributed to something else.
Could be...maybe the filter is very responsible for the inherent sound most of us attribute to the Oscillator. I don't know, I just know what I hear...when synth discussions start getting technical my eyes begin to glaze over

I do know that I haven't yet heard a DCO synth which sound:


Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
- dirtier, grittier
- more alive
- wooden (as in what trees are made of, not as in 'wooden acting')

over these other attributes:

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
- cleaner
- better behaved
- shinier, more like metal

The Microwave and DW-8000 I also have experience with...they use analogue filters and I believe digital waveforms instead of DCO's. To me they sound very similar to DCO synths, far more related in inherent character than VCO synths.

To me that may mean that VCO's simply sound unique against any other synth-type.

It's not a vintage thing either: the newer DSI stuff has the DCO attributes (Tetra, Prophet 08...although here only going by online audio), the newer Doepfer stuff has the VCO attributes (MS-404, Dark Energy...I've real experience with both of these).


I personally believe it is something about the VCO, and less about the filter. But I can't offer a technical explanation as that's not exactly my speciality
Old 26th August 2011
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers View Post
lots of analogue vs digital discussion on the board at the moment so here's my contribution..

i've got no idea why VCO's should sound better than DCO's, someone enlighten me. what is it about using a digital reference for an analogue oscillator that makes it ugly in the ear?

i simply don't buy into this idea of osc drift being the difference in sound. surely it's the rest of the curcuit that makes the big difference in these machines, not the actual oscillator.

arnt there many kick ass DCOs available in modular formats?
does the juno6 not sound fat enough?

what is it about a DCO that makes it a dirty word?
Compare Prophet '08 oscillator sound with any VCO and you'll notice the difference instantly. P08's DCO is super cold and glassy sounding (don't like it at all).

People always mention the oscillator drift but I think that's not what's the reason for VCO sounding "better" than DCO. VCO's trigger each oscillation cycle with jittered intervals because of the analogue circuitry doing the triggering. This creates a stable (ie. not drifting) pitch, but since each oscillation cycle has a little bit of randomness to their length, the end result is more organic sound.

That's probably what people are referring to when they say VCOs sound better than DCOs and why analogue sounds "better" than digital.
Old 26th August 2011
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers View Post
i've got no idea why VCO's should sound better than DCO's, someone enlighten me.
They don't sound better. They just sound different. DCO is static. VCO is alive. Each has its own purpose and application.
Old 26th August 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
They don't sound better. They just sound different. DCO is static. VCO is alive. Each has its own purpose and application.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraku View Post
People always mention the oscillator drift but I think that's not what's the reason for VCO sounding "better" than DCO. VCO's trigger each oscillation cycle with jittered intervals because of the analogue circuitry doing the triggering. This creates a stable (ie. not drifting) pitch, but since each oscillation cycle has a little bit of randomness to their length, the end result is more organic sound.

That's probably what people are referring to when they say VCOs sound better than DCOs and why analogue sounds "better" than digital.

To be fair to the Matrix 6, it's the most VCO-sounding out of the DCO synths I've played...it does the grit really well, and perhaps in a blind test some of us might call this a VCO synth:

Old 26th August 2011
  #11
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enossified's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
- more alive
- wooden (as in what trees are made of, not as in 'wooden acting')
I absolutely hate using words ascribing characteristics of a living thing to electronic circuitry tutt

Thank goodness you didn't say organic like kraku did

Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers View Post
arnt there many kick ass DCOs available in modular formats?
I don't think there are any...the MFB "DCO" module is completely digital I think.
Old 26th August 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enossified View Post
I absolutely hate using words ascribing characteristics of a living thing to electronic circuitry tutt

Thank goodness you didn't say organic

I guess you don't enjoy English literature or poetry then. Nor did you enjoy Kraku's post:

Quote:
Originally Posted by kraku View Post
This creates a stable (ie. not drifting) pitch, but since each oscillation cycle has a little bit of randomness to their length, the end result is more organic sound.

Music is also an artform...it's not a mathematical science. Hence we use artful language to describe it.
Old 26th August 2011
  #13
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I am so glad the Synthex has DCOs and it kicks the @$$ of many VCO poly-synths.

I think the Schmidt 8-voice also has DCOs - is it inferior? I don't think so.
Old 26th August 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enossified View Post
I absolutely hate using words ascribing characteristics of a living thing to electronic circuitry tutt

Thank goodness you didn't say organic like kraku did
How about fruits or other edible products? Stuff like juicy, bread&butter, squelchy (melons or tits, your choice)?

Gee, I wonder what a VCF tastes like... I might give a try, like Van Gogh did with his paintings.heh
Old 26th August 2011
  #15
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Tits are ALWAYS good!
TITS! TITS! TITS!
Old 26th August 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susceptor View Post
Tits are ALWAYS good!
TITS! TITS! TITS!
Moog sounds like boobs.

i mean, aside from the assonance, warm Moog patches are like sonically rendered boobs.
Old 26th August 2011
  #17
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I would posit that in isolation (single oscillator, wide open filter), the differences between an old* DCO and old VCO are minimal. It's the combination of oscillators, how they sound when filtered, etc that makes a bigger difference.

So the question is more about what makes the beating/drifting/changing of multiple VCOs 'better' than multiple DCOs. As someone has already pointed out, the Synthex oscillators are driven by a master high frequency clock (2 MHz if I recall correctly) and yet that machine sounds amazingly alive. So it is possible to get good sounding DCOs in a system.

*old meaning through-hole design with the original 'VCO on a chip' ICs from CEM and SSM. I'm not willing to open up yet another debate on modern components and surface mount versus older design techniques.
Old 26th August 2011
  #18
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Slik dA Relic's Avatar
 

i have a Juno 6, a Nord Lead 2, and a Casio CZ101... not to mention the RS 7000, the more modern of the 4... they all have some warm, "wooden" sounds, especially the older machines (Casio, and Juno)... but at the end of the day, they all sound great... i stopped worryin about it... no one cares except us.

da relic
Old 26th August 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slik dA Relic View Post
no one cares except us.
ne'er a truer word was spoken...neatly describes Gearslutz.

Still...I like caring about such things...brings out the geek in me. Geeks are cool now
Old 26th August 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
To be fair to the Matrix 6, it's the most VCO-sounding out of the DCO synths I've played...it does the grit really well, and perhaps in a blind test some of us might call this a VCO synth:
That's excactly what I think about the Matrix 6. Although maybe it's just that it's such a great sounding synth. But the Matrix 6 (I have the 6R) still sounds obviously weaker, thinner and less punchy than my VCO synths, the Jupiter 8 and Moog Source.

The envelopes, digital or analogue, play an important role too.
Old 26th August 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
edit: in case of the Juno all DCOs lock to a master clock. With a VCO oscillators would drift even if you'd trigger the same note for all the voices, that's why unison sounds better with VCOs (the alternative is a "spread" parameter for DCOs, but that's apparently beyond some manufacturers). The 106's unison sounds like ass. That's one possible reason, though using unison all the time is for Vengeance patches heh
A lot of this has to do with specific implementation. I notice (from memory, at least) that the Junos detune octaves slightly so they don't have the phase locked "divide down" sound (as the Siel DK 600 does; otherwise the design is very similar). They could have implemented a unison detune, instead you just get bad sounding phase cancellation. And also it's a matter of whether phases are reset on note-on, and rate/resolution of digital pitch modulation (if applicable). These things are full of non-ideal design compromises and technical limitations, none of which have anything to do with VCO vs. DCO, but are still probably responsible for much whinging.
Old 26th August 2011
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ossicle View Post
But the Matrix 6 (I have the 6R) still sounds obviously weaker, thinner and less punchy than my VCO synths, the Jupiter 8 and Moog Source.
That's because Matrix has a very low gain stage and almost zero VCA saturation. Try something like Waldorf Pulse* and you'll see all the dirt and punch of a DCO synth, once the VCA starts to saturate - which is possible, thanks to its design.


*as long as you don't add any resonance (but that's another story).
Old 26th August 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
That's because Matrix has a very low gain stage and almost zero VCA saturation. Try something like Waldorf Pulse and you'll see all the dirt and punch of a DCO synth, once the VCA starts to saturate (which is possible, thanks to its design).
Not sure if it's fair comparing a dedicated monosynth to a 6-voice polysynth in this case. How about Pulse vs Dark Energy? That's DCO vs VCO...if anyone has a Pulse we could do a shootout for this thread (I have the Doepfer).
Old 26th August 2011
  #24
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WhiteRhino's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
Music is also an artform...it's not a mathematical science. Hence we use artful language to describe it.
Sorry to backtrack, but while production would certainly be an artistic aspect of music, the majority of the rest is entirely math; Chordal construction and Composition is derived from intervals so much so that you can develop alogorithms that are surefire methods to create whatever emotion you'd like, whether it's just a chord, a riff, up to a progression. Beyond that, instruments are usually created by using extremely precise mathimatical calculation to achieve what one would call an "in tune pitch". In this case however, synths are analog units full of circuitry that stems from schematics which is also a empirically heavy subject. If you start looking at music more as a formula (when you mix everything together sure, be artistic!) I think you'll really impress yourself!
Old 26th August 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers View Post

i've got no idea why VCO's should sound better than DCO's, someone enlighten me. what is it about using a digital reference for an analogue oscillator that makes it ugly in the ear?
its more analogue , enough said.

As if anyone need a good explanation why analogue sound better ... Keep the faith brother...
Old 26th August 2011
  #26
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I never have understood how VCO drift is supposed to make the sound fatter or "more alive." All it does is phase the signal in and out, making it sound thin, reedy, weak and unpredictable/unuseable (unless that's what you're going for). One of the many obnoxious features of old analogs is that you can't keep multiple oscillators in-phase for maximum predicability in tone. By predictability, I mean quality, because once I've decided on a sound, that's the sound I want. I don't want the "magic living inscrutable genius organic throbbing pulsing machine" deciding what sound it thought I wanted.
Old 26th August 2011
  #27
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Good post, WhiteRhino...certainly for the engineers maths plays a pivotal role when designing and building their synths.

And also for some electronic musicians it's an important factor for their musical-considerations (Stockhausen and James Holden both spring to mind).

But for most of us, when we describe what we like about certain sounds we don't talk in maths, we talk in metaphorical English. Hence we see words like:

- warm
- organic
- bright
- shimmering
- fat
- liquid
- cutting

and many more such flowery descriptions being used in an attempt to describe what certain sounds sound like.
Old 26th August 2011
  #28
Deleted 8456dd3
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Well its funny you say that, i had the Synthex for years and years and sold it earlier this year- i just grew tired of the overall tone, DCO's dont really drift organically like VCO's do.. ultimately it was that which made me decide to sell it, i just like VCO's a lot more they sound more alive. Although as Don said they all have their place- i dont have any DCO synths apart from the Pulse... but i like the Pulse for its very precise nature, the arps are great and bass too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OurDarkness View Post
I am so glad the Synthex has DCOs and it kicks the @$$ of many VCO poly-synths.

I think the Schmidt 8-voice also has DCOs - is it inferior? I don't think so.
Old 26th August 2011
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by OurDarkness View Post

I think the Schmidt 8-voice also has DCOs - is it inferior? I don't think so.
no i think it has VCOs that tune digitally. much the same as when you hit the tune button on a vintage synth. the schmidt just does this alot more often. maybe even constantly?
Old 26th August 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackaleks View Post
Moog sounds like boobs.

i mean, aside from the assonance, warm Moog patches are like sonically rendered boobs.
Then I say DSI's DCO's sound like tight perky little boobies.
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