If i would have to choose one ROM-pler to hit the category mysterious, it would definitely be TS-10. First of all i never understood why such high second hand market price (particularly in States). You would think it is because from the impressive synthesis capabilities of having both the wavetable and wavesequencing synthesis in one machine. But i am 99% sure that is not the reason. Even today (writing this in dec/2015) and good condition TS-10 unit can set you back over $1000 USD. Which is in a way funny because in Europe you can obtain it for around 400 notes or ever less if you look long enough. Unfortunately i don’t know the secret connection of the TS-10 and US, if someone does, feel free to add a comment. Personally I suspect the secret is: 1)polyphonic aftertouch; 2)session gig players who got used to it; 3) excellent build quality; 4) excellent sequencer (again gig players territory)
With TS series, Ensoniq continued their line of transwave synths, this time introducing the sample playback in the synth engine. The first thing user would check when exploring waveform content are the transwaves. And unfortunately all those good transwaves from SD-1 are gone. In fact, this synth has a weakest set of transwaves, of all Ensoniq’s transwave series. There is total of just 8 of them. But the worst thing is, they all sound almost the same. So, on the first sight it appears this is no good synth for transwave fun, right? Well…. wrong! We got some good news.
Sample playback in TS series is not just ‘basic playback’, but it also features transwave synthesis. If you load a transwave into TS-10, you can change its properties from the basic waveform into the transwave. Now all that is left is to route a controller (LFO, env, mod wheel, etc.) on to it and your transwave is ready for fun. And we got some more good news.
Since transwave synthesis requires extreme playback precision the same can be applied for basic samples (non transwaves). You can for example use extreme short loop points, and route sample end position to mod wheel. As you move the mod wheel, new harmonics are being generated. This works best on short, white noise samples. Or instead of mod wheel you can use random LFO for some really unique effects.
Another good feature this synth has, is that you can shift the loop point and ‘browse’ through various regions of your sample. This works best on complex samples, made from small snippets, vocals for example (connected in series) merged into one large sample. Route LFO or mod wheel and you got some of the craziest vocals at the output. Believe it or not, but even some high-end professional samplers do not have this kind of loop shift feature. Now you might ask – is this all we can do with it? What would happened if we would have one sample made of 64 or 128 small short (pure waveform) samples, connected in series and then we would apply a loop shift feature onto it? Ever heard of synths such as PPG or Waldorf Microwave? Well, that is exactly what they do! Welcome to the…
Wavetable synthesis. Although not from the default state available on TS series, is possible, once you build a wavetable. Technically speaking, TS-10/12 does feature wavetable synthesis, but unfortunately there is no Ensoniq software for creating custom wavetables so one would need to make it ‘manually’ with standard waveform editing software. Considering there are total of 128 waveforms, this can be a big work. Also, every cycle must begin and end at zero amplitude. This ensures smooth playback of each individual frame, since any amplitude difference between start and end point at such short loops alters the harmonic content or totally shifts it into wrong pitch. However, once you build it, the result can be quite impressive. In fact it is possible to gain much higher quality (longer cycle waves, more hi-fi sounding) than on a standard wavetable synthesizers. This is because a single wavetable on TS can be as big as RAM size in it. For example 1 MB wavetable contains a frame with a size of 8 kB. In the days of PPG, 8 kB was the size of the whole waveform ROM!
Some might ask how come this synth has Wavetable synthesis, yet its specs or manual don’t say anything about it – they only mention Transwaves. Well, transwaves are similar to wavetables, in many aspects identical, exept there is no interpolation calculation between to adjacent frames (waves). Single transwave is made out of 128 individual single cycle waveforms and no calculation occurs in between. In other words, what you put into is what comes out (aka garbage in – garbage out). You can’t smooth it out or change in any other way. This is what makes it different from a wavetable, along with the way the data is stored and calculated on wavetable synths. Typical stock transwave is usually made out of two major waveform frames, the first and last cycle in the transwave. However, if you have editing skills and a desire you can build any transwave you imagine, which puts this machine in the vicinity Waldorf wavetable synths and their cool wavetable banks. Unfortunately Ensoniq never provided anything remotely interesting as Waldorf’s wavetables which is probably the reason why wavetable synthesis never took off on the TS series. Kinda pity. Even the Waveboy disks and their custom wavetables aren’t much impressive (i bought them all and regretted). Still if you have patience, once you build a set of good custom transwaves, you’re in the business! And just when you though, this synth has so many cool features, we come to another chapter…
Wavesequencing – just like on the famous Korg Wavestation. Although called Hyperwave, it is basically the same thing. Offering the same methods and similar settings it has one additional and quite useful feature called crossfade volume point. As you might know, a volume loss naturally occurs in the center of a linear crossfade point and with this feature you can completely compensate it. That’s why TS produces constant volume wavesequences, making them completely undetectable – almost sounding like some kind of a morph. Of course, you can always set it to 0 dB to achieve the classic Wavestation-like wavesequence with volume loss.
Custom Transwaves (detailed procedure)
Lets now go back co custom transwaves mentioned at the beginning of the article in case you decide to put them into the TS you might encounter some problems. For example: if you want to add another layer or duplicate existing one. Once you load the sample, you can’t – for some reason. So you must do it prior to loading.Recently i found a way to transfer multi layer samples to the synth. Lets say you build few transwaves in the PC and you want to put them in TS-10 via EPS disk software. No problem, you save the sample, load it to TS and start to program it. But there is a problem. You want to add another Layer (to place the same sample there, but with different parameters for thicker sound) – TS-10 wont let you do that. So i found some really old prehistoric program called Ensoniq MIDI Disk Tools. This program requires Win98 OS, but can run on Virtual PC (Microsoft’s PC emulator for WinXP and Win7).It is a Demo version, but for some reason it will do exactly what you need (in fact, this program is for something completely different). With it, you can make a copy of existing layer and create another one (this is just a copy, so total size won’t increase!), or you can put another transwave in another layer (useful for Ensoniq Fizmo type of sounds). The trick is that this program operates directly on file. So it doesn’t matter if this is demo version, for what you need this program, will be already done even before you click exit.
Here is a procedure on how to create custom transwaves (works on ASR-10 too). This requires commercial program called Awave Studio, but if you are musician you probably already have this program as it can do 1000 other things when it comes to sample conversion:
- First, to create a transwave use Tranzilon – nice and simple prog.
- Then convert .wav to ensoniq .efe file via Awave Studio program.
- Then create ASR-10 floppy with EPSDisk.exe and save this .efe file it to disk. Done!
- In case you want multi layer, then before you use EPSDisk start that Ensoniq MIDI Disk Tools program (described above) and add 3-4 layers (or just use copy if you want the same wave, so the waveform stays in layer 1 and you don’t get unnecessary large file size). Remember, this program operates directly on file, there is no undo. So make a copy of whatever you do.
We need something to modulate all those transwaves, wavetables, etc. right? When it comes to modulations, TS offers one good feature called: modulation mixer. This is very similar to Kurzweil equation FUN’s where you can combine two controllers, apply scale and shape to one of them and get new controller at the output. With modulation mixer you can create really incredible modulators, some of them possible only on complex modular systems. Here is more info about it (from the manual):
Here are the available shapes:
Some examples (but possibilities are endless):
A couple of my patches
Originally i had idea to build a larger demo, but instead decided to build a soundset for TS-10 first, then do the proper youtube demo. However, not to leave you empty handed i found a couple of wavesequencing atmospheric demos that i did for the legendary deepsynthesis.net web side (also known as Sealed’s Deep Synthesis for those of who still remember it!!). These are no ordinary sounds but mostly long evolving textures, demonstrating the Hyperwave function.
Regarding the soundset
I planned other demos but decided to put them in the Youtube video once the soundset is completed. Please don’t ask me when that will happen, though. It will be available on this same website. If it isn’t available then it means it hasn’t been made – plain and simple. 😉
And here is an excellent demo by thekyotoconnection that i found on a YouTube with TS-10 doing Hyperwaves and Pads. There is even a link below the video (on youtube) that provides access to the patches in that demo.