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Ensoniq TS-10 wavetable and wavesequencing monster


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 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.

Which OS version to go for?
Stock version is in 90% cases 2.20. There has been some talk about OS3.10 being the better (latest) version, however from what I have heard one can not just swap the old EPROM chips. Some modification to the motherboard is needed. As soon as I find out what needs to be done I will publish it in here. Currently I have OS2.2. I don’t remember any specific bugs here and there, on this version of the system. Feel free to discuss below.

UPDATE: I have bought OS3.1 from here. Will have it installed next week. Fingers crossed everything goes well. I am also curious to check the sequencer MIDI jitter response after the upgrade.

Yamaha A4000/A5000 Review


When its older brother Yamaha A3000 came out in the mid 90’s it was one of the more affordable samplers on the market that featured a full synthesis engine (sampler + synth). A lot of us lusted after one, since the big E-MUs and Akais were prohibitively expensive back then, this was the second best. Still they were not cheap. In fact by the time i could afford a Yamaha A series sampler it was already year of 2002. And by the time models A4000 and A5000 were released. So i purchased one – my first real hardware sampler. It was like living a dream “wow now i finally have a sampler!”. By that time i sold my beloved XP-50 (which was my only synth) and somehow missed it. What surprised me by Yamaha was that i could easy cover all of the sounds that i liked on the good old Super JV series. The filters were full and juicy, not thin like their earlier incarnations in SY series. The machine offered a lot of different filter types as well as all the modulation routings you would require for one serious “synth style” patch. As i’ve metioned, at that time i really missed my XP-50 so first thing to do was to dig into machine and go for the basic synth patches consisting of nothing more than a raw saw or square or sine wave. Coincidently most of the patches that i’ve made there were synth style and this is exactly what i will show on this page in a form of synth demos.

You will notice that the machine sounds quite nice, yet for some reason it is quite cheap on second hand market. Well better to clear some things right away!! Read this as a warning if you plan to purchase one of these devices. Unfortunately all of the A series Yamaha samplers suffer from the same problem, rotary encoders located below main display. After some time they start to produce weird results outputting wrong values or going into wrong direction – ie you scroll down, value goes up. I should point out that i bought my A4000 brand new from the store. And after one year in smoke free studio one encoder started acting. Quick browse to the web to find out other people have the same problem. On of the cause for this might be the fan in the back the sucks the air out of the unit, which means air will be sucked in from the front side – that is from the place where encoders are, and the dust will literally be pushed into the encoder. Even if you open it up, which isn’t an easy task to clean it up, the problem might return. You might want to google Yamaha A4000 encoders and see of the solutions that people came with. Or you can buy a new set of encoders. Unfortunately this might set you back around 50 EUR which is frustrating given the unit itself can be found for less than 100 EUR.

Second warning i have to give out to potential buyer. If you plan to use this as a live unit, simply forget it. The loading times on this unit are extremely slow. Even if you load it before the concert, if power shots down for some reason you have to go thru it all again and lose a lot of precious time. Not to mention the frustration if you have several different things to load, you would have to wait several minutes in between.

Back to the features. Although called a sampler, Yamaha A-4000 offers amazing synthesis capabilities and is maybe one of the most underrated samplers. when it comes to synthesis power. For start, it gives you: 2 LFO’s, 3 EG’s, 16 different filter types with complete control over the parameters. Single patch has no layering tone limit. Many samplers had layer tone limits of one patch to contain up to four tones (waveforms) such as Akais and some Rolands. Yamaha is not limited in that way. You can stack as many tones/waveforms as you want for a single patch (well as much as polyphony allows you to). This way you can create very rich and complex sounds.

It also has some unique synthesis functions like ”expand detune / dephase” and LFO with fully programmable waveforms. Once you create new sound, you can resample it to create even more complex one. There are also 96 onboard effects inside of three (six in case of A5000) independent effect blocks, which can be connected in series, parallel or individual. Combine this capability with the resampling function and you’ll have virtually endless effect processing power at your fingertips. You can even use the A4000/A5000 as a stand alone effects processor by assigning effects to the stereo analog inputs. Here are .mp3 sound examples of Yamaha A-4000 which will demonstrate it’s synthesis capabilities. In most examples, used sample will be the saw waveform. The size of this sample is only 0.7 kB or 712 bytes to be exact!

2osc_saw_lfo.mp3 (375kB) – First we will start with standard LFO modulated filter sweep. In this case used filter was 18 dB with medium resonance applied. Sound is made of two saw oscillators octave transposed and a touch of reverb.
2osc_saw_lfo-Note.mp3 (171 kB) – Same sound, single note.
AnalogRAW.mp3 (591kB) – Analog sound made of two saw waves and one square wave filtered through band pass filter (BPF) with max width. Each osc uses random pan, square uses expand detune function.
2saw_eg_lfo.mp3 (795kB) – Another LFO sweep with two oscillators, filtered one through LPF the other through HPF, both resonant. To demonstrate effects unit, a little bit of chorus and hall efx were added.
2saw_osc+dist+delay.mp3 (273kB) – Dual saw sound, processed through TWah+OD and T-XDly efx.
2sqr_lpf18(dephase)_hpf24.mp3 (478kB) – Introducing dephase function. This will make your sound extra wide without need for efx. Two oscillators were used – both square waves. One filtered through 18 dB low pass filter (LPF), the other one trough 24 dB high pass filter (HPF). I recommend headhones for this one.
AditiveRAW.mp3 (127kB) – Remember stacking as many tones as you want on a single patch? Well this feature gives you a chance to build a primitive, but functioning additive synthesizer. Following sound was created by only using sine waveform. There are totally 8 sine waves, each controlled by it’s own LFO, but all together inside a single patch (this makes overall controlling of the patch much easier). Each sine wave’s pitch is transposed so they make standard music harmonics (second harmonic is octave up, third harmonic is 7 notes above second, fourth is 5 notes above third, etc…).
AditiveChordRAW.mp3 (115kB) – Same sound as above but a chord.
AditiveSynthesis.mp3 (310kB) – Organic type of sound created by aditive synthesis.
sqr_lfo_port.mp3 (146kB) – A little bit of fun with square wave and LFO.
expand_detune+7_singleOSC.mp3 (555kB) – The cool ”expand detune” function. According to manual this feature sets up a tuning differential (discord) between left and right channels. However, when you put the (stereo) width to 0 you get this crazy sounding PWM type of effect. Believe or not this sound example is a single saw oscilator . That is one sample, one timbre, one poly, no efx, no tricks or anything, just single saw waveform + expand detune function.
SineWave+reverb.mp3 (72kB) – Using sine wave oscillator and LFO to create simple organ. Little bit of reverb was added. Note: To create a sine wave and other ”analog” waveforms like pulse, saw, square or white noise, there are many good programs available of which some are freeware.
sqr_detune.mp3 (185kB) – Single square wave with 18 dB filter, full resonance and expand detune function set to +3.
AnalogPad.mp3 (555kB) – Following pad was created using one pulse wave, two saw waves and one sine wave. That’s all – the rest is A-4000.
SawPad.mp3 (422kB) – Another pad, this time made of three saw waves.
Resample.mp3 (137kB) – This sound started as a sine wave. Using resample, efx and a lot of programming i turned into this organ sound.
Resample2.mp3 (67kB) – Another organ sound that started as sine wave, then resampled.
transwave-mult_timbr.mp3 (2152kB) – Testing multi timbral part of A-4000. Simple drum set and a ”transwave” type of sound that i programmed.

Dynacord DRP-20 review


German classic from the late 80’s (manufactured in 1989). For those on the other side of the great lake where this company is not so much known, we should mention that Dynacord has been a long time manufacturer for pro audio equipment. Old analogue classics like TAM-21 (flanger/chorus) and VRS-23 Vertical Reverberation System come first in mind (both from the late 70’s – still can be found relatively cheap).

Visually, what makes DRP-20 stand out in every rack is obviously its white face plate, which really looks cool. However, there is also the black face plate version around which has balanced jacks and is less noisy at the output stage (noiseless to be exact). Speaking about ease of use, i gave 5/10 because, it’s one of those devices, where you browse through the menu and tweak with the big knob. Can be time consuming and is not as “hands on” as some other devices, i.e. VRS-23 with one knob per function. Assigning patch names can be real pain in the a**, hence low mark on ease of use. I must admit everything is logically laid out in the unit, and once you get used to it, it’s point and shoot.

DRP-20 is a classic reverb processor made with a true stereo engine, which, on some algorithms can be split to “dual” mode where each line features its own “processor”. The unit features dedicated input and output level knobs with a HI/LO gain button for easy switching from a line level for synths to high gain setting for something like a guitar connected directly into the unit. On top of that, there’s a dedicated “mono input” and “mono output” jack on the front panel which guitarists might appreciate. For the classic studio setup, there are 2 inputs and 2 outputs on the back of the unit.

It is very hard to describe the sound of DRP-20 unless you actually try the unit, in your own setup, with your own gear, etc. I won’t bother describing the “sound” of reverb but rather focus on discussing the unit’s weaker and stronger points. First thing i should point out is that the short room reverb algorithms are definitely not this unit’s specialty. Much cheaper reverbs like Midiverb I and II are far better for the small rooms (ie. drums / percussion work). Luckily there are some really nice multi-taps for small room simulations to compensate for this somehow (intentional or not), but more on that later. Where DRP-20 really shines are the vast spatial reverbs. They sound so lush. And the tails on those are just magnificent! In fact i remember reading many years ago comments from ppl mistaking DRP-20 for Lexicon 480 and Quantec QRS (though this is all highly subjective, still somehow funny anecdote). One thing i know 100% sure, huge reverbs on this unit sound really really good! For some reason there are no much of them in the presets area, so you’ll have to make your own, using the buttons and the dial. Luckily there are more than enough parameters for the reverb, and every major aspect can be precisely set.

Speaking of other good stuff inside, the unit has some nice delay algorithms. One of my favorite is a VCO Delay, where LFO can be used to modulate the time. Since each line can be set independently in time and modulation amount, you can produce everything from wide choruses and flangers to old school delays with modulation (for some 60’s style Sci-Fi movie soundtrack). One very useful feature in the unit is the IN LOOP enable / disable function. Basically, when engaged, all the patches in the unit will have their “original signal amount” set to 0. In other words, all effects will be set to fully wet. This saves a lot of work to someone who’s moving from serial to loop connection or vice-versa, otherwise all the patches would manually have to be reprogrammed.

In Specs
The unit features 32 bit signal processing based around the NEC’s DSP chip. Converters are 16 bit, both the A/D and D/A section. The unit features MIDI for external control of all parameters in real time. Parameters in the unit can be set to either “value” of 0-100% or in classic dB scale which is very useful for both the beginners and the professionals – kudos to Dynacord for that. There are 128 preset locations and another 128 user locations for program storage.

DRP-20 has a total of 26 algorithms or effect structures as they call it. Each structure has its own range of parameters. Structures range from Echos, Reverbs, Plates, Rooms, Echos+Reverbs, Multitaps, Gated Reverbs to the Flanger and Chorus effect. There are also five dual channel algorithms which basically feature echo line on one channel and room or plate on the other channel.

Speaking of Multitaps, last algorithm features 2×11 taps which can produce some really nice room simulations! Those 11 delays per channel are grouped with another channel to form a stereo cluster which can be drawn using cluster time function. It is possible to select one from 9 different clusters for each channel, for some really exotic stereo room effects. Further more, cluster time can be independently set for each channel (L & R) along with the independent feedback amount for each. With some careful programming, a collection of really cool room reverbs can easily be built.

Full list of algorithms:
Two Channel Echo
VCO-Echo Stereo
Plate Reverb
Room Reverb
Echo + Plate
Echo + Room
VCO-Echo + Plate
VCO-Echo + Room
Echo + Live Reverb
L = Echo / R = Plate
L = Echo / R = Room
L = VCO / R = Plate
L = VCO / R = Room
L = Echo / R = Live
Freeze Automatic
Freeze Manual
Plate Reverb & Gate
Room Reverb & Gate
Gated Reverb
Echo + Gated Reverb
Multitap 2×3
Multitap 2×6 Syn
Multitap Presets
Stereo Flanger
Stereo Chorus