I have been in the process of auditioning and determining the potential personal usages of each of the TI2’s 62 (64 if you count the Sine and Tri waves) Classic Oscillator Spectral Waves, since they do not come more pragmatically identified than just simply being numbered. I thought I would share with the forum at least some of the underlying common characteristics of these waves that I’ve discovered so far for those of you curious about this feature of the TI2.
Firstly, I’m amazed at how deceptively versatile the Spectral Waves really are once you start trying different basic approaches to playing them. Simply changing the Amp Envelope between a fast attack with a short decay to a slow attack with some sustain can sometimes alter the personality of a wave dramatically. Likewise, playing single notes or two-note chords versus multi-note chords can give different impressions. More on this in a moment.
Also, I am assuming these are indeed single cycle waves, but surprisingly, many of them appear to be “pitch sensitive” somehow, with contrasting timbres across the keyboard, behaving more like index keytracked wavetables. In fact, you can somewhat simulate wavetable index modulation with these kind of spectral waves by applying various filter cutoff modulations. I found that a slow triwave bipolar poly LFO assigned to a Bandpass filter works great for creating nice evolving pads and wave width modulation tones, while a Lowpass filter seems to emulate more steppier wave sequencing functions quite well.
If you’ve never gone through the waves before, at first blush you’ll find a nice variety of spectra, some of which are good basic building blocks for creating a more developed patch, and some of them which are practically patch ready to start with. I have found a diverse collection of good candidates for pianos, organs, bells, vocal formants, flutes, saxophones, clavinets, harpsichords, strings, and even bassoons, marimbas, and kalimbas. But wait…there’s more!: harmonicas, accordions, clarinets, pan flutes, and also a few that are just plain hard to pin down. Granted some of their potential usages might be a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but some of them are really spot on. And of course, they can also be used to create totally new and innovative synth tones. Different programmers will have their own ideas about what each wave might be good for.
My advice for auditioning the waves is to first hear them in their raw form using just one oscillator pitched at standard Middle C (requiring an occasional octave transpose shift), an open filter, no resonance, and just a touch of dual Unison detune with pan spread to make it more pleasant to listen to without adversely coloring them. Then start trying the different amp envelope settings mentioned above. Again, you’ll also be surprised at how your perception will change of what a wave sounds like depending on the amount of notes used in a chord, playing those same notes individually, and when running single notes up the keyboard versus running back down. Then when you start comparing the harmonics of one spectral wave with other similar ones (and then fractalizing down to different timbres within the same wave across the keyboard) looking for an identifying characteristic - it all inevitably turns into an exponential amount of crosschecking, backtracking, and endless rabbit trails! But after a while you’ll finally be able to take all the notes you’ve made (no pun intended) and begin constructing a comprehensive baseline of consistent terminologies. The wave images available on the Access downloads page or an oscilloscope provide some help, along with some necessary breaks to clear your ears, as I’ve noticed that not giving my hearing an occasional chance to “re-initialize” would lead to false impressions. I did find a few waves with a weird jumpy EQ response in the upper middle register, as if overlapping waves were competing with each other to sound out (hope it’s not just my machine!), and to a lesser extent some aliasing, though that has been stated somewhere as an intentional artifact of the Classic Mode oscillators where the Spectral Waves are located.
Do I have a favorite wave that stands out above the others? You betcha! Wave #52- because it is a really good single wave emulation of the PPG Wave wavetable #27 Formant Vocal, arguably the most iconic synth voice of early ‘80s Tangerine Dream and a major influence for me. Other highlights include wave 15 for another PPG style vocal formant, wave 5 for a very close approximation of acoustic piano, and for the aforementioned evolving wavetable pad simulations, spectrally rich and diverse waves 13, 19, 48, and 54.
I have really enjoyed exploring all the facets of the TI2 as much as I like using it on my recording projects. I hope this essay of my Spectral Wave research may inspire some of you to also explore them further and hopefully increase your Virus’ flexibility for you. Thank you for reading!
Rapturenaut Digital Christian Studio
"glorifying God through electronic music"