Harmonic Synthesis / Additive Synthesis with the DSS-1

Additive/ Harmonic synthesis with the Korg DSS-1

If you are unfamiliar with harmonic synthesis, also called additive synthesis, check out this Sound on Sound article about it, and this nice video by synthschool.com.

Harmonic synthesis theory states that any single cycle complex wave can be re-created by a mixture of sine waves at various harmonics and volumes. This is true, but the the DSS-1 isn’t able to create very realistic sounds in my opinion, because these waves are only a single cycle in length. In nature, sound waves change over time in various ways such as timbre, pitch, volume, spatial placement. When you create waveforms on the DSS-1, you choose the settings you want, then the keyboard automatically generates the sound and allows you to start playing it. The DSS-1 has the ability to synthesize a single cycle wave with user control over the volume of up to 127 harmonics, with a volume values between 0-255. Because the keyboard has to create these single cycle waveforms “offline”, there is no ability to morph the wave over time. Also, being that they are single cycle waveforms, you need to rely on the filter and amp sections to modulate and make things more interesting. This is where some other synths might have better architecture to deal with this sort of synthesis. The DSS-1 only has one low pass filter (albeit a nice sounding 12/24 dB per octave LPF) makes the sounds come out rather synth like. For more evolving sounds I often stick to a sample. You can create infinite sounds with computer synthesis, then sample it into the DSS-1. I like using Ableton’s Operator to do a similar style of harmonic synthesis, but then morph the sound a bit over time. Since the DSS-1 can only sample a short amount of time, you need to loop a section of the sample though.

There is one trick up the sleeve of the DSS-1 though. Given that you can layer 2 sounds/samples, it is possible to use one created additive synth sound as Oscillator 1 and a separate additive synth sound as Oscillator 2. Then by altering the mix between the two oscillators in realtime, the sound can modulate. I have gotten some pretty nice pad sounds out of the synth with this technique. It may not be a “wavestation”, but is can create some more digital type pads with lots of upper harmonics.

The DSS-1 also has a nice velocity switching which allows the oscillator/sample to be chosen depending on how hard you play the note.

Here is a “Glassy Pad” I made using the Harmonic Synthesis wave generator.

Here is a “Glassy Rhodes” I made using the same oscillator, but using standard piano type settings.

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