Harmonic Synthesis

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.

What is nice about the additive synth features of the DSS-1 is that you get the ability to control the volume of up to 127 harmonics, with a volume parameter between 0-255. Harmonic synthesis theory states that any complex wave can be re-created by a mixture of sine waves at various frequencies and volumes. This is true, but the the DSS-1 isn’t able to create very realistic sounds in my opinion. That is because in nature the sine waves that make up sounds change over time. 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. Unfortunately the keyboard has to create these single cycle waveforms “offline”, so there is no ability to morph the wave over time. Also, being that they are single cycle waveforms, they do not change over time without using the filter and amp sections to change things. This is where some other synths might have better architecture to deal with this sort of synthesis. Having only one low pass filter (albeit nice sounding) makes the sounds come out rather synth like. 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, 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.