This was my first project made with Flowstone.
I've always had a keen interest in additive synthesis so I started off with a high ambition to make a monster synth with lots of additive capability, and more besides.
It was a steep learning curve for me but having an end goal in sight helped me to find my way through the Flowstone basics, kindly helped along the way by some of the forum wizards.
I was so proud when I got it finished that I even made a short video!
There are 16 sine wave partial strips. Each one has its own envelope with velocity response and amplitude tracking of the pitch and can be set to any pitch ratio. Each partial can be panned left to right to give increased stereo richness. There is a single FM bus fed by 2 FM modulator synths and the level of FM can be adjusted for each partial.
On the right side of the GUI you can set MIDI-related stuff and there are 3 LFOs. One is dedicated to the MIDI keyboard’s mod wheel for introducing vibrato, the FM LFO controls the overall pitch modulation independently and the AM LFO is sent to the partials and each partial can have the AM level set.
At the bottom of the partial racks there are 2 basic synthesiser strips which can be used to provide simple filtered waveforms or noise and their outputs can be panned. The idea is that you can get a basic sound with these synths and then use the partials to modify and extend the sound, should you wish to work that way.
Since there are so many sound generating possibilities it’s easy to lose track of what is contributing to the sound so you’ll find that each generator in the rack has a mute switch to toggle its contribution on and off.
Finally, the bottom row features a pre-routed effects chain, the signal flow going from left to right and each one can be enabled or disabled individually.
Click on the image to download the plugin, try a few presets and see what you think. Beware the CPU use is high, due to everything going on inside, so on less capable systems you may have to freeze the track or render it down if using multiple VSTs in your DAW.
The Quilcom BEATER is a percussion synthesiser capable of a huge range of virtual analogue sounds. Many popular sounds are provided by the 50 presets I’ve prepared, but much more is possible if you want to experiment.
Rather than make a full-on drum synth, with a rack of these, I decided it would be more flexible for the user to incorporate as many or as few into the DAW that would be needed for a song project. In this way it’s easier to add say a reverb effect just to the snare or whatever you want, without complicated routing inside this plugin itself.
I hope that the front panel is easy to understand but I should explain that on the Base synth strip the FM level knob feeds back to the phase (FM) input of itself, the Base synth, so the output amplitude variation affects the spectrum during the envelope period.
The Ring modulation strip has two inputs; one from the upper Base synth and the other from the oscillator in the Ring mod strip. The ring modulated sound is then processed by the envelope and filter in the Ring mod strip and mixed to the output.
You can set the Beater to respond to any MIDI note you wish and the loaded preset is displayed large to enable easier tweaking of the correct plugin when you have multiple instances. My presets are mostly already set to the popular GM key mapping.
Click on the image to download and… happy beating!
The Quilcom Blender was made to explore the possibilities of dynamic waveform morphing (crossfading). I was surprised at the range of sounds this technique can produce and there are 19 presets provided just to give a quick taste.
There are 2 identical Generators provided, selectable from the top right of the GUI.
The Blend envelope controls the mix between 2 waveforms, Wave 1 and wave 2. These Waves can be drawn on screen (double right click to set to zero) or loaded and saved as text files. In addition there are 2 basic synth strips, Synth 1 and 2, which can each be blended with wave 1 and 2. If you zero the graphic waves you’ll just hear the synth strips, as per their settings.
There is an FM section where you can draw or load the modulator waveform and control its envelope with or without velocity response. The FM modulator then can be blended between Waves 1 and 2.
The resulting sound is then passed through a dynamic filter, with its own envelope, and finally to the output level envelope. At this point you can pan the sound from this whole generator between left and right stereo output.
Naturally you could have completely different sounds in Generator 1 and 2 and pan and mix them as you wish.
At the bottom of the GUI are 4 effects routed in series left to right and they can all be enabled or disabled.
On the right are the usual MIDI settings, an adjustable mod wheel LFO for vibrato affecting all, an FM LFO affecting all and an AM LFO affecting all.
At the very bottom is a small help button which gives an overlay with basic operation notes.
In the zip file you’ll find the VSTi plugin, the presets and also an Extras folder. This contains my Wavemaker 2 plugin to allow you to create additive waveforms to load into the graphic oscillators. There is also a selection of useful pre-made 512 sample waveform files (Flowstone uses the text file format for these and presets).
Enjoy your blending!
The Quilcom BlueSky is a 16 band vocoder with a built-in synthesiser.
With this you can easily re-create the classic “singing keyboard” sound which was very popular some time back in the last century.
I chose to term the 2 channels Voice and Synth rather than carrier and modulator simply because I can never remember which is which!
This is classed and seen as an effect in your DAW since it has 4 audio inputs (2 for microphone and 2 for an external synth should you want one). The microphone inputs are 1 and 2, the synth 3 and 4.
The trickiest part is getting the signal routing right in the DAW. The input to the BlueSky track should be MIDI, for the built-in synth. This track should also be set to have a receive from a different track that will be sent to the Bluesky and this different track will be for the soundcard microphone. Monitoring of recording from this microphone track should be disabled so you only hear the BlueSky output. Also your Windows mixer may have to have inputs muted so you don’t hear the microphone or synth via Windows, only via the DAW’s master track.
Note that in the 64 bit version of Reaper there seems to be a monitoring bug not present in the 32 bit version. I’m waiting for a response from Cockos about this and I’ll update this info when I get a solution. At the moment the 64 bit version also outputs the microphone input mixed with the vocoder output. Update 22.6.16: Cockos told me they couldn't reproduce the issue but in version 5.211 today the issue has gone and Bluesky works fine in Reaper x64 now.
There are 2 input level meters which are useful for checking your routing. The 2 bypass filters can be used to mix-in the inputs with the output and the voice bypass is useful, in High pass mode, to better define the sibilants and plosives from your voice in the output.
Vocoders work best when the synth part has a wide spectrum. Sine waves don’t work at all; sawtooth and square are the best. The richer the harmonic content the better the result. The best reconstruction will be from noise but of course that’s not musical on its own. However, if you mix in a little noise into the synth the sibilance will improve.
The filter banks were designed by forum member Martin Vicanek who is a real wizard with filters and DSP especially, so many thanks to Martin.
So have fun making your keyboard sing!
The Quilcom Clipper is a simple hard-clipping distortion effect plugin.
Importantly, the amount of clipping is independent of the input level, so when you set the Clipping knob the amount of effect will track the input volume to give the same sound over the whole amplitude range.
The distorted sound is then fed into a state variable filter to modify the clipping distortion. This filter can be turned off or on.
The blend or balance between distorted and original sound is achieved with the Dry – Wet knob.
This effect sounds rather good if followed by a reverb of your choice with a guitar sound as source.
The Quilcom Dalek is a voice-changer I made for a bit of fun!
The original Dalek voice was made with an analogue ring modulator using a modulation sine wave with a frequency of 30Hz.
Since the original used non-linear components I have provided levels from a precise digital ring modulator and also from a non-linear saturated version to better emulate the original sound. Finally I’ve provided an absolute level source which is a rectified version of the input signal. This can also be mixed in to suit.
There are only 5 parameters to play with but these can provide a wide range of monster voices and other effects. A scope is provided to visualise what’s happening.
I hope you have fun being a monster!
The Quilcom Divider takes your monophonic instrument or voice signal and produces divided-down frequencies. You can set levels for divide by 2, 3, and 4 and also pulse waves derived from logical AND-ing together divide by 2&3 and 2&4.
The mix of divide levels is then passed to a state variable filter to emphasise the harmonic range desired and this can be adjusted to track the input pitch to give a similar spectrum across a wide range of input frequencies. In addition you can adjust the filter cut-off to track the input amplitude and thereby create a voice-controlled synth effect. There is a scope to help visualise the divided waveform.
Finally you can set levels for the input dry and divided level.
On the input side (on the left of the front panel) is a low pass filter. This should be adjusted, according to the input signal type, to give a relatively pure and smooth shape. There’s a scope to help with this. Sources like voice, which are spiky in nature, will need more careful attention than more pure instrument sounds.
I’ve provided a few basic presets to give you some initial idea of what’s possible with this effect.
I hope you have a bit of fun with it.
The Quilcom Transformer is another take on additive synthesis (my favourite!).
There are 6 identical generators. At the top is a bar graph where you set the relative value of 24 partials. The resulting single-cycle waveform is shown lower left in the generator. To clear the bar graph, just double right-click. Graphs can be saved or loaded for use in other generators and presets.
Each generator has its own graphic envelope generator for amplitude. For the envelope options right-click in the display. To alter the zoom of the envelope graph drag up/down on the grey scroll bar. This is useful for creating long evolving sounds with many nodes or for editing short attack shapes for example.
To the area left of the envelope generator there is an optional pitch envelope. In this area you can enter the pitch ratio of the generator to the standard A=440; just enter the numerical ratio like 0.5 for sub octave, 1.001 for slow beating with other generators and so on.
Also in this area you can set the FM amount received from the FM bus, the AM amount from the AM LFO and select pitch tracking which can be off or set to make higher notes louder or quieter.
In the area to the right of the envelope generator you can set the level and left-right panning output from the generator. Also here you can choose key velocity response to amplitude. Underneath that you can mute or unmute the generator and this is useful to hear the contribution being made by that generator to the whole sound. When a generator is active (unmuted) the LED by the generator selection column is lit so you know which generators are in use, for editing purposes.
Below the generator section there are two simple FM modulator synths, the left one having an optional pitch envelope selectable. You can enter the pitch ratio for these. These both feed into the FM bus used by the generators above.
The next row down contains 2 basic synth strips which can provide noise or simple waveforms to act as a base or quick enhancement to the additive generators. The left one has an optional pitch envelope useful for percussion sounds for example.
Finally, at the bottom of the front panel, is a row of effects which are routed in series left to right and can be enabled or disabled as required.
I’ve made 35 presets to demonstrate some of the possibilities with this monster synth and hopefully whet your appetite for creating more. Beware this is a CPU-heavy plugin, especially with everything in use, due to the amount of action under the hood. It runs fine on my core i7 PC but if your PC struggles you can still experiment with it by using fewer generators.
I hope you like it!
Quilcom Multiplier 2
The Quilcom Multiplier 2 is a quadruple chorus and pitch-shift effects unit.
The 4 stereo effects blocks are identical. Each block provides an optional input state variable static filter with adjustable cut-off frequency and resonance. This is followed by an optional chromatic pitch shifter that allows you to select musical intervals for the pitch-shift (with a fine tune setting).The signal then goes into a stereo delay system with a separate sine wave LFO for modulating the delay time of the left and right channels. Here you can set the minimum and maximum delay time in samples for both channels together, allowing the range and centring of modulation to be adjusted.
The X-feedback knob provides left/right crossover feedback and the feedback knob is left to left and right to right. Finally you can set the level for each block’s stereo output and mute it. Muting is useful for auditioning the contribution of each block to the whole sound. The bar graph meters are connected post-fader so you can spot oscillation and level issues quickly and they have a clip-hold LED above them.
The output area (lower right) provides a wet/dry balance, a stereo width knob which goes between full stereo and mono, a feedback knob which sets overall feedback from the output to all inputs and a volume knob for the output. The bar-graph meter and clip-hold LED help to get the overall level right.
Be careful with all the feedback knobs! It’s very easy to go just that bit too far and produce oscillation, especially with the overall feedback from the output area. I would suggest making adjustments with a low monitoring volume set. Also the effects are best auditioned on headphones first so you can hear the subtleties and stereo staging better.
So, go forth and multiply!
The Quilcom Unison was made specifically to explore the sounds which could be created with many oscillators running in unison. The synth is capable of much more of course but that was its main purpose in life and is reflected in the presets I made.
I strongly urge you to listen on headphones so you can properly enjoy the amazing spacial effects that this technique can produce.
There are 4 identical unison generators. In each one the source can be a range of waveforms and if you choose Wave Draw then the window appears which allows you to do just that. You can also save and load waves to use in other generators or presets. Double right-click to zero the waveform. If you select Pulse then you get a pulse width knob appearing. There is an amplitude envelope, with velocity response selectable, and a filter with its own ADSR and again velocity response is optional. Each generator can have its stereo width set going from full stereo down to mono and this has quite an effect on the results, going from spacial to beating effects. There are 7 oscillators permanently configured. The phase knob sets the deviation from zero to maximum and the Detune knob sets the range of detune. With both controls the “centre” oscillator is always at phase zero, detune zero and centred in the stereo field, the other oscillators deviating from this according to the settings. You can set the amount of FM from the FM bus and AM from the AM LFO.
The off/on button for each generator is used for muting but in this synth will save CPU usage if turned off. In many cases just 1 generator will produce a great sound on its own.
Below the generators are 2 FM modulator synths which are mixed onto the FM bus. The left one has an optional pitch envelope. The pitch ratio for each can be freely entered.
Next down are 2 basic synth strips to add noise or basic sounds into the mix. Again, the left one has an optional pitch envelope.
The effects row at the bottom of the front panel provides 2 filters which are connected in parallel. These then feed left to right into the remaining Reverb, Delay and distortion effects. You’ll note that there’s no chorus effect since chorus is achieved by the unison arrangement!
The Quilcom Snake is based around a multi-tap delay system.
There are 2 identical 5 stage delay lines, 1 for left and 1 for right channels. The 5 delay stages are connected in series.
Each delay stage can be adjusted for delay time, internal feedback and send level. The send is to the left or right output. In its simplest usage the send taps can be set for 5 repeats at any levels.
Below each stage there is a feedback knob which controls feedback to the chain’s input. The left-most knob controls feedback from the opposing channel. In this way you can set the whole snake to be a single delay up to 20 seconds long.
In the lower left of the front panel is a useful SET ALL area. This is provided to allow for fast setting or resetting of all similar knobs. When any of the fast setting knobs are moved all the corresponding knobs will be adjusted. This can be handy if you want to set left and right to the same adjustments.
There are 2 LFOs provided for modulating the adjusted delay times and each has a send level output to either left or right delay chains (all 5 stages are modulated).
Finally, at the bottom, you can set input levels, stereo width, dry/wet balance and output volume with a vu bar graph meter and a clip-hold LED.
You might find the KILL button useful if you get uncontrolled feedback or maybe even use it live to terminate a repeat.
This effect module is very versatile so I’ve made 30 presets to whet the appetite. I hope you will make repeat visits.
The Quilcom Subtractor is the result of experimentation with the idea of making a synth using only noise as a source. I found that it was possible to do so much just by processing noise that I made this plugin to exploit what I had found.
There are 3 identical generators. Each one has 4 noise sources which can be mixed as required. Apart from white noise there are 3 sources based on sample and hold systems. The S&H systems provide a pseudo pitch quality as the spectrum is influenced by the MIDI pitch playing. The pitch envelope controls the S&H noise “pitch” and also the zero-crossing S&H noise (P-env ZX). The mixed noise is then modified by a graphic envelope and a state variable filter with its own graphic envelope. All 3 envelopes can be velocity sensitive. The ratio to base pitch can also be entered. The volume to key pitch relationship can be set for high notes louder or low notes louder. Finally, each generator’s level and pan can be adjusted.
Note that for the graphic envelopes just right-click to set options and you can zoom in by dragging up/down on the scroll bar below the envelope graph.
At the bottom of the front panel is a bunch of effects connected in series and each can be enabled or disabled.
I’ve made several presets to give a hint of what’s possible with this system so I hope you’ll be encouraged to experiment and tweak.
Make some noise!
The Quilcom Spectre was designed to be a relatively easy-to-program additive synth.
Having made and used the Quilcom Adder for several months I decided what was useful, what was tricky and what was somewhat superfluous and this Spectre was the outcome.
There are 20 sine wave partials provided. The stack of 10 on the left go to the left channel and the 10 on the right go to the right channel. The bottom two partials can be sent to the FM input bus on the partials above them, and each partial can then have their FM modulation levels set individually.
There are 2 AM LFOs at the bottom of the panel and each partial can have its level adjusted from each LFO. Each partial can have a simple delay time set and this can be used, for example, to stagger the attack phase or produce a beating effect if set low. Any value for the pitch ratio for each partial can be entered. The velocity response is variable for each partial; clockwise is maximum response and anticlockwise is no response.
Below the MIDI options area is a pitch envelope. If you want no pitch change just cntrl-click the knob to set the default of zero. Velocity response is adjustable for the pitch envelope. The whole synth is affected by this pitch envelope.
At the bottom centre is a pitched noise generator synth which sends to both left and right channels.
To the right of the noise synth is the button for showing the effects chain, then the Mono to stereo width knob and finally the output volume.
I’ve made 40 presets for this to illustrate what a powerful technique additive synthesis is with the Spectre.
I hope this all adds up.
The Quilcom 111 is an executable file which produces sound for brainwave synchronising.
I decided to make this after reading about the phenomena in New Scientist and checking out other sources.
If you search Google for 111 Hz or 110 Hz you'll see what I mean!
You can listen on headphones for the spacial effects or speakers for the rhythmic beating effects.
The two generators would normally be used independently but you can mix them with this app.
I don’t think you’ll have much trouble figuring out how to operate it!
The Quilcom QX7 synthesiser was inspired by the amazingly successful Yamaha DX7, first made available in 1983. Having owned one I can attest to how powerful and ground-breaking this daddy of all digital synthesis was.
The QX7 is not an emulation, nor do the presets copy the sound of the originals, but the architecture is very similar. While developing this I was reminded of the range of possibilities of pure FM synthesis and I’ve provided some presets which demonstrate just a tiny subset of the technique’s power.
There are 6 identical “Operators”, OP1 to OP6. An operator is a simple tone generator with an envelope. Each operator has an FM input (it’s actually phase modulation, as in the original, but it’s called FM). The output from each Operator is routed either to the master output or to another Operator’s FM input. The actual routing patch is called the “Algorithm” allowing a wide variation in modulator/carrier configurations. Every algorithm has 1 feedback path wired in. The amount of feedback can greatly influence the sound since the amplitude of the feedback signal will affect the spectrum (timbre) of the sound dynamically. The QX7 also has a patch bay so you can experiment and create your own algorithms.
On the right-hand side you can choose Patch bay or Hardwired algorithms (the patch bay is then replaced by an algorithm selector). The 32 hard wired ones are identical to the original’s but in addition there is a User algorithm set to all 6 Ops stacked (“User” refers to the Flowstone schematic where you can wire your own algorithm). If you press the View Algorithms button you’ll get to see a sheet showing the connections for each algorithm. This image is also in the download zip. This is very useful while programming and editing presets to keep track of which Operator does what.
Each operator has the following features:
- Waveform select (the DX7 had just sine waves) with chromatic and fine tuning.
- Keyboard-based pitch or fixed frequency which can be set coarse and fine.
- Envelope ADSR with variable velocity response and operator output level.
- Based on the “Centre key” that you can set, you can adjust the operator’s output to be higher or lower based on the keyboard number. In this way you can achieve a key scaling across your keyboard so that the higher and lower ends will sound different. This is useful for modelling real instruments for example. If the knob is centred there is no key scaling.
- The key to rate knob provides a variable amount of shortening of the decay and release stages at higher key numbers. This allows for shorter notes as the pitch increases, like in a piano.
- The LFO to amplitude knob sets the depth of AM from the single polyphonic LFO on the front panel. This modulation will affect the amplitude of any operator feeding the master output (a carrier) or the timbre of any operator connected as an FM source (a modulator).
- The Pitch env LED/button will connect the operator to the single polyphonic pitch envelope’s output bus.
There is a single polyphonic LFO that provides the LFO bus for all the operators. This LFO has a knob to modulate the pitch of all the operators simultaneously and also a delay for the LFO start. There is a pitch envelope generator and each operator can be connected or not to the Pitch env bus. The Pitch env should be left off if not required to save CPU.
The Modwheel LFO and the Static FM LFO affect the whole instrument.
Unlike the DX7, the QX7 has inbuilt effects, chained from left to right, and they can be individually enabled. The QX7, like the DX7, produces a monaural (non-stereo) output internally from the operators but the effects chain runs in stereo and can give a huge boost to the sonic impression.
If you do get a stuck note there is a reset button.
Finally there is a level meter with a clip-hold LED.
The download zip includes the original user manual. Although the QX7 is very different in detail, there’s useful background material in the manual to expand further on the technique, should you not be familiar with FM synthesis principles.
If you do make any nice presets for this or any other module it would be great to see them posted on the Flowstone forum.
Extra-special thanks go to Nubeat 7 for his lovely patch bay and to Martin Vicanek for his amazing low CPU oscillators.
And thanks also to Tulamide for offering optimisation advice and testing.
14.4.16 (pm): Updated to version 1.10 with further optimisations. Most presets edited to reduce Release time on Operators used as modulators. No changes to sound but better when repeating chords and playing fast. Presets are provided in the download and are already installed in the plugin.
14.4.16 (am): Updated to version 1.09 with a more cpu-efficient reverb by Martin Vicanek (many thanks!). No change to sound or presets.
13.4.16: Updated to version 1.08 to give lower cpu usage. See the Flowstone forum for more details. No change to sounds, some presets updated and included in the plugin and download.
Quilcom DEVILISH 1st
The Quilcom DEVILISH 1st creates Lissajou figures from 2 audio channels, Left and Right.
The original idea was to create musical sequences with the DEVILISH and record them to be played back through the X and Y inputs of a vector-based scope, along with the music. In this way both the music and the patterns produced would relate together forming an unusual art form.
This module is routed in your DAW as an effect with MIDI input, like the Quilcom Bluesky vocoder. Some of the modules in this and the DEVILISH 2nd rely on a microphone to get the results, like the GOBOLE module for example. So you need to send a microphone track in your DAW to the DEVILISH track’s audio input.
To get any sound and display you must play your MIDI keyboard to see the results, or you can audition the display and sound by turning on the test note whose MIDI note number can be set. This is useful for making real-time adjustments, with your hands free from the MIDI keyboard. The DEVILISH is set for monophonic only (one note at a time) since chords would mess up the whole display.
There are 8 modules in the DEVILISH 1st, each one providing a different type of effect on the patterns and sounds produced. Each preset can store comments with it so you can enter reminders before you save the preset.
I don’t think I need to go through all the inbuilt modules individually in detail because you can play around with the presets and easily find out what’s going on –I hope! However I should tell you a few things:
The Envelopes button displays optional graphic envelope generators which allow you to animate the Lissajou figure’s position and size as the note progresses, so you could, for example, have a small butterfly-type figure flying around the screen in a predetermined path while the note sounds.
The Hue (colour) of the display can be set with the Hue knob and if set to 0 the display’s colour will change according to the audio content. You can variably swap the left and right channels and set the overall size of the pattern and thus volume of the output. The joystick X-Y control moves the pattern around and you can hear the effect of clipping if you move the pattern to the edge of the display.
The modules can each be muted and I would recommend you only use one at a time unless you want to experiment, by making some blended patterns and sound.
The set of presets I made demonstrate each module so you can get some idea of what each one can do. The module is selected at the bottom of the front panel and is stored in the presets.
I should make special mention of the Magic Writer module. This allows you to draw shapes and images with the mouse which you can hear and see as you draw. I had great fun with this because you can directly control the sound and pattern. The preset “Let’s face it” calls this up with a stupid face I made (I’m no artist!). Your artistic efforts are saved if you save a preset. Presets save the state of the whole DEVILISH, not just the module you are working on.
I should also mention the GOBOLE. This is a pre-made sound/pattern module which is meant to resemble a mouth. Your microphone input can make the mouth open and close as you sing and, of course, this alters the tone produced by the GOBOLE as you sing.
The novelty with the DEVILISH is not only the patterns you can produce but also the sound variations as the patterns change. What you see is what you hear!
Quilcom DEVILISH 2nd
The Quilcom DEVILISH 2nd is based on the DEVILISH 1st above and offers 3 more modules with different functions to the 1st.
Note that the Framer module is really a demo since you need the Flowstone schematic and Flowstone to embed the sequenced WAV files in the exported VST. You can download a free trial from DSPR and find the schematic on the forum, which is under SUPPORT. The WAV files used are in the zip and there’s more information under the topic Lissajou Art.
The Orator combines a rotation synth with your voice as an input to get a display. For this you will need to create a stereo input from your mono microphone on your DAW. This is easily achieved in Reaper by selecting Input as mono and choosing the microphone. I had great fun with this because you can sing pitches and sounds in real-time and see the results as feedback. Also this helps in maintaining a constant pitch to keep the display static!
I would like to give special thanks to BobF for the original idea and prototype display (found under the topic Lissajou art on the forum).
Also thanks to Perfect Human Interface for the display in the DEVILISH and to Martin Vicanek for the geometric tool and projection system in the Hedron module in DEVILISH 1st.
I hope you see a pattern emerging!
The Quilcom Q-50 is a synthesiser inspired by the Roland D-50.
It’s not an emulation and the presets and embedded wave files are not a copy of the originals. However the architecture is very similar and I’ve kept the original’s nomenclature.
The original D-50 replaced the Yamaha DX7 in terms of popularity back in 1987. It used a method now referred to as sample and synthesis and was easier for users to understand, and use, than FM synthesis and yet was still all completely digital.
The principle of the synth was to use tried and tested familiar analogue-type metaphors and routing, but combine these with acoustic and other samples for the attack phase only. Our brains apparently recognise a sound with greater emphasis on the initial sound than the Sustain or Decay phases but this Attack phase is the most difficult to synthesise properly. Since memory was very expensive back then it simply wasn’t economical to create a full blown sampler so Roland supplied a built-in ROM with a 'whopping' 8MB capacity pre-loaded with 100 8 bit attack-phase and other PCM samples.
The basic architecture for the D-50 and Q-50 is as follows: A patch (preset) is made from 2 Tones called Upper and Lower. Each of the 2 Tones is made up of 2 Partials. The 2 Partials can each be either a Wave or a Synth. This means you can be using any 4 from 8 generators available.
Each of the 2 Tones has a static filter, a chorus/delay and a Ring Modulator. The final outputs from the 2 Tones are fed into a reverb.
Each Wave Partial has a choice of sample used, pitched or static, single shot or looped and can be tuned in pitched mode. The wave is then fed into an ADSR envelope stage.
Each Synth Partial comprises a tuner, waveform selector followed by a filter with its own ADSR and a separate amplitude ADSR.
Both types of Partial have, in addition, LFOs available for various functions and a Pitch envelope generator.
Of course there are differences in the Q-50 and I see these as improvements:
-Each Partial has 4 LFOs rather than 3. This means each one has a specific assignment.
-Stereo is possible since the Upper Tone is routed left and the Lower right. Width can be adjusted.
-The samples are 16 bit 44.1Khz so sound much cleaner
-You can load any single User sample instead of using the ROM; its path is stored in your preset.
-There are more waveforms available for the Synth Partials and the LFOs
-There are more filter options available for the Synth Partials
-The Tone mixers can have levels set for Partials 1 and 2 AND a Ring Modulator; you don’t have to choose either-or.
-The parametric EQ is far more advanced than the D-50’s
A point of interest to sound designers is that you can make this your own instrument!
In the Flowstone app the schematic’s top level allows you to easily load a different ROM for each Wave Partial, should you want to experiment. As supplied, all 4 ROMs (wave arrays) are loaded with the same WAV files. I have provided detailed instructions in the schematic to show how you do this. Of course you need Flowstone for this but you can get a free demo to play with.
The first 50 presets all use at least one of the samples. The Q-50 should really be thought of firstly as a synthesiser but which can also be enhanced with samples, and I made preset 51 (Fatima) to show just how phat this can sound without samples at all.
I should maybe add that all the samples I used were in the public domain and came with no usage restrictions.
I hope you enjoy!
Updated from 1.05 to 1.06 on 14.4.16: Replaced Reverb engine with a more cpu efficient one optimised by Martin Vicanek. No changes to sound or presets.
Updated from 1.04 to 1.05 on 13.4.16 for better CPU optimsation.
Level knobs now have a green LED to show when not Zero. Keep at zero if not needed to reduce CPU load.
Some presets updated to make use of CPU optimisation but all sound the same as before.
Here is my new Quilcom 4EA+ synthesiser.
The design brief I set myself was to create a synthesiser which used both additive and FM techniques but used as little CPU as I could possibly achieve whilst still having a very wide range of sound design capabilities.
I have used my experience to eliminate anything not absolutely essential to the results but still generate interesting and good quality presets (I hope!). Consequently the majority of control settings are each able to contribute usefully and significantly to the overall sounds. A by-product of this is ease of programming and I found this to be the most pleasurable of my synths for sound design, so it comes with 65 presets included and, for once, it didn’t seem like a hard slog making them. They cover a wide range of types and hopefully many of them can be easily adapted to edit towards what you may have in mind.
The routing, or “Algorithm” as Yamaha would say, is based on my experience programming my QX7 synth so I feel I have chosen the most flexible and useful signal path and therefore there is no Algorithm selector.
I’ve adopted the philosophy that what you don’t use doesn’t eat CPU cycles and my recent optimisation experiences have been put to good use right from the synth’s inception. I think, and of course hope, that even when everything is running that users with lower spec PCs will be able to run this synth smoothly.
There are 2 sound generators, an “Additive” one with FM and a “Single” basic Operator (oscillator with ADSR) also with FM. Both send to the output module which has a parametric equaliser, a chorus/delay and a Reverb in series. The source is monaural, as is the eq, but the chorus and reverb are stereo.
The Additive section has slider level controls for 16 sine wave partials f1 to f16. The Even and Odd harmonics are mostly routed to their own ADSRs. The Odd and Even FM inputs can receive feedback inputs each from either the Odd or Even outputs (pre-fader so the sound is easier to programme). In FM terms the harmonic series oscillator is a carrier and there are, in addition, 2 modulator oscillators. Since they are modulators you cannot hear them directly but only when they are affecting the harmonic oscillator. These modulators are sent to their own Odd or Even FM inputs but they can be linked. By linking you can use one modulator for both Odd and Even or make use of both modulators in parallel for more complex sounds.
The “Single” operator has 3 FM input options: Self feedback, and from the Odd and Even modulators –provided they are turned on of course. The FM signals from the modulators to the Single are pre-fader so their level outputs won’t affect the Single’s FM inputs.
There is just 1 LFO in the system to keep cpu low. This is on the MIDI panel and can be used to modulate the global FM and/or selected by individual ADSRs to modulate amplitude. Note that LFO-based amplitude modulation of modulators will affect the timbre, not the output amplitude.
Hope you like it and find you can make use of it.
The Quilcom Mistress is a multi-function mastering tool primarily designed for adding the finishing touches to a final stereo mix.
Since it has a semi-modular structure it can also be used on individual tracks where compression and EQ would assist. The CPU usage is determined by how many modules are enabled so if you just need, for example, a multi-band compressor on one track, that’s all that will use CPU cycles.
Rather than go into details here I’ve made a small user guide which is included in the zip and I do hope you find it useful.
The Quilcom Weapon is the armament to have if you want to fight in the loudness war!
This is a one-knob compressor/limiter, with automatic gain make-up to simplify auditioning. It’s designed to control the overall “loudness” of a stereo signal by varying all the main compression parameters in step, to give a wide range of subjective loudness increase. It can also serve well on a microphone input for vocals or indeed any other source.
I’ve tuned the internal parameters using a wide range of tracks and inputs to give subjectively a good result over various types of source material.
Input and output metering, as well as bypass, are performed on the DAW to minimise CPU usage.
The input level for the compressor, from the DAW master channel or track insert, will interact with the Amount knob setting for additional range. In this way you could set the Weapon to max and control the effect from the DAW. This will give a different result to setting the Weapon to half way and increasing the drive from the DAW, so experimentation is the key.
There is a meter-scope to illustrate when and how much the compressor is affecting gain reduction. This is wired to the side chain output (control signal) before the make-up stage for better visualisation of the processing.
Have fun fighting!
Fool Your Brain!
This is an aural exciter or psychacoustic enhancer inspired by the principle of the original Aphex.
It can make a huge difference to your mix or tracks using just 3 knobs!
There is a user guide included in the download.
I hope you have exciting times!
The Quilcom PlusMinus is a tool for processing a stereo instrument, track or mix using the Mid/Side technique. If you don’t know what this technique is about, just do a search for Mid/Side processing.
It’s a very fast and effective way to modify at least the stereo impression of any stereo source material. I was surprised by the possibilities!
There is a user guide included in the download for the detailed info.
The Quilcom NINE synthesiser explores a method of synthesis which scans through up to nine waveforms, each of which can be set separately from standard, wave-drawn or additive oscillators and may each be processed further with filtering.
The synth was inspired by the new “Nostromo” Rack Effect for Reason but is not a copy or emulation. Here is a chance to explore what can be achieved with this method and included are 28 presets to give some idea.
If you wish to experiment I’ve included my user guide to help you along.
I hope you enjoy it!
Updated 14.7.16: Now at version 1.03 to include CPU optimisations by Martin Vicanek so many thanks for his work.
The Quilcom Whirlipan is an effect that takes a mono input and converts it to a stereo signal to create the impression that the sound is flying around the listener’s head in the horizontal plane. The result is realised on headphones only but on speakers there is still an interesting wide panning effect.
The processing makes use of binaural psychoacoustic phenomena. These are interaural time difference, head shadowing, pinna shadowing, pinna-based spectrum modification, sound reflection and space reverb. All of these parameters can be adjusted to get a range of results which can be matched to the type of input signal.
The download includes a user guide which I would recommend reading and some test WAVs to load into your DAW for the effect to process.
Updated 24.7.16 to version 1.13: several changes to give a better overall spacial location effect.
The Quilcom Spanner effect plugin is designed to take a mono signal and span it across the stereo field for a wide range of diffusion and frequency-related localisation effects and illusions.
The results are best auditioned on headphones but are also apparent on speakers.
The download includes a user guide for more information.
I hope you like it and can make some use of it.
The Quilcom Ringer is a MIDI-controlled polyphonic filter effect plugin. It can take a stereo (or mono) audio source or track and the filters can then be “played”, in tune, with a MIDI keyboard or other controller. By setting resonance values high a musically pitched filtered sound can be applied to the source signal, allowing a wide range of effects.
The Ringer is fully stereo internally so one instance could process two different sounds simultaneously, by suitable routing in the DAW, as well as normal stereo.
Here is a short MP3 demo track
Each section starts with the original clip followed by the effect. All the WAVs used are included in the download and correspond to the preset names.
Have fun Ringing!
The Quilcom Folder is a synth designed purely to explore the technique of wave folding, as found in several classic synthesisers from Buchla and others. There are 32 presets to demonstrate some possibilities and a user guide for background info and operation.
I hope you are as fascinated by this method as I am!
The Quilcom M2S is a plugin which hosts 10 individual processing modules each dedicated to converting a mono source to pseudo-stereo and employing a wide range of operation principles.
At the very least it’s possible to obtain a wide sound stage with all of these processing techniques and some can even give the illusion of instrument or vocal placement. The resulting stereo output will depend on which processor is chosen, how it is adjusted and the nature of the source material itself.
The user can audition each processor in turn, find the sweet spot for its settings, and then do A/B comparisons between any processors without interrupting the audio source.
Only the selected processor will use CPU cycles and the DAW will recall the settings and selection with the song project file. The Quilcom M2S can be used on individual mono tracks in a mix or can offer effective stereo conversion of older mono recordings.
The zip contains a short user guide.
(STereo Audio Gets Enhanced!)
The Quilcom STAGE is a plugin which hosts 9 processing modules each dedicated to enhancing a stereo mix to give added width, localisation, vibrancy and depth. Various techniques are used to achieve this. Of course it can also be applied to individual stems provided the source is in stereo.
The user can audition each processor in turn, find the sweet spot for its settings, and then do A/B comparisons without interrupting the audio source. Only the selected processor will use CPU cycles and the DAW will recall the settings and selection with the song project file.
The zip includes a user guide.
The Quilcom Vocoral is a single purpose effects unit for multiplying a monophonic vocal input to create a 20-part stereo unison choir section with each voice panned using a 20 point location.
It’s created and tuned specifically for use on a vocal source, but if used with instruments the results can also be interesting.
A simple optional reverb is available to add space to the overall sound.
A user guide is included.
Here’s a couple of quick audio demos I made. The first section is the original, followed by the same with the choir effect added:
UPDATED 14.12.16 to version 1.11. This now has a (time) stretch button to further enhance the apparent choir size.
Have fun with your choir!
The Quilcom Waterfall
The Quilcom Waterfall should be thought of as a creative tool rather than an effect. The idea is to use an input to create new sounds rather than make small adjustments to existing sources. I’d say it’s more like an instrument really.
The Waterfall was inspired by 112db’s Cascade synth’s “cascade” section.
It features the exact same delay topography but of course there is no pre-render option, since it’s not integrated into a polyphonic synth.
Here is a 3 minute demo of some of the Quilcom Waterfall’s presets in action. The clips all use just my voice, in a single take, and a single instance of the plugin with no other effects.
The download includes a User Guide.
I hope you have some creative fun!
The Quilcom Vectomorph synthesiser explores the use of a vector oscillator, designed by Martin Vicanek. This method allows control over all four sections of a ramp style waveform. In turn this means we can morph smoothly from one wave shape to another. By providing 2 complete generators it’s possible to produce a huge range of sounds, some of which are demonstrated by the inbuilt 21 presets.
The zip includes a User Guide which goes into more depth.
Have fun and Morph Mightily!
The Quilcom Harvester is a polyphonic granular synthesiser capable of taking any sound clip as a wav file and creating modified or completely new sounds and allowing them to be played on your MIDI keyboard.
The user guide for this is a video on YouTube, since I thought it would be better to demonstrate the operation better that way.
Watch it at
The download zip contains the presets and a selection of WAV files so you can experiment straight away.
Updated 4.7.17 to v 1.02 Two minor bug fixes. No change to sound or presets.
Updated 13.7.17 to v1.06. This addresses issues with very short grain lengths. The v1.06 changes document is included in the zip.
I made the Quilcom Vover as a tool to assist me make voice-over commentaries for video user guides.
It’s a one-trick pony but it’s dead simple to use.
I hope you find a use for it since video demos seem to be popular these days.
The zip includes the schematic, VST plugin and a user guide. The schematic comes with a short clip loaded into a Wave player so you can check it out more easily.
The Quilcom Peakyboo is a transient shaper (or processor) which is able to modify the initial attack and decay portions of any transient sound like drums, percussion or anything with a high initial attack. There is lots of information about using such a plugin if you Google it or check out YouTube.
I’ve made a video guide on YouTube for demonstration and operation instructions:
The zip contains the Flowstone schematic, the VST plugin, example WAV clips and presets.
Have fun shape-shifting!
The Quilcom 7SAW explores an oscillator inspired by the Roland JP-8000 Supersaw.
Many thanks must go to Adam Szabo, whose definitive paper gives insight into what Roland achieved. I’ve included his paper in the zip so you can read about the technicalities and how he analysed so cleverly what was going on. Also many thanks, as ever, to Martin Vicanek whose work I make extensive use of.
Key features emulated here are:
-7 aliasing sawtooth oscillators to give a richer HF content
-Tracking HPF to remove aliasing lower than the fundamental
-Polyphonic random phase offset, per note played, for the 6 detunable side oscillators
-Mixing to provide compensated levels
In addition the 7 oscillators are spread equally across the stereo field (can be reduced to mono).
The Synth’s architecture is very simple but a rich and varied range is possible, as per my presets.
There is a demo and user guide at
Updated 6.6.17 to version 1.04:
Much lower CPU use and a preset error corrected. No change to sounds or operation.
The Quilcom Informant is an instrument allowing for the exploration of formant synthesis, shaping and sequencing.
You can create new sounds using all the components of speech, sound box and tube resonance. You could, in theory, make it say rude stuff but I doubt that would appeal.
You can watch a demo here:
The download includes a user reference, 2 formant charts and background documents including information and patent regarding the Yamaha FS1R, which inspired this work.
I hope you become informed!
The Quilcom ASS is an Analogue Sounding Synthesiser. It allows you to explore the old debate about analogue sounding better than digital techniques. You can switch between the detailed Analogue emulation and a pure “Digital” version of the same preset. This gives flexibility to find a quality of sound that appeals and is appropriate to purpose.
There are many tweakable parameters to adjust for both types of sound, so you can experience what early synthesists found when they first compared the new with the old.
The synth also has a range of effects where you can individually switch between an emulated vintage sound and a modern more “perfect” digital take.
The download includes a User Reference guide which goes into detail for every control and also provides background information on the processes and decisions made.
You can watch the demo video on YouTube:
I hope you enjoy your ASS!
UPDATE 21.9.17 The download linked via the image will supply the instrument exported as an effect. This is because it has an audio input (Ext input). It may be that your DAW won't allow you to use an effect with a MIDI input so here is a version without it, exported as an instument.
More in the pipeline...
Watch this space!