Making up your own 70s string sounds (Omni-like)

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Making up your own 70s string sounds (Omni-like)

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:56 am

Hello folks ... searching for some experienced users or suggestions on the following matter:

I've been a major fan of the old "stringers" since I dove headlong into the band Kansas in the mid 1970s. Especially when the double-live album "Two for the show" came out. There's nothing like the unison runs with Robbie's violin, Steve's Hammond C3 + Omni (or Pro-DGX), and Kerry's Omni all lit up in full song at once.

Anyhow, in pursuit of such tones, I've been listening to a lot of demos. The Waldorf Streichfett videos are especially telling. I say that because so many of those videos compare the Waldorf to old-as-dirt analog stringers, many times in a feature by feature setting. So I got to hear many old string machines (as well as the Waldorf) with the ensemble effect on and off.

What I keep hearing that appears to be quite common among ALL of those old machines and the Waldorf is without the ensemble effect engaged, I'm hearing "cheap ass old home organ ~synth~ preset" type sawtooth wave poly sounds. Then, the player engages the ensemble and it's "OH MY GOD THAT IS AMAZING!".

Now, what I (believe I) hear is pretty much the same type of phaser effect produced by poorly executed rotary speaker emulation pedals. Not the likes of the Neo Ventilator, more the likes of (let's say) the Boss RT-20. There may also be some light chorus mixed in with the sorta-phase-shifter effect going on.

All of this having been said, I have to wonder if a poly synth (Micromonsta perhaps?) set up with stacked octaves of sawtooth waves used as the foundation tone (octave stacks making up the different string registers such as the cello, viola, violin) ... with a sortof rotary phaser that's one of the more "phaser-like" units used for the ensemble effect. Perhaps add a sniff of analog chorus along with that as well.

Anyone messed with this stuff before?

I'm damned tempted to find a cheapo home organ at the thrift store that has the right kind of ~synth~ preset or tabs, then chop it down, and run it through the right type of impromptu "ensemble effect" via line out mods. It's just another of my oddball ideas that will most likely not be followed up on.

But using a sawtooth wave octave stack on a half decent poly synth (VA or whatever) is viable.

So ..... yea .... :despair:
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Post by commodorejohn » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:09 pm

Yeah, a good chorus and/or phaser effect is definitely the bigger part of getting a proper stringer sound, and yeah, you can get a pretty good approximation with stacked sawtooth waves running into one. That said, I've never quite been happy with approximations or modern recreations compared to the vintage stringers I've owned at one point or another. Part of that, I think, is that the modern emulations seem to focus primarily on brighter, buzzier Eminent-style sounds while I prefer softer, lusher sounds like my old Hohner String Performer.

Another part is that, according to some discussions we've had on the subject before, characterizing the base waveforms on a vintage stringer as "sawtooth" is a generalization at best; from what I understand the usual approaches were either to build a sort of n-bit binary-counter sawtooth out of successively lower-rank square waves produced by the divide-down circuitry, or to simply filter/mangle the square waves themselves until they became a "spiky" approximation of a sawtooth. I suspect this is something that makes a fair bit of the difference.

Definitely need to experiment with this myself one of these days...
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Post by nostalghia » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:17 pm

Unless it absolutely must be in hardware form, or you'd prefer not to go the software route for some reason, I would highly recommend downloading the demo for Virtual String Machine (VSM) from GForce.

I have no shortage of hardware (rack MIDI synths inc Waldorf, Roland, etc, Kawai and Nord keyboards, fairly large Eurorack modular) but love using this plug-in for its excellent classic string synth sounds. Mac or PC, VST or AU. From same folks that do the M-Tron Pro, another one of the best software recreations out there.

Includes really nice ensemble and phaser effects. Sample based, 49 individual sampled/looped notes per instrument. Check out the instrument list (Omni, Elka, Solina and other lesser known stringers) and other details here (click Try It for the demo download): gforce vsm

Or...for software based effects, try Soundtoys PhaseMistress and the ERS Dimension D (Roland SDD-320 replication).

Having said all that, if this is more about the challenge and fun of trying to recreate the vintage string synth sound in your head, using things you already have around or could buy cheaply, I understand and wish you best of luck!
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Post by Dave Peck » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:33 pm

Yeah I've had some experience trying to recreate those old string synth sounds, with varying degrees of accuracy. As you suspect, the chorus/ensemble/phaser type post-processing is critical. So far some of the best results I've had have been by recreating those types of effects processing using a Nord Modular. In particular, a patch designed around the "Elka" string machine processing chain.

It's two separate chorus units. Each chorus consists of three short delays swept by LFOs, panned left, right, and center, with the left & right LFOs set at different phase relations relative to the center LFO (one is 90 degrees, one is 270 degrees).

The first set of three swept delays are running at roughly the rate of a violin vibrato, and the second set of three swept delays a are running at a much slower rate for a more flanger-ish chorus sound.

And of course the reverb type makes a huge difference. Best results to my ears are things like a classic old Lexicon PCM70 with medium room settings, nothing too new or acoustically accurate.

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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:51 pm

Member *nostalghia (thanks for the reply) ... I'm not opposed to using some sort of software iteration ... but it would be best if said software could be something which was loaded into some sort of hardware. I mean, using it in my studio when the CPU is fired up and I'm into the whole VST universe, it's a good idea!

However .... I long for a more portable and stable solution better suited for live performance use.

I wonder how long it will be until a hardware based controller is able to load VSTs into it? And don't get cute and say "tablet brah". I mean, can we really be that far away from a really nicely made hardware kybd (or desktop) controller that can host standalone VSTs without dragging a laptop around? That doesn't cost the arm ... OR the leg.

Some VA synths are ~just this close~ away from already being that now. It would be EXCELLENT if Arturia would offer something in their all new Keylab 2 format controllers (which are excellent, even by my Kurzweil/FATAR standards) that could host their own soft synths.

~sigh~ (with a pitiful ~moan~ added in there) .... Back to reality .....

As far as the info offered by Member *commodorejohn ... very interesting! This tells me that a wave foldable core would offer the most success with creating the foundation waveforms.

Personally, I don't feel creating some newfangled setup to produce more accurate emulations of those old stringers is out of reach (even without taking out a second on the house). As simple as the tech involved was in the 70's, there's really no reason this cannot be done using modern components. I mean, it was done then using diode divided keybeds and fairly simple analog circuitry with little (if any) proprietary componentry.

I hear tale Behringer is soon releasing some Roland stringer clone, but I have also heard that it sounds Le Poop.

~brother~ .... just give us our damned String Ensemble (or better yet, our Omni)! Honestly, how hard can it be? And those old sounds and machines are gaining traction again as something all the kewl kids want. So the market is opening up again.

Ok ... more please ... feed this topic, it's worth discussing!

Thank you.

EDIT: Today's post arrived not but three minutes after I started this thread ... the Boss RT-20 arrived that I bought for my wife's 1955 Hammond M3 which I modified years ago with a line output. So we'll see what that rotary emulation thing may add to the fray. I have an Odyssey, I can try to fake-up a foundation sound and see what ... if anything ... I can squeeze out of the pair towards these ends.

:tu:
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:56 pm

Dave Peck wrote:Yeah I've had some experience trying to recreate those old string synth sounds, with varying degrees of accuracy. As you suspect, the chorus/ensemble/phaser type post-processing is critical. So far some of the best results I've had have been by recreating those types of effects processing using a Nord Modular. In particular, a patch designed around the "Elka" string machine processing chain.

It's two separate chorus units. Each chorus consists of three short delays swept by LFOs, panned left, right, and center, with the left & right LFOs set at different phase relations relative to the center LFO (one is 90 degrees, one is 270 degrees).

The first set of three swept delays are running at roughly the rate of a violin vibrato, and the second set of three swept delays a are running at a much slower rate for a more flanger-ish chorus sound.

And of course the reverb type makes a huge difference. Best results to my ears are things like a classic old Lexicon PCM70 with medium room settings, nothing too new or acoustically accurate.
Ridiculously helpful, as usual coming from you! I have a Boss RE-20 Space Echo, the reverb is fairly good ... well, when it comes to olden times reverb that is. I also have a Line 6 M13 which has the ability to set up concurrent delays as you described. It can also do parallel/series multi delay setups.

Thanks again, Dave. Once again, you bring it.

8-)

EDIT: FOUR Nord Modulars have come and gone from my possession. Currently they're in the ~gone~ category. I keep selling them because I panic about keeping a PC in operational condition that runs on an OS that will still host the editor. I regret selling every single one of them.

:doh:
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Post by commodorejohn » Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:21 pm

Dave Peck wrote:It's two separate chorus units. Each chorus consists of three short delays swept by LFOs, panned left, right, and center, with the left & right LFOs set at different phase relations relative to the center LFO (one is 90 degrees, one is 270 degrees).

The first set of three swept delays are running at roughly the rate of a violin vibrato, and the second set of three swept delays a are running at a much slower rate for a more flanger-ish chorus sound.
Which reminds me, I really ought to take a stab at this on the JX-10 again. I had a passable version going along these lines (since it has two separate layers with their own separate chorus units) but it was never quite there...
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Post by Dave Peck » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:17 pm

...CORRECTION - I just looked at that NM 'Elka' patch, and it's simpler than I remembered.

It's only ONE set of three swept delays (panned left, right and center), not TWO sets.

But this set of delays is being modulated by two sets of those forced-out-of-phase LFOs as described above, with one fast LFO and one slow LFO modulating each delay.

Three delays, six LFOs.

I bet you could get something close just by using two standard stereo in/stereo out chorus pedals (connected in series? Parallel? I bet both will sound good, but maybe very different), one for the fast vibrato effect and one for the slower chorus/flange effect.

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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:20 pm

Holy Radioactive Coyotes Batman!!!!! Tracks chords, and pitch bends too.

The dude is a bit of a clown, but just check this out ($221.30 new, used is less).

[video][/video]

And here it is with the Strymon Capistan ... beautiful pairing, them two are.

[video][/video]
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Post by commodorejohn » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:32 pm

Oh yeah, if you want Mellotron strings that's way easier to find existing solutions for (ironically enough, considering that back in the day ensemble synths were pretty much the poor man's Mellotron!)

Edit: haha, that piece from the Chords of Orion guy sounds so much like it belongs on the Myst soundtrack.
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:04 pm

commodorejohn wrote:Oh yeah, if you want Mellotron strings that's way easier to find existing solutions for (ironically enough, considering that back in the day ensemble synths were pretty much the poor man's Mellotron!)

Edit: haha, that piece from the Chords of Orion guy sounds so much like it belongs on the Myst soundtrack.
Yea, he's clearly a "Fripp and Eno, No Pussyfooting" kinda fella. You can nearly taste the THC dripping from the track.
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Post by solitud » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:45 pm

Most of the old string machines are paraphonic. I think the chopping effect of the retriggering envelope takes a big part in the sound.
Other than that it's the Chorus FX which is difficult to achieve in samples, even if you sample every key.

Before I got a VP330 (which is fantastic) I used an Elkorus as FX after a saw synth.
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 5:54 pm

solitud wrote:Most of the old string machines are paraphonic. I think the chopping effect of the retriggering envelope takes a big part in the sound.
Other than that it's the Chorus FX which is difficult to achieve in samples, even if you sample every key.

Before I got a VP330 (which is fantastic) I used an Elkorus as FX after a saw synth.
Well yea, I guess. I think that has more of a usefulness for slowly played three bar long chords. Single triggering the envelopes has more influence on tying chords together, less so on faster monophonic runs, like a violin. I'm not much on the whole ambient trip. Only reason I posted those videos is because I am amazed that tracking circuitry has come so far over the years.

When I think of string machines, instantly my mind goes straight to '70s Kansas. And not Dust In The Wind, either. Think Journey From Mariabronn, The Wall, The Spider, Magnum Opus, and so on.
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Post by commodorejohn » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:01 pm

There were some fully polyphonic stringers as well (the Hohner String Performer I used to own had a separate envelope for each key) and they weren't appreciably less "stringer-ey" for it in my opinion.

Though once you start adding ensemble brass with a filter envelope into the mix it does start to be more noticeable whether you're paraphonic or not.
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:58 pm

commodorejohn wrote:There were some fully polyphonic stringers as well (the Hohner String Performer I used to own had a separate envelope for each key) and they weren't appreciably less "stringer-ey" for it in my opinion.

Though once you start adding ensemble brass with a filter envelope into the mix it does start to be more noticeable whether you're paraphonic or not.
Meh ... what do I know. :despair:

If I knew what I was talking about I wouldn't have needed to ask the questions posted in this thread.

So, stands to reason.

8-)
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Post by Blairio » Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:55 pm

The Streichfett is an infuriating device. It comes sooo close to being very good indeed, but IMHO it is let down by lack of control (depth and speed) of the chorus / ensemble effect.

In isolation it can sound weedy, but in a mix it can do the job pretty well. I have used string machines over the years from Crumar, Viscount and Elka and more often than not, a lot of the 'body' of the sound has to be eq'ed out for the strings to sit in a mix. To my (admittedly well worn) ears, it is as if the Streichfett comes with that eq pre-applied.

Perhaps Waldorf will do a Streichfett mk2, with answers to the most common reservations regarding the mk1. I would have one of those.

Or maybe someone will recreate the mighty Korg Trident, complete with its own trolley - they weighed a ton.

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Post by TheDegenerateElite » Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:52 am

Blairio wrote:The Streichfett is an infuriating device. It comes sooo close to being very good indeed, but IMHO it is let down by lack of control (depth and speed) of the chorus / ensemble effect.

In isolation it can sound weedy, but in a mix it can do the job pretty well. I have used string machines over the years from Crumar, Viscount and Elka and more often than not, a lot of the 'body' of the sound has to be eq'ed out for the strings to sit in a mix. To my (admittedly well worn) ears, it is as if the Streichfett comes with that eq pre-applied.

Perhaps Waldorf will do a Streichfett mk2, with answers to the most common reservations regarding the mk1. I would have one of those.

Or maybe someone will recreate the mighty Korg Trident, complete with its own trolley - they weighed a ton.
Waldorf have a keyboard version of the Streichfett coming out. Not sure how improved it is.

http://cdm.link/2018/01/waldorf-new-voc ... fett-stvc/


But for the price it will be you may as well try buying an old stringer.

I have an Omni 1 that I'm still in the process of repairing. They are a serious ass project to tackle once you start replacing tantalum caps and testing the chips. There is a lot of stuff inside that case.

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Post by BugBrand » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:02 am

You should possibly check out Tony Oakley's rack units - think he's got a lot of stringer experience and his designs always look very tempting.
Couldn't quickly find the bits on his website, but his sub-forum here: viewforum.php?f=36 - eg. check the SRE330 - think there's a couple of other current rack or half-rack designs.

edit - a major plus point being that they are freshly designed with available parts & have good support. (wish Tony offered full kits with enclosures included!)
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Post by SoundPool » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:30 am

If you want something closer to the "real deal" you do have the advantage of being in the US that it would be much cheaper for you than other people to pick up an old Paia Stringz n thingz. Granted if its not fully working (when are they ever) you'll have to dive into the rats nest. I can imagine it may not be as lush sounding as some of the more desirable old string machines, but I would think running it through a really nice chorus or phaser like the Oakley ones BugBrand mentioned would help things out.

also maybe of interest- https://electricdruid.net/adventures-in ... eneration/

http://www.flatkeys.co.uk/MK50240.html

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Post by chvad » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:49 am

Of the stringers Ive had the Crumar Performer has been my favorite. I have various stringer plug ins and none of them scratch the itch for me. I'm sure they work in mixes fine but i don't enjoy listening to them as much as I do the real thing. For me, the Crumar being polyphonic (not para) was a big deal. Funny thing is that didn't have an ensemble circuit (that I know of... at least no ON/OFF for one on the panel.) Anyway.. I loved that synth. One of many sold regrets. The new behringer stringer clone sounded better to my ears than the waldorf (which doesn't sound nice to me at all) but I'm not really down with buying their stuff so much. One thing I did find to help with the itch (a bit) was taking any random poly (in this case a Lead 4, all saws and unison) pumped through the Valhalla DSP UberMod VST. They have a nice ensemble effect that does wonders to incoming signals that you might wanna mess with.
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Post by wiperactive » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:18 pm

Like others here, a massive part for me in achieving many of those vintage string sounds lies in 'outboard' treatment to otherwise rather pedestrian organ type tones.

I have the SRE-330 kit awaiting its turn in an overlong DIY backlog, so I only have the promising Oakley Sound demos to go on so far. I'm expecting this to help with this particular application (among others) and possibly supplant my Roland RSP-550 and/or SDX-330 in other areas. They can all pretty much get you there if you're not super critical about these things. So I'd recommend one of these three. The SDX-330 has masses of parameter control to assist in the homing-in process - it's a very good modulation type effects rack for wider applications.

My experience with the Waldorf Streichfett is that its good but the ensemble effect is a little over characterised to my tastes. A bit like applying garish red lipstick in an attempt to re-enact a naturally fulsome lip tone.

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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:27 pm

wiperactive wrote:.... My experience with the Waldorf Streichfett is that its good but the ensemble effect is a little over characterised to my tastes. A bit like applying garish red lipstick in an attempt to re-enact a naturally fulsome lip tone.
Perfectly worded. The Waldorf ensemble seems very overdone.

Well spoken. :tu:
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Post by Blingley » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:21 pm

In software, the d16 fazortan/syntorus do a great job. I find that running the sound through an octaver pedal simulation, I use the Audiffex Octaver, generates a more pleasing tone than adding octaves to the synthesizer itself. A combination of octaver-phaser-chorus would likely also work with hardware.

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Post by dashwood » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:13 pm

The old MTI ADL- 100 was designed for this but they're fairly rare now.

Turns anything run through it into a warm, lush 70's mush. Not much in the way of control but sounds great.

Can be heard on a couple of tracks on Aphex's Syro.

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Post by MindMachine » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:37 pm

TheDegenerateElite wrote:I have an Omni 1 that I'm still in the process of repairing. They are a serious ass project to tackle once you start replacing tantalum caps and testing the chips. There is a lot of stuff inside that case.
No doubt. Kevin Lightner once showed me inside an Omni II he had. I was saying how that was my fantasy dream string synth since the late 70's when I heard their little flexi disc demo record
(and Alan Zavod w/ Jean Luc Ponty). He counted the tantalum caps and I gave up that dream.



BTW - I have the EH Mel9 pedal and it is incredible. I mainly use it with a Yamaha Reface YC organ.

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