Calling All Circle² Beta Testers! / GavinFAW on August 29th

We are looking for beta testers for Circle².

Follow the link below and fill in the form with your name and email address. When beta testing is ready to commence, you will receive in your inbox a short questionnaire. Once completed you will then receive the download link to Circle².

Looking forward to having you on board and helping us prepare Circle for the wider electronic music world!

Follow the link below to the beta tester signup page:
►► http://bit.ly/circle2betatester

Current Circle Activation Issues / Gavin Burke on August 29th

Currently activation is not working due to an issue that arose while migrating all our existing Circle users so that they can use their old codes with Circle².

We hope to have the system back up and running later today. Please keep an eye here for updates as we work towards the fix.

Gavin@FAW.

Circle² Sound Design Competition / MartinFAW on August 22nd

Future Audio Workshop are looking for a Sound Designer for Circle² - and we would love you to get involved.

Your challenge:

Create a sound or mix of sounds using Circle, record it and submit it to the Circle Synth User Group on SoundCloud.

Our challenge:

Picking a winner! We will listen to all entries and choose one creator as our Circle² Sound Designer.

The winner’s prize:

The chosen Circle² Sound Designer will be invited to make 10 presets for Circle². The presets will be fully credited with the Sound Designer’s name and they will also receive a prize of a free copy of Circle² and a Future Audio Workshop fan pack (as shown above).

The competition is open immediately and will run until Friday 5th September.
We will then announce the winner five days later (keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter). We wish everyone good luck and look forward to hearing your sounds!

Free Circle presets from Dog Tails / MartinFAW on August 15th

Japanese music creator, producer and Circle user Mitsunori Ohoke (aka Dog Tails) recently reached out to Future Audio Workshop with a portfolio of presets he created for Circle.

We were really impressed with Mitsunori’s work, and he has kindly allowed us to share these with other Circle users. His collection is available for download here. Mitsunori has also created a short audio sample to showcase his new presets - check it out in the Soundcloud player above!

Thank you Mitsunori - we’re looking forward to hearing what you can create for Circle²!

FAW welcomes Bron to the team! / MartinFAW on August 14th

Those of you who have recently contacted us via support@futureaudioworkshop.com have probably already met the newest member of the FAW team. Today is her first day joining us in the FAW office - welcome, Bron!

Circle version 1.1.9 now live / MartinFAW on August 8th

Circle Version 1.1.9 is now live and available for download here.

This update fixes several bugs that affected how Circle interacts with DAW hosts.

As ever, we’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who helped Beta test this latest update to Circle.

Meet the people behind Circle²’s VPS oscillator / MartinFAW on August 1st

The VPS oscillator that we featured in a blog post recently is one of the main new features of Circle². Future Audio Workshop’s Martin Gould worked on bringing the VPS oscillator to the synthesizer with the help of two of the original VPS paper’s authors, Joe Timoney and Victor Lazzarini. In a behind-the-scenes interview, Martin, Joe and Victor tell us about their field of digital signal processing (DSP) and how they developed the VPS technology.

Hi Joe, Victor and Martin. First, could you tell me a bit about your backgrounds - both professional and musical?

Joe Timoney: I studied engineering and signal processing at university, then went on to work in computer science. I’ve liked a lot of Jazz and Fusion music since I was a teenager, so I’ve always had an interest in music and music making, especially in regards to electronic instruments and synthesizers. I’m from Ireland and my hometown is just down the road from the university. Over the years, Victor and I have collaborated on various research papers and have been involved in the DAFX conference, which we hosted here at NUI Maynooth (pictured above) last year.

Victor Lazzarini: I’m from Brazil and my background is in music. I studied music and graduated with a composition degree, and then did my doctorate in computer music from the composer’s point of view. When I moved into computer music and started working with code, the most logical thing was to learn digital signal processing (DSP). I went into that area and moved to Ireland in 1998. One of my major projects next to the collaborations with Joe has been my work on Csound, which is a programming language for sound.

Martin Gould: I’m originally from London. I was always interested in musical performance and composition, and I learned to play piano for many years when I was younger. I studied mathematics at university, all the way through to my PhD, then started to work at Future Audio Workshop. That’s where I got more involved with the technological side of music.

Why did you enter the field of DSP?

Joe: If you’re interested in audio and making instruments, there are two directions you can go: The analog electronics route or the DSP route. Since the late 1990s, there has been a trend towards digital instruments. Things have really expanded in this field over the last 10 years. DSP is very attractive to us because we can use our mathematical and programming skills to build instruments that musicians can enjoy.

Victor: My interest in DSP came from the fact that I was programming and working with digital audio. I don’t have much interest in the mathematics of analog signal processing, but I am interested in synthesis and how to generate new types of sounds to use musically. I also like how DSP is a large area that goes beyond audio and video - for example, electrocardiography and control systems fall within the discipline.

In the field of DSP, are there any differences between having a background as a mathematician and a background as a music?

Martin: I think the only real difference is that an person’s background and training can influence the way that they approach problems. For example, when working with Joe and Victor on the VPS project, we all approached the same problems in a different way.

Victor: What I find interesting about DSP is that many mathematicians are not familiar with the kind of mathematics that we use. Many mathematicians work on very hard problems, for instance in group theory, but our tools are not commonly used by mathematicians. I have colleagues in the mathematics department who don’t have a clue about the things we work on. They would understand if we explained it to them, but they haven’t learned about these things in their studies. If you talk to people interested in mathematical physics, they know some of our models - but they apply them to the field of astrophysics rather than for making instruments!

How do you think DSP has contributed to modern music?

Joe: DSP has certainly made synthesis more accessible. In the 1970s, an analogue synthesizer cost the same price as a car, so the cost of making electronic music was very high. Thanks to DSP, anyone who has access to a computer can now make electronic music at home. The quality of these synthesisers is also getting better and better. DSP has also contributed to lowering the costs of hardware equipment, so the power you get for your money is far greater now than it was 30 years ago.

Victor: A classic example is frequency modulation (FM) synthesis, which was pioneered by an American composer called John Chowning. He figured out that the technique of radio FM - the transition of sound via electromagnetic waves - could be applied to sound synthesis. That was a great breakthrough, and he wrote a seminal paper about it that was published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society in 1973. He used FM synthesis in some of his work, and then Yamaha got interested in the idea, licensed it from him and developed the DX-range of FM synthesizers that we all know and love. The DX7 (chip pictured above) and its family were maybe their most successful range of synthesizers to date. In the early 1980s, the DX7 was everywhere. You would go to a pub, and someone would play a DX7.

Joe: Yes, the DX7 was he first big change that DSP made for synthesis. It was about a quarter of the price of a polyphonic analog synthesizer at the time. It also had 16-note polyphony, so it could be played by keyboarders who liked big, jazzy chords.

Are there any contemporary examples of how DSP is important for music making?

Joe: Recently, there has been a huge amount of work on physical modelling synthesis. The work hasn’t had a massive impact on the market yet, but it’s been a slow and steady growth. For example, some drum synthesizers have physically modelled drums available in them. The reproduction of real acoustic instruments or vintage analog synthesizers is completely DSP-based. DSP has also had a big impact on shaping sound: Having many analog effects units is sometimes difficult and cumbersome, but a DSP-based effect rack gives the possibility of choosing from a great variety of algorithms and allows a much bigger sonic palette.

What was the inspiration for the VPS oscillator?

Victor: We have been working in the general area of non-linear distortion for a number of years and had looked at many ways of generalizing distortion-based synthesis. We were looking at the question of phase distortion when a colleague from Finland visited us here for a few months in 2011. We were sitting in the office talking about the way we distorted phase and said: “Maybe we can generalize this and have one parameter that could change the phase and the waveform in a non-linear way?” That sounded like an interesting idea so we made a prototype in Csound. It was quite an empirical way to start - we worked out all the theory later! That led to the original VPS paper from DAFX in 2011.

Did you run into any problems or obstacles?

Victor: The major problem was the one that we revisit in the new paper with Martin: finding a simple way to describe a VPS waveform’s spectrum. It’s easy to see the different waveforms you can generate with a VPS oscillator, but we didn’t have a compact, straightforward way to predict what the harmonics would look like. Before, we mainly focussed on a more empirical way of thinking, along the lines of “When you change the parameters in this way, you get this type of wave shape, which produces roughly this type of spectrum”. But we couldn’t say exactly what things were. Joe had some ideas on how to solve this, so we sat down with Martin and started work. The practical result was not just the understanding of the spectrum, but also that it informed Martin how to improve the algorithm to avoid aliasing distortion, which can produce a lot of noise in a VPS oscillator.

Martin: The VPS signal contains lots of intricate harmonics at high frequencies. Retaining this sonic character was a big challenge. This is what inspired our collaboration. I had coded up an oscillator based on the original VPS paper, and I found that for many parameter choices the oscillator sounded great. But as I pushed the parameters further, I quickly reached a situation where everything sounded like a horrible screech. I contacted Joe and Victor to discuss the problem, and we set to work trying to understand and solve the problem.

Do you have any ideas for the further development of the VPS technology?

Martin: The new VSP oscillator within Circle is finished now, but the implementation could be generalized in many ways in the future. I’ve already discussed with Joe and Victor about possible ways to introduce additional parameters that could further shape the waveform and make the oscillator even more flexible. I like to think of the VPS oscillator within Circle as the first step towards a bigger goal of flexible non-linear waveform distortion.

Joe: There are also huge possibilities regarding modulation. We explored a couple of ideas in the first VPS paper, but there are many additional ways to generate even more complex waveforms. This is just the start!

Image credits: Maynooth College: Finaghy (at en-wp); postprocessing by AFBorchert, public domain; DX7 mainboard: Metroplex CC BY-SA 3.0×6

Circle 1.1.9 ready for Beta testing / MartinFAW on July 25th

In order to prepare the software engine for the upcoming release of Circle², we’ve recently been restructuring how Circle interacts with DAW hosts. This has caused some users to experience difficulties when launching recent versions of Circle as a plugin, particularly in Pro Tools.

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve now finished the major changes and are ready to begin open Beta testing for a new version of Circle with the revamped host interaction. On our test system, this new version resolves all outstanding issues with supported host integration - including in Pro Tools 11 - on both Windows and Mac platforms. The downloads are available at the following links:

Mac

Windows

We’d love to hear your feedback on this new Beta version of Circle. If you have any issues, please let us know your operating system and DAW host along with a description of the problem. If you download the update and find that everything is working correctly, we’d still love to hear from you - this feedback is also helpful for us to monitor our progress.

As ever, we’d like to thank our loyal community for your ongoing support, and we look forward to revealing more of Circle²’s exciting new features in the coming weeks!

Webstore back online / Gavin Burke on July 24th

The FAW webstore is back online.

If you experience difficulties with the webstore accepting your payment method, please email support@futureaudioworkshop.com, and we will organize an alternative payment method via Paypal.

Introducing: Vector Phaseshaping Synthesis / MartinFAW on July 18th

We recently revealed that Circle² will contain a new oscillator based on state-of-the-art research in digital synthesis. This week, we’d like to share more information regarding this exciting new module and describe how it creates its rich, complex, characteristic sound.

Our new oscillator utilizes a cutting-edge technique called Vector Phaseshaping Synthesis (VPS). Jari Kleimola, Victor Lazzarini, Joseph Timoney and Vesa Välimäki from the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering and National University of Ireland introduced this style of synthesis in their 2011 paper. Our team at Future Audio Workshop collaborated with Victor Lazzarini and Joseph Timoney on bringing this new technology to a software synthesiser for the very first time.

The core idea behind VPS is simple: the oscillator takes a pair of sine waves with specified frequencies and glues them together at a specified time. Via its two parameters - which control the frequencies of the sine waves and the location at which they are glued together - a VPS oscillator provides direct control of the waveform’s intricate harmonics. By varying these parameters, a VPS oscillator can create a wide variety of rich sonic textures that range from clean, crisp tones (perfect for sub-bass) to distorted leads (perfect for melodies) and thick rumbles (perfect for heavy basslines).

If you take another look at the teaser image from our previous blog post, you’ll see this process in action: In this example, each cycle of the VPS waveform consists of a higher frequency sine wave glued to a lower frequency sine wave. In contrast to many existing synthesis techniques (which create new sounds by adding several sine waves on top of each other), a VPS oscillator joins different sine waves end-to-end. What’s more, by assigning control of the oscillator’s parameters to one or more of Circle’s modulation units, our new VPS oscillator can create dynamic timbres that morph and evolve through time.

A key difficulty with implementing a VPS oscillator in a digital synthesizer is an unwanted auditory effect known as aliasing, which is a form of audio distortion that can lead to incorrect pitch replication. In recent months, the research and development team here at Future Audio Workshop have collaborated with the original inventors of the VPS oscillator to help find a solution to this problem and to ensure that our new oscillator produces pitch-perfect output for a wide range of parameter choices. As well as implementing this new methodology in Circle², we will also be publishing our work in an academic paper (with the catchy title “Spectral Properties of VPS Waveforms with Applications to the Implementation of Bandlimited Oscillators”) to help drive future innovations on the VPS technique.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be revealing more details about the VPS oscillator, including hosting an interview with the authors of the upcoming academic paper to discuss their inspiration for designing the VPS oscillator, the difficulties that they faced along the way and how they went about finding a solution to the difficult problem of aliasing.

Circle is currently available for a reduced price of only €49/$69. If you purchase Circle from our download store today, you’ll also receive a free upgrade to Circle² on release day, so there’s never been a better time to join the ever-growing community of Circle users worldwide.

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