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Caustic for Android - Getting to Know the PCMSynth

By Edited Jul 8, 2016 0 0

Caustic's Sample-based Synthesizer

PCMSynth Main

This is the 2nd article in which we'll take a good look at a particular instrument, the PCMSynth, in the Android Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Caustic.

PCM stands for Pulse-Code Modulation.  PCM is the standard form of digital audio found on CDs, digital phones, and portable music devices.

There are two properties always found in a stream of a PCM signal:  sampling rate, and bit depth.  Sampling rate is how many times per second the recording device (sampler) takes a 'sample' of the original sound.  Bit depth is how detailed or coarse the sample may be, determined by the maximum number of sampling points.

Caustic's PCMSYNTH loads samples of sounds, and allows you to apply filters, LFO's, volume ADSR's, pitch control, and also provides some on-board sample editing features.

Features Found in the PCMSynth

I'm going to assume that you know how to start up Caustic, and get to the PCMSYNTH screen.  If not, take a look at my article on the Subsynth, which shows you how to navigate the screens in Caustic.

Let's go over each section of the PCMSYNTH, section by section.  I'll cover the sections by going from left to right, starting at the top, and working my way down.


1st SECTION - PRESETS:

  • MACHINE NAME
    • It's called PCMSYNTH by default, but you can rename it by long-pressing it
  • NOTE ON
    • Let’s you know visually if the PCMSYNTH is generating any sound
  • PRESET name
    • Touch this field to load a PCMSYNTH preset
  • DISK icon
    • Saves any changes to the currently loaded preset

2nd SECTION - FILTER:

  • CUTOFF slider
    • Use to select the frequency at which the current filter takes effect
  • RES slider
    • Use to select the amount of resonance applied to the current filter
  • ATTACK dial
    • Controls how much time passes between the key press, and reaching the amount set by the cutoff slider
  • DECAY dial
    • Time taken after attack for the cutoff value to reach the sustain level
  • SUSTAIN dial
    • After attack & delay have happened, this is the level that the cutoff settles at, as long as the key remains pressed
  • RELEASE dial
    • Time for cutoff to go from the sustain level to fully off, or, zero

3rd SECTION - LFO1:

(LFO: Low Frequency Oscillation)

  •  LFO name
    • Currently selected LFO.  There are 8 types available for use
      • Pitch
      • Cutoff
      • Volume
  • LFO 1 Waveform
    • 4 Waveforms are available for use in shaping how the LFO1 operates
      • Sine
      • Triangle
      • Sawtooth
      • Square
  • RATE dial
    • Controls LFO1's speed, as applied to the original sound
  • DEPTH dial
    • Controls LFO1's amount, as applied to the original sound

4th SECTION - PITCH:

  • OCTAVE dial
    • Tunes the signal by octaves, up or down the keys
  • SEMI dial
    • Tunes the signal by semitones
  • CENTS dial
    • Tunes the signal by cents

5th SECTION - SAMPLE CONTROL

This section contains a display window, a large dial, and a number of buttons.  The large dial is used to cycle through various things shown on the display, depending on which button is pressed in the section.

The available buttons are:

  • SAMPLE
    • Shows what sample(s) are loaded for the selected preset.  More than one sample can belong to a preset
    • Long-press to load a sample
  • LEVEL
    • Volume level of the sample.  Use the large dial to change the value
    • Long-press to bring up the editor
  • TUNE
    • Use the large dial to change the value by cents
    • Long-press to change to PAN control
  • ROOT KEY
    • Sets the root key on the key board for the sound.  Typically, this key is the same pitch as the sample, but not always.
    • Long-press to select a key by using the keyboard keys
  • LOW KEY
    • Sets the lowest key that will play the sample
    • Long-press to select a key by using the keyboard keys
  • HIGH KEY
    • Sets the highest key that will play the sample
    • Long-press to select a key by using the keyboard keys
  • MODE
    • Sets the playback mode for the selected sample.  Options are:
      • Play once
      • Note On/Off
      • Loop Forward
      • Loop Forward-Backward
      • Intro + Loop Forward
      • Intro + Loop Forward Backward
  • START
    • Point in time (of the sample itself) to begin playback after a key is pressed
  • END
    • Point in time (of the sample itself) to end playback after a key is pressed

6th SECTION - VOLUME ENVELOPE:

  • ATTACK dial
    • How long it takes after key press for the volume to reach maximum level
  • DECAY dial
    • How long it takes after attack for the volume to drop to the sustain level
  • SUSTAIN dial
    • Sets the volume to hold the note at, after attack and sustain, provided the note is still held
  • RELEASE dial
    • How long it takes for the volume to go from the sustain level to off

7th SECTION - VOLUME OUT:

  • VOLUME dial
    • Final output volume of the PCMSYNTH sound
  • VOLUME LEVEL METER
    • Shows you graphically the level of the sound output.  Your outputting distortion if your meter is in the red (which isn't always bad, if that's the sound you are looking for, pre-effects)

8th SECTION - KEYBOARD & POLYPHONY:

  • M & S Buttons
    • MUTE (turns off all sound from this PCMSYNTH, even during playback)
    • SOLO (turns off all other sounds except this PCMSYNTH, even during playback)
  • “- or +” POLYPHONY
    • Let’s you decide how many notes can simultaneously sound at any given time, up to 8 
  • KEYBOARD
    • One of the places to initiate sound.  Key size can be selected in the 'Options' menu
  • Keyboard UP/DOWN Arrows
    • Let’s you determine at which octave on the keyboard to play

Keyboard Controller that Works With Caustic

BEHRINGER U-CONTROL UMX250
Amazon Price: $99.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 8, 2016)
Folks who use Caustic have reported satisfaction with this keyboard controller. Go on over to Amazon & read the reviews, and see if it fits your needs. Behringer also make units with more keys as well, so check them out.
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