Getting to Know the Subsynth in Caustic 2

Subtractive Synthesis

In this article, we will focus on the Subsynth machine found in Caustic.  The Subsynth is a Analog Synthesizer (virtual, of course), which makes sounds using subtractive synthesis. Subtractive synthesis is a way of making sound where you start with basic 'chunks' of a sound, and then you scuplt it by using filters, oscillators, and other types of modulation.  It's kind of like how every human has their unique vocal tone, and then by changing the shape of their lips, how much air is used, and relaxing or constricting the vocal chords, the sound if changed.

Another thing that's cool about Caustic is, although it's a 6 machine workstation, you don't always have to use the same machines that the software starts with.  You could use 6 Subsynths if you really wanted to.  Caustic has a lot of flexibility.

Subsynth Features

To understand how sound is scuplted in the Subsynth, we'll first need a sound to work with.  If you haven't already, start Caustic, then go to the Subsythn screen.  A little review of how to find it:

Press the Rack View button:

Rack View Button

On the Rack View screen, select the Subsynth:

Rack View

The Subsynth:

A Machine in Caustic

I'll start from the upper left corner of the Subsynth screen, and work to the right, describing everything shown.  You will notice how the interface is boxed off into different sections with light grey lines, so I will describe everything contained in a particular section before moving on to a new one.

1st Section:

  • SUBSYNTH machine name 
    • It is by default always called Subsynth, but you can change the name by long-pressing it
  • NOTE ON indicator
    • This informs you if the Subsynth is currently generating any sound
  • PRESET name
    • Touch this feild to load a Subsynth preset
  • DISK icon
    • Saves any changes to the currently loaded preset2nd Section - FILTER:
  • FILTER selection box
    • 6 Filters are available for use
      • LowPass
      • High Pass
      • Band Pass
      • Inverted Low Pass
      • Inverted High Pass
      • Inverted Band Pass
  • CUTOFF slider
    • Use to select the frequency at which the current filter takes effect
  • RES(onance) slider
    • Use to select the amount of resonance applied to the current filter
  • Track dial
    • Controls filtering amount based on what key on the keyboard you play.  Higher notes apply less filtering, lower notes apply more filtering
  • 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 attck for the cutoff value to reach the sustain level
  • Sustain dial
    • After attck & 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
      • Oscillator 1
      • Oscillator 2
      • Oscillator 1 + 2
      • Phase
      • Cutoff
      • Volume
      • Octave
      • Semis
  • 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 - LFO2:

(LFO2 operates in the same manner as LFO1)

5th Section - Oscillator 1:

(Oscillator:  an electronic circuit which produces a repetitive, oscillating signal, such as a sine or square wave)

  • Waveform
    • Choose from 6 different waveforms, including a build-your-own form
  • Mix dial
    • Mixes the volume between oscillators 1 & 2
  • FM dial
    • Let's you use Frequency Modulation based on oscillator 2, to change how oscillator 1 sounds

6th Section - Bend:

  • Bend dial
    • Applies portamento (pitch bending) to every played note

7th Section - Oscillator 2:

  • Waveform
    • Same as with Oscillator 1, choose your waveform or sculpt your own
  • Phase dial
    • Lets you set the amount of phase shift applied to your sound, before its combined with the 1st oscillator.  (To understand 'Phase Shift', think of a 2 sine waves drawn on a piece of paper, with their peaks and valleys occuring at the same points in time.  If you applied 'phase shift' to one of those sine waves, then the peaks and valleys would no longer be occuring at the same points in time.)
  • Octave dial
    • Lets you tune the frequency of oscillator 2 by octave, with a 6 octave range (+/-3)
  • Semi(tones) dial
    • Lets you tune the frequency of oscillator 2 by semitones
  • Cents dial
    • Lets you tune the frequency of oscillator 2 by cents.  Often used to help a preset sound 'fatter' than it is.

8th 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

9th Section - Volume Out:

  • Volume dial
    • Final output volume of the subsynth 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)

10th Section - Keyboard & Polyphony:

  • M & S Buttons
    • MUTE (turns off all sound from this Subsynth, even during playback)
    • SOLO (turns off all other sounds except this Subsynth, even during playback)
  • - or + Polyphony
    • Lets you decide how many notes can simultaneously sound at any given time, up to 8 
  • Keyboard
    • Uh, one of the places to initiate sound.  Key size can be selected in the 'Options' menu
  • Keyboard Up/Down Arrows
    • Lets you determine at which octave on the keyboard to play in