Vector Synthesizers - Spotlight on the History and Instruments
What's our Vector Victor? Encyclotronic is shining our spotlight on Vector Synthesizers and the instruments that have made it happen. From the original to the newest instruments being made to this day. We take a look at what was first introduced by Sequential Circuits in 1986 starting with an overview of Vector Synthesis itself.
What is Vector Synthesis?
Vector synthesis provides movement in a sound by providing dynamic cross-fading between (usually) four sound sources. The four sound sources are conceptually arranged as the extreme points of X and Y axes, and typically labelled A, B, C and D. A given mix of the four sound sources can be represented by a single point in this 'vector plane'. Movement of the point provides sonic interest and is the power of this technique. Mixing is frequently done using a joystick, although the point can be controlled using envelope generators or LFO's as well as other modulation sources allowed by the MIDI implementation of the instrument. Read more about Vector Synthesis at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_synthesis
Who Made Vector Synthesizers?
The Prophet VS by Sequential Circuits were the first to offer it commercially, and generally laid the ground work for other vector synthesizers that followed. Using a joystick to cross-fade between 4 wave forms on an X and Y axis. The cross-fade mixing alternatively could be assigned to other modulation sources. Typically on an LFO or Envelope but not exclusively depending on the synthesizer itself.
The Prophet VS created a sensation that other product makers soon followed. The first to get on board was Kawai who's concept implemented ROM sounds instead of wave-forms. Ironically, it would be many of the same team from Sequential Circuit's collaborating with Korg to take the concepts to the next level with the Korg Wavestation and subsequent models. Around the same time, Yamaha integrated Vector Synthesis with their AWM and FM engines to make the SY/TG models, and even an entry into the Home keyboard market.
With the growing popularity of software in the 2000s, Korg's Legacy collection introduced the Korg Wavestation in the form of a VSTi instrument. While Creamware released a DSP based vector synthesizer in their Noah Tactive Instrument Modeller. But hardware wasn't dead yet! Vector Synthesis was used a basis for the programming interface on the amazing Hartmann Neuron Neuronal synthesizers.
Vector Synthesis took its biggest leaps yet again in 2005 and 2011 with Korg's incredibly powerful OASYS and KRONOS workstations. And just when we thought it couldn't get any more out of Vector Synthesizers, Arturia released their Prophet V VSTi synthesizer in 2006 and rounded out the decade by releasing two Origin hardware synthesizers with it. The youngest of the modern take on the concept is the Solaris Digital Modular Synthesizer.
Vector Synthesizers Hardware (By Year)
App and Software Vector Synthesizers (By Name)
With Vector Synthesis being a digital based model. They run very well on modern computers and sound just as good, if not better than their originals. We have compiled a lit of list of free and paid for Vector Synthesizer apps and software that run on iOS, OSX and Windows. If we missed any others, please post a comment below with a link to the product.
Arturia Prophet V (OS X, Windows)
Arturia iProphet (iOS)
Korg iWavestation (iOS)
Korg Legacy Collection (OS X, Windows)
Neuron VS (OS X)
UVI Vector Pro (OS X, Windows)
Rob Papen Vecto Instrument (OS X, Windows)