June 27, 2018

Grains, Stacks On Stacks...

by Chris Randall

Well, that took a minute, but we are hugely pleased to announce that Quanta, our hybrid granular / subtractive softsynth, is now available for purchase in the Audio Damage store. What seemed like a moderately complicated project back in October of last year turned in to an eight-month exercise in applying the Kübler-Ross model to plugin development. Nominally, we try to have a bit of restraint in our designs, and hope to apply the K.I.S.S. principle to most things we make, within reason. But for Quanta, we took a more subtractive approach, and stuck everything up to and including several kitchen sinks in it, then carved away until a firm foundation remained.

Obvs, you can get the highlights, bullet points, and marketing hyperbole in spades over on the AD site, so I'll use this space to add some color commentary about the process. This all started when we were shopping for a new product idea, and I pondered that many (most?) granular synths for desktop were fairly complex and un-fun -- not to disparage them at all, mind; it is a complicated process -- and it might be an "interesting exercise" and furthermore "pretty fun" to make something more like Borderlands, which doesn't really exist outside of the iOS environment. Adam concurred, and we initially thought about using the grain engine we had built years ago for Discord. It became rapidly obvious that wasn't up to the task of a big polysynth, so Adam went in to his DSP Fortress of Solitude, and came out a month or so later with a full granular oscillator that you're using pretty much as-is in Quanta.

Now that we had that, it was largely a matter of wrapping things around it to make it in to a fun instrument to use. After getting several requests for adding MPE functionality to some of our existing products, I dropped Roger Linn a line and got us a couple Linnstruments to work with (detailed in an earlier post, if you recall) and decided that, since there aren't any MPE granular synths, it may be an interesting addition. This exploded the modulation sources to proportions big enough that it required a mod matrix. And since we have a mod matrix anyhow, might as well throw an Imperial fuckton (1.3 metric fucktons) of other mod in the thing. Which is how it ended up with four 99-step arbitrary function/breakpoint generators.

So, with a mod matrix and a pretty good grain engine, and some excellent new mod sources, it became a design project, winnowing all that down to the most usable feature set and parameter ranges, and making it all look pretty. I'm not the best judge of such things, being somewhat too close to it to actually see if there's any forest all these trees are sitting in, but I do know that I love and will definitely use the result, and I can't say that about all of our products.

The one other real departure from our normal modus operandi is that we have decided to add a demo version. We have gotten on fine over the years not having demos, and frankly, any lost sales were more than made up for by the fact that demos are a pain in the ass to make and support. But since we spent so much time on this (about three times as long as a normal product) it necessarily has to cost a bit more than our normal run, and we can't, in good conscience, ask you guys to buy something that expensive on blind faith. Hence, a demo. It is fully functional, but can not save (neither presets, nor its state in a project), and stops making sound after 20 minutes.

Anyhow, head over and give it a spin, and let me know if you have any questions about the decisions we've made, or comments on its overall usefulness. This is, by far, the most complex software product we've made, and we're sweating a bit. It's a large slab of work for a 2.5 person company. Quanta is $79 introductory price, and will go up to $99 on August 1.


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Jun.29.2018 @ 12:20 PM
Delta Sign
I guess I'll write my first comment after many years of lurking.

Congrats on the release again! I really think you are the first to do the whole simple granular thing right. You hit the sweet spot between simplicity and flexibility really well.

I'd love to see a simple 4OP FM synth following the same design principle from you guys. There really aren't all that many alternatives out there. I'd love a modern FM synth that doesn't try to emulate the DX-7 or some other nostalgic bullshit, something that isn't held back by trying to replicate a 30 years old feature set.

Keep up the great work!

Jun.30.2018 @ 9:03 AM
Chris Randall
@atlastop No, definitely not. I don't like shoehorning this stuff on to the iPhone; it is very difficult to do, since it is simply not designed for the context, and there's not a big enough income gain to warrant the incredible amount of trouble. (I don't even like putting the effects on there, to be honest, but those aren't actually any trouble, so I do it.)

@Delta Sign: we have further plans for this platform, as it gets refined, but I don't think we've specifically discussed a 4-op. To be honest, that's a more difficult prospect, given that the platform we've created is essentially identical to FM8, so a 4-op would be a somewhat dumbed-down version of one of the most omnipresent synth plugins on the planet. That just doesn't seem like a very good idea to me. (And I just know the second we'd release it, NI would announce FM9. That's the way these things seem to work.)

We are definitely going to make at least one more synth using a somewhat altered version of this platform; that is for sure. We have too much invested in it to let it languish. But I don't think it will be FM specifically.


Jun.30.2018 @ 9:14 PM
Delta Sign
Fair enough! I'm looking forward to your next synth!

Jul.04.2018 @ 2:46 PM
Fair enough.... Just wondering. I figured it wasnt easy to do and it explains why there are so few great synths for the iphone.
I just wish a developer would make a sample based synth which used the 5d touch. But i can only find seaboard

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