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  • Writer's pictureSteve Summers

Affordable Synthesis

Updated: Aug 13, 2018

Robert Arthur Moog was a man who pretty much reinvented the synthesiser, and made it more portable and practical for the electronically minded musician. Now days, these things can cost up to 5k. Probably more. Now days, it's a little more affordable and way more accessible to play with the software synths in our favourite DAWs.

ES2 Synthensizer

The ES2 Synthesizer, Logic Pro X's most sophisticated virtual analogue synth, is one of my personal, go-to software synths. It offers three flexible oscillators. All of which can be fully customised with a selection of different wave forms. A mixing field to crossfade different oscillators. And a classic selection of FM synth stylings.

It offers a keyboard mode, where you can assign 32 polyphonic voices, with modes varying from Poly, Mono, and Legato modes. It enables improv with Filter and Unison controls.

The ES2 has two filters, which can be used in parallel or in series. Filters can be blended, extending sound variance. And chain symbols allowing the user to modulate filter cut offs and resonance, whilst playing back, or cranking out a take.

The output section offers a few handy tools to process the synths output. A sine level knob to introduce the sine level on the output, a tube and transistor derived distortion, and a few other fun little processing tools for mastering the output.

There's an X and Y matrix square, where movement and variance can be created in the sound. And too, the Randomiser. A fun parameter used to warp already set sounds.

The Router/Vector section is an extremely flexible panel. The Router displays 10 different modulation routings. When the Vector button is pressed, an envelope is displayed, which allows you to create evolving sounds using the X-Y Pad and Oscillator Mix Field.

LFOs and Envelopes are both fairly basic functions. LFO 1 is polyphonic, while LFO 2 works monophonically. A variety of waveforms can be selected for each LFO, and their rate can be sync'd to Logic 's tempo. Env 1 can be set to work in Poly, Mono, or Retrig modes, to create a variety of effects. Env 2 and 3 have the same features, but Env 3 is permanently assigned to the master level.

A total of six external MIDI controllers (Ctrl A to Ctrl F) can be assigned here, and used to modulate ES2 's parameters. It's as simple as assigning them in the drop down menus.

This default ES2 has one Sawtooth Oscillator assigned. We hear a fairly generic synth sound. See below the frequency response. Notice the simple harmonic range produced by the sawtooth wave from.

After some experimentation, I developed a suitable synth for the Black Spur project. A synth to create a bit of atmosphere, as well as intensity. First I blended my wave forms, a tuned down sine, a tuned up sine, and an FM styled wave, also tuned down. Then I toyed with the filter effects, adjusting the cut offs and resonance, until I liked what I was hearing. I processed the output by introducing a little more sine level, adding a touch of distortion, and applying a chorus effect with a high speed modulation. I didn't really change the Router matrix, however, I utilised the LFOs and Envelopes, adding a longer attack time, lengthening the decay, and applying about a 30% release time. The sound has transformed into a Dirty LoFi Siren, almost like a distorted police siren.

See the now, highly variable, frequency response. As the Envelope ASDR times were adjusted, the sound became mobile. When a key is played, the frequency modulates between 1 - 2k, therefore producing this in-out, siren like effect. Pretty cool stuff.

This synth will further be experimented with. But as a cinematic, intensity building sound to be used for our Black Spur score, its a good start.

Stay tuned!


Works Cited:

Bennett, S. ES2: Logic's Most Sophisticated Virtual Analogue Synth |. (2018). Retrieved from


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