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Posts from July 2011

Waldorf Largo vs Blofeld


I own both the Waldorf Blofeld keyboard edition plus the virtual instrument Largo so I thought I’d offer some notes on what is the same and what is different.

98% The Same

First let me say that Largo is indeed a Blofeld expressed as a virtual instrument. I’d say that the patch architecture about 98% similar. If you programmed a patch on either using parameters common to both without effects the resultant output would almost identical with just slight variance in timbre you'd expect from hardware vs software implementations. The parameter differences are not simply that one has more features than another -each has exclusive features, and some cases – such as effects – the features are similar but implemented differently.

I’ve created a mindmap to illustrate only the differences. Green highlights on a branch indicate which synth is better in a particular area.

View embedded map full-size

Which is Right For You?

This depends on your priorities. If your primary goal is programming patches from scratch and you don’t care about samples being used as oscillator sources, Largo has a bigger sonic range in my opinion. If you want to use samples, you have to go with the Keyboard or Desktop Edition with License SL. The effects processor section is definitely stronger in Largo, especially the chorus. The color coding in the mindmap should help you make your choice.

Why Do I have Both?

I got the Blofeld first and fell in love with Waldorf waveforms, oscillators, filters, and architecture. I actually got the desktop, then sold it to get the keyboard edition for studio and jam use. However, my current performance rig is laptop-based and fits in two carry-ons (including my controllers) and I didn’t have room haul even the desktop Blofeld. So by adding Largo I have that Waldorf sound and architecture on my laptop and can use it in live performances out of town. Largo’s effects – especially the chorus are also quite fantastic. As a matter of fact, I have a new song on the upcoming album that was built almost exclusively around one patch where I do crazy things with the chorus using automation from dummy clips in Ableton Live.

Using Blofeld as a Dedicated Hardware Interface for Largo

The company Touch Digital Controllers is getting some buzz around their dedicated ImpOSCar2 hardware controller. What you might not know is that you can do something similar on the Waldorf side by using Blofeld as a dedicated control surface for Largo. This is possible because Waldorf designed both Largo and Blofeld such that each parameter has a corresponding MIDI CCs (which is how third party editors communication with Blofeld). That being said, I don’t think this is currently an intended use as it’s not document, a bit fiddly, and as you can see from the mindmap there are architectural differences. Also, some parameters like waveshape number are 0-based on Blofeld and 1-based on Largo (Blofled uses waveshape 0 as oscillator off where Largo has a dedicated parameter for this). So while it works it’s a bit sketchy.

Wish List

I wish that Waldorf will go a step further with both synths to bring them to parity and line up synth parameters such that we all could could:

  1. Use Largo as a VST/AU editor for Blofeld
  2. Use Blofeld as a control surface for Largo
  3. Add sample support to Largo
  4. Share patches between both.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer
Official Web Site:
Listen/Download Albums:

Thumbs Up for Madrona Labs AALTO Software Synthesizer


Peter Kirn over at Create Digital Music did a post on a new synth by Madrona Labs last month. Even though I wasn’t in the market for a new synth right now I ended up buying Aalto within an hour or so of downloading the demo so I wanted to pass this along and help promote Madrona’s great work. At $99 this is an incredible value.

Brief Video Overview

Watch embedded video


  • Semi-modular software synthesizer.
  • Fantastic flat popup-free patchable UI.
  • A Buchla-inspired complex oscillator, with FM, timbre and waveshape controls that enable a wide range of expressive sounds… made with dynamic calculation, not static wavetables.
  • Each voice has a separate, built-in sequencer with a patchable, independently controllable rate and offset that make it easy to achieve evolving, chaotic textures.
  • Each voice also includes a lowpass gate module with a vactrol emulation in the control path. The vactrol equation slows down the response to incoming control signals through a complex nonlinear filter. You can turn the vactrol response down to instantaneous, or up to a pronounced ring.
  • A patchable waveguide / delay module with a waveshaper and a peaking EQ built into the feedback loop. Because it has such short and controllable delay times, unlike a typical analog delay, it can be used as an additional oscillator or waveguide.
  • Aalto's filter is a state-variable topology with mixable simultaneous outputs, tuned to have a similar range to an Oberheim SEM filter.

Aalto 1.1 Acid House Demo Video

View embedded video by Madrona’s Randy Jones

Share Patches XML Patch Format

Another cool feature is the ability to copy patches in XML format to the clip board which allows you to email patches to a friend simply by pasting them into the body of an email.

Speaking of sharing patches, there is a site for patch sharing here

Use the Factory Sounds for Inspiration, Then Get Patching!

I emailed Madrona’s Randy Jones just to let him know how much I was loving Aalto and he emailed back “It's my hope that Aalto's ease of use will suck some people into patching, who might have been relying on presets otherwise.”

First Impressions

I love the GUI and work flow which is very straightforward yet extremely flexible. I’m a big fan of FM synthesis and I’m really glad Madrona chose this type of synthesis with it’s straight-forward “patcher” modulation architecture. It’s an immediate and transparent approach to FM with a huge range of sonic and rhythmic possibilities.

The gate feature offers the possibility of creating and modulating drones without MIDI input. It is such a simple idea and I'm loving creating self-triggering rhythmic patterns.

My personal experience was that I groked the synth almost immediately and then started patching new sounds from “default” within the first hour of use.


I like sound quite a bit and the factory patches are unusual and inspiring. Note they are not huge “workstation” type sounds and while there is a reverb and a waveguide / delay module built-in, Madrona assumes you are going to bring your favorite fx plugins to the table.

“Subjectively speaking, Aalto can make a wide range of soundsAalto can make a wide range of soundsfrom lush to edgy, including some very complicated ones, without sounding too thick in a mix. Aalto's sounds are not hyped or confined, they are wide-range, open and natural. We hope our approach will appeal to experienced sound designers who have their own favorite EQs and limiters. And for those just getting into synthesis, Aalto is an accurate and honest tool for learning. We have tried to make Aalto a deep instrument that will reward lasting engagement.”


If you are a seasoned sound designer you’ll enjoy the immediate interface, sonic possibilities and work flow.

If you are newer to programming yet ready to branch out beyond subtractive synthesis, you can’t go wrong with Aalto. The price is right and there are a good amount of sample patches to learn from.

If you are a composer looking for some very unique sounds to add to your palette, Aalto is worth a look as well.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer
Official Web Site:
Listen/Download Albums:

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Robert Edgar's Simultaneous Opposites Engine in Max/Msp/Jitter


Have you ever wanted to look over the shoulder of someone who's spent multiple years programming and refining a custom application with Max/MSP/Jitter? Well you are in luck as artist Robert Edgar kindly agreed a let me record a behind-the-scenes walk through of his "Simultaneous Opposites Engine" app when I was visiting Sunnyvale last April.

He describes the app as "a performance/navigation system for real-time traversal of existing video files, sorting through the audio and video a single frame at a time, in an arrhythmic spiraling motion". While this is not a commercial application, watching the interview will not only give you insights into Robert's innovative work, but will also give you a sense as to why people choose to program their own apps and how they use technologies like Cycling 74's to solve problems and express their art.

After the interview video I've embedded a few example videos to show some of Robert's recent work. I've included a link to his Vimeo channel at the bottom of the post which you should definitely checkout as it's the home of over 60 videos created by Robert over the last few years allowing you to see the progression of the technology and the art. I recommend you view all videos full screen and HD.

Watch embedded video


Flower Beds: Simultaneous Opposites #62 from Robert Edgar on Vimeo.

Simultaneous Opposites #59: Dirty Bubbles from Robert Edgar on Vimeo.



Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer
Official Web Site:
Listen/Download Albums:

Review of The Novation UltraNova & MiniNova Synthesizer's Effects Processor

Update 11/22/21015: The information in this post can also be applied to the MiniNova - although the screens may look slightly different in the editor.

I’ve been working with the UltraNova for a few weeks now and just spent some quality time working with effects. I can tell you that the effects section is simply superb both in depth, modulation, real-time control, and the fact that you can use up to 5 effects on a patch!

The Upside of Being Mono-Timbral

Novation has taken some heat for not going multi-timbral with the UltraNova. One upside to this is they can use all the processing power to maintain fidelity and polyphony even when all 5 effects processor are being used. Many of the effects parameters can even be modulation targets and controlled in real-time as well.

Effect Types

The UltraNova supports the following effects types which can be added freely to empty FX slots.

  1. EQ
  2. Compressor 1,2
  3. Distortion 1,2
  4. Delay 1,2
  5. Reverb 1,2
  6. Chorus 1,2,3,4
  7. Gator

You’ll note that there are multiple instances of some effects like “Delay 1,2”. For these effects you use one instance per slot. For example, you can use the single EQ in one slot, Delay 1, and Delay 2 in two different slots on so on.

8 Routing Algorithms


There are 8 FX routing algorithms which are quite strong when compared to many hardware synths- even those at higher price points. These routing options rival some options I’ve even seen in some soft synths. The algorithms allow for a wide variety of of sound shaping possibilities including some algorithms with feedback (see screen shot above). As you can see each effect has parameters, gain and an overall output parameter.

Routings In Use

Just to give you an example of how simply changing routing can change the sound of a patch I’ve created a sound that uses “Distortion 1” in Slot 1 and “Delay 1” in Slot 2. In the screen shot below I use “Routing 1”. When a key  is pressed, you’ll hear the signal routed through distortion and the signal entering the delay is clean.


By simply changing to “Routing 2” both the note on, and the audio being sent into the delay will be distorted as the signal runs in series.


Selecting “Routing 2” sends feedback from Slot 2 back to Slot 1. You can see in the screenshot below that I’ve cranked up “Feedback” which will produce nastier and nastier delays with more repeats going through the circuit without changing delay settings.


Here is a small audio clip I’ve recorded to demonstrate this idea. Effects Routing Test by MarkMosher

Modulation Friendly FX Parameters

Parameters like delay time can be modulation targets. In this case, changing delay time would produce pitch shifting effects. Novation took some extra care in this department and added  a “Slew Rate” allowing you to smooth out the jump between pitches.


Here is what it sounds like: Delay Time Slew Rate Test by MarkMosher

Vocoder, Process Incoming Audio, and More

The UltraNova has both a Vocoder and the ability to process incoming audio through the synthesizer engine. I’ll save these topics and more info on the deep effects processor for future posts.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer