Illustration: Gabe Alcala
Splice’s new Rent-to-Own synth offering, Future Audio Workshop’s Circle2, is a visually stunning and sonically engaging piece of kit. Among its other features, Circle2 boasts a new type of synthesis (called VPS synthesis) that is unique among commercially-available soft synths.
In this article, we explore what VPS synthesis is and show you how we created the lead sound of our Circle2 launch video.
You can also download the Circle2 Launch Video lead preset at the bottom of the article.
What is VPS synthesis
Although phase distortion synthesizers have existed since the 80s, VPS offers a new twist.
VPS (Vector Phaseshaping Synthesis) is a new type of synthesis developed by researchers at Aalto University in Finland and the National University of Ireland, and debuted by Future Audio Workshop as a new oscillator option within Circle2. Whereas traditional phase distortion synthesis involves manipulation of the x-axis position of the phase distortion function bending point, Vector Phaseshaping Synthesis allows sound designers to control the point in the waveform where phaseshaping occurs using two vectors: horizontal and vertical.
Circle2 allows artists to control these two vectors by using Vertical and Horizontal knobs to set the position of the phase distortion function bending point. In other words, VPS is similar to traditional phase distortion synthesis, but with added control over an entirely new dimension.
1. A sine wave represented on an oscilloscope. The y-axis represents amplitude, and the x-axis represents time.
2. Basic phase distortion synthesis. The bending point has moved along the x-axis.
3. VPS phase distortion using Circle2’s “Vertical” parameter.
Another way to understand VPS in the context of Circle2 is to imagine two sine waves being glued together, a modulator and a carrier. At 0% Horizontal and 0% Vertical, these two sine waves are glued together in the exact same position, resulting in an identical timbre to a standard sine wave oscillator. As you increase the Horizontal parameter, the waves are glued together farther apart from the origin, and as you increase the Vertical parameter, the modulator wave’s frequency increases.
Although you can model more traditional waveforms using VPS, this synthesis method really shines when making sounds like plucks, squelches, growls, and glitches. VPS can easily produce a bright, shiny digital sound with fascinating spectral characteristics, including prominent formants. Horizontal and vertical modulation also have their own distinct timbres.
Getting started with VPS in Circle2
It’s easy to get started designing your first VPS patch! VPS is useful for a wide range of synthesis applications and can sound good on its own or layered with other oscillators. Let’s design a patch from our Circle2 launch video together: