The Dispossessed — a four-voice sinister drone synth

Built around four square wave oscillators, looping envelopes, ring modulation, an odd ping-pong delay, and a LOT of FM, the Dispossessed is great for producing pulsing, rhythmic cacophony.

The basic premise is four square wave-based voices, which can FM one another (in a ring configuration) and themselves. They are shaped by looping envelopes, which can be spaced out to create more complex rhythms. The output of these voices goes into a ring mod, which can produce everything from complex tonalities, to atonal klangs, to tremolo-like sounds. After passing through a low-pass filter to shape the timbre of the output, they enter a ping-pong delay, but one side of the delay can be shortened proportionally to the total delay time, allowing for odd, uneven echoes.

The patch is capable of producing everything from washes of sound (which, to be honest, sort of sound like the background of an mbv song — almost like waves of guitar feedback), to weird rhythmic buzzing (try sending the oscillators into sub-audio ranges), to peculiar arpeggios and percussion (from spacing out the envelope loops). It’s not for everyone — droners gonna drone, but that’s what makes them droners — but if you’re into weird, noisy soundscapes, you might want to check it out.

The output of the patch is stereo.


Each of the voices have individual controls over some things:

Pitch — sets the pitch of the voice (can be a positive or negative value — negative values are great for exploring shuffling rhythms).

FM mod rate — sets the rate of a sine wave LFO that controls the connection between oscillators in the ring FM network (ring as in: oscillator 1 FMs oscillator 2, oscillator 2 FMs oscillator 3…. oscillator 4 FMs oscillator 1, in a big, chaotic circle). This sine wave’s depth is randomly modulated each cycle to add a little spice to the proceedings.

Envelope shape — this controls the shape of the exponential, looping envelope. At 0, it is a pure decay envelope. At 1, it is a pure attack envelope. At points in between, it can be a mix of both

Envelope time — this controls the overall time or length of the envelope, from ~3 ms to 60 milliseconds. At very short times, additional AM modulation is produced. At longer times, the voices swell and fade much more subtly

Spacing — this introduces a delay between the envelope cycles, from 0ms (continuously cycling envelopes, similar to an LFO) up to 8 seconds between each envelope cycle. Using this, you can introduce more complex rhythmic elements into the patch

Level — sets the level (you can use this to mute voices, but their effects will still be heard through the FM network, which can be fun to play with)

Each voice also has a pixel that represents its present amplitude (scaled by the envelope and level amount)

There are also some global controls for the voices:

FM mod amount — controls the intensity of the ring FM network

FM floor — raises the minimum amount of FM by a static, unmodulated amount

Feedback — controls the amount of FM feedback each oscillator sends into its own FM input

Amp floor — raises the minimum amount of amplitude passed by the output VCAs (as it is raised, the looping envelopes clip; at an amp floor of 1, the envelopes have no effect as each voice is passed unmodulated)

There are also some effects, which impact all of the voices:

LPF frequency — this controls a low-pass filter. The patch produces a lot of buzzing and high harmonic content, so this can be very useful for shaping the timbre of the patch

Ring mod freq — this sets the frequency of the ring modulation all voices pass through. At audio frequencies, it produces traditional ring mod sounds — reinforcing some frequencies and clashing with others. At sub-audio frequencies, it adds an additional layer of amplitude modulation (stereo tremolo sounds)

Ring mod mix — controls the mix of the ring mod

Delay time — this controls the maximum delay time of the ping-pong delay. The connection to the delays is slewed, so adjusting the delay time can produce interesting pitch artifacts

R delay offset — you can offset the right side of the ping-pong delay, to produce uneven ping-ponging, as one side is shorter than the other. The control represents a percentage of the total delay time, set by the previous control, so an offset of .75 would create a right delay 3/4ths the length of the left delay

Delay feedback — pretty straight forward

Delay mix — also pretty straight forward

Delay mod depth — introduces a stereo modulation to the delays; I picked a rate (~.7 Hz) that I think works well for a lot of situations, but you can adjust the rate on the page labeled “Delay mod”

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  • Category: Sound Synthesizer
  • Revision: 1.0
  • License: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0
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  • Modified: 2 weeks ago
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