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A modular build with Thor

Published: 2017-09-09

Welcome back to an idea I had in my mind to do for a very long time. I did something similar while making a 4-Operator FM synthesizer in Reason. While that concept was never finished (because it was way to time consuming to set it up). Also because it had bad reception on the PUF back then, I decided to ditch the whole idea on creating a polyphonic 4-Operator FM synth. While last week there was this additional spark again to create a different set up. And this set up was initialized by the idea on the Xpander build I did last week. The Xpander synthesizer was based on 6 oscillators and where every oscillator has their own position on the Notch Filter.

While I was having this idea in my mind, I thought to myself: what if you will do this per note. While thinking about this setup I thought like: isn't this similar as the 4-Operator FM Synth I did in the past? But every note can have its own notch filter while doing so? The answer to that question would be: yes!

The first concept

The first concept that came to mind was building this as an engine first, then test case the options here and see if I ran in to problems (which I did, I will get back to that one). So the initial concept was to create a Thor Audio listener per note. This is done by setting up Thor as followed:

Thor as a Filter unit

This is a Thor as a Filter setup in Propellerhead Reason. The audio will be passed on to the filter 3 slot.

The most important note on this setup is that the device will become a mono phonic trigger (even while it has polyphonic as a mode). The audio will then pass on to the Audio input 1 and Audio input 2 while is will send the audio through the Filter 3. The Global envelope will then act as an Envelope Generator to create movement in the filter itself. The Midi Gate to Global envelope is added to make the Global envelope to trigger the envelope once the key gets triggered. By default this will always be the case because it listens in to all the notes that are being triggered.

While I was thinking 'modular', I added this gate trigger because this device would later be used on a single note per device. This later on lead me to use the combinator to program it all

Thor as a Filter inside a combinator

When looking at the programmer of the combinator you can manually select the keyboard range on which an instrument can be mapped towards. The idea that went through my mind is to have a single instance of Thor to be mapped to a single key. While there are around 120 keys... this means that this device actually has 120 Thor patches. And yes... I had to manually set all those mappings one by one. This was a large task (since it took almost 2 hours in total just to create the engine alone).

The initial idea and where things went wrong

While I was working on my first build, the idea here was to use a single instance of an NN-XT device to pass on to the monophonic triggers of the Thor patches. While I was working my ways through splitting a single NN-XT up into 120 audio paths... it started to hit me half way around: if I trigger a three finger chord that chord will be thrown at 3 instances of Thor at the same time!

So... my solution to this problem was to use a single instance per note as well to make it work

The solution of the first build

This kind of lead to the solution of the first build, and I think this is the part where people will not use this idea at all. Because well... it contains 240 Thor patches to start with. The solution I went for is to use a chain from Thor (as an instrument) to Thor as a Filter.

Thor as Filter modular

The first Thor acts like an instrument (on a monophonic setup). The audio gets passed on to the second Thor. In theory this means that you can use 4 different filter slots if you like. This will result in to a unique type of setup to begin with. The major benefit (as I was thinking to begin with) is that every note can / could have its own set of LFO rates / Filter settings and so on PER NOTE. Yeah, plug that stuff in there as well while we are at it.

Because all those audio chains are merged in their own separate mixers I had this 'crazy' idea on to set up a chain of effects per note as well. I mean, if you are going to redefine synthesis... why not do this in style.

Thor as a Filter effects

This is a part on 14 notes that have different effects per note. Which quite an awesome trade if you think about the amount of options here. The only downside to it, it gets a bit of a CPU hit while doing this. 

Anyway, with this all brought on the table, I thought I would just share my initial patch I have been creating in the last 48 Hours now. It has become a rather big build, and I don't think I have ever seen anything like it either. The down side to this setup is that it gets hard to main it per note. Since in theory you can alter this device per note if you want to... which was kind of the idea, but I also see the drawback to this.

Enjoy the Combinator patch

Download Monophonic Thor per Note


Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-09-09

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11 Sep 2017 


I'm not sure if it's how you've set up the combi, but I'm getting a louder note (without filter?) on C#5 and A#7... The rest are very quiet, but it's got a subtle complex sound.Amazing work! 2 bars on the dsp meter for me, proving that the Thor is coded so very well.

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