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The malstrom as a filter

Published: 2017-09-16

In this Propellerhead Reason tutorial we'll be looking at using the Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer as a Filter unit for the Reason Rack. While you either use Thor in such a way there are still plenty of reasons why the malstrom is my favorite choice in certain situations. The limitation on this synthesizer however is that it has the Low Pass Filter 12 dB per octave, the Band Pass Filter, the Comb filters and an additional AM filter. While if you compare this with Thor the Polysonic synthesizer this beast case with an additional Low Pass Ladder Filter, the Notch filter, Peak Filter and the additional Formant Filter.

The very main reason why the Malstrom is ideal in certain situation is the workflow on how to set it up. Because the synthesizer based on granular synthesis does not have any additional remote programmer (unlike Thor). so everything you'll need is on the screen real estate without having to punch additional panel to open something that is hidden in the device itself. Another handy trick is that the filters can be enabled / disabled with a click of a button (which can be suitable for automation switches). While in theory Thor does allow the ability to swap its filter type the device sometimes starts to add weird transient pops while doing so. Comparing this with the Malstrom it has less of those trade marks.

I might add I have already covered this subject some time ago, however in this article I would like to take the concept a few steps further.

The Malstrom and the Filter

Lets say you have the following scenario: you have a Dr Rex Loop player and you want this thing go through a Malstrom as a Filter unit. How do we do this? The answer quite simple:

  • Create a Dr Octro rex
  • Press and Hold Shift while adding an additional Malstrom
  • Press Tab (toggle to the Rear of the Rack of Reason)
  • Connect the audio output from the OctoRex to the audio input of the Malstrom
  • Connect the audio output from the Malstrom in a Mix channel (or if you have it inside a Combinator use the audio inputs)

Mastrom as a Filter in Reason

These are 4 or 5 basic steps. While in theory the Dr OctoRex does come with its build in Notch, HP, BP and LP filter, the next question would be: why on earth would you do this?

The Malstrom and its applicable use 

There are 2 major benefits behind daisy chaining the instruments in such a way. First of all there the option of using 32 different Low Frequency oscillator patterns. This allows you to use different curves (which can be altered in real time by the way) while manipulating the sound output using different filters. You can also (if needed) add additional chains going from one malstrom to the next while modulating the filters in a different way. Thus creating your own unique custom made modulating filter bank while doing so.

In case you have asked your self how I am creating those weird tripping effects using filter: the answer is in the above paragraph.

The set up for changing the filter using an LFO requires 2 things at minimum:

  • Set an amount on the Mod B to Filter amount
  • have the spread all the way open to 127

This is the very basic setup using Malstrom as a Filter in Propellerhead Reason

Malstrom as a Filter

The Malstrom and Additional Notch Equalizers

While in theory the Malstrom only lacks the touch of a Notch filter. There are however easy ways to set that one up with out any programming skills. We require only the following steps to get a Notch filter (and customize this later) using the following:

  • Create an MClass Equalizer
  • Reduce the gain on either EQ-1 or EQ-2
  • Set the filter frequency appropriate

And that is partially it. The benefit by using a notch filter in this context (vs for instance the Thor Notch Filter) is that you have an additional setting called "Q" to determine how wide the notch filter can be. Remember, a higher Q setting will narrow down the amount of frequencies an Equalizer cuts while a higher Q will increase the amount of different frequencies that will be touched by the MClass Equalizer in Reason.

The major benefit as a whole is that you have different ways to reshape the sound in different angles while making changes either in the Frequency of the Notch (in this particular context). You also can alter the Q (make it wider or narrow it down) with different algorithms. If you would use a different signal path over left vs right (using filter A over left with an own MClass unit and a Filter B over right with an own MClass unit) you can create an additional space artifact while manipulating the audio chain.

Different situation with using the MClass unit is using on the different audio channels over left and right. While one MClass unit can then be used to focus on the Filter A section while the second one focuses on the right channel. This will require two MClass units. Where the audio path will travel for Filter A to one MClass Equalizer while Filter B will go to another MClass Equalizer.

MClass Notch Filter

Download MClass Notch Filter

The filter chain from one filter to another

Another trick I often use in context of using the Malstrom as a filter is chaining one filter to another. Because this device has most of the applicable filters we need to manipulate audio it is therefor pretty ideal as a custom filter bank by altering the sound output in many different angles by flipping a switch. While the modulator (Mod B to filter) will normally have no effect on the sound output directly by enabling the filter the Mod B becomes active as well. If you think it like this then you can have your custom 'synchronous' set up done in just a few minutes straight (since it is kind of based on the same idea). 

One set up you could (as an idea) go for is using the following setup:

  • Set up the first filter as a band pass filter with a subtle motion on the modulation
  • set up a distortion unit after the bandpass (in this case the previous one will become a 'pre-filter'
  • set up another filter based on a low pass filter
  • add some custom delay setup using the Echo
  • add some reverb

and you are all set to enable / disable your custom type of synchronous device.

In theory you can set up an endless chain on filters and effects. And in this case we'll be going for a wide variety of different effects in a chain.

To make this chain complete you could do this all in a combinator patch. The setup could be going as the following steps.

  • Create an instrument (can be anything, I will go for a DrRex Loop)
  • Create a Combinator
  • Attach the combinator to the Dr Rex (if you use Reason 6 and higher you could use an insert effect instead)
  • Create a Malstrom inside the Combinator (auto routes the connection)
  • Disable the Oscillator A and Oscillator B (since we'll use this as filter unit in Reason)
  • Create 2 MClass units and route Filter A to Mclass unit one, while Filter B goes to MClass unit two.

For setting up the effect (and open them up using a toggle button I would use the Aux of a Mixer 6:2. Some effects do not always have a 'dry / wet' state (such as the scream 4 unit for instance). While using the Aux of the mixer 6:2 you have the option to always open up the effect. Where the aux is the amount in level on the effect chain. Make note this can also result in to a louder audio output (since we are using an effect in a parallel chain). So sometimes we need to tweak the level setting while doing this.

So to complete the task based on the above paragraph.

  • create a Mixer 6:2 in the combinator at the end of the chain
  • connect the Mclass units to the Left input and right output of the Mixer 6:2 channel 1

In this case the audio path will travel from Filter A (Left) to Mclass Equalizer one (left) to Mixer 6:2 left input and from Filter B(Right) to Mclass Equalizer two (right) to Mixer 6:2 right input.

  • Connect an effect as a send effect on the Mixer 6:2 (in this case I will go for a scream 4)
  • Create another effect chain by creating another Mixer 6:2
  • Create another Malstrom as a Filter effect (in this case I will go for a Comb Filter). This effect could be seen as the 'aft-filter' with a touch of delay
  • Connect a different effect to the Mixer 6:2 (I will go with the Echo)
  • Create another effect chain by creating another Mixer 6:2
  • Connect a different effect to the mixer 6:2 (I will go for the RV7000 Reverb)
  • Connect the audio output from the Mixer 6:2 to the audio input of the Combinator

In theory what we have been creating is a serial chain where the audio will go from a BandPass to a Distortion to a Low Pass Filter to a Delay (Echo) to a Reverb. By default the effect will be turned off. To achieve this we can disable the filters of both malstroms and we'll have to reset the Mclass units.

Malstrom as a Filter unit in Reason

Programming the Filter unit in Reason

There are different ways to program this, but as you can see on the screen shot above I am going to use a toggle button to enable / disable the effect. In theory you can take this in different angles. For instance you could (just adding different ideas) use the modwheel to alter the Filter, or use the pitch wheel to change the delay time of the Echo. In case the toggle button gets enabled you can then use different controls to reshape the sound output in different directions and angles. But first things first. The toggle button, this will be the most essential part to enable the audio effect.

In theory we'll be doing the following on the toggle button in this particular case:

  • The Filter A and Filter B gets enabled (which also applies the Mod B to Filter at the same time!)
  • Opening up the Aux effects on every mixer 6:2 we have (the output may vary per effect)
  • Adjust certain output levels on the Mixer 6:2 (just to prevent things from becoming too loud)
  • Drop the gain on the Notch Filters

Malstrom as a filter unit in Reason

This is the toggle button for the Filter. The only thing we'll be doing in this case is enable and disable the Filter. That is it really. The Mod B will take care of the rest.

For the second filter setup I will be using a gain reduction. Because the Filter type is set to Comb. The gain reduction will be handled by controlling the master output. By default the Malstrom is set to 90. To reduce it I will go to 80. Make note, every filter in these type of setups may require a different value. It kind of depends on which filter type your using combined with the amount of resonance that goes with it. The more resonance will also result can result in to a louder output. Just saying 

The Malstrom as a Filter in Reason

For the Scream 4 destruction unit I am using a Digital Effect that is quite overcooked. The digital effect has a damage amount of 127 (thus it can be rather hot at times). Since the same thing is applicable while using the Filter of the Malstrom in this case I am setting things up as followed:

Malstrom as a Filter in Reason

The button one will change the send effect amount while at the same time reduce the original level (which is different then controlling the master level just to be political correct). The gain reduction is needed in this case just to avoid any weird spikes we'll be getting from the digital effect. A precaution method would be adding an additional compressor (as a limiter) or a maximizer as a limiter. It is better to avoid limiting strategies, but if everything goes totally wrong (without knowing why it is happening) then limiting can be a solution. It is just a 'worse case scenario' solution more or less.

Malstrom as a Filter in Reason

While applying the same thing on the Echo there are some nice things you can do with the Echo as an Effect. By default it acts like a traditional digital effect. While you start making changes to the delay time and use a trigger to enable the roll effect (could be an LFO or Matrix pattern step sequencer) you have the ability to reshape the delay in different angles.

Malstrom as a Filter

Here is the last effect in the chain. The reverb is set to Echo with a lot of diffusion. While the sound gets muffled over time by using a Hi EQ damp method it there for does not really require that much of re-balancing in the sound output (I would guess at this point that a lot will also depend on the sound input as a source).

Right with that all being written down I will share you this Combinator patch for Propellerhead Reason drop an additional Reason 9.5 file that goes with it and start enjoying my weekend!

Download Effect Combinator

Download Reason 9.5 Song file (zip)

Enjoy!

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-09-16

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