Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Kieran Murphy 

BA [Hons] Creative Music Production

Musician with roots in folk and traditional Irish music, With a passion for audio synthesis. Transitioning from music production into a career in creative electronics and audio programming. Currently working as Lead Technical Sales and Innovation Specialist for RS Components.

Project Description

An emerging industry is based on developing modular Analog synthesisers, once taught to be obsolete technology, it is now making a revival. The revival of Analog synthesis has been well documented by fans but it possesses the question as to why.

The subculture movement seems to have a bias towards Analog synthesisers, however, Digital emulations of the classics have greatly improved in recent years. Can the average synthesiser user hear the difference between Analog and Digital subtractive synthesis?

This project highlights previous research on the synthesiser subculture and the history of Analog synthesisers, as well as the developments in Virtual Analog emulations.

Documenting a dual development process of two subtractive instruments, One in the Digital domain and one in the Analog. Several methods are put to the test in an A/B listening test to determine if the users can hear the difference.

Project Objectives

The main objectives of this thesis were to develop an Analog Subtractive synthesiser and program a Digital counterpart using Max MSP.

The resulting builds were used to produce samples used in an A/B listening test to determine if the user could hear the difference. The survey also presented a verbal associate question to determine the most common adjectives used to describe audio.

Project Outcomes

A dual development was completed and the effectiveness was proved in the listening test. What the results show us is that most synthesiser users given the option prefer Analog synthesis to Digital. However, in a blind listening test, the participants were unsuccessful in picking out which sample was Analog.

The survey also confirmed previous research in the field. Proving that "warmth" is the most commonly used adjective to describe Analog equipment.

Audio quality will no longer be the main selling point between Analog and Digital. Instead, users may prioritise their relationships to the instruments and their tactile nature. Digital emulations are possible, and the Analog model produced the desired "Warmth" characteristics, according to the survey.

Thesis Title

Is the synthesiser community’s preference for Analog equipment justifiable, Can the average user hear the difference between Analog and Digital Subtractive Synthesis.