Polyphony vs. Paraphony

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
User avatar
S0lo
KVRian
664 posts since 31 Dec, 2008

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:16 am

Might be a d*mb question but I'll try anyway.

I'm aware of the technical differences between the two (well, I should). But I would love to hear a musicians perspective of why and for what would they choose one instead of the other.

And, let me put this in another way. If you had two identical subtractive synths. Exactly the same architecture. Except that one of them is a poly and the other is para. When would you choose the para over the poly?
Last edited by S0lo on Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
beely
KVRAF
1656 posts since 6 Jul, 2013

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:52 am

Polyphony = awesome
Paraphony = sucky compromise for when we couldn't afford polyphony

That's not to say sucky compromises cannot be used creatively - they can. But it's still a sucky compromise...

User avatar
jancivil
KVRAF
17571 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:33 pm

Before we get into that choice, do you understand why someone would use a monophonic synth over a polyphonic synth? Let's pretend 'same architecture' or at least same osc/filter/envelope for sound design purposes.

Then: is it really something we can sort as an abstraction, or do we need to look at specifics and what people do with it.

I mean I've actually seen people here not grasp that monophony is not just a sacrifice of polyphony.

elassi
KVRAF
2143 posts since 8 Sep, 2009

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:46 pm

jancivil wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:33 pm
...monophony is not just a sacrifice of polyphony.
:clap:

User avatar
S0lo
KVRian
664 posts since 31 Dec, 2008

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:02 pm

jancivil wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:33 pm
monophony is not just a sacrifice of polyphony.
There is no doubt about that.

User avatar
jancivil
KVRAF
17571 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:18 pm

So, is there a desire to have the differently triggered notes be the same exact chain of processing at the same time? I would think maybe so, albeit it doesn't seem like a terrifically attractive use case for me. It appears to come from the days where full polyphony was too expensive to develop in a hardware synth. I haven't given it much thought tbh.

User avatar
beely
KVRAF
1656 posts since 6 Jul, 2013

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:43 pm

jancivil wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:18 pm
It appears to come from the days where full polyphony was too expensive to develop in a hardware synth.
Exactly.

User avatar
Tj Shredder
KVRAF
2037 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:46 pm

In the old days my first own synth was a Korg Poly 800. A velocity sensitive keyboard was too expensive and it had only one filter for all the voices. But that way I could still play dynamically. If I played legato and the filter would open with a slow attack, it got louder, if I played stackato it would not open that wide and it would be softer... It led to a performance style of its own, which was not possible with the more sofisticated synths... That way you simply get something different. Its never about better, its about does it fit your style...

User avatar
jancivil
KVRAF
17571 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:18 pm

Well, there you go

User avatar
ChamomileShark
KVRian
1418 posts since 12 May, 2004 from Oxford, UK

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:47 am

well I learnt something, I didn't know that the Poly 800 had a paraphonic mode. From Wikipedia

"It featured one analog resonant low-pass VCF with 24 dB/oct which was shared for all voices. Like a monophonic synthesizer, the filter was switchable between single or multiple modes. In single mode, the first key pressed triggers the filter envelope, and unless all keys are released, the filter does not re-trigger. In multi mode, each key pressed in turn triggers the filter envelope, even if other keys are still pressed down."

I agree in the old days paraphonic was a way of reducing cost but also technical problems of having to "tune" multiple filters. The same went for having divide down oscillators rather than multiple oscillators as a way of achieving polyphony.

I can't remember any "proper synths" that were paraphonic (maybe the Monopoly? and unless you counted simply detuning a dual oscillator mono) but many (all?) of the original string machines had just the one filter and envelope.

As TJ says that results in different dynamics.

User avatar
beely
KVRAF
1656 posts since 6 Jul, 2013

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:46 am

Both the Oscar and Odyssey could play the two oscillators from the keyboard independently, through the one filter section, so while they are thought of as monosynths, they do have limited paraphonic capabilities of two notes. There were various early synth/string machines that were paraphonic as well...

User avatar
Delta Sign
KVRian
654 posts since 22 Jun, 2018

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:29 am

Yeah, I think there was a keyboard for the 2600 that allowed for paraphonic/duophnic playing as well, if I remember correctly.

Ah_Dziz
KVRAF
2487 posts since 2 Jul, 2005

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:56 am

Paraphonic gives a whole different sound. I could see how it could be preferable in some cases. Imagine having made a nice complex sound with a poly synth and then running it through a chain of effects. That chain acts as the later parts of a paraphonic setup. People do this all the time because they want a whole group of notes processed together. It’s a very standard use case with the only difference being that the further processing is outside the unit creating the sound. This is not even taking into account the use of a divide down sytem to achieve full polyphony and the resulting sound of that with everyone having common phase etc.
Don't F**K with Mr. Zero.

Lotuzia
KVRAF
9976 posts since 19 Feb, 2004 from Paris

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:29 am

Paraphonic was almost always associated to TOD oscillators (top octave dividers) in ancient times. String machines like Solina, or the PolyMoog are some examples, Also Roland Vocoder VP330 string section and rs505, wich might have been the 1st paraphonic unit -not sure of that though) ).

Why use them ? Because they simply sound different, and have different playing modes/techniques as well.

Here are a few examples from the PolyM (Xils-Lab Polymoog emulation)( better watched in HD)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rka0f0R1OsE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNX4K_6lHR0
http://www.lelotusbleu.fr Synth Presets

77 Exclusive Soundbanks for 23 synths, 8 Sound Designers, Hours of audio Demos. The Sound you miss might be there

User avatar
beely
KVRAF
1656 posts since 6 Jul, 2013

Re: Polyphony vs. Paraphony

Post Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:08 am

Ah_Dziz wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:56 am
Imagine having made a nice complex sound with a poly synth and then running it through a chain of effects. That chain acts as the later parts of a paraphonic setup. People do this all the time because they want a whole group of notes processed together.
I get the analogy, but as you know it's not quite the same thing. A paraphonic synth is one where the synth can be played polyphonically to some degree, but whereas a polyphonic synth has the full synth sound engine for each note, a paraphonic synth does not have the same full synth sound engine for each note.

For synths, typically this meant - with the Korg Poly 800 being a great example - that "we couldn't afford to put in eight filters, one for each note (and eight filter envelope generators), so instead we just put one in there and sum the oscillators through it." This means that each voice cannot articulate independently - eg the filter settings, and the filter envelope generator are shared across all voices. It was *always* done as a compromise in synths as a way of getting some polyphony without doing it "properly" (because of the costs involved).

Now, in the case of the OSCar of Odyssey, it's can't really be viewed as a compromised polyphonic synth, as they were always intended to be mono synths. It's more like an extra feature that can be used to get some extra techniques and playing effects. So in these cases, it's simply an extra feature to be used (or not).

But for something like the Poly 800, it is *purely* a compromise for cost reasons, that severely limits the things that you can do (as each voice cannot speak independently), but, as I mentioned above, can still be used creatively (as can everything, of course.)

In anything other than monosynths (and I still consider the Mono/Poly really to be a monosynth, albeit with some interesting and unique features), I view paraphony as "undesirable", and far less useful than "proper" polysynths.

These days, of course, with so many things in software, it's more of a choice than a compromise, as we are not so bound by hardware limitations, so it doesn't matter now nearly as much as it did back in the day...

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