Subtractor can do wicked synth bass, and.......

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Theo.M
Posts: 1100
Joined: 16 Jan 2015

Post 30 Mar 2024

So....
I have been playing around all day with the synth that started it all, subtractor.

I understand that it is known for certain shortcomings and is over 20 years old, but I have been studying synth sound design lately and that's a really easy synth to learn on. What surprised me is that it can sound really good for filler pads for example, or even the main bass - this is how I did it though. The bass I was using sounded "fine" but needed a bit more meat. It's kind of in between sub and low bass.

I will tell you now that the secret sauce is pretty much Softube's FET Mk1 with look ahead enabled.

There's no other 1176 plugin that can tame peaks like it can, not UAD, nada, and I have been using the Softube one for 9 years (well, besides my 5 year break in between when I stopped music lol).

But, because you can also high pass the detection circuit, you can fatten up the bass something stupid without introducing any clicks (unless you want them of course, different tools for different jobs). It also has parallel compression. Softube really said "to heck with the purists, we are going to take the best aspects of the real hardware and actually make use of digital options" - to this day it's my favourite FET compressor bar none, I am not even going to bother to upgrade to V2 even when I can afford it as V1 is perfect as it is.

Everything else I used was 100% free.

First, was a free Pultec VST (Kiive Audio Warmy EP1A) where I boosted and cut at 60 and also added a touch of high frequency, a touch, at 8K.

Then I used the free opto compressor for some slowish compression (slow attack, fast to medium release) with just a couple DB of gain reduction, Analog Obsession LALA.
(Another very good FREE one is the ADHD levelling tool and that is also one of those ones with lots of extra features).

Then I added Softube saturation knob (Plugin version is still free, go get it, although I am not sure, can you still get the RE version)?
The bias of the sat knob is set to low and I drove it to jus BEFORE you can start hearing audible distortion, then volume matched, which the Softube VST/AU/AAX versions can now do for all their plugins actually with one button press.

Then the final bit of sauce, the Softube FET with 1ms look ahead, fast attack, fast release, 200hz high pass in the detection circuit, a 4:1 ratio and about 4DB of compression.

The before and after is quite marked (and only in a positive way) at the same peak volume, and it actually sounds not only good, but great, the exact bass I was after.

I want to mess around with Wavesfactory Trackspacer (the best priced of the spectral auto duckers and I recommend it to everyone who likes easy workflow and an equally easy way to create mix space) now as I have never side chained in Reason before and have to work out how to do it, as I really need to make room for the kick. I am using EDEN trial for the drums, it's actually pretty darn good but I can't afford it right now so will enjoy it for another 3 weeks.

The main reason I created this topic is that the subtractor uses 0 cpu, hence you can go nuts and stack 20 of them and be fine on a modest PC. When I say 0, I mean 0 (like 0.01%). With Reason 12's rack device cpu load display features, even playing super long release pads and setting subtractor's polyphony to the maximum of 99 showed precisely 0%. Yes, 0%.13th gen intel laptop.
It's simply more capable than I ever gave it credit for and deserves some dedicated tweaking as it has many real uses when you need something fast. BTW, this was at 96K also. Amazing how the thing just won't use CPU! It's CPU cycle allergic hehe.

My point is, if you need something light on resources and quick to dial in, I actually think the Subtractor is underrated!

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NMHindman
Posts: 112
Joined: 14 Oct 2021

Post 30 Mar 2024

Agreed! I wish RS would make Mach II versions of Subtractor and Thor, with just a couple modern features added, like stereo spread, unison, etc.. I have combinators set up for these things, which is a bit cumbersome and interrupts the work flow. But once achieved... indeed Subtractor (and Thor) sound fantastic, and I'd often prefer them over the more modern (and CPU intensive) synths, even Serum. How they achieved that with no CPU hit is truly remarkable; seems like we've gone backwards. I've never used Sylenth, but guessing it's in the same realm, -still competitive sound and minimal CPU hit.

mind2069
Posts: 137
Joined: 21 Jan 2015

Post 31 Mar 2024

If you master post processing like saturation, distortion, compression, EQ, delay, reverb, as a base and add many other effects, you can make most synth sound pretty good, like with bass, adding a bass exciter does help a lot.

Like you said, these synths with minor modern add-ons like spread and unison, with proper post processing would be quite nice

Add spread and unison to Thor, and a proper mixer for the 3 oscillators (independent level and panning) and things would be a lot better.

Abstrax
Posts: 177
Joined: 16 Jan 2015

Post 31 Mar 2024

Theo.M wrote:
30 Mar 2024
The main reason I created this topic is that the subtractor uses 0 cpu, hence you can go nuts and stack 20 of them and be fine on a modest PC. When I say 0, I mean 0 (like 0.01%). With Reason 12's rack device cpu load display features, even playing super long release pads and setting subtractor's polyphony to the maximum of 99 showed precisely 0%. Yes, 0%.13th gen intel laptop.
It's simply more capable than I ever gave it credit for and deserves some dedicated tweaking as it has many real uses when you need something fast. BTW, this was at 96K also. Amazing how the thing just won't use CPU! It's CPU cycle allergic hehe.

My point is, if you need something light on resources and quick to dial in, I actually think the Subtractor is underrated!
i sometimes use subtractor for the cpu reasons too. it's annoying as hell to set it up, but 0 cpu is 0 cpu lol. make a simple lead sound, and duplicate it 5x in a combinator. most ppl already know to detune and pan the copies for that unison sound. but i stole the way algoritm's unison works and also add delay the copies. even just 1-8 milliseconds 100% wet and it just sounds huge

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NMHindman
Posts: 112
Joined: 14 Oct 2021

Post 31 Mar 2024

Abstrax wrote:
31 Mar 2024
i sometimes use subtractor for the cpu reasons too. it's annoying as hell to set it up, but 0 cpu is 0 cpu lol. make a simple lead sound, and duplicate it 5x in a combinator. most ppl already know to detune and pan the copies for that unison sound. but i stole the way algoritm's unison works and also add delay the copies. even just 1-8 milliseconds 100% wet and it just sounds huge
Thanks for sharing that, -eager to try the micro-delay idea...

User avatar
Theo.M
Posts: 1100
Joined: 16 Jan 2015

Post 01 Apr 2024

Abstrax wrote:
31 Mar 2024
Theo.M wrote:
30 Mar 2024
The main reason I created this topic is that the subtractor uses 0 cpu, hence you can go nuts and stack 20 of them and be fine on a modest PC. When I say 0, I mean 0 (like 0.01%). With Reason 12's rack device cpu load display features, even playing super long release pads and setting subtractor's polyphony to the maximum of 99 showed precisely 0%. Yes, 0%.13th gen intel laptop.
It's simply more capable than I ever gave it credit for and deserves some dedicated tweaking as it has many real uses when you need something fast. BTW, this was at 96K also. Amazing how the thing just won't use CPU! It's CPU cycle allergic hehe.

My point is, if you need something light on resources and quick to dial in, I actually think the Subtractor is underrated!
i sometimes use subtractor for the cpu reasons too. it's annoying as hell to set it up, but 0 cpu is 0 cpu lol. make a simple lead sound, and duplicate it 5x in a combinator. most ppl already know to detune and pan the copies for that unison sound. but i stole the way algoritm's unison works and also add delay the copies. even just 1-8 milliseconds 100% wet and it just sounds huge
Great idea, thanks!

User avatar
Theo.M
Posts: 1100
Joined: 16 Jan 2015

Post 01 Apr 2024

mind2069 wrote:
31 Mar 2024
If you master post processing like saturation, distortion, compression, EQ, delay, reverb, as a base and add many other effects, you can make most synth sound pretty good, like with bass, adding a bass exciter does help a lot.

Like you said, these synths with minor modern add-ons like spread and unison, with proper post processing would be quite nice

Add spread and unison to Thor, and a proper mixer for the 3 oscillators (independent level and panning) and things would be a lot better.
The thing is, even with the processing chain I mentioned, it was still using less CPU than something like Monark (a LOT less).

I am actually saving my ass off to buy freqtube, that's my next bucket list, as it's totally ITB integration wise and has real knobs for editing and sounds absolutely wicked, being real analog tubes. It can only do 4 channels at once but it's priced very reasonably compared to alternatives like the MCDSP (which doesn't have tubes anyway).
Bass is the sort of thing I'd use that on constantly, and drums too I guess, oh and a vocal here and there.

I like Thor a lot, always have, but it's complex to program. I think a single instance of Thor is also very low cpu and can do very many sounds.

ChulaCoola
Posts: 141
Joined: 25 May 2023
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Post 01 Apr 2024

I like to break out Subtractor when trying out my newly acquired devices like effects, etc. It is just my go to synth. It is the easiest one for me to remember and find, has a clean default sound I don't need to change and I can often use to see what different effects sound like and do.
Music lover/explorer extraordinaire, guitar player fair, and still have my hair at 60.

Abstrax
Posts: 177
Joined: 16 Jan 2015

Post 15 Apr 2024

this is late, but i thought of another couple things subtractor is good for.

I was making neuro basses with randomly generated filter/eq movement. Subtractor's LFO worked the best for a smooth sample n hold and zero cpu. 15 separate subtractor LFO's into all 5 peak filters in GQ7. One for every Freq, Q, and Gain. It can get crazy if you over do it lol

Also, if you have blamsoft distributor, make a bunch of slightly different copies of a patch. this is a similar situation where its annoying to set up but it sounds way better then just 1

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