An Aliasing-Free Hybrid Digital-Analog Polyphonic Synthesizer

Jonas Roth; Domenic Keller; Oscar Castañeda; Christoph Studer
DAFx-2023 - Copenhagen
Analog subtractive synthesizers are generally considered to provide superior sound quality compared to digital emulations. However, analog circuitry requires calibration and suffers from aging, temperature instability, and limited flexibility in generating a wide variety of waveforms. Digital synthesis can mitigate many of these drawbacks, but generating arbitrary aliasing-free waveforms remains challenging. In this paper, we present the + −synth, a hybrid digital-analog eight-voice polyphonic synthesizer prototype that combines the best of both worlds. At the heart of the synthesizer is the big Fourier oscillator (BFO), a novel digital very-large scale integration (VLSI) design that utilizes additive synthesis to generate a wide variety of aliasing-free waveforms. Each BFO produces two voices, using four oscillators per voice. A single oscillator can generate up to 1024 freely configurable partials (harmonic or inharmonic), which are calculated using coordinate rotation digital computers (CORDICs). The BFOs were fabricated as 65 nm CMOS custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which are integrated in the + −synth to simultaneously generate up to 32 768 partials. Four 24-bit 96 kHz stereo DACs then convert the eight voices into the analog domain, followed by digitally controlled analog low-pass filtering and amplification. Measurement results of the + −synth prototype demonstrate high fidelity and low latency.