A paraphonic synth doesn’t operate in the same way as a polyphonic synth, such as a model of the COBALT or ARGON family or a SKULPTsynth SE. Typically, a paraphonic synthesiser has the same single circuitry or processing as a monophonic synthesiser but with pitch control on multiple oscillators, meaning you can play more than one note through the same amp, envelope, filter etc. That’s why some experts argue that paraphonic synthesisers are actually a subcategory of monophonic synths.
It isn’t always audibly apparent that a synth is paraphonic when using static filters. It becomes far more noticeable when using dynamic filters and processing (such as LFO’s and other modulations). When you start to play anything that is not in unison, you get a strange articulation; with a singular articulation structure for all notes. This leads to a one-dimensional sound experience, and you will be disappointed by the lack of depth and expression a paraphonic synth produces.
If you compare a polyphonic synth to a paraphonic synth, looking at just ‘voices’ can be misleading, as a paraphonic synth may be able to play more separate notes than a polyphonic synth. The real question is how many voices each synth can fully articulate; in this case, a true polyphonic synth will outperform a paraphonic synth every time.
Where does Modal Electronics stand on Paraphonic Synthesisers?
We at Modal Electronics believe that the benefits of true polyphonic synths outrun any paraphonic sibling’s sonic capabilities – part of the reason our small synths are associated with such big sounds is that we use multiple oscillators to create a mightier, more textured sound. Making a synth such as CRAFTsynth 2.0 fully paraphonic would mean that we dilute the richness of sound.
The benefits of a polyphonic synth outrun the sonic capabilities of their paraphonic siblings.
We understand that novice users might be starting with a paraphonic synth as they are, due to their simpler structure, often more affordable than their more complex counterparts.
On our digital synthesisers, the ‘SPREAD’ function introduces additional oscillators to achieve unison and stacked octaves, intervals and chords. In the first half of the dial, Wave 1 and Wave 2 are split into individual oscillators and spread out over the frequency spectrum to create a fat unison sound. This effect is increased up to the centre ‘spread’ position. Past halfway, the oscillators arrange themselves into chord shapes.
A considerable variation of chords can be created with this control in conjunction with OSC2 detune. However, the average level of the sound will be lower when using the ‘SPREAD’ control because the combining oscillators are phasing in and out and not constantly re-enforcing each other as they would if the spread is set to zero.
Using this setting – you will still achieve richer sound than a paraphonic synth as all chords and intervals are played in unison.
We hope that you will get an insight into why we prefer real, or true polyphony to create richer sounds by reading this.