by Ellison Wolf
Qu-Bit’s Scanned is a free-running wavetable oscillator and/or triggered sound source that utilizes the little-known method of Scanned Synthesis. Conceived by Max Mathews, a legend who’s univer-sally recognized as the father of computer music, until now Scanned Synthesis was only available in software configurations, so it’s pretty cool that Qu-Bit has released Scanned because it’s not just a new way to create sounds, but a new way to create new sounds.
Explaining what Scanned Synthesis is and how it works isn’t super easy. Case in point, taken from Qu-Bit’s website: “The wavetables are dynamically generated from a set of "objects" tied together on a virtual string. These objects have physical proper-ties. . . which affect the way that the string moves through space and time.” It took me more than a minute to fully wrap my head around this part, as anytime I hear the terms “space” and “time” next to each other I think of Star Trek, but the next step in Scanned Synthesis is a little more to take in, as in order to animate, or excite, the waveform, the objects are “morphed into the currently selected hammer shape and then released.” I like to visualize an embosser, leaving its imprint on paper, then letting that paper float free in a universe of its own creation, changing with the elements, or in this case, however the parameters are adjusted.
Luckily, using Scanned requires no prior knowledge of its namesake synthesis method, or being able to conceptualize floating textiles in unknown galaxies. Having said that, however, learning about Scanned Synthesis and reading and under-standing the Scanned manual and how all of the parameters work will most definitely heighten your appreciation for this synthesis method, and help to get the full grasp what both Scanned, and Scanned Synthesis are capable of.
In terms of sound, after the user selected wavetable goes through the Hammer and the resulting waveform is floating in the ether, the potentially endlessly evolving soundscape can be controlled by the knobs that either control the objects themselves [Mass, Center, Stiffness, Damping, Frequency, and Fine], or the Hammer [Shape, Strength, Update Rate].
At its most basic, Scanned works in-credibly well as a typical VCO–just more harmonically rich and sonically interest-ing than most. Going for a short plucky sound [Mass low, Damping about mid, Update high, etc.] can make a straight up awesome acid drenched kick, or pitched higher as some kind of bashy steel drum. Feed a sequence into the v/Oct with the Frequency high and you can be the master of your own 80s video game soundtrack, and if you’re looking for something to usher in the apocalypse with some utterly nasty sonic destruction, look no further; Scanned’s got you covered. I even made a one-voice dance track with a 140 BPM quarter note gate into Excite, and a slow moving LFO synced via my 4ms QPLFO patched into the Center input, with a random sequence patched into the v/Oct. I was totally blown away by how easy it was to get something so full sounding with just this simple patch using only the one sound source.
Scanned has so much inside it, that it doesn’t even need outside modulation sources to change timbres and create movement, as it has the ability to do it all on its own. Still, one of my favorite things to do with it is to put a random, slowly moving gate into the Excite input, and then to patch various modulation sources into the Shape, Mass, Damping, and Rate inputs. Then I throw the output it into my Blue Lantern Asteroid VCF, and finally go through a homebrew DIY spring reverb, and just let it run. The semi-constant ping-ing of the Excite input is enough to keep Scanned moving all day, and I’ve been able to coax tons of evocative tones out of it–my favorites being sounds that are reminiscent of gravel being scraped by a thin steel plate, and a low groaning ache that sounds like an alien bleeding out internally, ever so slowly. Grim, perhaps. Strange, maybe, but I can’t say I mind. As a matter of fact, ever since Scanned made its way into my household, it’s taken over daily soundtrack duties as I just turn it on in the morning, walk away, and let it do its thing, tweaking it throughout the day to suit my needs.
If you haven’t grasped it yet, this is one really versatile and unique sounding module, and it makes me wonder why Scanned Synthesis hadn’t made it into modular synthesis until now. Scanned is so harmonically dense, and there are so many methods of manipulation here, when my slowly bleeding alien score finally lets go of this material world I know I won’t have a problem summoning another slightly less sentient being to put on sonic life support for my daily aural entertainment.
100mA +12V 13mA -12V