Ableton Live has come out with an amazing new synth, Wavetable. This thing has been blowing my mind. In this article, I am going to be going over the basics of Wavetable, using the synth in Live, and some tips.
What is Wavetable Synthesis?
Wavetable synthesis is a sound synthesis technique that employs arbitrary periodic waveforms in the production of musical tones or notes. The technique was developed by Wolfgang Palm in the late 1970s and published in 1979. Ok… that is the heady version. Simpler version… It allows you to pick a waveform, and then cycle through an entire collection of waveforms in an easy way. Thus morphing and changing the sound. It is a totally different approach to synthesis. Keep going… this will be made clear below.
Wavetables and Waveforms
Wavetable Synthesis has also been called “Sample-Based synthesis”. That is because a wavetable is a collection of Waveforms in one Wavetable.
So… most synths you pick your waveform in the oscillator. Let’s say with Operator you pick the Sine Wave. You can also pick the next waveform, Sine 4bit and so on. Each one of these is a separate waveform. If you were to manually pick between them you will notice it makes a click or some strange sound as you switch. This is because it is loading and playing a whole new waveform.
Wavetables are different. A wavetable is a collection of those separate waveforms in a single file or sample. A Wavetable Synth loads up that sample into its oscillator. Here is a picture of Ableton Live’s Wavetable. The default is the Basics -> Basic Shapes. This Wavetable has 4 different waveforms. Then using the Wave Position you can smoothly cycle between those 4 different waveforms and it will automatically change the shape between each one. (more…)
I was inspired by the track Ezra by Flume to make a new brass preset. I love that tasty fresh sound in his synths. They always have a unique feel to them. I recreated the sound in Ableton Live’s Wavetable. Check out the walkthrough video on how to make the preset, or grab the preset for $1:
In this article, I will be looking at xfer Serum versus Ableton Live 10’s Wavetable. In the article, I hope to lay out the major differences and similarities to help you decide which synth you want to invest money and more importantly time into learning.
When I first wrote this article I got a lot of comments on how these are totally different synths. Like Apples versus Oranges. Well… first of all, those are both fruits. They’re both round… lots of similarities here. Serum and Wavetable are both wavetable synths. They both do this through 2 oscillator wavetable synthesis. The difference is found in the different approaches and parameters you have to control and shape that sound. In this article, I hope to show those differences and where they’re strengths lie.
Video Walkthrough of Serum Vs Wavetable:
I made a video version of this article and you can watch it below:
Workflow and Speed:
If you can grab a synth and make a fairly similar sound but 2x as fast, you would probably always use that synth. Granted that usually means certain synths are much faster at certain sounds and every synth has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to workflow.
Serum has a lot of options. It has extensive routing options and quick controls for LFO’s and modulation. This does mean the workflow is a little complicated. It can take a while to find the parameter you are looking for. Setting up the Matrix can take longer, and so on. The click and drag nature of the modulators is pretty slick though.
I’d say Serum is has a fantastic workflow, but still complicated enough to be a little slower at certain things. My biggest pet peeve though is the load time! When switching between presets I have to wait up to 30sec. Seems like no big deal unless you spend 10 min just flipping through a handful of sounds. This slowly drives me crazy.
Wavetable is lightning fast. You can see most parameters on the first page, and in the expanded view you can see everything. The Matrix setting is really intuitive and fast to use. I find I can make a lot of sounds really fast without even questioning where a parameter is. And I am new to this synth!
Load time on presets is almost instant. Thank god!
Serum Workflow and Speed: 7/10
Wavetable Workflow and Speed: 8/10