Synth designers have known for some time that building a large and expansive modulation and control matrix in the analogue domain is costly and impractical. But there are significant sonic benefits of using analogue control voltage for parameter control, thanks to its smooth, seamless nature. DSP-based synths have gained a bad reputation — for good reason in some cases — for low resolution of parameter control. Undesirable steps between parameter values being major side-effects, alongside a delay caused by the processing time involved in traditional DSPs. The FPGA’s processing prowess does away with these issues, and opens up new sonic potential.
Most digital synths use standard 7-bit MIDI CCs for all their controls, sometimes resulting in audible ‘stepping’ of parameters, most notable in high-resonance filter movements and LFO speed shifts, for example. Peak employs 8-bit controls for oscillator tuning, filter cutoff, LFO speed and mixer levels, delivering ‘analogue-smooth’ filter sweeps, LFO tweaks, and pitch and level changes. High-resolution data interpolation, which runs on the FPGA makes sure the sweet spot comes back accurately every time a patch is recalled. Interpolation ensures smooth transition of all parameters, many of which use Logarithmic control law to ensure they feel naturally musical.
Modulation is one of the most important features of any synthesiser. Generally, it’s best to offer as many options as possible for the maximum flexibility, and Peak’s generous modulation matrix enables this. The 16-slot modulation matrix gives each slot up to two sources, from 17 possible. Each of the 16 slots can be routed to any one of 37 destinations in both positive and negative amounts. LFO routings offer bi-polar and uni-polar routing options too.
Also key to Peak’s sonic flexibility — and less common in digital synths — is the ability for audio-rate modulation. In addition to the oscillators, the modulation sources (LFOs, Envelopes) also run inside the FPGA at the oversampling rate. As such, Peak’s LFOs can run at up to 1.6kHz — much higher than usually available.
For those wanting more immediate control over Peak, Novation has made sure that complex synthesis is possible using the front panel alone. Many of the key routings with Peak are available directly via the front panel, with dedicated controls. All the standard routings, such as Osc pitch mod and VCF modulation, are routable from envelopes and LFOs, and there are some additional options such as Ring Modulation (Osc 1–2) and Osc 3 to VCF frequency; again with dedicated front-panel controls.