The strangely named Ton-Geraet 1 (SyS TG1) has been a labour of love for the past 6 or 7 years for SyS Audio. They announced it and released a beta version way back in 2010 and they say the interest and response to the beta program was so huge they almost had to shut down the website. Since then they’ve wanted to take their time to get it right, they say, and now they believe they have.
Having now played with the demo version I’m unsure as to whether I completely understand what’s going on. It does, however, seem to be generating some really interesting noises. One word of warning, though, is that they slap a very loud burst of static into the output signal every 90 seconds to remind you that you’ve not bought it yet – mind your speakers! SyS Audio describe it as taking sound manipulation ideas from the SID sound chip (from the Commodore 64) into a 16 bit context. To get around the limitations of the SID chip the programmers had to get creative with things like sequentially switching waveforms or using arpeggio lists to create pseudo chords. The SyS TG1 builds on those ideas and is designed to morph smoothly from waveform to waveform generating loads of transitions and sub-tones.
They then added in a double LFO unit and an Akai S1000 inspired 12 bit low-pass filter. Apparently they wanted it all to be as simple and intuitive as possible – which is not exactly as I’d describe it. Finishing it off there’s a Kraftwerk inspired “Stoerstahlung” button which switches “some mixing-routine”. Again, I really don’t know what that means.
Digging into the manual chapter 3 begins very hopefully with “In this paragraph we will show you how to create a new and interesting preset. First start with a plain…..” and it ends there and the rest of the page is blank, moving onto chapter 4 which describes the interface.
Let me try to break it down. Sys TG1 has two voices, each one consists of a “Wavemorf” oscillator, envelope, frequency modulator and envelope, LPF, LFO and levels. The Wavemorf oscillator is where it all happens. It has a row of 8 waveforms starting with regular sine, triangle, saw, noise etc. And then it goes on to a couple of hundred other waveforms. These then play back in sequence, the speed of which is controlled by the Morph Speed knob. You can choose from 128 pre-defined sequence patterns. These patterns also select different waveforms, so it’s no good if you want to try different patterns on your chosen waveforms which I found terribly annoying. The sound of these morphing waveforms is very unusual and moving the morph speed takes it from a sound of sequenced change all the way to FM. The modulators and filter add a great deal of further movement to the sound to create a load of weird wobbliness. And then you can do it all again with the second voice and combine the two.
I’m quite amazed by the strange synth sounds that are emerging as I fiddle with this thing. It kind of sounds like the slightly twisted lovechild of a Commodore 64 and Yamaha DX100. The two voices share the same interface and you have to switch between the two which makes editing and comparing quite unintuitive. To be honest I had the most fun clicking on the valve which appeared to randomise the settings for each voice separately or if you click on the SyS Audio icon it randomises the whole thing. The “mixing method” (which I’m assuming is the “Stoerstahlung” thing) is accessed on the setup page which shows the virtual back of the synth. You can switch from additive to subtractive to multiply which can give the output a very different flavour.
This is a strange fish – it can make some weird and wonderful noises. With a bit of practice and exploration there’s a lot of sonic possibilities here. It’s a shame you can’t save your presets, or at least as far as I could tell. You should definitely download the demo and try it out as it might well surprise you.
Ton-Geraet 1 is available now for €19.99 for Windows only.
More information can be found on the SyS Audio website.