Re: [AH] Ergonomics and the resulting sound. (Inspired by the Cwejman vs

From gregory zifcak
Sent Fri, Oct 26th 2007, 18:08

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i definitely agree. i think this is the main reason for the perceived sonic=
 differences between the 101 and 202. i have both, and i've felt this diffe=
rence, but when i listen to my recordings of them, i can't tell which is wh=
ich (controlling both with midi). i think the longer sliders and greater pa=
nel space on the 101 feels bigger, which makes it seem like it sounds bigge=
r, even though it's controlling almost identical circuits. of course, the m=
eaningful differences are the sequencers, both of which are awesome and inf=
luence the sound in totally different ways, but that's another topic.




My second post here. Perhaps this subject is old news here; but it interest=

me a great deal. I'm not sure we give enough consideration to it these

days? The clipped posts below are from the RE: [AH] Cwejman S1 mkII OR

Macbeth M5? Shootout anyone? thread. I was going to just tack this post on

to that one, but this is really not about Cwejman vs. M5. So I gave it a ne=

Subject. (I bolded the clipped text below where it was referred to in my

reply here.)

Cjarles wrote, in part: "To me, the main reasons to buy a synth are

sound, *,*,*, and ease of use."

I think Charles is right; but we may not agree on what "ease of use" means.=

In short, I think that the way a synth is approached has a great deal to do

with its size and layout. Details matter. I think you turn a small knob

differently than you turn a large one. I think space between panel controls

is not a "dilution of usefullness" as Chuck said; but can instead lead to

the creation of a different type of sound. In the same way, tightly spaced

controls seem to me to often lead to "tightly spaced" sounds. I too wonder

what the result would be if the Cwejman was spread out to mimic the M5

layout. And vice versa; how would our opinion change towards the M5 if it

were 3U high? I think many levels (or types) of usefullness have been lost

with the small format. And the loss is perhaps hard to quantify; because

it's difficult to identify what's missing. When your only tool is a hammer,

everything looks like a nail.

And I don't think the relation between form and result is merely subjective=

I think it is at least partly physiological. The motor movements

required for a large format synth are different than those required for the

smaller formats. Like tennis versus ping pong. In both the goal is to clear

the net with a small ball, but the approach is different. One is large

sweeping strokes of major muscles. The other is smaller quicker movements.

The impulses driving the results will come from different parts of the brai=

and I think the same thing happens when we "step up to" an M5 vs. "sitting

in with" a Cwejman. And I think the resulting comments about the sounds of

each in the thread are at least partly a result of THIS, rather than some

inherent sound quality of one or the other. The same could be probably said

of the comments for and against various synths in the "popular" P08 thread.

After all, we are using these as tools in an artistic venture. Can we

compare it to tools and results used in other artistic ventures? Jackson

Pollock's "cans of paint" work does not register the same for us as does a

DaVinci drawing in pen and ink. One is large sweeping strokes, with plenty

of room to work; the other is tightly drawn lines laid down close and with

great control. Sure, the analogy is imperfect. but give it a thought?

Doesn't it make sense that you will "run the Bugatti" differently than the

"Evo"? I'm not saying that one is better or worse here. I AM saying that I

think we have let concerns for small size override a truth that we all

inherently experience in nearly every other aspect of our lives? We touch

small objects closely spaced differently than we touch large objects with

lots of space between them. We stand back from large panels, and close to

smaller ones. Wrist/finger moves vs. shoulder elbow. Maybe thumb and

two fingers on a knob loosely vs. thumb forefinger requiring pinching

it more tightly due to physics; i.e., smaller lever, more force required. (=

understand that we're still using our ears as feedback to guide the

movements of our hands in either case, but if we're *rightfully* so

concerned about the "feel" of a keyboard or pot, how can we ignore the

difference in "feel" of the OVERALL instrument we are playing? Or its

control surfaces?

Tim Lee wrote about the "impression" of a large vs. small synth in "live"

use. While most will agree with his words, I think it's not only how it

"impresses" an audience. I think it "impresses" UPON the performer too!

Again, the point here is not whether bigger is better; only that there IS a

difference which MAY be *more* important than we generally give it credit.

After all, if moving the things to gigs weren't part of your concern; and i=

you had lots of space... Would you still choose the small format for your

"studio" gear?

(Understanding that the idea of the traveling synth/minstrel is much more

real and available now than it ever was, and wanting to keep that desire

separate from the talk about ergonomics and the resulting sound.)

And it's not only overall size. The "ease of use" Charles referred to comes

in many flavors. I recently saw the new P08 at AH-Cali. I told Dave Smith

that the new knobs and switches were in my opinion inferior to the original

P5's.(Actually I told him they sucked.) He didn't disagree. (His reply was

basically a PC thing about keeping the new DSI "family" look related. But

his eyes seemed to me to say he agreed with my comment. And I understand th=

dilemma between the inspiration and the ultimate creation of a real world

product.) So instead of the tactile smooth click of P5, we have the

"rubbery" indecision of the P08 switches, and knobs which in the P08

appeared to be more a mfg. concern than a concern for the musicians using

them, compared to the larger diameter of the older P5. (You can EASILY see =

difference when you watch videos of guys using large vs. small format gear.

At AH-Cali I also watched several guys as they went from synth to synth,

watching closely how they related to the differences in panel layouts and

size. There's a whole different body language. I asked what they were used

to as part of my desire to understand this subject.)

Is Music or Mfg. driving the formats we use? It costs less to make smaller

objects. Simple truth of mfg, when not carried to the point where the size

again increases costs. But I'd have to say that most of our small gear thes=

days is based more on cost of mfg.(and needs of gigging?) than true

functionality.Do we really prefer shorter slider travels on our mixers? And

there's a whole generation who has never known anything else, having grown

up with "small" gear. Does anyone really believe they can tune an oscillato=

as quickly and accurately with the small knobs? Why does the moog/Bode Freq

shifter have such a large knob? And why do we have a near universal "gut"

reaction to things like this? (I don't think "style" is the reason so many

vintage synths have large knobs for things needing accurate control.

Different diameters based on function, a la Buchla.) Was it just a trend of

the times? Or does it reflect that truth I referred to earlier, that we are

physiologically more capable of one interface compared to another?

Frank Hettich wrote that sound is "impossible to explain". But also implied

that people he knew all had a similar reaction and used similar words to

describe the sounds of the M5 and the Cwejman. Are these people really only

reacting to the sounds? A double blind test would be pretty

interesting.(For many other synth "religious" topics too!)

I think we see this kind of bias all the time in the discussions here on AH=

The overall "physics" of the instruments simply must include their physic-a=

parameters.I can fool your senses by setting them up, so to speak. If I put

your hand in cold water, then hot; it WILL feel different than if that

order is reversed. We do this with sounds, don't we? (Set up the ears/mind

for what's coming next) I can change the way something tastes by altering

its color: Green eggs and ham, anyone?  Plug your nose and the taste change=

too. Seems all of our senses are inter-related and non-absolute.

Can we really separate the form from the result? I think the size and shape

of our synths affects us and the sounds we make with them more than we


I believe this is a BIG part of GAS. The new format of the "new" synth

inspires (requires?) a new approach. And our sonic boredom is (temporarily?=

reduced. We move the modules around and this "new" arrangement results in..

New arrangements. IMO Frank's bold comments below (bolded by me) about Look

and Feel say much. Are we still using the instruments we WANT? That will

give us the results we seek? Perhaps not.

Isn't this what Ken is saying with the size of the M5? (And don't we have

some confirmation in the recent thread that he is perhaps correct in saying


If form follows function, can we not ALSO say that function follows form???

Kind regards, Randal

(Clips below from earlier AH thread, bolded by me)

>charles graef wrote::

>*To me, the main reasons to buy a synth are sound, *resources under the


>modulation routings, construction quality, *and ease of use*. I'm not

>interested per se in huge form factor.

>but the front panel of the M5 is about 4.5x as large as the S1 Mk2's. If


>functionality is at rough parity, *that tells me that the M5's panel is*

>*diluted 4.5x relatively in terms of usefulness*,

>*It might be interesting to see the S1 Mk2 spread out over a comparable


*>*to the M5's*, with this knob moved way up here and that one way down


>You'd have the same synth,* except everything would be further apart. What

*>*good would it do you?* Would it have become as impressive as the M5?


Shagghie Wrote:

It's like saying*....." Hmmmm, I'm quite torn between the Bugatti and the

Enzo.....but you know what, I'm also thinking about the Evo really hard,

too..". nice ride, but wrong thread.*


>Tim Lee wrote:

>*the impression a synth can make to the untrained eye can definitely be

*>*important* when you're performing live.* IDM'ers stooped over their


*>*will surely never impress in the same way* Emerson/Jarre/Vangelis and


>ridiculous banks of huge synths did.


Frank Hettlich Wrote:

Sound: (and ALL the guys who have heard them) preferred the M5N -*impossibl=

to explain sound* (Rui tried to do it quite well) *but the "brutal"

power*of the M5N is exactly what I and the others liked.

*Many stated that the Cwejman is cleaner - what ever that means...*

Form factor:

Many people preferred the smaller form factor of the Cwejman *because of

space and transportability reasons*. For me it was toooo small (although I

have small fingers) and the M5N is tooo big...not heavy but HUGE! A

compromise would be best IMHO.

*Look and feel:

I do not like (military) grey like the Cwejman is and I do not like the

knobs. They work absolutely perfect and look better than the Doepfer but fa=

worse than e. g. the Livewire ones.

I am bored by the "sea of black" of many modulars and was really surprised

when getting the Modcan B series in white - I LOVE it! Therefore I ordered =

special colour M5N - we neeeed colours!*


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