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

From Guy D2
Sent Fri, Oct 26th 2007, 12:15


First post.

I agree to what Randal says here. Function follows form too, indeed.

Coincidentally, just today I was contemplating about vernier dials,
and it struck me that many of my sound creations on the Synthi were
"inspired" as it were by the fact that you need a lot of knob turns to
change the frequency [of an oscillator] over a larger range.
This in contrast to most other synths where a mere 270 degree turn
can sweep you through ten octaves or thereabouts.
I'm quite sure that a lot of Synthi-generated music was influenced
by the fact that EMS happened to choose a vernier pot for its
oscillator tuning, most possibly driven by the need to save panel
space (one knob instead of two for coarse and fine tuning).

The way an instrument is approached by its user often depends
on the way the instrument is conceived [in its shape and interface],
and - to me at least - one of the reasons for acquiring such an
instrument largely depends on how much the developer has
given thought to the interface.

Somehow I have this feeling that if economics wouldn't drive
part of a development & design cycle, all of us would use 1/4"
jacks and big 'Moog style' knobs. :-)

Perhaps a minute detail, but I prefer the satisfying 'clunk'
of inserting a large jack in its socket over the 'rattling cl*i*nk'
of a mini jack. That's part of of the creative process as well.


  Guy D2

> Hi,
> My second post here. Perhaps this subject is old news here; but it  
> interests
> 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 new
> 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 brain
> 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. (I
> 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 if
> 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 the
> 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 a
> 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 these
> 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  
> oscillator
> 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-al
> 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 changes
> 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
> think.
> 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
> it?)
> 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
> hood,
>> 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
> the
>> 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
> panel
> *>*to the M5's*, with this knob moved way up here and that one way  
> down
> there.
>> 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
> Cwejmans
> *>*will surely never impress in the same way* Emerson/Jarre/ 
> Vangelis and
> their
>> ridiculous banks of huge synths did.
> Frank Hettlich Wrote:
> Sound: (and ALL the guys who have heard them) preferred the M5N - 
> *impossible
> 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 far
> 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 a
> special colour M5N - we neeeed colours!*