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Gigantic Knobs

…and patch cords.
  [vote for,

I’ve been using synthesisers since I was a teenager, and learned modular synthesis on a Roland System 700 and System 100 and Arp 2600 (in music shops in Melbourne that I used to spend all my spare time in).

Nowadays, there’s a resurged interest in modular synthesis, but I’m not going that way, thanks. It looks too expensively addictive, cocaine or gambling is probably cheaper and more productive. Plus, how would you keep a fully expanded multi- river Eurorack system tidy? It’d be a nightmare to do the dusting. Plus, I don’t think anyone’s noticed yet, but really, it’s a fucking stupid idea to have so many patch cords obscuring the knobs — that’ll never work.

There’s also a lot of music being made using laptops and desktop computers, in a capable DAW with plugins. There’s also a lot of music being made on iPads using a very impressive range of insanely affordable iOS music apps. However, doing it on the Mac or iPad suffers in one significant area — where’s the knobs? The software emulation of knobs is almost always and without exception a lacking and deficient experience, and the feel of a real knob in your hand is what drives people to pay lots of money for vintage gear or the Eurorack insanity.

Well, as with everything else, it’ll be VR to the rescue. I predict the next significant generation of music apps will be entirely VR UI based. Imagine a full modular synthesiser environment in VR. This will no doubt be the next wave.

What this idea is, is to make the knobs big. Really big. Huge. There’s no need to emulate piddling little knobs that are about the same size as a real synth knob. In VR there shouldn’t be spatial limitations because things can be moved or folded out of the way or “perspectivised” in extreme or reverse, so that they present a dramatic curve that either wraps around you or wraps away from you and can be scrolled easily into place. This means that a full modular synth could go on forever but can be seen almost all at once because the part in front of you is full size and the parts either side of that scale away increasingly. This also implies that the UI controls can be nice and large, easy to get a hold of.

Each knob could be the size of an orange, and rotating it can be made satisfyingly precise. Similarly, plugging in patch cables and jacks would be oversized too. (although there’s no need to be too exaggerated — you should be able to fully utilise a knob with one hand).

Ian Tindale, Jun 06 2016

What The Fuck Do Those Knobs Do? Nave iOS Spectrum https://www.youtube...watch?v=-p__adc5naM
By the way, I did this today (revised new version). [Ian Tindale, Jun 06 2016]

Moog Sample & Hold explanation http://www.soundons...ticles/synthsec.htm
This would seem to have some overlap with the "noisy" button from Ian's WTF link above. [zen_tom, Jun 07 2016]

What The Fuck Do Those Knobs Do in iVCS3? https://www.youtube...watch?v=5uD-XwZuXMc
Another WTFknobs video, this time for the iVCS3 synthesiser. [Ian Tindale, Jun 25 2016]


       When you said //Really big. Huge.//, I was imagining something you might use to open the sluice-gates of a major dam.
hippo, Jun 06 2016

       // where’s the knobs? //   

       The house of commons   

       // The software emulation of knobs is almost always and without exception a lacking and deficient experience, //   


       // and the feel of a real knob in your hand is what drives people to pay lots of money //   

       That could, with hindsight, be more judiciously phrased ...   

       // you should be able to fully utilise a knob with one hand //   

       There speaks the voice of experience...
8th of 7, Jun 06 2016

       In the past, only the knobs on the left-hand side of synthesizers actually did anything; the ones on the right were just for show. When people used these fake knobs, expecting them to do something, it was seen as a sign of gaucheness and naivety. People who used these knobs were seen as foolish newbies who had not being paying attention and lacked the knowledge and experience of their betters. Usage of these knobs became a shorthand for ignorance and stupidity more generally, nicely captured in the saying: "I felt a right knob".
hippo, Jun 06 2016

       Would a new, innovative knob be best described as a knobelty?
xenzag, Jun 06 2016

       The problem with VR knobs is you miss out on the main reason for having them: the tactile feedback. Even a physical knob can be infuriating if it has the wrong amount of damping. The feel is everything.   

       I recently had a go on an HTC Vive, which has hand-held controllers. For shooting games these can turn into guns, and because you can feel a physical trigger in your hand it's fairly convincing that you're really holding it. For picking things up they turn into a sort of magic wand that levitates objects. By far the best bit was opening and closing desk drawers, which caused just the right amount of vibration in the controllers as it moved.   

       Perhaps VR drawbars, a virtual hammond organ, would be best.
mitxela, Jun 07 2016

       Forget the size of an orange. You want something the size of a waterwheel. Make a VR adventure game out of setting the right distortion, preamp gain, velocity, and suchforth, where the VR user is comparatively the size of an ant. And why stop there? Make the instruments huge too.
RayfordSteele, Jun 07 2016

       Modulars should have spoked-wheel knobs. Also, sliders should be pull/push, like the choke on an old car. Just sayin'; carry on.
FlyingToaster, Jun 07 2016

       It might be interesting to traverse the waveforms, too. Perhaps the world of the VR could be the actual waveforms, which you have to modulate in order to progress through the 'game' to the next worlds.
RayfordSteele, Jun 07 2016

       If you use a haptic apparatus directly on the hand, you can make your knob feel as though it has a very fine grained stepping action. And perhaps even knurled to the feel.
Ian Tindale, Jun 07 2016

       // liders should be pull/push, like the choke on a car. //   

       Like the throttle levers on an aircraft would be better...
8th of 7, Jun 07 2016

       In the ’80s I used to have three very old console faders, of the type one would associate with the BBC/EMI gear, and I have now found out that they were Painton quadrant faders. They were pretty much a bullet proof unit comprising a stepped resistor ladder, with many fine make-before-break contacts, and an immensely satisfying feel to push them up to attenuate, and down to let the audio through. They’re now quite rare and fetch a lot on eBay, but mine went lost decades ago.
Ian Tindale, Jun 21 2016

       Betcha Blue Man Group would be into it.
smendler, Jun 22 2016


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