The sparC is inspired by the classic Korg Mono/Poly synthesizer. It takes what was unique and powerful about the M/P's modulation architecture and puts everything on "audio steroids". For example, you will find the same "sync" features that the original M/P featured, but actually made even more flexible in the sparC and instead of four oscillators, each with four waveshapes, the sparC is expanded to six oscillators, with five waveshapes.
The M/P's classic sync and cross-mod sounds were specifically what the sparC was created to emulate, but it has become a synth capable of much more. The 180 onboard presets should give you a good indication of what the sparC is capable of and how it functions. Here are a few additional tips to help you get the most out of the sparC:
1) The GUI (Graphical User Interface) is laid-out in a clear and logical fashion, which vintage analogue synth enthusiasts will quickly make sense of. To keep the surface size down, "paging" has been implemented in the oscillators section and the effects section... the page switches can be found along the top of the synth-surface.
2) New control parameters are featured on the sparC, giving the player more control and flexibility than previously possible on the original Mono/Poly:
- The sparC's versatile and powerful sonic-architecture comes to you largely from the "Effects" section, in the middle of the GUI. The three pages in the Effects section are the modulation "heart" of the sparC. At the top of the first page is the "XMOD" knob, which controls the amount of cross-modulation that is sent to the oscillators. "XMOD" can be used to produce complex FM-timbres, great for metallic and bell-like sounds. The "XMOD" can be sent from either OSC1 to all other oscillators or OSC1 to OSCs 2&3 and OSC4 to OSCs 5&6 (switch below XMOD knob and Sync switch). The "XMOD" and "Sync"-parameters share this two-way switch, allowing the "Sync" to be switched from OSC1 to all other oscillators or OSC1 to OSCs 2&3 and OSC4 to OSCs 5&6. This combination of XMOD and Sync is what gave the M/P its distinctive sound and is fully and exactly realized in the sparC.
The next knob on Page 1 of the Effects section is the "OSC 6 MOD" knob, which sends oscillator six's frequency to the lowpass filter's cutoff frequency, a new feature that the M/P didn't have which is great for gritty filter timbres and great formant-sounding overtones that can give patches a cool vocal-quality.
The last knob, at the bottom of Page 1, is the highpass filter cutoff control. The sparC adds this 6dB (1-Pole) Highpass filter (in the effects section), which the original M/P never had... giving the sparC's sound-palette even more depth.
Page 2 of the Effects section includes the synth's LFO and RingMod controls. What makes the sparC's LFO uniquely powerful is its flexible patchability. The LFO frequency can be sent to Pitch, which is switchable from "All Oscillators" receiving modulation, to "OSCs 2-6" (all oscillators except OSC1), and finally LFO modulation sent only to OSCs 2-3 & 5-6, omitting OSCs 1&4. This allows for very flexible LFO-Pitch mods to compliment the XMOD/Sync routings... experimentation with these different settings will yield dramatically different results. The sparC also adds a switchable RingMod effect to the original M/P's feature-set, allowing even more sophisticated metallic and bell-timbres to be achieved.
Page 3 of the Effects section begins with two-knobs, each controlling the amount of Filter Envelope frequency that can be sent to Pulsewidth modulation and Pitch modulation, respectively. The Pitch knob is switchable (below the "to Pitch" knob) to send modulation to "ALL" oscillators, "OSCs 2-6", or "Oscillators 2-3 & 5-6". The next knob on Page 3 is the switchable "Feedback"-control knob, which takes the combined frequencies of all the Oscillators (+ noise) and feeds them back to switchable destinations: All Oscillators, Oscillators 2-6 only, or Oscillators 2-3 & 5-6 only. The final knob in the Effects section is the "NOISE TO PITCH" knob, which sends white noise-modulation to all oscillators. The "FEEDBACK" and "NOISE" modulations are also additions that were not a part of the original M/P's parameters.
Polyphonic-switchable Unison, featuring flexible voice control (all voices/off/1-16);
in the "all" position any selected polyphony for the sparC will be
monophonically stacked on a single voice, allowing the "Unison Spread"
parameter to move the stacked frequencies away from each other, creating a very "fat" and distinctively "unison" sound; the "Off" position is self-explanatory (Unison Spread has no effect); Unison voices 2-16 allows the user to select, apart from the polyphony value, which voices get stacked, i.e.: if you have the sparC's polyphony set to "4 voices" and the "Unison Voices" set to "3", you could play a two-note chord with each note having a unison stacked voice on it... very fat when you increase the "Unison Spread". Unison voice setting “1” has no noticeable effect. Now take this Unison functionality and add in the sparC's six detunable oscillators (+ noise generator), with versatile sync and powerful modulation options and you start to realize what this thing can do! No other soft-synth can make the sounds that the sparC can create, especially when considering the efficient GUI and circuit-design.
- Legato Mode (Polyphonic): When a key is played and an unassigned voice is available for it, the voice is assigned and started normally (including envelope retriggering).
When a key is played and no unassigned voice is available for it, a voice is stolen from a key which is still being held. This voice is reassigned via a simple pitch update, without retriggering the envelopes.
When a key to which a voice is assigned is released, and one or more other keys whose voices have been stolen are still being held, the voice belonging to the just-released key is reassigned to one of the "voiceless" keys - likewise via a simple pitch update without envelope retriggering.
When a key to which a voice is assigned is released and there are no other keys being held which do not have voices assigned to them, the voice goes into normal release (and becomes "unassigned" for legato purposes).
When polyphony is set to 1, or when the module is set into mono mode via the Unison function, legato works the same way it did in the original MVCs.
Since there is a separate Legato Control pad, it is possible to activate legato without activating portamento. In this case, when a voice is reassigned to a different note, the pitch jumps instantly to its new value.
- Portamento Switch/ Time Control: During a portamento glide each voice simply glides to its new pitch from whatever pitch it had before. it is possible to have multiple voices gliding in parallel across a wide pitch range - or even in opposite directions - depending upon which notes were played previously.
- Poly Level: Gain control, used to prevent "clipping" when polyphony is increased, in regular or "Unison" modes.
- ModWheel Control is independent from the "LFO" and features its own switchable waveshapes.
- Key Follow parameters will also send glide info to the filter cutoffs (great for squelchy, elastic sounds).
- The "Drive" knob can be used to boost weak signals and overdrive patches to get those screaming, distorted sounds used in Industrial and Acid House music.
- The VCF section features a rich and vintage-sounding resonant 24dB (4-Pole) Lowpass filter, just like the original M/P. The filter can be controlled by a dedicated envelope, which includes a control to make the entire envelope timing super-long or snappy-short (the same goes for the Amp Envelope in the VCA section)