Subtractor Polyphonic Synthesizer

Subtractor is an analog type polyphonic synthesizer based on subtractive synthesis, the method used in analog synthesizers. This close-up will show you the details of Reason and tell you about some of the goodies in it.

For a detailed description of all the parts of Subtractor, go here.

Parameter Control

As you can see, the Subtractor has lots of knobs, buttons and sliders. Each of them are fully automated and any filter sweep or knob twisting will be recorded in the Reason sequencer just like you can record mixes in ReBirth. Unlike the ReBirth sequencer, you can edit every controller movement after you are done recording to get that final touch.

Subtractor also comes with two modes of remote control. First, there is the standard mapping where each control is assigned a MIDI controller on the MIDI channel that is assigned to the Subtractor module. Second, there is a quick mapping mode where you can assign a MIDI controller to a knob in the synth on any MIDI channel. This mode is very useful for jamming, since you can do this while Reason is playing. Just right-click (or ctrl-click if you're on a mac) on the control of your choice and assign a MIDI controller via a learn function or by typing in the controller number.

Phase Offset Modulation

A unique feature of the Subtractor Synthesizer is the oscillator phase offset. By using this feature you can create complex waveforms by subtracting or multiplying a waveform with a phase offset copy of it self. Did that sound like gibberish? Well, let's take a look at how it works.

Each oscillator has it's own phase offset setting and selector for waveform subtraction, multiplication or no phase offset modulation. When activated, the oscillator creates a second waveform of the same shape and offsets it to the amount set with the Phase knob and then subtracts or multiplies the two waveforms with each other. The resulting waveform can be seen in the image to the right.

In example one, we see two sawtooth waves with some offset. Example two shows the resulting pulse wave when subtracting one wave from the other. Example three shows the resulting waveform when multiplying the offset waves with each other.

Using phase offset modulation can create very rich and varied timbres, especially when used along with LFO or Envelopes to modulate the phase offset.

Audio examples - Phase Offset Modulation
Pulse width pad - a pad first played 'dry' and then with Phase offset Modulation to create a pulse with modulation effect download mp3 (250kb)
Phase Offset Bass - phase offset to fatten and distort the bass sound. No distortion or external effects used. download mp3 (250kb)
Phase Offset Arpeggio - another effect using the phase offset modulation. This loop is first played without modulation and then with the Phase Offset added. download mp3 (250kb)

Dual Filters

Reason's combination of a multimode filter and a second lowpass filter can be used to create some very powerful formant-like effects. The audio example below was made using just the Subtractor synth and two Matrix pattern sequencers (also part of Reason). No samples!

Audio examples - Dual filters
Reason says Reason - download and listen to Reason. download mp3 (250kb)


Subtractor can play 32 voices simultaneously. Need more voices? Add another Subtractor! The instruments can play as many voices as your computer can handle. Lots of work on optimizing Reason's performance will be done before it's release. Still, initial tests have proven that Reason is a very efficient piece of software. An early model Macintosh G3/266 could play some 80 voices of simultaneous dual oscillator sounds. On a modern Mac or PC you can expect twice as many voices.

© 2000 Propellerhead Software