TONESTAR FOLKTEK is an Arias Blaze / Folktek Fibonacci flight, feast and fancy. We were hyped when Arias told us, "I like your layout - it's very approachable. And you've got some hex things happening which I'm all about" Who knew the Tonestar was so hexy?
ABlaze continued "I'm a circle person so you're going to end up with something that circle driven. The design will end up like a mescaline vision. If you're not into that, say the word now..." Oh but we were. He continued—well he wrote this bit before the last, "One of my goals is not just to throw some image stuff on this but to create something that makes sense visually as it corresponds to functionality. I find that kind of thing difficult with complex layouts like this - it's difficult to find the room for pure design, yours or mine. But at this point I'm starting to come to something..."
We think it's quite something and... necessary.
Caswell Knowledge (circuit designer):
"The VCO is the same affair as the Oscillation, the Boomstar, and the Omega. It's kind of a combination of Arp®, Oberheim® and Moog® circuits (sort of a greatest hits), time-tested, very stable—very good tracking over a very large range; certain parts have to be hand selected to achieve that level of exacting performance. Editors Note: This module is a TONESTAR—its own thing—and not a 2600 clone attempt; nevertheless, the Tone☆ tugs lovingly at times on the sleeve of the 1970's era classic.
Envelope FYI: The Tonestar Sustain control replicates the behavior of the 2600 and Odyssey: after the initial Decay, it continues to move (sink) very slowly, adding a little extra texture to the sound. It's technically a flaw, but after digging out my Odyssey, it is for sure a desirable "quirk", and the perfect companion to the 4072 filter (which we mistakenly titled a 4075 in the Boomstar Modular line).
Another bit of fun: The LFO is voltage controlled, so you can envelope, LFO, or otherwise modulate both the rate and the depth; the ADSR amount is also voltage controlled, so it can be manipulated by MIDI dynamics, MIDI volume, an LFO, etc. Greg
[St. Regis] has decreed that anything must be patchable to anything, so some technically wrong patchings (for example, pulse wave out to ADSR out) may often produce unexpectedly interesting, x-mod/notch filtering—quite pleasing effects.
The Tonestar was Greg's concept, but as I understood it, the goal was a single oscillator, 2600 VCF, pre-patched and yet fully modular classic synth voice, at a specific size, wielding every trick we could cram in. Main use would be as a go-to bassline/lead tool, or a premium quality, entry-level, complete synth module, for root-to-leaf sound design, and multiform analog exploration/expression."
VCO: OCT (up/null/down); FREQ/PW (frequency/null/pulse width); NO VCF (VCF/null/no VCF);VCF:FREQUENCY/RESONANCE (frequency/null/resonance);LFO:TRIANGLE/SQUARE* (frequency/null/pulse width); ENVs:DRONE, MASTER (drone/null/master); VCA:IN/MIX * symbol
VCO: TRIANGLE*, SAWTOOTH*, SQUARE*, MIX, 1V/O, MOD IN; NOISE:NOISE (white); LFO:DEPTH, TRIANGLE*, SQUARE*, SPEED; VCF:EXT IN, FIL OUT, MOD IN; ENVs:MOD IN, ADSR OUT, AR OUT, GATE IN; VCA: IN/MIX, VCA IN, OUTPUT * symbol
All Controls—arranged in order of signal flow—and Patch Points
FREQUENCY – Oscillator frequency attenuator. PULSE WIDTH – Variable pulse wave width control. OCT – +1/-1 octave switch. LFO (^) – Triangle wave low frequency oscillation to pulse width control. FREQ/PW – Oscillator frequency, or Pulse (square wave) width to ADSR modulation routing switch. Center off. GLIDE – Slew generator control. MOD (ADSR) – Oscillation modulation via ADSR control. TRIANGLE*/NO VCF – Triangle to VCA switch—bypasses VCF. SAWTOOTH* – Sawtooth wave attenuator. SQUARE* – Square wave attenuator. SUB – Square wave Sub Oscillator attenuator. TRIANGLE* – Waveform output. SAWTOOTH* – Waveform output. SQUARE* – Waveform output. MIX – Composite waveform output. 1V/O – One volt per octave control voltage input. TUNE – Master fine tune (approx. -5/+ 5 semitones). MOD IN – Modulation CV input. Normaled to ADSR; ADSR is replaced when alt. source connected. * symbol
NOISE – White noise generator output. LEVEL – Noise attenuator.
FREQUENCY Frequency, or cut-off attenuator RESONANCE – Resonance, or Q attenuator. TRACK – Keyboard/voltage tracking attenuator. DRIVE – Oscillator output to filter input attenuator. FREQ/RESO – Filter Frequency, or Resonance to LFO modulation routing switch. Center off position. ADSR – Filter to ADSR envelope attenuator. MOD (LFO) – Filter to LFO attenuator. EXT IN – External audio input. FIL OUT – Filter audio output. MOD IN – Frequency or Resonance modulation CV input.
TRIANGLE/SQUARE* – Waveform select switch (triangle core). DPTH (OSC) – LFO to Oscillator control.
SPEED – Speed or rate attenuator. DEPTH – Control voltage Input. TRIANGLE* – Triangle wave output. SQUARE*– Square wave output. SPEED – Speed or rate CV input. * symbol
ATTACK – Attack stage control. DECAY– Decay stage control. SUSTAIN – Sustain stage control. RELEASE – Release stage control. DRONE/MASTER – Indefinite/instant sustain, and master mode for ADSR routing switch: fuses VCF envelope with VCA envelope. Center off. ATTACK – Attack stage control RELEASE – Release stage control. MOD IN – Allows for dynamic modulation of the ADSR, eg., if you want the amount of modulation added to/determined by a external source, jack in; or if you prefer, modulation input to the ADSR routing—use with velocity, or a sequencer: the sequencer could isolate the ADSR amount the amount to a single step in the phrase for example. Exciting. A second external envelope can provide an interesting effect, or the AR (in the box patching). ADSR OUT – ADSR output. AR OUT – AR Output.
FEEDBACK – Oscillator/filter feedback loop control. VOLUME – Master volume control. VCA CV – Amplifier control voltage output.
IN/MIX – VCA mix input switch switch (normalled jack). When set to IN, external audio replaces filter output to VCA; when set to mix MIX, filter output is fed along with the filter audio to VCA. VCA IN – Audio input. OUTPUT – Main output.
PCB Mounting Scheme - Through-hole.
Filter - Discrete, voltage controlled, 24/db/oct cascaded transconductance low-pass filter, employing six pairs of hand-matched transistors.
Size - 32hp. Depth - 35mm including connectors. Power Usage - 130mA, 80mA (+12 / -12)
The tweaking and fine tuning process of a new SE offering can be seemingly endless. Many of the decisions we make are akin to choosing between chocolate, or chocolate with almonds (Fair Trade Organic of course), both tasty and worthy of consumption. At a certain point you have to step away and let your little baby go—but sometimes after flipping back and forth on preferences, we implement a few minor changes after the official production release. The following tweaks fall into the subjective "with or without nuts" category:
Units #2-15 / Noise - The noise on the Tonestar leans to the Pink side, a little dark and moody. Some may like it, some may want the more bright and sizzled white variety. One resistor or capacitor change will shift it to the white spectrum.
Units #2-22 / Feedback - The Feedback loop is big, bold and deep on the low end; maybe a bit too much so. One resistor change will reign it in, but still allow enough chaotic madness at maximum level.