ForumsNews ← From the knobs in.

If you're a synth head, it's probably clear that Aalto is inspired by Don Buchla's work. I think that Buchla's 100 and 200 series designs are high water marks of what can be achieved by focusing on the experience of playing rather than on the technology. Design not from a feature set out, but from the knobs in...

Above you see the 259 Complex Oscillator, which is the closest cousin to Aalto's algorithm from among the Buchla modules. If you want 259 sounds, of course you need to get a 259. It is more complex than my oscillator, both in sound palette and interface. What I tried to do was capture the qualities of its sound that made my ears particularly happy, where that was technically possible in a real-time algorithm. I also took cues from how Buchla's designs do more with less, and distilled the interaction down to make a few knobs that did a lot.

For example, having only one scale control per signal input on Aalto (except for the oscillator pitch) was a conscious decision I made with simplicity in mind. It seems to cover around 90% of the sound making possibilities (designers might call them "use cases") with 50% of the UI.

Who else besides musicians needs precise and intuitive UI? Airplane pilots, that's who. These gauges were another inspiration. Note that when you look at a number, your gaze is also taking in the filled-in area of the dial, not darting back and forth to some number box across the screen. I'm assuming these designers knew what they were doing.

Another musical device that works really well is the Weiss DS1. Note all the breathing room around the knobs. Simple, uncluttered and a joy to use. That it sounds phenomenal doesn't hurt.

Check out the Tone Board for the Yamaha GX1. If you spend your year's development budget making a $60,000 synth, you can put some time into UI. See the clear layout of signal flow and how the knobs connect to it and are grouped by the panel graphics. Also, precise markings in seconds on the sliders as opposed to an arbitrary range of 1-10, or no range at all. If only those drawings of envelope shapes were able to move... you'd have something a lot like Aalto's envelopes. It's no coincidence.

In my view the best way to respect the innovators is to innovate. So instead of trying to reproduce some elusive and hyped "analog magic" I am combining all of the influences above and more into the best design I can make for today's technology. I look forward to sharing this work soon.

Photo credits: from my "inspirations" folder on my hard drive, attributions long gone. If they are yours, please let me know and I'll give props.

This is a very dignified and inspiring post.

I admire your principles. A respect for the past + a commitment to looking forward = substantive innovation.

I'm very excited about Aalto.

I wake up each morning hoping today's the day you release it.


Thanks for the support! Currently I am planning for an AU release on Sept 7. It could always slip a bit if something goes wrong but right now it's looking good.

Thanks for the informative post!

September 7 is closer than I dared hope. Excitement sets in permanently...

R- Do you plan on announcing a price before you release the product? I think people are wondering how much dough to have on hand. I know I am. It would be helpful.


  • c

It won't be too far from $100.

Am super-excited about getting my hands on this on the 7th! I'll be getting the mac au version to start messing with, is there a possibility of there being a mac vst version as well? I use vst > rtas adapter to pull things into protools, and hope to be able to use this in that environment as well (not aware of an au wrapper).

The work I'm finishing up, mainly optimization, took longer than I'd hoped. I have now set the 13th as the definite release date. Sorry to make you wait another week.

I do plan to do Mac VST quite soon. The decision to do AU only at first came about because of patch management. Hosts like Live, for example, have very usable management for AU patches. But once I started putting the VST version together I realized that I needed to do my own patch mgmt. to make it something I would want to use. And this is a project that could take a little while. So, AU version now, AU/VST update with integrated patch management in ... well, a month would be my guess.

And I'll add your vote to the list of people who want RTAS. I will do this eventually if enough customers want it.

ah ok, one week more, no problem. thanks for the update.
(please ignore the question in my other post)
waiting with baited breath.. ;-P

i know your plate is full but i'm hoping/suggesting a little spot here on the site where people might upload their work on the new Aalto in "real life" scenarios (via SoundCloud?). I know when i get it, i'd like to share :) ...maybe a help in promotion to!

@asquare: it's a great idea to share patches here somehow! I will look into how we can embed files here... after Monday.

Eventually, I think it would be great to share/browse patches on a server from inside the plugin.