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Don’t you want me?

Felix

Whilst creating Lightning Leads for the System-1 I stumbled on some real gems. “Felix Fix” was one of them. A recreation of the organ from Felix – Don’t you want me? I never thought the System-1 was able to do that organ. I was truly surprised!

Image of the Roland System-1 with some bokeh and glow.

Simple surprise

Sometimes when programming I get lucky. Starting with an “INIT” patch, I dialled in a supersaw on oscillator 1 and tweaked the detune/“color” knob to taste. I flicked cross mod up and played. At the time I wasn’t thinking of any particular sound, but suddenly I heard it… Wtf?.. I played around again. Yes! That’s it I thought, that’s like that organ sound from that absolute classic of classics, Felix – Don’t you want me?

Save it or loose it

Immediately I saved it, and saved again for good measure in the next available slot. Now I could fiddle safe in the knowledge I wouldn’t loose that “sound”. I messed around with the x-mod. The sweet spot was narrow – a nudge up or down and the sound disappeared into a supersaw lower down, and a fizzy metallic mess above. Next I went to my music collection and fired up the original track. It was obviously not exactly there, but crucially it was really close, especially when played. I spent a bit of time working on it to beef it up with oscilator 2 and sub oscillator. A little bit of vibrato later and I was done!

Later I transmitted the sound to the plugin version to take a look at the values. I couldn’t believe how simple it was. Stripping it back it’s purely the supersaw waveform being cross modulated by oscillator 2’s sawtooth. The X-mod was at “92”, the sweet spot really between “90-94”. Here’s a screenshot below with the core settings:

Parameters of the “Felix Organ” sound.

Organ origins

As many of us synth nerds will know, this sound originates from an old “synth”/preset player, the Roland JX-1 from 1991. The original used a sample – “Rock Organ B” . To my knowledge that particular sample is only available on the JX-1. There are sample packs with it, and there’s a processed “hit” version of it in Roland’s techno expansion board and in Zenology but I thought this was way cooler! The fact that it is a synthesised waveform opens up way more customisation that could be useful in a more modern incarnation. I kept my version simple with some added reverb/delay, however there’s some different versions in Drum bank (some extra sounds there) of my Lightning Leads soundset.

Another System?

If you’re still reading you might be wondering, If the System-1 can do this, surely the System-8 can too? Well here’s the kicker, I fired up the System-8 plugin and applied the same settings, and unfortunately not. I knew that from my previous work on Mysticism that whilst the S-1 & S-8 do indeed share a family heritage there are differences beyond the obvious added features on the bigger brother.

X-Mod differences

The System-8’s cross mod is tuned differently. I tried several times and, unless I’m missing something I couldn’t get the x-mod to tune up to a coherent sound. The S-1’s x-mod starts slowly and progressively increases, almost as if the modulation is applied with an exponential curve. The S-8 however, applies cross modulation in what I perceive as a more linear fashion. The offshoot of this is that the S-8 cannot make that sound.

I recall having a discussion on Gearspace where I outlined that the System-1 had a more “clipped” sound when driving the oscillator levels, making for a more aggressive timbre. I was told I was incorrect and that it was the filters that were different. It’s a while back now, but I certainly recall testing this extensively with an oscilloscope beforehand. One of my theories is that maybe the person reported the bug. Indeed today with System-8 plugin version V 1.3.9 the oscillators do clip when driven (with the System-1 filters active).

Other differences

The System-1/System-8 have other differences in their sound. The Square waveforms have a different character. It’s a subtle thing but S-1 has a purer pulse wave, whilst the S-8 has a more buzzier one. Which one to prefer? It depends on what you want, but the difference is there.

More striking is that the System-8’s LFO only modulates each oscillator’s “color” parameter with a triangle wave, despite the many options available. System-1 on the other hand, can modulate via all the LFO shapes.

Whats the point you might ask? Well nothing really, in as much as I wanted to draw attention to the fact that I see the System-1 standing on its own merits. In certain ways outside out and out emulation, it is for me at least more versatile at certain sound design. That is not to take away from the immense synth power the System-8 possesses. It certainly has abilities the S-1 can’t hold a candle to. I digress.

Resources

  • Here’s an example of the original from the one and only Paulo @ Synthmania.
  • To learn more about the Roland JX-1, I recommend reading the original coverage from way back in 1991 on the fantastic Muzines website. There you’ll find the full SOS (Sound On Sound) and MT (Music Technology) reviews.
  • F9 Audio do a great pack called F9 Origins – Classic Club Keys & Synths which includes a massive range of classic samples along with the aforementioned organ. Well worth checking out.
  • A great interview by Muzikxpress with Felix on YouTube.