We've tackled many types of synthesizers during the years. Classic analog-sounding subtractive synthesis, cutting edge additive synthesis, feature-packed wavetable and spectral synthesis, granular sound sculpting, and even physical modelling.
FM synthesis, however, has always been an oddball. It's hard to understand, hard to use, and still hopelessly associated with classic but cheesy 80s sounds. The Yamaha DX7 was perhaps too successful and influential, so much so that it's still the blueprint for new FM synths decades later. As a company, that's not what we're about. We want to create instruments that feel unique and exciting, instruments that lead to new sounds and new music. So we asked ourselves: what would a Reason take on FM synthesis look like? That's how Algoritm came about.
Our main design goal was making it understandable and quick to work with, yet offer flexibility by getting rid of the pre-set algorithms that are hardly understood. If you're at all familiar with FM synths, the differences are quite immediate. Algoritm has nine (!) operators and completely free routing. Without necessarily understanding the ins and outs of FM, you can very quickly try things out and listen your way to interesting sounds.
Once that was in place we had a really fun and unique synth that could easily do both the classic FM sounds and more complex patches. In fact, we almost stopped development there. But after Peter tried adding noise as a modulator, we started thinking about what else could be interesting to modulate with. The filter, shaper, and osc & noise modules are the results. Think of them as spices, they add a little bit more character to something that was good already. Some more grit, edge, and wonky harmonics. As we started making patches, it was clear this concept was a winner!
The heart of the Algoritm is really in choosing, routing, and tweaking the modules. There is an unimaginable number of sounds without ever doing anything else, which is simply wonderful. I could go on and on about how the design evolved from that point and the other features we added, but I fear I've already gone on long enough. Does anyone even read anymore?
In the end, I believe we succeeded in making FM both fun, quick, approachable and powerful. Now the big question is: what do you think? Algoritm's out now, included in the Reason+ subscription and available separately for purchase. Try it out and let us know!
Mattias Häggström Gerdt