5 Oscillator Unison synth with subtractor

I’ll provide here an easy way to produce thick and wide lead sound with Subtractor synth in Propellerhead Reason. You may also explore on your own way cause this method will give you some idea I’m sure.

For those who don’t really know what is a unison synth I’ll give you a short explanation about its principle. It’s quite easy, actually a unison synth is 2 or more oscillator detuned from each other. Furthermore, each oscillator is spread on the stereo image resulting in a fatter and wider sound. If you aren’t sure to understand don’t worry you will after this tutorial. At the end of this tutorial it should sounds like this:

Let’s begin!


Create a Combinator connected to a Mix channel device. In this Combinator create a Subtractor synth and reset it [right-click/Reset Device] or [Edit Menu/Reset Device]. Before the creation of others Subtractor we will set few parameters. Those parameters will be common to others Subtractor. We will set parameter to make a monophonic synth and to use only the OSC 1.

Mix: 0
Osc 2: Off
Polyphony: 1
Polyphony Mode: Legato
Portamento: 14
Amp Sustain: 127

You should get this:

Unison Subtractor Combinator First Setup

Now we duplicate this Subtractor 4 times [Ctrl+D]/[Command+D]. We finally put at the end of the stack a Line Mixer 6:2. Now, hit [TAB] to flip the rack from to front to the rear view and label every Subtractor with the name in the white label. Use the following image as reference to connect and label your devices.

Rear panel of the Unison Subtractor Combinator

You should now have, from the top of the stack, five Subtractor named and connected like this:

LEFT Subtractor:                 Main Out > Ch.1 Left
CENTER/LEFT Subtractor:   Main Out > Ch.2 Left
CENTER Subtractor:            Main Out > Ch.3 Left
CENTER/RIGHT Subtractor: Main Out > Ch.4 Left
RIGHT Subtractor:              Main Out > Ch.5 Left

Now if you play few notes you only have a louder sound cause every Subtractor are in-tune, nothing very exciting. Has I said above, a unison synth is nothing else than 2 or more oscillator untuned from each other. To do this, we first name the Rotary 1 of the Combinator “Detune” and in the Combinator programmer we set the following value to the corresponding Subtractor:

Left Subtractor:                Rotary 1 >  Min:-5  Max:-50
Center/Left Subtractor:     Rotary 1 >  Min:-2 Max:-25
Center/Right Subtractor:   Rotary 1 >  Min:2   Max:25
Right Subtractor:              Rotary 1 >  Min 5    Max:50

As you see, now you have an easy way to set the detuning amount. Note that the Center Subtractor isn’t affected by the Rotary 1 and this is what we want in this example.

At this point we have a simple hoover synth, but it not wide at all since we are sending the same signal to both stereo channels. To have a wider sound we name the Combinator’s Rotary 2 “Spread” and set the Line Mixer in the Combinator’s programmer with these value:

Rotary 2 > Channel 1 Pan > Min: 0 Max:-64
Rotary 2 > Channel 2 Pan > Min: 0 Max:-30
Rotary 2 > Channel 4 Pan > Min: 0 Max:30
Rotary 2 > Channel 5 Pan > Min: 0 Max:64

At this point your Combinator should look like this, and if you turn Combinator’s Rotary 2 all way up Subtractors are positioned accordingly to there labeling. Voilà, you have the basic setup needed to explore.

Final Unison Combinator

I made it in this way but nothing prevents you from trying with other synthesizer, from modifying the total number of oscillator, from changing shape of waves, from changing octave or and semitons. You can add modulation on an oscillator and not the others. Make it at you own taste, I’m just giving you the basic idea behind all this.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>