Waveforms in Reason
This information describes the sounds and applications of the various waveforms available in Propellerhead's Reason Subtractor synthesizer. It is adapted from work presented on www.psylux.com, which, as of 2014-07, has gone away and become squatted; therefore, we offer a mirror that includes mp3 files of the various waveforms. Subtractor offers 32 basic waveforms, shown below.
A theoretically perfect square wave alternates between two states, low and high, has pristine transition edges, and has an infinitely fast rise time, meaning the state changes instantaneously and with no other side-effects such as overshoot or ringing. This audio file is as near to a "perfect" square wave as Reason Subtractor is able to produce, and the graphic looks nearly perfect (except for the slightly slanted vertical lines which, theoretically, should be invisible and perfectly vertical indicating instantaneous change).
In reality, nothing seems perfectly instantaneous, and fast changes always have side-effects such as overshoot and dampened ringing (see Gibbs Phenomenon). One result is slightly different harmonic content in which some higher frequencies are slightly enhanced. This audio file and graphic have purposefully had the overshoot and ringing exaggerated for example. However, few people listen to square waves.
Below, each waveform's fundamental note played is A3, or A below middle C, or 220 Hz (middle C is 261.626Hz & See Also ). Therefore, each spectrogram shows that 220Hz fundamental frequency peak just to the right of the 200 Hz line. All other peaks represent harmonics generated by the waveform, characteristically decending in amplitude as the distance from the fundamental peak (note) increases.
Sine -- The simplest possible waveform, having no harmonics (overtones), and producing a neutral, soft timbre.
Sawtooth -- This 'general purpose' sawtooth waveform contains all harmonics and has a bright and rich sound.
Square -- Contains only odd number harmonics (3rd, 5th, 7th, ...), producing a distinct, hollow sound.
Triangle -- Generates only a few harmonics, spaced at odd harmonic numbers, producing a flute-like sound having a slightly hollow character.
Waveform 5 -- Emphasizes higher harmonics, somewhat like a sawtooth wave only slightly less bright.
Material herein added and updated constantly; presented for inspirational and educational purposes per Fair Use.
Last modified 17 Dec 2020