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Wavetable Synth in Ableton 10 Explained - All Features + Examples

Wavetable Ableton Header

The recently released Ableton Live 10 includes a brand new synthesizer called Wavetable. In synthesis terms, a wavetable is a collection of different waveforms, which you can scan through. The most famous wavetable synthesizer is probably Xfer Serum. In this article we’re going to go through Wavetable’s features and see how the two synths compare.

Before we jump into the features it’s worth mentioning that this synth is meant more for live performance than complex sound design. It’s meant to integrate well with Ableton and deliver you interesting sounds without overloading the CPU. It doesn’t have all the crazy features other wavetable synths have but you should be able to run multiple instances of it with no problem and be able to control it live, for instance with a midi controller.

Ableton Wavetable Overview

1. Oscillators

Wavetable hosts two wavetable oscillators and a sub oscillator for extra low end. Unfortunately you’re limited to the preset wavetables - there’s no way to import them like in Serum. The selection is very nice though - includes basic shapes, complex distorted tables, ones with harmonics and even vintage tables. A really cool wavetable type here is Instruments, which includes tables made of acoustic sounds like strings, marimbas, bells or pianos.

See article: Importing Massive Wavetables into Serum

You can also apply one of three effects to each oscillator - FM, “Classic” or “Modern”. All of this happens on waveform level. For every oscillator effect and you can adjust two parameters - when using FM you can adjust the tune of modulation and its amount. “Classic” gives you control of Pulse-width modulation and oscillator sync. The “Modern” mode gives you “Warp” and “Fold” controls to dial in some phase distortion.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer FM Oscillator Effects FX

2. Envelopes

Ableton’s new synth includes 3 envelopes which you can map to anything using the mod matrix. The envelopes not only give you control of standard ADSR values, but also allow you to adjust the slopes of Attack, Decay and Release - just like in Sampler. A new feature is a loop function which you can use to transform the envelope into an LFO.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer Envelope SLope

See Article: How To Use The ADSR Envelope 

3. LFOs

Wavetable is the first native Ableton synth to include two low frequency oscillators. Each of them hosts five LFO shapes: sine, triangle, saw down, square and sample-and-hold. The LFO can be synced to the tempo of the track. There’s also a Shape control which allows you to skew the LFO shapes in interesting ways.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer LFO skew

Video: Making an Air Pad with Wavetable

 

4. Filters

Wavetable has two filters which you can run at once. Just like in Auto Filter they have switchable modes which include analog modeled algorithms by Cytomic.

A nice feature is that you can either use them separately for each osclillator (“Split” mode) or run all oscillators through both filters independently (“Parallel” mode) or even use one filter after another (“Serial” mode).

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer Filters Analog

5. Mod matrix

Wavetable’s Mod matrix allows you to assign envelopes, LFOs and MIDI values to pretty much any parameter in the synth. This gives the synth a lot of flexibility and it’s the first time something like this has been implemented in a native Ableton synth. An example of what you can do could be mapping the LFO to the filter cutoff or wavetable position.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer Mod Matrix Modulation

See Tutorial: Future Bass LFO Pad in Serum

6. Unison

Wavetable allows you to dial in global unison on the very right side of the synth. There’s 6 types of unison you can use: “Classic”, “Shimmer”, “Noise”, “Phase sync”, “Position spread” and “Random note”. You can adjust the spread of unison voices with the “Amount” control at the bottom. Unfortunately you’re limited to just 8 voices of unison.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer Unison Classic Shimmer

Other nice features

The Sub oscillator has a “Tone” knob which allows you to warm up the sub sinewave and give it some harmonics.

There’s a very nice looking 3D representation of wavetables and to make it look even cooler you can switch to a circular view.

Ableton Live 10 Wavetable Synthesizer Circular Oscillator

What the synth lacks in comparison to Serum:

- Polyphony is limited to 8 voices

- Unison is limited to 8 voices

- You can’t create custom wavetables

- You can’t edit wavetables

- You can’t create custom LFO curves

- No way of using additive synthesis

- No FM/AM Mod routing between oscillators

- Way less filter types

- No way to modulate audio effect parameters directly from the Mod Matrix

 

Wavetable probably won’t beat Serum, but it’s certainly a cool and simple synth which could be very useful for live performances.

Check out our article on top 10 Ableton Live 10 features or check out our new Serum tips article - a lot of these apply to Wavetable too.

Check out our in-depth music production courses

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k-pizza

I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I regularly show up with tutorials, articles & project files at PML.

Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

 



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