Malström Overview | Malström Sound Programming | Tutorial Index

Reason version 1 quickly established itself as a premier all-in-one electronic music studio on a CD-ROM. Included in the integrated mix of sample playback, looping, effects processing and sequencing features is the programmable Subtractor synthesizer module. The design of the Subtractor closely models that of a typical analog synthesizer circa 1985, and is capable of producing many of the kinds of sounds that people normally associate with their hardware equivalents.

Among the new features found in Reason version 2 is the Malström synthesizer module. Unlike the Subtractor, Malström uses a powerful new means of generating complex and dynamic timbres which greatly expands the range of timbres available to users of the system. The Propellerheads call this method "Graintable Synthesis," based on two existing methods of synthesizing sounds:

  • The Granular Synthesis method entails breaking up a sampled sound into the individual segments (grains) of a sound, and manipulating these segments in various ways.

  • The Wavetable Synthesis method (first introduced in the early 1980s by PPG with their Waveterm synthesizer, now embodied in the synths manufactured by Waldorf) assembles a series of static (sampled) waveforms in a sequence - referred to as a table - and allows the creation of new timbres by morphing from one wave to the next in the table as the sound is being generated.

Malström brings these two synthesis methods together: a waveform (either sampled or synthetically manufactured) is stored as a series of segments or grains in a table. These grains can be played as static waveforms (a la the Subtractor waveforms), but the real fun begins when a special form of modulation is applied that allows the synth to morph from one cycle of the table to the next as a key is held on the keyboard.

Malström also provides additional modulation functions (audio 'mutators') that can alter the harmonic content and other characteristics of a graintable timbre to the point where it is almost completely unrecognizable from its original source.

While the interface for this synthesizer is fairly straightforward and appears simple on the surface, it is actually quite complex in operation and takes a bit of getting used to. If you have spent some time with the Subtractor and feel comfortable programming sounds, the Malström will appear to function in familiar ways but in practice it will seem confusing. and difficult to control. The purpose of this tutorial is to help you in make the transition from "thinking Subtractor" to "thinking Malström."