The PX-5S synthesis capabilities are still being explored. Its deep HexLayer architecture combined with its amazing filters have produced some stunning sounds, rivaling many dedicated synthesizers. Remarkable for an instrument that is first and foremost a “stage piano”.
At its heart, the PX-5S a sample based instrument. The waveforms it provides are digital recordings. While the range of waveforms is quite vast, they are “static” samples….meaning it is impossible to change a waveform’s shape over time the way an analog or virtual analog synthesizer can. Or at least it appears that way on the surface.
With the v1.10 firmware update, the PX-5S introduced several new capabilities. Included with this update the number of built-in waveforms was expanded, in particular a total of 6 new sawtooth waveforms. On the surface combining two different sawtooth waveforms allows the PX-5S to have a richer sound than using two identical waveforms. Two of those sawtooth waveforms however are not like the others, which can allow for some exciting new sounds.
Two of these are actually reverse or inverse sawtooth waveforms. When they’re heard one at a time, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish between the regular sawtooth and the inverted one. When you combine them, this is when the magic happens.
If the two waveforms are 100% identical, when they’re combined they actually cancel each out completely – you wouldn’t hear anything at all. As soon as you begin adjusting the pitch of one sawtooth vs the other the combination creates the PWM effect. This picture taken from Sound on Sound Magazine’s Synth Secrets article isn’t 100% accurate but essentially shows the result.
On the PX-5S itself, waveform #418 Sawtooth 2 and waveform #420 Sawtooth 4, are inverse waveforms. When combined with any of the other sawtooth waveforms in the PX-5S you can get a nice PWM effect simply by detuning one of the two. This can create some wonderful rich and thick sounding waveforms. You will however reach a point detuning the two waveforms from each other where it will sound less like a PWM effect and more like two waveforms that are simply far out of tune from each other. Luckily there is another method that can be utilized to achieve a PWM effect with a faster cycle.
To do this create a HexLayer tone with two identical sawtooth waveforms. On the Pitch page of one of the layers, scroll down and find the LFO Layer Depth. On one of the two layers,
set the LFO Layer depth to . Leave the other layer the default depth of 64. Next, leave Layer Edit and go to the LFO page and make adjustments as shown. You can adjust rate and depth to taste but now you have a faster PWM effect similar to what you’d find on a analog “string machine”.
These are only a couple of applications that can lead to some really remarkable PWM sounds.
Additional audio examples along with sounds to download for your PX-5S are coming.
The PX-5S has a very powerful programmable arpeggiator. There are actually 4 of them, one for each Zone. One of the unique things the arpeggiator can do is send controller information in addition to or instead of notes. So if you every find yourself in a situation where you need a sound to pan left and right, or the filter to sweep in tempo the arpeggiator can do the trick.
Press and HOLD the Arpeggio button on the PX-5S to bring up the arpeggio menu. Press the EDIT button and you’ll see this.
Select the Parameter Menu. Here you can change the number of Steps and the length of each step. Scroll down and then you’ll find the option for Controller data.
Here you can set the Control Track to ONLY. This means that the arpeggiator won’t play repeated notes it will just send controller information. In the Control Type you can choose which controller you’re sending. If you scroll down one step further you’ll see the option to SMOOTH controller events. Rather than jumping from one step to the next, the PX-5S can smoothly move from one value to the other.
You can use KNOB 4 to set the Controller value for each Step. The Zone -/+ buttons allow you to move between each step.
Here is one application for this. In an electric piano sound I wanted the DSP effect to be distortion for an electric piano sound. I still wanted the Stereo Panning effect that is typical of a rhodes. The Arpeggiator saves the day. You can download this example here – http://www.casiomusicforums.com/index.php?/files/file/17-roadz-panamp/
The Privia PX-5S is much more than a Stage Piano. If you’re heard the lush textures and pads that are generated by Hex Layers and other tools like the arpeggiator then you may have an idea of how deep the synthesizer side of the PX-5S really is. What you may not be aware of is the power that is lurking within the drum sounds.
The PX-5S allows you to edit and create your own drum kits. For each key you can from any of the 272 drum samples on board. Once you’ve chosen the drum sample this is where things really get interesting.
First each drum has the ability to be tuned +/- 24 steps. Dropping a conga or other drum sound up or down two octaves can make it anywhere from a high pitched click to a subsonic boom. Furthermore you there is a Pitch Envelope that can cause the pitch of the drum to change over time. Looking for some unique electronic drums this is a great place to start.
The other powerful tool is that each drum has it’s own resonant low pass filter and filter envelope. Crank up the resonance and close the filter…sonic mayhem awaits.
Last, but certainly not least are the effects. Like other tones on the PX-5S a drum kit gets its own insert effect. This means that delays, disortions and other effects are are available and you can choose for each drum whether they use the DSP effect or not.
Not into creating your own sounds? Not to worry. Audio examples and downloadable drum kits are coming very soon.
If you’ve pressed the Edit button the PX-5S and started adjusting parameters, you probably found yourself pressing the UP/Down and the +1/-1 buttons endlessly to change values. Luckily there is a much quicker way.
Use Knob1 to move up and down through a list, then use Knob2 to adjust the value. It’s going to make your life much easier. 🙂