I'm trying to recreate a synthesizer sound in Ableton. I have access to VSTs like Sylenth and Massive, but I'd prefer to do it with only Ableton's Operator synthesizer.

But for starters, it'd be great if some of you pros could tell me, how the sound was assembled.

Here is a sound sample. The melody is D2, D3, D#2, D#3, F#3. D#3.

The waveform looks like this for a D2. Second one is enlarged, so the individual sample points are visible.

Waveform for D2 Waveform for D2

The spectrum for a D2.

Spectrum for D2

So, what do I have so far? In the beginning I thougt this is a saw wave, because using a saw wave, I was able to get a similiar spectrum. But something was off. The even spikes were always too high.

As you can see here, every second spike is significantly smaller, than the other spikes. They also line up very well.

Spectrum for D2

This led me two using a combination of a square wave and a saw wave, with the saw wave piched up one octave and a bit quieter. I think it sounds more "squarey" than "sawy" anyways.

What we have now looks like this. As you can see, the spikes somewhat line up.

enter image description here

But that doesn't quite make the cut. As you can hear the two synths still sound very different. They also look different. (Original vs clone)

enter image description here enter image description here

It looks like my version needs some kind of "smoothing". But I have know idea, how to achieve that.

First off, the original is distorted in some way. The high end basically sounds like white noise. Then there's a cut off filter, reverb and something that brings in some stereo, as well as some bass wibble wobble.

Can you share some tips or do you have any ideas how to proceed? Am I on the right track or should I take a completely different approach.

A different way of copying the sound be to use Simpler, but I don't want to sample the original synthesizer.

  • 1
    Your links don't seem to work. May 9, 2014 at 6:40
  • Sorry, my bad. I fixed them.
    – buschtoens
    May 9, 2014 at 12:30
  • 2
    I'm sorry perhaps I don't understand but why are you looking at the waveforms? It's not physics :) Use your ears and google on "analog synthesis tutorial". May 9, 2014 at 18:26
  • Link is dead again. Sep 11, 2014 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


I'm not familiar with Live, but here is my guess:

  1. It's square because it sounds 'empty' to me. Saw OSC has much more details.
  2. It's distorted. This contributes a lot to the sound and of course will add more details to a 'stock square wave'
  3. The distortion is dynamic. It's not just clipping the signal. It's more like a stomp box.
  4. Your clone doesn't have a filter envelop. The original one has. This is important. A LP filter will shape a square to a sine in the extreme case! That's why the waveform looks so different!
  5. Check the duty cycle. It might not be 50%-50%. Sounds like 60%-40% to me.
  6. The original one has legato.

This reminds me of a demo song in FL Studio 4.1... TS404+Overdrive will create this sound. Also with Sytrus you can 'pinch' a sine wave into this directly. :-D

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