In a recent interview, Louis Gorenfield explained his motivation behind creating the Retronyms Phase84 distortion synth for iPad ($9.99 regular price) and Samsung Android ($4.99) devices.
"I’m always intrigued by unorthodox forms of synthesis,” he said, “especially when they play to the strengths of digital sound synthesis rather than being an emulation of analog gear.”
When Casio made its Phase Distortion synthesizers like the CZ-5000 from 1985 and CZ-1 from 1986, it was trying to compete with the popular Yamaha DX line of FM synths.
"But while Phase Distortion has its similarities with FM, it is noticeably warmer sounding and easier to program,” Gorenfield said. “The sound of Phase Distortion exists somewhere in the space between traditional analog subtractive synths like the Minimoog and Yamaha’s chilly, plucky FM tones. Casio’s resulting CZ synth line found use on albums from a diverse list of artists from Moby to Jean-Michel Jarre to They Might Be Giants."
After trying a Casio Phase Distortion synth for the first time in 1998, Gorenfield eventually began imagining what a modern version would be like.
“Phase 84 takes the basic Phase Distortion technique and supercharges it,” he said. “The user can customize their waveforms much more than on the original Casio CZs. An organic semi-randomized unison mode helps it produce killer pads. The oscillators can be FM’d together for even more complex and rough tones, or phased using pulse-width modulation. Three ultra-flexible LFOs can go into the audio range or even be used like additional envelopes. And dare I mention the live performance features and the uniquely customizable gate for maximum funkitude?"
You can read the full interview on the Retronyms blog.
The videos below show Phase84 in action and also show Gorenfield demoing different aspect of Phase84 during the building process.