Steal This Sound, Gary Numan's “Cars”

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Longtime Keyboard readers may recall that way back in July 2006, I took a crack at the infamous Polymoog “Vox Humana” patch made famous by Gary Numan (and got it pretty close). Replicating this swirly string/vocal pad has been forum debate fodder for years, and the general consensus is that the Polymoog’s unique “resonator” filter section is responsible. But recent research into the Polymoog’s voice architecture revealed that it’s the only vintage polysynth with three independent LFOs: one for each oscillator’s pitch and a dedicated LFO for one of the oscillator’s pulse width modulation. Modulating all three is the secret of the “Vox Humana” warble! We’ll re-create it with Arturia’s Jupiter-8V virtual synth, but you can use any virtual analog with three independent LFOs.

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Step 1.

Choose a saw wave for VCO-1 and a pulse wave for VCO-2. Set the range to 8' for both. Detune VCO-2 a tiny bit, and set the oscillator mix at equal volume for both oscillators.

Step 2.

Set the LFO to a sine (or triangle) wave with a rate of 5.72Hz. In the VCO Modulator section, set the PWM slider to 0.625 and the source switch to “LFO.” Th is routes the LFO to modulate VCO-2’s pulse width for animation.

Step 3.

Set the VCF cutoff frequency to 1,986Hz and resonance to zero. I used a 12dB slope for a little more brightness. Set “Key Flw” (key follow) to 0.75—this makes the sound brighten as you ascend the keyboard.

Step 4.

Set ENV2 as follows: attack at 453ms, decay at zero, sustain at full, and release at 4,942ms. Remember to turn up the ENV2 level in the VCA section or you won’t hear anything.

Step 5.

Now for the secret sauce. Access JP-8V’s extra LFOs by clicking the Open button in the upper right corner, then click the Modulations tab. Set both LFOs to a triangle wave. Set one to 5.04Hz and the other to 3.5Hz—these exact settings aren’t crucial as long as they’re different. In the Y Output, set the top pop-up menu to “VCO1 Pitch” and the amount knob to 0.084. In the X Output, set the top pop-up menu to “VCO2 Pitch” and the amount knob to 0.052.

That’s it! You can add delays or reverb, but the patch stands up pretty well on its own.