How to turn a low-pass filter into an envelope follower

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How to turn a low-pass filter into an envelope follower

Post by otoskope » Sat Apr 02, 2016 3:28 am

I have previously posted about how to turn a Bugbrand LPG (rev 2) into an envelope follower here:

But while betatesting the new Bugbrand Synth Voice modular frame, which doesn't have an LPG (but lots of other goodies), I came up with another, even simpler trick, which also works with old Bugbrand filters, and probably with a lot of other brands too - as long as the filter has a DC coupled output. (I'm sure others have done it before, since it is really quite trivial.)

The recipe is simple:

* Use Low Pass mode
* On the OldBlue SV Filter, set Cutoff Freq to lowest
* On the new filter, either use lowest Cutoff setting at Audio Rate mode or 2 o'clock at Sub mode (to start with)
* Set Resonance at zero
* Patch audio to both Audio In and CV in
* Set CV amount to positive maximum (to start with)

You get the envelop at Audio Out. It will track the positive peaks of the signal, but will disregard the negative part. In most applications this doesn't matter.

The idea is simple. When the wave goes high, the filter goes high and lets it through. When it descends again, the filter slows down and introduces a lag so that it doesn't follow the wave down so quickly. A lowpass filter is a kind of slew limiter, or a leaky integrator. In this way, the positive parts of the wave are given proportionally much more influence over the output signal, resulting in an output following the positive contour of the signal.

Here's a picture of a typical setting with the OldBlue filter, with oscilloscope output (spoken word input):
Image Image

And here's the filter of the new blue Synth Voice (mine is green, since it's a prototype):
Image Image

* You can use the V/Oct in instead of CV in.
* Adjust the Cutoff Freq and CV amount to adjust slew rate and general behaviour. If Cutoff is set too high, you get some audio ripples on top of your envelope signal. If it is set too low, it will not catch fast changes in the sound.
* You may have to amplify the envelope signal to reach full swing - the easiest way is to patch it to both inputs on a DC Mixer.
* On the SynthVoice frame filter you can set the CV to negative, and you will get a negative envelope countour out. This can be used to patch up a kind of pumping compressor (with sidechain) on a VCA, and other things.
* Patch the generated envelope signal to the Gate In of an envelope module, and connect that envelope out to a VCA - and you have a simple noise gate.

I hope this was helpful. It should work with other filters, too. Just for fun, I tried it on a CGS Wasp filter, and it sort of worked!
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Post by BugBrand » Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:06 pm

Nice one Palle! I must try it some more, for sure.

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Post by numan7 » Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:18 pm

:hail: awesome patch tip, otoscope!

:bananaguitar: and it can also function as a vc-slew limiter, as i've been testing out this past weekend.... hmm, is this bugbrand or serge? :confused:

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Post by flo » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:57 am

Well, a slew limiter is just a lowpass filter in the end... :tu: If the filter doesn't go low enough, apply negative offsets.

I mostly do this with rectification first, then into a dc-coupled lowpass filter. That way you can leave off the modulation of the filter. If you don't have rectification, you can patch it by putting an offset into a VCA and the audio/source into the VCA CV input.

Cheers :guinness:

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Post by BugBrand » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:49 am

numan7 can also function as a vc-slew limiter,..
The left-hand-side filter already has the sub-audio range switch for just that application!

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Post by wsy » Tue Apr 12, 2016 5:49 pm

Cool trick to use the frequency scaling cutoff to act (effectively) like a unipolar VCA and cut off the negative-going excursions, so
the second filter sees only the positive and can smooth it to the positive-going envelope.

I gotta remember that trick!

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Re: How to turn a low-pass filter into an envelope follower

Post by northerntao » Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:58 pm

This is a neat trick - trying to reproduce some ARP 2600 patches on my blue system. S&H is the biggest thing I’m missing but it sounds like it is going to make a return.

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Re: How to turn a low-pass filter into an envelope follower

Post by Kattefjaes » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:18 pm

Oh, this looks like something that I might be able to pull off in my humble Euro setup, with a bit of fiddling. Clearly my "too many filters" habit was just good planning.

Thanks for posting, really obvious once you see it. Elegant!

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