While analog enthusiasts tout the benefits of that approach, Texas Instruments is bragging this week about the digital engine that powers Korg’s RADIAS synth, providing both analog emulation and digital processing. Unlike synths, Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips don’t get misspelled English names. Instead, the brain of the RADIAS is the Texas Instruments TMS320VC5502 DSP. (Catchy.) This chip is what allows the Korg to process 24 voices and throw in extras like a vocoder. Check out all the techie details in the press release there, but suffice to say this is what digital is all about.
I’m not about to get into a digital versus analog debate here: they do different things. You can’t plug control voltage into the RADIAS for a modular analog system, just like you can’t play 24 voices on a Moog or other analog piece, and they do sound different. Instead, it’s more important to note that in the age of faster CPUs, dedicated DSP chips are still surviving, because of their specialized advantages and low cost. Even as Korg touts the benefits of Intel CPUs in their high-end OASYS, DSP chips make up a significant part of keyboard hardware you use. For a really up-close-and-personal look at the innards of a digital synth, you can read the manual and tech specs for that TI chip. Even with a passing knowledge of this stuff, you can see how specialized and lightweight DSP chips are when compared to the “sledgehammer, process any computations you throw at me” approach of our computers.