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Granular NN-XT

Published: 2016-10-12

Welcome back to another Reason 6.5 Tutorial about the NN-XT. In this article I will write stuff down about a "fake" granular synth using the NN-XT. It is a fake method because it isn't 100% granular. The main concept op granular synthesis is that a sound gets chopped up in smaller segments called grains. These grains form the perfect loop points. In the NN-XT there is a method to fake this, however the loop points aren't perfect. But it gets close to what I want to accomplish from time to time.

There are 2 methods that can be used to accomplish this:
- NN-XT + RPG 8
- NN-19 + RPG 8

The main difference between the 2 methods is the way of using the sample start point from the sampler. With the NN19 there is a knob called "Sample Start". While the NN-XT doesn't have this directly. Since it requires some tinkering with the NN-XT I will mainly go for this example. Making an NN-19 version for this would later on be easy.

In this video I will describe the complete process of creating a Granular Synth using the NN-XT. Later on in this article I throw in more of a background story combined with a couble of example files.

Granular NN-XT Starting Point

These 2 devices combined will be the starting point of a granular synth in Reason 6.5 using a sample. Open up the remote editor, load up any sample to turn into a graintable. Personally I prefer to take samples from the "Other Samples" of the Reason Factory soundbank, because they are rather long and have some weird transitions in them (which is great for granular synthesis). Other then that, complete drum tracks will do the trick as well. As long as they are lengthy samples around 1.5 seconds. Have a file size of at least 65Kb (more about this later).

Sample Start point

With in the NN-XT there is a segment called "Velocity" > "Sample start point". By selecting the sample start point, the velocity can be used to trigger different starting points from the sample.

NN-XT sample start point velocity

By setting the velocity > sample start to 100% the velocity will use a max of 65535 frames when the velocity hits 127. The reason why the sample start point will never go beyond 65535 frames is probably because the NN-XT was developed in a 16-bit realm. 65535 is the max amount of a 16-bit integer. This 66535 frames has been tested with samples using 44.1 Khz. There might be a different behaviour when using samples recorded on 22.050 KHz. But knowing there is a limit to the end of the sample start point is important to know. Samples that are longer then 65535 frames (~ 65Kb)  will never use the end part of the sample.

All the other velocity setting can be put to 0. Since these are not of any use with this effect.


The best practice of this set up is using this inside the combinator. The combinator has 4 rotaries that can be programmed to do something later on. One important part will be using the Velocity > Sample start setting later on. The combinator will also make our workflow a bit easier since there are multiple set ups that can be made with using the NN-XT Granular Synth method.

The important parts of a Granular NN-XT

There are 3 vital parts to make use of the Granular NN-XT. These settings are:
- Velocity Rotary of the RPG-8
- Rate (Free and Sync)
- Rate mode (Free running/Synced)

To set this up the combinator can be programmed in this way:
Rotary 1 connects to
 the Velocity knob of the RPG-8. Minimum value =1, max value = 127
Rotary 2 connects to
 a. Synced Rate
 b. Free Rate
Button 1 connects to
 Sync (0=Free / 1 = Synced)

nn-xt granular combinator

In the end something as the following is the starting point for a granular synth using the NN-XT.

At this point on there are 3 buttons and 2 rotaries which can be programmed different to make a different type of granular synth in Reason 6.5 using the NN-XT. Heck, this technique works with Reason 4 and 5 even, since there are no Rack extensions being used what so ever.

Reason 5 RNS Granular NN-XT

Granular with Room

To create room within the Granular Synth, there are a couple of options to play with. First there is a setting called "Amplitude Release". By default the Release is set to 60.0 ms on the sample (when a sample is loaded in the NN-XT). The release can be modified to make the transitions per grain shorter or longer. If the release is set "right" the transitions between the grains will get lesser noticeable. Since grains are defined by "speed" (rate), length of the note thus release of the note will become an important factor to make the transition work to the next grain. Kind of like the sample is looping, but its not.

An additional setting would be using the Filter Cut Off frequency. This can be a nice transition for building up an effect. By default a sample has an LP12 filter attached when loading it up inside the NN-XT. So to make use of the most default stuff (load up samples) the filter set up can work fine when the rotary of the filter is programmed on the negative values only (since the filter frequency is already maxed out by default).

NN-XT Advanced granular Synth

The programming of rotary 3 and Rotary 4 will controll the length of the release and the filter cut off of the LP12 filter.

To make use of the 3 buttons there are different effects that can be added and so on. To create 'room' inside this effect I have choosed for the Chorus Flanger, Delays (2 steps and 3 steps) and an additional RV7 set to Hall to create depth. Each effect can be turned on/off by using the Dry/Wet rotary. The only exception is the Chorus / Flanger. The chorus / flanger will always be active... to solve this issue I have used the "ByPass/Enable" method instead.

granular nn-xt delay effect

Reason 5 RNS Granular NN-XT with Release

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2016-10-12

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