Which synthesis type allows for the most complexity? I may not know all synthesis types. I know there is:

  • FM
  • Subtractive
  • Additive
  • Wavetable

There may be more.

Which is these allows for more complexity / versatility?

I mean, the ability to create complex sounds. It may bome down to how complex the hardware or software is and how many options it has rather than the synthesizing method.

So. wether I want to make a bass sound or a rich ambient sound with crazy sound effects, which synthesizing method is best?

  • I think you need to at least state what your desired resolution is and your noise profile. If I understand your question, you are asking which type offers more flexibility to represent complex sounds. From a purely signal processing and modeling point of view any type will do, even AM, or PM or some combo. The issue is info loss. Unless you are referring to industry standard techniques using the synth electronics. Please elaborate.
    – user50691
    Sep 6, 2019 at 20:37
  • Other types include granular, physical modeling, and subharmonic. You can synthesize sounds using a delay line and I’m not sure what that’s called. I guess it’s a type of granular synth. Sep 6, 2019 at 21:01
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox "You can synthesize sounds using a delay line" = Karplus-Strong ? Sep 6, 2019 at 21:11
  • @topomorto Well that’s at least another kind of synthesis. If you view the delay line as taking a sample and then playing it back then that has some aspects of granular synthesis in it. I thought Karplus Strong was a variant of physical modeling, but I’m certainly no expert. And there’s a lot of overlap between the types. Sep 6, 2019 at 21:23
  • 1
    What are you trying to do? Why would someone deliberately search for complexity. Sep 6, 2019 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


One problem with really giving a 'correct' answer to your question is that the techniques you mention aren't necessarily distinct. You could have a subtractive synthesizer that uses wavetable oscillators; An additive synth might also use wavetables for efficicency; an FM synth with many operators can in theory do everything an Additive synth can do, and so on.

There's also the issue that what you find in real-world products isn't necessarily a representation of what's possible in theory. This is particularly true of additive synthesis - it's a very powerful technique that can in theory produce any sound, but it can take a lot of CPU power, so the 'additive synthesizers' you can buy tend to be quite limited.

The bottom line is that any of these synthesis techniques can produce incredibly complex sounds - but what sounds you can actually produce on a particular bit of equipment depends on the specific facilities available on that equipment. Many of the most important facilities for creating complex sounds are the facilities available for modulation (such as assigning LFOs to various parameters), and the effects processing available. Many incredibly deep and complex synth patches are very thin and weedy with all the effects turned off.

An experienced synthesist could often produce a sound using one of these techniques, and then produce a passable imitation of it using one or more of the other techniques. In many cases, it's knowledge that gives you power!

If you're just starting to learn synthesis, subtractive is often popular for being quite intuitive and giving you controllable results without too much effort.

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