Module Focus: Wiard Oscillator / Richter Oscillator II

I like modular synthesizers and I particularly like the modules that make up a modular synthesizer. In Module Focus I’ll spotlight some of my favorites, write a bit about why I like them, and give some ideas on how they can be used.

First up is the Wiard Oscillator (re-released as Richter Oscillator II) by Malekko and Grant Richter. Released all the way back in 2010, it’s touted as the “classic East Coast oscillator” for the Malekko Wiard system. Beyond doing exactly what you’d expect from an analog oscillator, it’s also got quite a few tricks up its sleeve so let’s get into it.

Most of the controls and outputs are pretty self-explanatory and commonly found on analog oscillators. On the Wiard Oscillator the Fine knob is also a pull switch to set the oscillator to low frequency mode, a lovely little detail, while on the Richter Oscillator II that’s instead a dedicated button.

What’s different about Wiard Oscillator (except that it has a beautifully pure sine wave and tracks really well) is that it has two sets of Triangle, Saw, and Square outputs. The second set of outputs are phase-shifted copies of the first but with an adjustable phase from 0-360 degrees. The Phase knob manually controls the phase while the Phase Mod input allows for external control. This opens up for a lot of fun trickery and that’s what modular’s all about. Here are some things you can do with this:

  • Stereo oscillator: Sending the two waveforms to your left and right channels and adjusting the phase offset creates a very nice stereo image.
  • Quadrature LFO: In LFO mode, you can create LFOs with adjustable phase. At 90, 180, or 270 degrees these are commonly known as “quadrature” and are super useful to create synchronized movement. It’s particularly fun to patch into the X and Y inputs of a Wiard JAG to create circular motions.
  • Phase Modulation: Modulating the phase using another oscillator is a bit like FM (and in fact what the digital implementation of FM is in practice) but it’s a bit cleaner and easier to control than analog FM since the phase is limited to 0-360 degrees.
  • Waveshaping: Subtracting, adding, or multiplying a waveform with a phase-shifted version of the same waveform is a great way to get new timbres. Try subtracting a phase-shifted saw from a saw and you’ll find you have a pulse where Phase control is the pulse width! You can easily do this with a bipolar VCA or mixer by turning the first waveform full positive and the phase-shifted waveform full negative. Fun fact: this is actually how Reason’s Subtractor synth works!

Of course it’s also a great module to just get a big meaty saw wave for your filter to bite into, but the real selling point of the module is the phase-shifted output and I think it’s just lovely.