Effectively leveraging Equator2 with a Seaboard RISE 2

Unpack the limitless hybrid soft synth from ROLI in this beginner's guide to Equator2

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This article is meant for those who have access to Equator2, ROLI’s Limitless Hybrid Synthesizer. While always available as an individual license, if you have purchased a Seaboard RISE 2 you already have access to this powerful instrument. With over 1,400 presets to choose from, don’t overlook this the next time you open a project in your DAW.

As music producers, it’s not an exaggeration to say that there are sometimes just too many choices when it comes to software. Our emails are bombarded with free and heavily discounted plugins to add to those bundled with our purchases. This is a great problem to have, but it also makes it challenging to know where to start. We might download those plugins, but mastering a program takes time. Even more – it takes trust. Trust to understand your sound and needs, align with your vision, and fit into your workflow.

This is why we often do not use every tool we download, but today we’d like to encourage you not to make Equator2 one of those. Read on to understand why through a few key functions that makes the instrument so special. As we won’t explain every technical detail, be sure to also save the user manual, FAQs and the ROLI YouTube channel when questions come up.

Four Distinct, Combinable Synthesis Types

Equator2, as a hybrid soft synth, provides the flexibility to combine multiple synthesis types in a single instrument. Why is this important? Well, as much as collecting every Korg Volca product feels tempting, that becomes both expensive and takes up space. Equator2 provides you with both versatility and quality to become a go-to in your studio.

We hold immense respect for the wide range of specialized soft synths out there which are a staple to many of the world’s best musicians, some linked below. Though if you have access to Equator2 and have not yet understood its capabilities, the first way to power your next idea is trying out each, and combining multiple synthesis types.

The following four synthesis engines are possible to use as sound sources:

  • Wavetable: One of the most important forms of digital synthesis, the instrument triggers and manipulates multiple, individual pre-loaded waveforms. Wavetables extend beyond simple waveforms; they can be much more complex and textural beyond basic sine and sawtooth waves. Users of Serum will be very familiar with this, and just how many factory tables are available before even considering a user-built group.

  • Sampler: Easily confused with Wavetable given pre-saved waveforms are also being used, Sample-based synthesis uses audio recording as its source. This can, as one example, allow you to trigger far longer cycles, even entire musical phrases, as your source.

  • Granular: Meticulously picks apart just one sample for all sources. By chopping the selected sound into tiny pieces (“grains”) and modulating one or multiple pieces throughout cycles, this format allows for incredibly textured output rooted in one original sound.

  • Noise (or FM): Standing for Frequency Modulation, this will take one waveform (a “carrier”) and modulate it with a second waveform (a “moderator”). It can be helpful to think of this as more similar to an additive synthesis approach rather than subtractive.

It gets better: up to six total oscillators can be blended and affected individually. This is where the hybrid nature of the instrument really comes into play, as you can reimagine your application of these methods by pinning them against, around, and within one another. You might even opt for a purist approach to start, experimenting with single synthesis types to best understand the differences explained above, before mixing different types. Whether minimal or pushing the limits of the oscillator and effect slots, the joy and inspiration will flow instantly.

One note to keep in mind here: the word sample does not always refer to a one-shot or loop you’ve licensed to use in your production. The numbers 44.1 and 48, which are bound to look familiar to you, refer to samples rate, or samples per second. When speaking about synthesis, generally we are referring to those very small cycles within a waveform as one sample, rather than something you might pick up on the ROLI store.

A powerhouse for both MPE and standard MIDI expression

Most presets in Equator2 are provided with or without MPE capabilities. The Five Dimensions of Touch built into your Seaboard RISE 2 are not only compatible, but wholly scripted for in these presets. This is crucial and honors the roots of the earliest ROLI instruments, allowing you to be as expressive as an orchestra or as traditional as a grand piano. Check out a few of our favorite sounds to get started via Italian musician Marco Parisi.

Marco Parisi’s Top 10 Equator2 Sounds

Marco Parisi’s Top 10 Equator2 Sounds

The decision of whether to select the MPE or standard setting might be based on the nature of your music at that moment, but the option is always there for flexibility. This might also be decided based on where you are opening the instrument. If you are traveling without access to your RISE 2, but bring any type of MIDI controller along, your inspiration with Equator2 will not be blocked!

Be sure to review the tutorial on navigating presets and a number of other parameters when first opening the instrument, to decide what kind of player you’ll embody.

Preview of the Equator2 presets screen when using ROLI's limitless hybrid synthesizer.

In addition to the presets, there are a number of global settings and maco controls which are crucial to whether or not you’re feeling extra expressive. Voice mode to determine how polyphonic the output will be and preset slide mode, one of the most exciting features of Seaboard RISE 2, are among the many ways to customize how Equator2 interacts with your physical playing.

Bringing intention to your settings as you get started is essential. One way to do this is to analyse presets you like. As you flip through different presets and find a few you like, take some time to deeply study how that sound is shaped. What are the exact settings you like about it? What can you reproduce in a custom sound in the future or apply to your music in similar ways with the other plugins you use? This type of ear training can be massive in leveling up your writing abilities and overall comfort with synthesis, especially when many of these presets are blending multiple engine types.

Looking for a few more writing prompts? We got you. Put your knowledge to the test, or evolve your production and performance skills with the below exercises:

  1. Build your own preset from scratch, and begin a new song with this as a primary voice
  2. Create a track with at least 4 distinct presets, only using Equator2
  3. Pick a preset in Equator2, and minimize the window. Play for as long as needed to familiarize your ear to the textures, and record a few chords and melodies. Keep that recording close, and try to recreate the preset from scratch

Diving into Equator2 Sounds

We’ve released dozens of videos to help you feel more comfortable and inspired with Equator2. As you’re playing, keep this YouTube playlist open to go back to whenever you need a spark or have a question.

Like any instrument, but especially newer technologies like MPE, making mistakes and searching for advice when you need it is the way to go. But remember: you already have access to this instrument with a RISE 2. Take a bit of time to create through Equator2 and before long, it could become the centerpiece of your studio.

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