5. PCM Synthesis
Although not bringing anything truly new to the synthesis party, a number of instruments took advantage of sampling technology and replaced the standard oscillator waveforms with a range of PCM samples of real instruments such as strings, woodwind and percussion. Early PCM synthesizers (also known as 'sample playback' synthesizers) kept costs down by using only very short samples of the 'attack' portions of sounds, which was enough to do a reasonably convincing job of fooling the ear. Although there was little that could be done to change the sound of the samples, the range of them made it popular with gigging musicians, who for the first time were able to call up a fairly realistic palette of sounds. Both Roland's D50 and Korg's M1 were very popular, continuing the demise of the analogue subtractive synth with its more limited range of sound, and heralding the beginnings of the workstation instrument. Current models use much longer, higher quality samples, and also offer substantial synthesis facilities to mould the sound.
Korg M1 workstation synthesizer