CICADA ACOUSTIC SYNTHESIZER
Play with the building blocks of sound
Artists Creating with Cicada
From Richard Devine to Julia Govor, artists discover new ways to create rich and vivid soundscapes and textures. Listen and explore these individualistic expressions of acoustic synthesis.
What is Cicada?
The Ultimate Sound Design Generator
Cicada’s unique feature is the system’s ability to transform electrical signals into precise mechanical vibrations capable of generating acoustic modulation.
Our system allows you to control and interact with acoustic synthesis in a spontaneous and playful way.
Take a look at our Cicada input vs. output demo.
At the core of Cicada is our patented tip-surface interaction between the bridge and the soundboard. Vibrations generated by the voice-coil motors in the actuator are transmitted and amplified by the bridge, causing intermittent interaction with the soundboard.
This intermittent and periodic interaction results in modulation. The precision of Cicada allows for these modulation effects to be controllable and repeatable through touch and CV input. It elevates a simple linear transducer interaction with a surface into a nonlinear, controllable, musical interface.
Playful Sound Exploration
Cicada offers rich customization of sound through a variety of soundboards and bridges.
Depending on the resonator and filter properties of each material, the resulting sound is dramatically transformed.
Hard materials, like the wood soundboard, produce brighter more distorted sounds, whereas softer materials, like the EVA foam soundboard, result in low-pass filtered sounds emphasizing bass frequencies. The weight, density, and shape all affect the sound, leading endless possibilities and configurations.
Let us take you on a new musical journey where the physical coexists with the virtual.
Breaking the Modular Mold
Cicada has been in development for the last five years. Unlike a traditional synthesizer or electric piano, where electronic components produce the tones, Cicada uses vibrations created by electrical signals which are affected by different materials. Physical movement and touch come into play, much like a traditional or acoustic instrument, offering the user a completely new way of approaching sound design and music creation.
Cicada uses a bridge that acts as a tuned mass amplifier. When driven, it oscillates producing intermittent contact with the material soundboard (filter). This intermittent interaction is what produces controllable acoustic modulation synthesis.
Bringing Together the Pieces of the Synth Puzzle
Cicada brings together five key components; AMP, PRE, Actuator, Bridge, and Soundboard. These five pieces of the puzzle work together to convert the virtual into the physical.
Vibrations are produced by the Actuator from up to three input signals which are generated by the AMP module.
These vibrations are carried across the bridge and are transformed into nonlinear tip surface interactions onto the Soundboard, resulting in acoustic synthesis. The soundboard contains an acoustic pickup capturing the arthroscopic events on the soundboard.
The signal from the pickup is attenuated, filtered, and preamplified via the PRE module.
Finally, force sensitive resistors in the soundboard turn Cicada into a control voltage (CV) controller. Offering you the ability to incorporate touch control back into your experimental beats, soundscapes, and sound design.
Vibrations Across the Board
Cicada technology works with unique transducers that have been rethought. Designed in such a way that the DC offset can be very precise. These transducers work in harmony and are in coherent balance with the other components.
Unlike other transducer-based devices that drive the material strictly as a physical filter, Cicada uses a bridge that acts as a tuned mass amplifier. When driven, it oscillates producing intermittent contact with a material soundboard that acts as a filter. This intermittent interaction is what produces controllable acoustic modulation synthesis.
The bridges have a range of tipped ends, such as neoprene, wood, and metal, each creating different voices as they vibrate on each soundboard.
Cicada soundboards work similarly to those of a piano or violin. Radiating vibrations over a wide frequency range.
By crafting the soundboards from different materials, you can unlock the versatile and unique sound properties of each material, whether it be wood, polycarbonate, or other available materials. Opening up the possibilities for original sound creation.
Physical Synth Control
As a musician, you love getting physically involved with the creation of sound. Whether it be strumming a guitar, blowing a horn, or running your fingers across a keyboard. We all have that drive to use movement and touch in order to effect a change in tone and sound.
By moving the bridges so they vibrate on different parts of the soundboard you produce different sonic results.
Further control is possible via the DC offset feature of Cicada, which allows the user to raise and lower the bridge electronically by submillimeter distances. This results in expressive automation of signal-driven effects as well as precise sample-and-hold methods.
And by pressing or touching on different parts of the soundboard, you can change and manipulate the sound, bringing the Cicada back to the physical musical world.
Expansion and Exploration
Each module can be expanded with further Cicada engineered components and technology, enabling you to push the sonic capabilities of each unit.
Cicada soundboards can be made from a range of materials, and are currently available in wood, EVA foam, and polycarbonate.
Multiple bridges can be used and arrive with a selection of tipped ends (Neoprene, wood, and metal) which produce completely different tones and voices.
Cicada is an ever-growing sound system controlled by you.
The Future of Cicada
Cicada opens up future possibilities for unlimited sonic adventures and musical discoveries.
We look forward to additional soundboards with alternative materials, expanded modules, and fresh synth ideas.
At Physical Synthesis, we want our products to be consumed by our community because, after all, you are the future of us, and it starts with Cicada.
Sounds Made with Cicada
In collaboration with our community of artists, composers, and producers, Cicada has been used to create sounds of different genres and styles in a constantly evolving discovery of different work practices.
These tracks are artistic in nature, but highlight the output from Cicada.
If you would like to become a Cicada Artist, please contact us for consideration here.
Our Cicada backroom channel showcases demos and other videos made at our studio in Brooklyn, New York.
If you have an idea for a demo you want to see and hear, let us know.
AMP, PRE, Actuator, Bridge, Soundboard
Two 3.5 mm mono audio inputs accepting Eurorack Audio signals at 10V pp
One 3.5 mm Input to Control DC Offset 10V pp (-5V to 5V Range)
EDC 9 V 2.5 PRE and AMP are powered with a Universal Meanwell Medical-Grade Power Supply (Included).
Interchangeable Soundboards and Bridges
1/4 Inch Unbalanced Inputs/Outputs
Gain and DC Offset Controls
Force Sensitive Resistor output to Control Voltages
One 3.5 mm mono Audio Output
Four 3.5 mm CV Outputs from the Soundboard FSRs (0 to +5V)
Four Custom SATA Convertors
Digital Authenticity QR Plate
USB Backup of all Relevant Documentation
Cicada is an expandable modular system comprised of five primary components: AMP, PRE, Actuator, Bridge, Soundboard.
2 x 15 W Class A Amplifiers (LM1875T) with DC offset on Amplifier One
0.001 Hz to 30,000 Hz
Glass-Filled Nylon 12
Cicada Founders Edition Extended.
Cicada Founders Edition.
Place of Origin
Made in Brooklyn, USA