Sound of Trek   Hacker Article   Listen Lab   Bonus!  Final Frontier


Star Trek III

The search for more sound effects

Just when you though it was safe in the 23rd century! 

I was busy thinking how to synthesize other sounds from the show, when Kirk sent me jpegs of his third article in the series.  This article includes some very tough-to-synthesize sounds. Kirk Slinkard obviously does not believe in the no-win scenario!

The file date on these jpegs is magically set to the year 2038.  I choose to believe that this date is real, and not just some transfer protocol mix-up. I don’t know about you, I’m just glad Kirk beamed these additional patches back from the future.

But the truth is that Kirk probably realized that I’d putter around until the year 2038 before I got around to posting this article. Well, the time for action is here!

I have added these eight new patches to the original Star Trek Bank download (link on the following page), so enjoy the article below and be sure to download the extended patch set.


Kirk Slinkard                            Transoniq Hacker - Future Retro Edition          Page 12

Miniskirts on the Moon!Well, it seems that those old Star Trek sound effects are still fun to play around with on the synth. Especially synthesizers as versatile as the SQ-80 and ESQ-1.

Back in the 1960s, the sound engineers on Star Trek had to come up with some really original and innovative ways to make their sounds, but that was OK since the 60s were known for being one of the most creative times ever.

That's when we first visited the moon, invented ICs, and also invented micro miniskirts and hot pants. No wonder things were so optimistic.

This first patch ROMULN is the background sound of the inside of an original Romulan Bird of Prey. It automatically shifts slowly back and forth between a plain SINE wave tone and sort of a ring modulator sound by having a second inharmonically related SINE wave slowly fading in and out by LFO1. If you prefer, this could be changed for the modwheel to do the morphing manually by substituting WHEEL for LFOl in DCA2, but I think it is a lot easier for the LFO to do it for us. This patch is not restricted to only middle C, use the keyboard to determine stereo position.

The second one TRANSP is a sound the transporter makes when first activated and at certain other times during its operation. Unfortunately our LFOs do not go quite fast enough to really do justice to this one, so this is as close as I could get. This patch also makes me wish the LFOs included SINE waves. The FORMT1 wave in OSC1 uses 2 pitch modulators, so it only works on middle C. It gets a little warble from LFOl which in turn is modulated by ENV2 to slowly decrease the amount of warble. And ENV1 gives it the characteristic chirp attack then slowly raises the overall pitch. The resonant filter makes it a little more accurate. Easy, huh?.

ENGINR is the sound of the engineering room background, made by adding together three static SINE waves to get 2 different beat frequencies which cause the tremolo effects. I discovered that the sound of the transporter room background is exactly the same sound, but played back at twice the speed. Hey, why do it complicated if you don't have to. So I used the modwheel to raise the pitches up exactly an octave on all three oscillators (like I should have done in a previous article) so now you can have both correct sounds on just one patch.

PHOTON is a different sort of sound than just the basic modulated waveforms in the previous patches, so I had to use an entirely different approach to make it on the SQ-80.Photon Torpedoes Unfortunately this one cannot be duplicated on the ESQs since it uses one of the extra waveforms. STEAM is the closest I could find to the original sound, but it is still only an approximation at best. Since this patch is based on one of those weird SQ-80 SYNC flukes, I can't really give a decent explanation on how this one works. Like almost all the other patches here, since multiple pitch modulators were used, this one is also optimized just for middle C. I am convinced that the original Star Trek version was a tape recording of striking a long stretched cable, like the ones that hold up a radio tower, and then played back at half speed or possibly even 1/4 speed.

BUTONS is the sound of the buttons on the bridge control panels. Originally, they took a recording (sample) of a real switch clicking then grafted that sampled transient onto the beginning of a synthesized wave for the sustained portion of the sound. Hey wait a minute, this is starting to sound familiar! So it is only natural to recreate it on a Linear Arithmetic (LA) synthesizer (or if you prefer, "cross wave"). Spectro Analysis ScannerThe NOISE waves in OSC1 and OSC2 are fast enveloped for the clicks. Then the SQR 2 wave in OSC3 should be played on different random notes near the middle of the keyboard. For variety, you can add some occasional extra modulation from LFO1 using its NOISE waveform by turning the modwheel part way or all the way forward. That gives you the sort of arpeggiated sound that comes up every now and then on the original Enterprise.

SPCTRO is the sound of the spectro-analysis viewer. This uses a filtered SQR 2 wave for the sound of a very basic LFO-modulated slightly distorted sine wave. Then the first two oscillators give a subtle noisy background sound like I heard on the CD. Use the keyboard for stereo placement. I have also heard this sound in contexts other than Star Trek. My old Disneyland Haunted House sound effects record would be one example. Even some other old TV shows used this general type of LFO-modulated sine sound, it was very easy to do even in the sixties.Star Trek Communicator Close-Up

CMNCTR is chirps from a hand held communicator. I had to start with a kind of nasally sound from the FORMT4 wave going through the resonant filter, then the pitch and amplitude were LFO modulated. This one works best on just middle C. I recommend holding it down for a few quick chirps in a row then play a few slightly slower staccato single chirps for one common sound. You could play this patch several different ways. There were quite a few variations of this sound in the original show. So hacking this patch would also be in order. For example, you can change LFOs 1 and 2 for quicker or slower automatic chirps, just always keep them at the same frequency as each other. And ENVELOPE4 T2 sets how many automatic chirps you get. The original sound played back at half speed gives the sound of the dying aliens at the end of the CATSPAW episode.

CONSOL is one of those many sounds you hear coming from the control panels on the bridge, and you can't have too many of those. Star Trek Helm and Navigation ConsoleIt sounds most on-pitch at middle C, but the keyboard can be used for pan. It just rapidly sequences through 4 tones, and here envelopes 1 & 2 are used to switch between them. The first, second, and fourth tones come from OSC1 and have a little amplitude modulation from LFO1, a lot faster than vibrato. But here again our LFOs don't go quite fast enough and a SINE wave would have helped the accuracy. This one makes me think of a college project where we took a few short bits of tape with different tones on them and taped them together. We wound up with some random tones that sounded a lot like this Star Trek sound. So I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Star Trek sound engineers used that technique here as well.

So that covers the eight patches listed here. On a lot of the original sound effects, like the main transporter materialization and dematerialization sounds and planet atmospheric backgrounds, many sine waves were added together in a non harmonic fashion, I assume at randomly selected frequencies. Often with a little slow pitch modulation. Far too many individual tones to duplicate in one patch using 3 oscillators. If you watch The Cage, or its reincarnation in The Menagerie, you can see Spock grabbing a leaf on a plant after they first beamed down. As soon as he grabs it, you can hear one of those tones disappear. Then Spock gives us a big grin. They use the excuse that his character had not been developed yet. Perhaps some justice can be done to a few of these sounds using layered patches.Star Trek Buttons I did try to slowly sweep a resonant filter over one of them and came up with over a dozen individual frequencies. So to really do a proper job, a sequencer would have to be used to combine several different patches at the same time.

So anyway, the total of three articles on Star Trek sound effects so far has not nearly exhausted the sounds just from the original series that can be done on the SQ-80, or even the ESQ1, using single or layered patches. There are some more that I have already been thinking about how to recreate, but there are already eight here and I wouldn't want it to get TOO boring.

May you synthesize long and prosper.


Dateline, January 2010 (The Year We Make Contact)

Just a post-script I wanted to share:

Kirk pulled a pretty good practical joke on me with these patches. He sent me “scans” of what were very credible pages of the old Transoniq Hacker. I typed in the patches, marveled at the programing, and tossed it in to my “To Do” pile to post here.

Months later (after I posted it, in fact), “Civilian Kirk” (as he is called), ‘fessed-up to me that he mocked-up the 3rd article.  Well, I fell for it. His detailed patch sheets were dead ringers for their old hand-made table format.

So I am proud to host this brand new article by Kirk Slinkard! Many thanks, Kirk, for sharing these great sounds with the ESQ/SQ80 community!


Audition Patches in
the Listening Lab

Final Thoughts and
Get the Patches! >>>



[Sound of Trek] [Hacker Article] [Listen Lab] [Bonus!] [Final Frontier]

Post your comments below