Following on my post on bipolar VCAs: Since there are some similarities between what’s going on with bipolar amplitude modulation and through-zero frequency modulation I thought I’d take another look at these topics in a little more detail.
Learning Modular has a nice post on Understanding the Differences Between Exponential, Linear, and Through-Zero FM, and from there I revisited @RobertSyrett’s Know your Nodes video on Comparing different types of FM.
One aspect that through-zero FM and bipolar AM modulations have in common is that they don’t freeze (or shut-off) output when the modulation signal falls below zero. Both do this by inverting the waveform in question. In the case of TZFM it is not the amplitude that is inverted but the phase of the waveform: In the Learning Modular video Chris Meyer describes this inversion as the oscillator ‘running backwards’ while @RobertSyrett in his Audulus demonstration talks of a reversal of the direction in which the waveform is being read. This means that there can be sudden changes in the direction of the waveform (in addition to it being sped-up/slowed-down) but without the potential jumps at the point of inversion that can occur with bipolar AM.
With both types of modulation sidebands are generated and this results in a change in the harmonic content of the waveform. In my previous post I noted Chris Meyer’s demonstration of the way in which the fundamental of the carrier falls away as bipolar AM (ring) modulation is increased, but remains present with amplitude modulation. Similar processes are at play in FM (of all kinds) and I came across a series of old Sound on Sound articles, one of which includes an good explanation of how the Bessel function can be used to describe the amplitude of each pair of side bands, and how they relate to the strength of the other partials and affect the relative strength of the fundamental.
@RobertSyrett demonstrates in his video how with TZFM sweeping the frequency also changes the character of the Bessel function (i.e. the timbre of the sound), while with PM the character of the Bessel function is uniform across the frequency range since the phase is not calculated in relation to the hertz value of the modulator – i.e. the timbre/harmonic structure of the waveform stays the same across the frequency range.
Phase modulation differs from TZFM in that the modulating waveform also changes the starting point of the carrier waveform. With TZFM the carrier remains in phase with modulating signal (through a continuously morphing Bessel function).
(I’ve also posted this on the Audulus forum.)