Hi everyone. I have frequently revised designs for polyphonic envelopes. i've often misunderstood things about vline~ and scheduling voices in such a way to avoid unwanted clicks while also keeping things on time and snappy.

i'd be really happy to know what your methods are for envelopes.

i submit this patch, a reflection on envelope practices and how i address certain challenges. envwork.pd

this patch makes these assertions:

1- because vline~ maintains sample accuracy by scheduling events for the next block, you can switch dsp on in a subpatch with block~ while sending a message to vline~ and the dsp will be active by the start of the vline~ output. This also works if you need to configure a non-signal inlet before triggering a voice. send a message to such an inlet concurrently with a vline~ message and the parameters will update on the block boundary before the vline~ plays.

2- accounting for note stealing can cause issues in a polyphonic patch. if the stealing note has a slow attack and the envelope of the stolen note is not closed, there will be a click as the pitch of the new note jumps. the voices in my patch apply slight portamento to smooth out this click. if, however, the attack time of the stealing note is faster than this slight portamento it is counterproductive and will soften the attack of stolen notes. Stolen notes need every bit of snap they can get because the envelopes may be starting at a non-zero value. so i limit the time of the portamento to the attack time.

3- to make sure a note that is still in its release phase is treated as a stolen note, it is necessary to monitor the state of the envelopes like so:
switching the dsp off too close to the end of the release causes clicks. after testing, my system liked a full 50ms of extra delay after the end of a release before it was safe to switch off dsp. I don't think this is attributable just to the scheduling delay of vline~ but it's a small mystery to me. possibly there's a problem with my voices.

This all gets a little more complex when there are multiple envelopes per voice. The release time that affects the final output of the voice must reset all envelopes to when it is finished and before dsp is switched off. Otherwise an envelope with a long release affecting something like filter frequency can be held at a non-zero value when dsp is switched off and spoil the starting state of the vline~ on a new note.

finally, on vline~ and sample accuracy and timing, let me type out what i believe is the case. i could be wrong about this. if you programmed a synth using line~ for the envelopes, it would be faster than vline~ but not all notes equally faster. all notes would sound at the block boundary. Notes arriving shortly after the last block boundary might take 90% of the block period to sound. notes arriving just before the block boundary might take 10% of the period to sound.

vline~ will always be delayed by 100% of the block boundary. but the events will be scheduled sample-accurately, so the vline~ will trigger at exactly the real time intervals of the input. a synth with line~ envelopes will trigger any two events within a single block at the same time.

this should mean that vline~ envelopes can be accurately delay compensated and stay absolutely true to input timing, in the case of something like a Camomile plugin.

however, if one was to build a synth for something like a raspberry pi that will act as hardware, would it be better to use line~ envelopes and gain a little bit of speed? is the restriction of locking envelopes to block boundaries perceptible under normal playing conditions?! i could test some midi input and see if the notes in a chord ever achieve a timing spread greater than the block period anyway...