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Wavetable synthesis is a method for generating sounds from signals of a digital nature. The technique stores digital sound samples from various sources, which can later be modified, enhanced or combined for reproducing sounds. Wavetable synthesis is considered one of the oldest methods for generating sounds from computers. It differs from simple PCM sample playback because wavetable synthesis relies on looping over the buffer instead of simply a "read once" method. However, wavetable synthesis is similar in many ways to simple digital sine wave generation and digitally controlled oscillator function. Wavetable synthesis is widely used in many areas such as in production of sinusoidal signals.
Wavetable synthesis is capable of generating natural tone-like sounds. Wavetable synthesis functions with the help of waveform lookup tables. The wavetables mostly comprise table values of 128–2048. The waveform lookup table has samples not only for a single period of sine function but for the entire period of the general wave shape. There is also a system in place for dynamically arranging the wave shape with respect to the musical note, which results in generation of a quasiperiodic function in time. The output waveform generated from wavetable synthesis is usually not static and is mostly a changing waveform.
There are several advantages associated with wavetable synthesis. The technique can reproduce sound of musical instruments significantly better than other techniques such as frequency modulation synthesis. Waveform synthesis makes use of less memory, and waves at full resolution can be stored without using much memory compared to other techniques. This is mainly because wavetable synthesis makes use of quasiperiodic waveform nature, thus eliminating the number of datasets and redundancies. Another salient benefit with wavetable synthesis is that all different waves are predetermined and stored in tables, and thus uses less processor power.