Rant time. So many synths sync the LFO to the tempo, so that they phase in time to the beat. Simple enough idea. So many of these synths don’t let you define at what point in the phase the LFO starts when a sequence starts (when a MIDI start message is received). I may have to draw a picture.
This image shows how you would expect a sawtooth wave to sync to the beats of a drum machine or sequencer:
In many synths, the LFO doesn’t restart its phase when it receives a MIDI start message, so you might end up with something like this:
The LFO is in sync, but out of time. If that LFO were controlling the cutoff frequency of a filter, it would sound terrible, as its phase peak is a little ahead of each beat.
Neither the Yamaha Montage nor the Novation Peak provide a means to sync phase. They do offer an option to restart the phase on a key press, but this rather depends on your timing to be 100% accurate, and that you are not playing between the beats – heaven forbid!
The Montage has this fabulous motion sequencer feature where you can customise a 16 step modulation pattern that can affect pretty much anything you want. It doesn’t sync its phase to anything but key-press. It is possible to send a MIDI trigger message to reset the motion sequence, but I have found that it sometimes runs a few milliseconds slow, so its sounds a bit off. Using USB MIDI seems to have sorted this out, but it really should work over MIDI DIN, shouldn’t it?
Strangely enough, Novation released a system update that included 2 extra LFOs, each with a single phase (as opposed to polyphonic phasing) and, with a little bit of fiddling, these do sync perfectly to a MIDI start message. So it’s not that they don’t get it!
Nord Lead 4 and Stage 2 both take MIDI start messages into account when syncing LFOs; it’s not that difficult.