A wavefolder is a type of audio processing module found in modular synthesizers, specifically designed to shape and transform waveforms by “folding” them back on themselves. This process adds harmonics and complexity to the input signal, resulting in a richer and more dynamic sound.
Wavefolding works by reflecting parts of the input waveform that exceed a certain threshold back towards the center of the waveform. As the input signal’s amplitude increases beyond this threshold, the waveform is folded back multiple times, creating additional peaks and valleys in the waveform. This results in a more complex waveform with added harmonics, which can significantly alter the sound’s timbre.
By adjusting the input level, folding threshold, and other parameters, a wavefolder can produce a wide variety of timbres and textures, from subtle harmonic enhancements to aggressive distortion-like effects.
In modular synthesis, wavefolders are often associated with the “West Coast” synthesis approach, popularized by designers like Don Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin, where complex waveform manipulation and non-linear processing play a significant role in sound design.