Multichannel Expansion:
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Multichannel Expansion

Explaining multichannel expansion and representation

Multiple channels as Arrays

Multiple channels of audio are represented as Arrays.

Each channel of output will go out a different speaker, so your limit here is two for a stereo output. If you have a supported multi channel audio interface or card then you can output as many channels as the card supports.

All UGens have only a single output. This uniformity facilitates the use of array operations to perform manipulation of multi channel structures.

In order to implement multichannel output, UGens create a separate UGen known as an OutputProxy for each output. An OutputProxy is just a place holder for the output of a multichannel UGen. OutputProxies are created internally, you never need to create them yourself, but it is good to be aware that they exist so you'll know what they are when you run across them.

Multichannel expansion

When an Array is given as an input to a unit generator it causes an array of multiple copies of that unit generator to be made, each with a different value from the input array. This is called multichannel expansion. All but a few special unit generators perform multichannel expansion. Only Arrays are expanded, no other type of Collection, not even subclasses of Array.

Multichannel expansion will propagate through the expression graph. When a unit generator constructor is called with an array of inputs, it returns an array of instances. If that array is the input to another constructor, then another array is created, and so on.

When a constructor is parameterized by two or more arrays, then the number of channels created is equal to the longest array, with parameters being pulled from each array in parallel. The shorter arrays will wrap.

for example, the following:

is equivalent to:

A more complex example based on the Saw example above is given below. In this example, the XLine is expanded to two instances, one going from 8000 Hz to 400 Hz and the other going in the opposite direction from 500 Hz to 7000 Hz. These two XLines are 'married' to the two Saw oscillators and used to parameterize two copies of RLPF. So on the left channel a 100 Hz Saw is filtered from 8000 Hz to 400 Hz and on the right channel a 250 Hz Saw is filtered from 500 Hz to 7000 Hz.

Expanding methods and operators

Many operators and methods also multichannel expand. For example all common math operators:

Also the various UGen convenience functions like .clip2, .lag and .range :

The expansion is handled by wrapper-methods defined in SequenceableCollection.

You can use Object: -multiChannelPerform to do multichannel expansion with any method on any kind of object:

The shorter arrays wrap:

Using flop for multichannel expansion

The method flop swaps columns and rows, allowing to derive series of argument sets:

Similarly, Function:flop returns an unevaluated function that will expand to its arguments when evaluated:

Multichannel expansion in Patterns

Multichannel expansion does not quite follow the scheme one might expect from the previously described. E.g. the following doesn't multichannel-expand properly:

Instead wrap arrayed args in an extra pair of square brackets:

Under the hood this is a consequence of how .flop prepares the given args to be passed to the Synth:


Some UGens create stereo output from mono input, and might not behave as expected regarding multichannel expansion.

For example, Pan2 :

The expectation here might be that the two sines would get individual pan positions. And they do, but Pan2 expands into two stereo ugens nested in an outer array, resulting in a total of four output channels. play will add an Out UGen for each of them, resulting in both Pan2's writing to the same output bus:

In this case, the solution is simply to sum the nested four channels into a single stereo-channel:

If we take a look at the resulting UGen graph of the code above, we can see that it is correct. The two Pan2 is mixed together to create a single stereo output:

Protecting arrays against expansion

Some unit generators such as Klank require arrays of values as inputs. Since all arrays are expanded, you need to protect some arrays by a Ref object. A Ref instance is an object with a single slot named 'value' that serves as a holder of an object. is one way to create a Ref, but there is a syntactic shortcut. The backquote ` is a unary operator that is equivalent to calling So to protect arrays that are inputs to a Klank or similar UGens you write:

You can still create multiple Klanks by giving it an array of Ref'ed arrays.

is equivalent to:

Also the Refs multichannelExpand when passed to a Klank:

, which is is equivalent to:

Reducing channel expansion with Mix

The Mix object provides the means for reducing multichannel arrays to a single channel.


is equivalent to:

Mix is more efficient than using + since it can perform multiple additions at a time. But the main advantage is that it can deal with situations where the number of channels is arbitrary or determined at runtime.

Multi channel expansion works differently for Mix. Mix takes one input which is an array (one not protected by a Ref). That array does not cause copies of Mix to be made. All elements of the array are mixed together in a single Mix object. On the other hand if the array contains one or more arrays then multi channel expansion is performed one level down. This allows you to mix an array of stereo (two element) arrays resulting in one two channel array. For example:

is equivalent to:

Currently it is not recursive. You cannot use Mix on arrays of arrays of arrays.

Here's a final example illustrating multi channel expansion and Mix. By changing the variable 'n' you can change the number of voices in the patch. How many voices can your machine handle?