While you can make tons of random noise with simple waveforms (sine, sawtooth et cetera), wavetable synthesis offers even more possibilities. And softsynths – like the semi-modular wavetable synth Massive – are hugely popular among dubstep producers.
Before I move forward, let me just say that there are several definitions of what a wavetable is, and the word itself has seemingly different meanings to different people.
Moreover, nowadays, there are elaborated wavetables, such as Malström (which is mixed up with granular synthesis) or Serum (which is able to create, import, edit and morph wavetables, and manipulate these on playback in real-time), not to mention samples and synthesis (S&S) or vector synthesis.
Essentially, however, a wavetable synthesis is based on periodic reproduction of an arbitrary, single-cycle waveform, and it implies modulating (scanning) through a wavetable in real-time as part of the synth architecture.
More simply put, a wavetable is a set of sampled single-cycle waveforms that a synth can read from and use as its oscillator shapes.
The two fundamental aspects of wavetable synthesis are making the sound evolve in time and changing the timbre at different points across keyboard.
What to Expect
The kind of sounds wavetable synthesis can produce is almost limitless. Sweeping through a wavetable is a wide palette to use as the basis of sounds. Not only can wavetables emulate sounds reminiscent of analogue synthesis, but also strange, moving and unearthly sounds with unique timbres suitable for all kinds of shit. Expect the unexpected.
I think I stop there, this post is just supposed to be an introduction to get you interested in wavetables (if you weren’t already). Maybe there’ll be reason to return to this subject later on.