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BT has been talking about his stutter plugin for ever, and finally, since the buyout of his software company by Izotope, Stutter Edit has arrived. In a healthy market of glitch effect style plugins, Stutter Edit has some pretty solid and excellent competition; Twisted tools Buffeater, Sugar Bytes Artillery and Native instruments The Finger, to name but a few.
How does it work? Stutter Edit is an audio effect for both studio and live performance. It uses the audio buffer in your computer’s memory to rearrange the order of incoming sound, in a controlled manner. Based around sets of ‘gestures’, it is possible to create simple 1/8th note stutter fills, all the way to complex sweeping transitions that dynamically build momentum in your music.
Upon opening the effect, it appears that a Masters degree in applied mathematics is needed to understand and use it. However, Izotope compensate for this excellently with a tutorial window that pops up straight away. I recommend a good read – it begins by showing you how to set the plugin up depending on what DAW you use.
There are a large amount of presets (banks of gestures mapped to different Midi notes) to get you started off, and these give a good impression of what the plugin’s capable of. There are several banks of presets from BT. It’s fairly unnerving how these particular presets can make your sound VERY much like the style of builds, stutters and transitions that BT creates.
As one forum contributor commented – ‘It’s almost like having BT in the studio with you as a consultant’. Richard Devine, another ground-breaker in the electronic music world, also contributes a large amount of presets. Again, you can hear a sound that is characteristic of his work as you go through the presets. It’s literally as simple as pressing a key on your controller, and the gesture goes to work, rearranging the audio in a syncopated, rhythmic manner. Gratification is instant, and you’ll spend twenty minutes messing around with one loop before you realise it.
The modules There are essentially three modules within Stutter Edit. the stutter module itself, a noise generator, and a small effects module. All three sync and blend nicely with each other. You can change global settings on the gesture – how long you want it to last, when you want it to trigger (quantized input, or free), when you want it to end etc. You can also get it to reverse loop (it’s called Palindrome) There is a global filter, set by default to the #cc of the pitch bend on a keyboard. Pushing up gives you a high pass, pushing down is a low pass. Instant resonant filter on the overall sound.
The main Stutter module is a matrix. Within it, you determine exactly what rhythmic values you want the stutter effect to sweep through, from a 1/16 note on up. Every time you press the midi note assigned to this gesture, it’ll start running through the matrix. The audio can be quantized and gated to extremes, and you can select (and move) the buffer position of the audio that you’re using. I was impressed straight away at how hard it is to make the audio pop and click (in an unwanted way!) as you move around in the buffer – something that some other glitch plugins suffer from. The sound quality of this plugin is really excellent.
The second module contains ‘color’ effects that can be added to the Stutter. There’s a stereo delay, a bandpass delay, another lo and hi pass filter, bit reduction and lo-fi, and Gain settings (sort of a wet/dry mix).
Once you’ve created the gestures you want on different midi notes, saving presets is as simple as pressing the save button. When you want to organise further, there is also a preset manager that will help you re-order and rename gestures, move them across banks etc.
Here’s a track that I wrote that utilizes the stutter edit a little bit.
Conclusion I had a lot of fun with this plugin. I could quickly create useful killer-sounding rhythmic fills, ranging widely from subtle mid-phrase drum fills, to full-mix phrases that swept the music into the next section. And it was as simple as pressing one key on my keyboard. Nice. There has already been reference to the Stutter Edit effectively being the signature sound of a particular producer shoved into software. Which is true – there’s a wide range of preset gestures that sound remarkably BT-ish. But that is really just the beginning. The depth of control that is in this plugin means that you can quickly create unique sounding edits that really can drive your music along. The sheer quality of the sound, and the Generator module, give this effect qualities that make it a great addition to the arsenal, rather than replacement.