Sonic Charge, creators of the inventive synth Synplant, have updated a real-time pitch-excited linear prediction codec effect plugin, apparently based on the same technology that’s used in cell phones to make 1’s and 0’s sound like your voice at the other end. For people like me, who have no idea what any of that meant – they’ve made this cool vocoder thingy that makes vocal audio sound robotic-like.
And boy is it fun! There are several little parameters that can really mess with your voice and create some slightly robotizing effects to the audio signal, to vocoder-type sounds, and other cool effects. If you’re looking for a similar sound to the processed vocal of Thom Yorke on their track Kid A – this is a great plugin to start with.
The GUI is reminiscent of the Speak and spell toy, in a very kitsch horrible beige color accented with red. Four switches, four knobs and and oscillator view give you all the information you need:
The rate and frame rate are buttons to change the way Bitspeek receives and transforms the audio information. There are four different processing rates, that change the sound from smooth to more 8-bit distorted sound. If you pull the frame rate down to zero – it basically makes the rate of change zero – essentially freezing the sound at that point.
Tracking – determines how much the pitch of the incoming audio affects the outgoing signal. The pitch moves around a lot more when the tracking percentage is higher.
The sync enables you to change the frame rate in time with the tempo of your music. When you turn it on, the frame rate changes from hertz to 1/8, 1/16 etc, syncing with the host tempo.
You can use midi to control the pitch and envelope of Bitspeek. There are some extra interesting elements here – for example you can use the midi pedal to immediately freeze the audio (take frame rate to 0). Very cool, especially if you were using it live.
Detune – there are actually two oscillators, and this detune affects the second one. You can detune it up to an octave range away, enabling cool chord-like sounds, or just chorusy type sounds.
Noise – this allows white noise into the signal – to reflect consonants and transients in audio (speech). If you turn the noise to -100%, all the white noise will be removed from the outgoing signal. +100% makes the signal pretty much all noise, slightly filtered by the original audio. Robot whisperings..
Anyway, enough of the technobabble. Here’s a vid giving a quick demo of Bitspeek’s capabilities. Much fun!
Conclusion As the title of the plugin may suggest, this effect is primarily for use with monophonic vocal audio. This is where it really shines. For the price, this is a fantastic plugin – you can’t beat it! You want that speak and spell robot voice with a few simple parameter controls that enable midi control etc, this is the plugin to get.
…If you’re looking for a similar sound to the processed vocal of Thom Yorke on their track Kid A – this is a great plugin to start with…
If you’re looking for a fully fledged vocoder, this is not the application you need. However, for a very cool hyper smooth speak and spell sound, you’re not going to find anything better for the price!
Monophonic – poly would have been awesome!
Slight amount of latency (easily compensated)
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About The Author
Founder & main editor here at ANR, 'non-musician' and music-tinkerer. His first keyboard was a cheesy Yamaha PSS-270. He still loves it.