Want to roll your own effects and synths? SonicBirth is a tool for constructing VST and AU plug-in instruments and sound processors, via a graphical patching interface. It’s a bit like a friendlier, Mac-compatible SoundEdit. And now, it’s completely free and open-source.

Even ignoring its open-source nature, there are a few elements of SonicBirth that set it apart:

  1. It works directly in the host. Boot up your favorite host software, and build effects and instruments live without leaving the program.
  2. It works with your existing AUs. Modify an existing third-party AU by adding to it whatever you want.
  3. Check out the examples. SonicBirth comes with a number of useful examples, from MIDI to audio, instruments to effects, valve simulator to convolution reverb to bass drum synth.
  4. Build Cocoa UIs. With a compatible host, you can build a Mac-centric interface.

  5. 64-bit support, Intel Mac support.

I was going to write a caption for this, but I’m going to leave that to your imagination.

The old site hasn’t been updated, so go check out its new home on SourceForge:

SonicBirth Sourceforge Project Page

I have to admit, my initial reaction to SonicBirth was “another patcher”? But its new open-source status could make it really take off. Anyone interested in helping crack it and make some great plug-ins using it, drop us a line.

How about a CDM forum for exchanging tips, embarrassing ourselves with newbie questions, and sharing our work? Interested? Join the SonicBirth thread on our forums and let us know.

  • How many other patchers let you build an Audio Unit? There's Max/Pluggo, and what else?

    AU creation aside, it looks pretty nice, like a modern {and, with hope, stable} interpretation of BeOS' great "Cortex" app.

  • Max/MSP and Pluggo, yes, but you can't edit in real-time in the host.

    Reaktor can be loaded as an AU (or VST), and does allow live editing. You can only distribute to other users of Reaktor, though.

    On Windows, there are many options, including PdVST which does something similar for Pd patchers.

    I think there are some Linux equivalents, as well, though again without in-host editing of quite this sort.

    So, I'd still say this fits a niche.

  • I gave this a download yesterday, and it will hopefully really open up the freeware AU/VST market for the Mac. That is seriously lacking as compared to windows.

    Problem is the manual on thsi thing is rather poor and I cannot find a good turorial online. Anyone know of one?

  • ocp

    Try here: http://sonicbirth.mi05.de/
    Hope this helps ; )

  • Kodama

    It looks cool, but I wonder if it will ever be dveloped further or supported by open source, etc?

    People REALLY need to petition Jeff from Synthedit to port to the Mac, he has said it would be a possiblity, but I don't think he knows how much interest there would be.

    FYI – About 60-75% of the Freeware VSTs that are Windows only are made in Synthedit and would just need to be "re-saved" (simpler than re-compiling) as a Mac version if SE were ever ported to Mac.

  • GovSilver

    Even if SynthEdit were ported to the Mac, it still doesn't promise SonicBirth's ability to make wrappers around existing plugins regardless of how they were made.

    Oh you can wrap SynthEdit around plugs alright, but only if they're other SynthEdit plugins!

  • Wrapping around an existing plugin really sets this

    package apart. I am already working on a new

    Ms. Pinky AU plugin.

  • haha. balls.

  • Kodama

    I can't say I really care about wrapping other plugins, I'm talking about the thousands(?) of SE plugs that exist already.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Hmmm, what do you get if you register it for $49, if it's already free?

  • @dead_red_eyes: The software is free and open source. They don't seem to have updated the old site yet. So forget the $49. (you'll see there's no mention of it on sourceforge)

  • Ian

    Well, in a couple hours yesterday, I managed to wrap my head around SonicBirth and knock out a simple little beat slicer which I've put up here. It's monophonic for now (still haven't quite grasped the MIDI Multi Note argument), the Hold Switch (next to the beat division dropdown) doesn't work right, and it's pretty ugly (2 minute custom GUI in PhotoShop). But it works.

    Oh yeah, first beat is on C3 and goes up from there. Hope someone else finds this useful or informative.. the circuit design isn't beautiful but it's pretty logically laid out. Enjoy!

  • Ian

    BAH! The "component" just shows up as a folder. Disregard the link above, here's a zipped copy. Sorry 'bout that.

  • GovSilver

    I'm a Mac person, so SynthEdit as a "superior alternative" is meaningless to me.

  • I spent some time playing with this. It's fantastic.

    There really weren't any good free tools for making your own AudioUnits. This is really going to help us at Portland's nonprofit recording and composition studio for teens. My students and I were trying to find a good, free, convolution reverb.. and all the ones we tried out didn't work right.

    Creating a realtime convolution reverb in SonicBirth is a trivial task. I got it working in just a few minutes of twiddling.

  • Ian

    In the unlikely event that anyone cares, I have updated the above-linked .zip to a new, polyphonic version of BeatCutter. Still ugly, still no proper hold function though.

  • sweet. thanks for posting this! it's great so far. just been messing around with this and easily put together a sort of neat delay that splits the input at a user-defined frequency, then it has two separate delays for sounds on either side of the frequency.

    makes for some pretty crazy beats…or a pretty much crazy anything.

  • sonicbirth is great.

    Since it's free and open-source, I used it to teach a class to high-schoolers last summer. In the class, I used it to teach about the speed fo sound, and to show how principles of the real world can be broken down into mathematical principles (speed of sound), and then these can be translated into compter simulations (echo tap based on distance).

    I had a small focus-group in that class, where kids made their own effects to use in garageband.

    Thanks SonicBirth!

  • I created what I think is a very unique distortion box for AU. Only trouble is, although it works fine on my G5, it didn't load properly when I tried to pop the AU into my Intel MacBook laptop. Is there some switch I have to flip? Anyone else run into this?