Swedish developer Magnus Lidström is something of a virtuoso of music software, having worked with Propellerhead (Malström, etc.) and releasing his own unique µTonic (MicroTonic) and Synplant instruments. It’s been a bit since we’ve gotten new work from him – little matter, as I find his instruments tend to stand the test of time – but that changes now. MicroTonic, a well-loved drum machine cum drum synth, gets a major update this week, a 2011 New Year’s present to the producer community. (It is indeed a gift if you own a previous version; upgrades are free.) And one more thing – Sonic Charge is also releasing a terrific “real-time pitch-excited linear prediction codec effect” that does wonderful things with audio.

MicroTonic was already a lovely combination of percussion synthesizer and pattern-editing drum machine. New in µTonic 3.0:

  • A morph slider which interpolates between eight drum patches – all MIDI-controlled and automation-ready, for crazy performance and production options
  • A matrix editor for accessing all eight drum channels’ patterns at once
  • MIDI pattern drag and drop, for Ableton Live users (and all major hosts)
  • Choke groups, MIDI pitch wheel and program change support, new pattern modes, undo/redo
  • Prettier improved skin and UI improvements

And there’s much more, as well. See the full changelog:
Changes in µTonic v3.0

Just as compelling as MicroTonic, though, is a new US$29 effect called Bitspeak. Sonic Charge describes Bitspeak thusly: “It will make you sound like a robot. Robots are cool. Bitspeek is cool.”

But that doesn’t quite do it justice. Bitspeak is vocoder-like in that it works on the same fundamental principle. But it’s closest to the compression algorithm used in mobile phones – it’s a “real-time pitch-excited linear prediction codec effect.” Pitch, volume, and formant data drive an oscillator, noise, and filter. The resulting timbres can sound like conventional ring mods and vocoders, or something quite different – and I’m really intrigued to try this on different sources. As presented here, you really have a gamut of possible effects.

And yes, it sounds like a Speak ‘n Spell turned into an effect. Listen to those sound samples for more.

The two Sonic Charge plugins are available for Windows VST and Mac VST and AU. MicroTonic even supports Mac OS 10.4 and (G5) PowerPC, so it’s an ideal choice for an older machine. (Bitspeak requires 10.5 and Intel on the Mac side, but also supports XP on Windows, so still works on an older PC.)

Full info:

  • I could barely contain my excitement when I learned of this update in an email the other day. I absolutely adored Microtonic before V3 and the new improvements have improved it tremendously. The morph slider in particular is fantastic for creative sound design. An excellent product!

  • newgreyarea

    I can't wait to get this thing inside Maschine! Those and Synplant will most likely be the only software I use. 

  • Bitspeek is an awesome little effect with a ton of unexpected sound design possibilities. I'm in love with it and I've only had it for, what, three days now? Last night I ran some old Casio loops through it for shits and giggles, modulating the pitch and frame rate controls for some mangled 8-bit-ish stuff – there's a sample of that particular nonsense here:&nbsp ;http://soundcloud.com/night-night/sonic-charge-bitspeek-test

  • Microwave Prince

    No sound engine updates…. Nowadays it's sounds like iphone app…

  • maoliu3
  • Oh man, this drag and drop action is going to be awesome! Really looking forward to checking this baby out.

  • I think saying it sounds like an iphone app either means you never heard it or never took the time to program your own sounds, because it is really one of the best sounding drum synths available. 

  • Cubestar

    I heard that the TR 909 also still hasn't gotten a sound engine update.

  • Microwave Prince

    Cubestar, TR 909 is analog and its perfect. 909's kick destroys utonic…..

  • quantize

    'TR 909 is analog and its perfect. 909′s kick destroys utonic…..'

    HUH? Apples and oranges bud, you should know that if you know anything.

    Besides, as a real 909 owner…the kick is over-used..you should also know that. Nothing wrong with some interesting options provided by µTonic

  • Microwave Prince

    utonic is quite good, but needs a lot of processing to sound good.

  • jonah

    I'm enjoying the Bitspeek demo. Probably going to get it. Combining it with Melodyne abuse is producing some really disgusting sounds. Try bouncing back and forth between them 2 or 30 times. Neat.

    How about syngarden!! I loved the concept of synplant, but wish there was more to do.

  • Kim

    Microwave Prince: On the contrary, to me Microtonic sounds much better then 909.
    The hi-hats and cymbals are 6-bit samples. The analog drums: kick, snare, rim and tom, sounds good. No question. But extremely limited! I dont need any effects to make Microtonic sound more interesting then the 909, nad the kick gets just as punchy. The only "week" sounding part in comparison is the cymbals and hats. Try Drumaxx for that. Its a physical modeling drum synth, that does a great job on cymbals and hats. Far beyond the old drum boxes. But Microtonic is not about trying to sound retro. It all about flexibility, workflow and coolness. BTW, have you tried a better soundcard?

  • Andreas

    I definitely think that microtonic has its strong points, but come on, flexibility sure isn't one of them! 
    I'd pay GOOD money for a "tonic" with none of that micro stuff. I have drumaxx and it's been treating me well, but it's not that in-your-face electronic thing that I'd like from microtonic.

  • Andreas

    oh, and the bitspeek reminds me of the "codec" effect algorithms in Speakerphone – and that's an incredibly good thing. Those are brilliant.

  • Gday absolutely love your blog, have saved to fav it for future reading material.

  • I typically program all my drums using high end sample tools like SD Drum from EWQL or Kontakt etc… But sometimes you need something that has an easy to deal with foundation of electronic beats. This little app has won me over for that.
    I can kick off a base percussion sequence and then get on with writing the song. Then come back for a second pass and swap in my usual fare of percussion along side or replacing some of the midi from microtonic. And this was just one day's use of the demo. Will definitely buy it and use it along side our sample drums and live recorded ethnic and world percussion.