Kyma 7 in Four Minutes from Symbolic Sound on Vimeo.

Somewhere apart from the general purpose computer, the standalone electronic instrument, the racks of modulars, there is Kyma. For nearly a quarter century, this boutique digital instrument has opened up sonic realms to a scattered illuminati of artists. And this week, it hit a new milestone, with functionality and resources intended to make sound exploration still broader and more accessible.

Three years in development, Kyma 7 is here.

kymaflow

The buzz around modular often comes back to the same refrain: modular is cool because it’s open ended. That rat’s nest of cables, modular advocates say, represent freedom. No argument from me, but Kyma can fairly make a similar claim, backed by a somewhat obscenely deep set of sound tools you can patch together. Kyma’s not cheap by computer standards, and not expensive by analog modular standards. A mid-range system runs about four grand US$, with a “lab” system still just shy of three. That’s nothing to sneeze at, given that you can download Pure Data for nothing and load it onto a $300 laptop, and still get a deep graphical digital environment. But for its followers, Kyma represents an investment in possibility – and sound quality.

Kyma, like the mountain in the image for Kyma 7, is something I largely admire from afar. But admire, I do – and Kyma 7 has some nice things in it.

Look closely, and you see an environment that has no direct comparison. Whether or not you want to live there, getting a look at Kyma is like glimpsing a far-off tropical island: it’s a world unto itself.

Kyma-software

Wave Editor

Find splices, generate antialiased wavetables (for a new dedicated oscillator), or use the Gallery to spawn a set of parameters and signal flow graphs you can control or tweak. The Wave Editor is a perfect example of how a familiar feature becomes new in the context of Kyma. The workflow here is immediately about both depth and control: yes, you have loads of parameters, but they can be instantly mapped to an external controller so that experimentation is live.

multigrid

Multigrid

This is another Kymaism. The idea is, a sample can be used to produce modular parameters automatically. The Multigrid arranges them on a display to be used as you see fit – sources, signal processors. Each sound is not just a noisemaker, but a bundle of characteristics and flows that you can play and tweak.

These are designed for live onstage use, too – sources, effects, and combinations are switchable without interrupting sound.

Browsing

Every tool these days has a refreshed browser it seems, with instant search capabilities and the like. On the surface, Kyma’s browser looks like one of those. But you can search by individual parameter – not even modules alone. And Kyma randomizes some daily inspiration for you, too, with something it calls Sons du jour – cute.

waterfall-spectrum-of-FM

Seeing Sound, Time

“Picturing Sound” is a theme for Kyma this year, including at its conference, and that’s reflected in the software. The new release lets you visualize time and sound in some ways new to this tool.

The Timeline is perhaps the most significant feature in Kyma – something lacking in some other modular environments. That Timeline is also unique in that you can change the flow of time to keep together with other players – a bit like a conductor would with a score. And it now also works with video.

You can also see the sounds – if in a conventional way – more easily, both by hovering over names and by switching on live Oscilloscope and Spectrum Analyzer views.

timeline

Learning and Exploring

All of this power is, naturally, useless if you haven’t worked out how to use it. Some of these resources are worth looking at if you’re considering the platform:

Kyma 7 Video Tutorials

Kyma International Sound Symposium (in Montana, USA)

New context-sensitive help abounds through the updated tool. And there’s an ever-growing community library of sounds always at the ready.

Perhaps the most compelling coming resource is the set of Artist Packs for Kyma by electronic music legend Cristian Vogel. He’s sharing building block-style collections of Sounds and Elements – materials that can be uniquely shared in Kyma’s particular idiom. They’re due soon; you can sign up for a notification:

Cristian Vogel Artist Packs for Kyma

We profiled Cristian in 2013. (Cristian, probably time we do that again soon, even!) He’s been someone closely involved with Kyma’s development and community.

Cristian Vogel, Still Dazzling Ears, Two Decades On [Listen]

More:
http://kyma.symbolicsound.com

kymaeverything

multigridlive

  • void

    Amazing that the demo video for a $3000+ system can contain such horrible music for the entire four minutes – and not contain a single original sound from the system (it seems)?Weird.

    • franz

      had exactly the same thought.

    • Space Captain

      Why are you calling this a demo video when it’s clearly not? It just mentions the new features and directs you to the website to hear things

    • James Husted

      I have to admit the audio is a bit retro. I assume when you use say “not contain a single original sound from the system” you mean an exotic unique sound, since all the sounds heard there did come straight off the system.

    • SomeDude

      I dunno, I thought the music was lovely actually, kinda early Tangerine Dream retro. But yeah , i agree that it may not be the best choice if you wanna show off the creative capabilities of a modern DSP system.

    • lrlarson

      I thought the music was embarrassing for such a high level unit. You could have done it in garageband. I wanted to hear what it could do. And those flying titles! Such a big release, and such amateurish marketing. A lost opportunity.

    • Joe Hennessy

      Music is all about the listener and creator. Nobody in the history of the internet has ever loved the music that plays during a product introduction. That said I like it alot. I am curious what one consider a sufficient soundtrack to play during these types of videos?

  • void

    Amazing that the demo video for a $3000+ system can contain such horrible music for the entire four minutes – and not contain a single original sound from the system (it seems)?Weird.

    • franz

      had exactly the same thought.

    • Space Captain

      Why are you calling this a demo video when it’s clearly not? It just mentions the new features and directs you to the website to hear things

    • James Husted

      I have to admit the audio is a bit retro. I assume when you use say “not contain a single original sound from the system” you mean an exotic unique sound, since all the sounds heard there did come straight off the system.

    • SomeDude

      I dunno, I thought the music was lovely actually, kinda early Tangerine Dream retro. But yeah , i agree that it may not be the best choice if you wanna show off the creative capabilities of a modern DSP system.

    • lrlarson

      I thought the music was embarrassing for such a high level unit. You could have done it in garageband. I wanted to hear what it could do. And those flying titles! Such a big release, and such amateurish marketing. A lost opportunity.

    • Joe Hennessy

      Music is all about the listener and creator. Nobody in the history of the internet has ever loved the music that plays during a product introduction. That said I like it alot. I am curious what one consider a sufficient soundtrack to play during these types of videos?

  • Doug

    @1:03 “Start with a sample, and with one click…”
    I count 6 clicks before anything happens. 😉

  • Doug

    @1:03 “Start with a sample, and with one click…”
    I count 6 clicks before anything happens. 😉

  • James Husted

    To me it is a choice between MAX and KYMA. Obviously the dedicated hardware in the Paca and Pacarana can do audio more efficiently than a standard computer but at the prices charged for a KYMA system, and remember you have to buy a dedicated audio interface (which will totally determine the audio quality) on TOP of the price of the Paca/Pacarana, you could buy a killer computer DEDICATED to just running MAX and get lots of MIDI control “modules” and Video control and processing (with Jitter) that you won’t get in KYMA. There are also a bunch of higher level patches now included with MAX (the Beats stuff) that make it a good replacement for a Nord Modular too. I used to own a Capybara 320 system years ago and loved it a bunch, and this system is quite a step beyond (so much that it won’t run on a Capy rig anymore) that it really comes down to the finer stuff between them. I would love to see some of the KYMA’s high end processes replicated on a MAX system (running on a hot computer) to see just what the DSP farm in the Paca/Pacarana brings to the table. If somebody would just give me a few units to test out…

  • James Husted

    To me it is a choice between MAX and KYMA. Obviously the dedicated hardware in the Paca and Pacarana can do audio more efficiently than a standard computer but at the prices charged for a KYMA system, and remember you have to buy a dedicated audio interface (which will totally determine the audio quality) on TOP of the price of the Paca/Pacarana, you could buy a killer computer DEDICATED to just running MAX and get lots of MIDI control “modules” and Video control and processing (with Jitter) that you won’t get in KYMA. There are also a bunch of higher level patches now included with MAX (the Beats stuff) that make it a good replacement for a Nord Modular too. I used to own a Capybara 320 system years ago and loved it a bunch, and this system is quite a step beyond (so much that it won’t run on a Capy rig anymore) that it really comes down to the finer stuff between them. I would love to see some of the KYMA’s high end processes replicated on a MAX system (running on a hot computer) to see just what the DSP farm in the Paca/Pacarana brings to the table. If somebody would just give me a few units to test out…

  • Ted

    That spectrum analyzer is gorgeous

  • Ted

    That spectrum analyzer is gorgeous

  • dickdangers

    I had Kyma and found it to be klunky to use. For what I wanted to do I founf lots of ipad apps di it faster and better.

    • dickdangers

      That should read ….I had Kyma and found it to be clunky to use. For what I wanted to do I found lots of ipad apps doi it faster and better.
      Mental note do not type in bed.

      • just passing

        Umm… given your username and your references to iPads and typing in bed, I’m hesitant to ask what you were typing *with*…

        Anyway, if you were to knock up a blog post going into more depth on this, I for one would be fascinated to read it. But, you know, fingers and a keyboard please. And pants.

  • dickdangers

    I had Kyma and found it to be klunky to use. For what I wanted to do I founf lots of ipad apps di it faster and better.

    • dickdangers

      That should read ….I had Kyma and found it to be clunky to use. For what I wanted to do I found lots of ipad apps doi it faster and better.
      Mental note do not type in bed.

      • just passing

        Umm… given your username and your references to iPads and typing in bed, I’m hesitant to ask what you were typing *with*…

        Anyway, if you were to knock up a blog post going into more depth on this, I for one would be fascinated to read it. But, you know, fingers and a keyboard please. And pants.

  • Chris R Gibson

    Much of this update seems to have focused in on getting a handle on the infinite possibilities of a Kyma system via intelligent, usable variations on a theme…the ‘Multigrid’ and ‘Gallery’ features are VERY exciting as a means to quickly explore variations of a wave/sound and then proceed to refined ‘Prototype’ development from there…quite cool and appreciated, should really aid on getting the most from the Kyma toolkit for both noobs and seasoned power users.
    I just got 7 installed and am now looking forward to starting my day via a shot of ‘Sons du jour’ to get those xenomorphic juices flowing : -)

  • Chris R Gibson

    Much of this update seems to have focused in on getting a handle on the infinite possibilities of a Kyma system via intelligent, usable variations on a theme…the ‘Multigrid’ and ‘Gallery’ features are VERY exciting as a means to quickly explore variations of a wave/sound and then proceed to refined ‘Prototype’ development from there…quite cool and appreciated, should really aid on getting the most from the Kyma toolkit for both noobs and seasoned power users.
    I just got 7 installed and am now looking forward to starting my day via a shot of ‘Sons du jour’ to get those xenomorphic juices flowing : -)

  • Michael L

    It seems designed to systematically organise and make quickly accessible a huge amount of quite detailed sonic info. Does it inspire or overwhelm? Is there anything else that really compares? Is this something that similar software should aspire to?

  • Michael L

    It seems designed to systematically organise and make quickly accessible a huge amount of quite detailed sonic info. Does it inspire or overwhelm? Is there anything else that really compares? Is this something that similar software should aspire to?

  • DPrty

    Kyma is about the only thing that does a really good morph on any two audio files.

  • DPrty

    Kyma is about the only thing that does a really good morph on any two audio files.

  • vanceg

    I had a Kyma systm for years. I slowly morphed (pun intended) to using Max and Live as my main creative rig. While I’m absolutely sure that amazing music can be created with either, when I listen back to the many hours of sounds I have that I created on the Kyma system, I am VERY tempted to move back to using Kyma. I absolutely wish I had simply stuck to one system and simply LEARNED it, and not switched, changed and jumped at every new little cool tool that came out. THAT was the waste of time. My time with Kyma….well spent.

  • vanceg

    I had a Kyma systm for years. I slowly morphed (pun intended) to using Max and Live as my main creative rig. While I’m absolutely sure that amazing music can be created with either, when I listen back to the many hours of sounds I have that I created on the Kyma system, I am VERY tempted to move back to using Kyma. I absolutely wish I had simply stuck to one system and simply LEARNED it, and not switched, changed and jumped at every new little cool tool that came out. THAT was the waste of time. My time with Kyma….well spent.

  • Daniel

    I had a Kyma system and nothing sounded like it then or now.

  • Daniel

    I had a Kyma system and nothing sounded like it then or now.

  • BEE DOUBLEU

    I think the biggest deal break for me was … paying all this money to design wav files … is this finally going to work as a DAW? I can design in max for use in ableton … not so much with kyma …. and for that price, i should be able to at least, write music with the synths and presets that i design.

  • BEE DOUBLEU

    I think the biggest deal break for me was … paying all this money to design wav files … is this finally going to work as a DAW? I can design in max for use in ableton … not so much with kyma …. and for that price, i should be able to at least, write music with the synths and presets that i design.