If the last generation of production software was about UI, workflow, and add-on extras, the next generation may be about science. Witness MOTU’s DP 9.5.

DP, aka Digital Performer, is that DAW everyone forgets about, but really shouldn’t. Now on both Windows and Mac, and a long-time staple of hard-core niches like the TV scoring business, DP has quietly added all the stuff that makes using a DAW better, without too much extra stuffing, often advancing without any hype past other rivals in key areas.

But even doing that, it’s hard for a DAW to stand out.

So, how about this: how about if a DAW let you manipulate time and pitch in a way that sounded less artificial? Wouldn’t that be a reason to use it?

And while various DAWs have licensed technology for improving time and pitch stretching, most of them still sound, well, pretty crap – especially if you go beyond small changes. (That hasn’t stopped me from using the artifacts creatively, but then the problem is, even those results tend to sound too much alike.)

So, the pairing of Zynaptiq with MOTU gets pretty interesting.

Zynaptiq is one of a handful of developers working on brain-bending DSP science to achieve sonic effects you haven’t heard before. (For some reason, a lot of these players seem to be in Germany … or Cambridge, Massachusetts. The latter is an MIT thing; the former, a German thing? Zynaptiq is out of Hannover.)

In the case of Zynaptiq, “artificial intelligence” and machine learning meet new advances in DSP. Whatever’s going on there (and I hope to cover that more), the results sound really extraordinary. Every time I’ve been at a trade show where the developer was exhibiting, people would grab you by the arms and say, have you heard the crazy stuff they’re doing it sounds like the future. That was aided by a unique demo style.

But there’s a big leap when you can integrate that kind of capability into a DAW and its existing workflow, without all the weird extra steps required to go back and forth to a plug-in.

And that’s what DP 9.5 does – in an update that’s free for all existing users, adding Zynaptiq’s ZTX PRO tech.

You get time stretching everywhere, so speeding up and slowing down by small increments or huge sounds natural. And they’ve done a bunch of work so you can change tempo adjustments and conductor tempo maps – which was always, always one of the best features of DP. (I was at the Aspen Music Festival in the late 90s listening to a film composer show off how easy scoring with DP markers was, fully two decades ago. Two decades later, the competition still hasn’t caught up, and DP has continued to expand on that feature.)

Plus you get pitch shifting and relative pitch editing, as you’ve seen with products like Celemony, but far more deeply integrated in the DAW and with (to my ear) better-sounding results. So yes, that does pitch shifting and pitch correction, but it also opens up some really interesting creative possibilities. This isn’t just about making bad singers sound better; it could be a boon to creative editing. (I just spent the last weekend poking around in Logic’s archaic and dated implementation for the heck of it, not knowing DP 9.5 was coming and… well, just no.)

There are “quality” presets, too, to help you find the right settings.

Have a listen in the demos. Here’s pitch shifting:

And here’s time shifting:

And from the ever-lovely Gotye (really nice chap with a terrifically nice band and some great producers, I have to say, just because I like nice people), some other examples:

Unrelated to all this, 9.5 also has a window that makes it easier to monitor processing load, so you can identify CPU hogs. (Heck, that may mean DP is now part of my standard test suite for plug-ins.) This combines with other unique performance management features in DP, like “pre-gen” capability, which eases the load on your CPU by pre-rendering audio.

Good stuff. More from MOTU:

http://motu.com/products/software/dp

  • itchy

    wow sounds good especially for the wind insturments

  • Very awesome!

  • Benji

    Logic does most of this at $200. For pitch correction, Logic allows modifying the gain, vibrato, and pitch jumps of each note. DP’s nice however, I like the new look and interface, and yes for film scoring it does have an edge. But we recently completed a project in Logic and VEP for film and Logic did well. Logic is capable. I’m not dissing DP, just saying that you can achieve results on Logic as well. Knowing how to use the tool is always going to be your strength vs buying new tools.

    • This isn’t a matter of knowing how to use the tool. There’s a difference. I use Logic pretty frequently, too – nothing against Logic.

      Yes, Logic has some pitch functions. But MOTU licensed these particular algorithms because the effects sound much better – dramatically so at more extreme settings. If you really want, I can make comparisons but… heh, it’s going to make Logic sound fairly awful.

      And Logic doesn’t have anything like the set of tools for managing markers/tempo, which I suspect is why DP remains so dominant for scoring.

      Let’s also not get into Logic’s AU validation … or lack of VST support … or lack of Windows support. Even realizing the latter two are particular to it being an Apple product, MOTU is your only choice for certain tools and platforms, and remains a better choice for managing CPU consumption for reasons outlined here.

      There’s a 30-day trial, though. I’m not saying you have to spend money, but given that most of what DAWs do really is comparable, I absolutely agree, then it’s worth pointing out the stuff that isn’t.

      • Kyle Sherrod

        It’s been a long time since I’ve used DP, and you’re talking about timestretch and pitch shift which is my thang and the reason I own more than one daw in the first place…but I’m just going through the DP spec sheet and like…ooh guitar synth/etc… maybe have to do a trial on this one.

    • Charles

      All true. But Apple doesn’t pay for ads on this blog, Motu does 🙂

      • Yes, and we know how sorely Apple is in need of money and positive press. 😉

        The pitch shifting stuff is old enough to have come from Emagic. I would bet you CDM’s entire ad revenue for the month of September that Zynaptiq’s algorithms sound better than those. You want to take me up on it?

      • I at least now will do some A/B comparisons. I was going to skip it, because then Apple sounds like poo. But if you really, really want it, sure, we can go there 😀

        Logic is still a great DAW – and likewise, I know Apple have been very grateful for MOTU’s support for the music ecosystem, so this conflict exists mostly in your imagination.

        • Yuri Urban

          i’d like you to go there Peter, because those Zynaptiq pitch algo examples sounded really horrible. At least not any better than Logic, Cubase or Ableton ones. Their own MOTU’s algo sounded better tbh. Have to admit their timestretching was spot on though.

  • Max

    I don’t know timestrech on vocals still sounds weird.
    When you talk/sing faster or slower you don’t stretch all the sounds.
    You just strech the formants and maybe the Rs and the noisy stuff (ch,sch, s,z)
    Mom, what’s for dinner?
    Kind of like this
    Mooom waaahts fooor diiinnnner?

    • Max

      For drums it seems most have figured out how to stretch and keep the transient intact so they still go klonck and don’t sound like a tablet full of flatware falling down the stairs.

  • sdiedrichsen

    Logic recently added a region transpose, that doesn’t sound bad at all. No curves, but this stepped transposition can be done easily by cutting up the audio and set the transpose for each region.

  • Dubby Labby

    To my ears it doesn’t sound so much better than the old Variphrase (less grain ok but same formant) and that technology is available at Sonar since some time ago.
    Maybe a comparision against competitors will show us what’s the deal…

  • Tekknovator

    Just to chime in on the “that is not revolutionary” voices here: My fav DAW is Cubase of course, and you have curves, segments, different algo per event etc. since years. And a cubase ubdate from the latest version is usually half the price… And while the Zynaptic stuff sounds decent, it is no real facemelter compared to the Variphrase stuff used by Ableton, Steinberg, Cockos and Apple. And Variphrase 3 is really cool and very close to the Zynaptic.

  • Nikki

    I imagine there’s a good reason that UI for it, looks exactly like autotune’s UI.

  • impressive sound

  • Jenny

    The orchestra piece sounded okay, but the Coldplay pitch example was absolutely terrible, even with formants corrected. The Soundcloud tracks didn’t convince me either. Let’s face it, for anything pitch Melodyne is still king. Yes, DAW integration could be better (although they made huge steps forward with their ARA technology, check out Studio One or Sonar, for example). But if sound quality is crucial, I will gladly take the few extra steps and open a plug-in.