Sonic scientist Peter Neubäcker of Melodyne has been wowing Internet audiences for some time with the automagical powers of the company’s Direct Note Access (DNA). The vision: manipulate individual pitches as easily as MIDI notes, even in polyphonic passages of a single instrument. At NAMM last month, the company showed the first product, Melodyne editor, due to ship in the spring for US/EUR 349.

There’s just one little catch: a solo developer has beaten them to the punch, at least prior to them shipping their DNA flagship editor tool. And if you want it right now, it’s yours for 25 Euros. (The final version will cost 99 Euros.)

Jonathan Schmid-Burgk, sole developer and a student at Harvard, announces:

The time has come to announce the release of the world’s first published polyphonic tone manipulation software. The dream of musicians to isolate single notes out of chords and so to manipulate most forms of recorded audio has come true on the 20th of January 2009.

Shell out EUR25, and you get a Mac VST plug-in that can manipulate audio easily. With monophonic audio, you can create polyphonic harmonizations. You can isolate and manipulate individual harmonics – meaning not only can you do pitch manipulations, but presumably sound design, as well. You can change individual notes or chords in recorded audio, to fix mistakes or (more interesting) actively recompose audio.

I feel about this the same way I do about Celemony: this gets really interesting when you use it for sound design. For some inspiration, skip this post and head straight for the sound samples on the site:

VisualVox polyphonic 0.9 []

Via the awesome

Also check out his Harmony Improvisator which creatively generates harmonies from MIDI input – an interesting thing to mess around with even for those of us who know / have taught (ahem) classical harmonic theory

Now, VisualVox Polyphonic isn’t without some catches, as you’d expect from the solo-student cheap alternative:

  • It’s Mac-only and VST-only for now. (Just keep in mind, though, that means not only Cubase works but things like Ableton Live on the Mac, as well.)
  • Jonathan warns that there are still some bugs, there are big temporary files, there are occasional glitches in the algorithm, and it doesn’t quite sync properly with hosts, requiring exports.
  • The interface isn’t as slick or fancy as Celemony, and may be slightly less convenient for editing.
  • Update – people are having some significant hosting issues with this. (Your mileage may vary, though the fact that this was tested in Cubase tells me those folks may have better luck.) So stay away if you don’t like bugs – this isn’t a final release. We’ll have more as this evolves, okay?

But here’s why I’m anxious to test it, nonetheless:

  • It’s cheap – meaning it might be more open to people just curious to experiment. (I actually wonder if he shouldn’t keep the EUR25 price and make up for it on volume.)
  • No iLok dongle, as required for Celemony. Correction: Celemony also allows challenge/response — so you have a choice.
  • There are some interesting fine-tuning options for the algorithm and manipulation parameters. That could make this more interesting for sound design – and something even Celemony users might want to run alongside the more polished tool.

In other words, none of this is likely to dampen enthusiasm for Celemony, but that’s a good thing: more is more better. Could this mean the floodgates are about to open for creative sound design tools that mess with audio in new ways? Hey, I hope so.

If anyone tests this, we’d love your report – and sound examples.