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: