Some of that brain-bending research from Paris’ famed IRCAM is coming your way in plug-in form – even (partly) for free. It’s a spectral remixing, sound morphing, audio shaping powerhouse that landed from some advanced alien civilization, but it’s usable by humans, whether we’re ready for this power or not.
ASAP is the successor to AudioSculpt, IRCAM’s incredible spectral sound tool – but now it runs with complete DAW integration and a bunch of new stuff.
I especially appreciate the celebrity endorsements (even if I am disappointed that they Gort but not Gorn – yeah, maybe “trial by combat” production challenges need to happen on CDM):
There’s a bunch here for free, and even more with IRCAM Forum Premium:
Spectral Remix balances harmonic, noise, and attack components of sound
Spectral Clipping – okay, not a distortion plug-in, but expands and compresses spectral energy within a threshold range (silencing sounds, limiting peaks, and otherwise manipulating spectral components within dynamic parameters)
That’s already a lot to get you started. Then the full range of possibility becomes accessible in the paid membership.
Spectral Crossing takes a source sound’s amplitude and frequency and side-chains with a target sound – so you can interpolate / transform sound sources. It’s a very different way to morph from one sound to another using phase and amplitude (for example).
Spectral Morphing applies the spectral components of a side-chained sound to a source for timbral modification.
Formant Shaping modifies vowels and formant resonances
Spectral Surface uses a visual interface so you can draw shape filters onto a sound’s spectrogram for gain and fade control. Now that in turn works with the Celemony’s ARA 2 plug-in extension so you can integrate this directly with your DAW.
You’ll find video demos on the project site:
macOS (Universal Apple Silicon/Intel) + Windows + Linux, all 64-bit, VST3 + AU + AAX (where applicable). Full manual is available, including premium plug-ins, for free.
This is really exciting stuff that opens up new ways of working – something the handful of users of the former AudioSculpt had already discovered, no doubt, but expanded here both in appeal and capabilities. You can vocalize sounds with all those formant and spectral morphing tools. And the ARA 2 integration means you can now manipulate spectral components inside your DAW with the kind of ease normally associated with just crude cuts and amplitude adjustments, etc. (That’s the Celemony SDK – you don’t need Melodyne or something to make this work. Combining the two could be really wild, though.)
I’ll try to get my hands on this for a review and tips soon, and to talk to the developers. It’s a real who’s who of sound research, with Pierre Guillot as the main designer/developer, plus contributions by Axel Röbel (including on SuperVP, which began with Philippe Depalle) and Frédéric Cornu plus IRCAM research teams.
Also, if it feels like you’ve seen an approach like this recently, you have. Just as with Bitwig’s recently announced effects (see recent videos), these allow you to manipulate sound on the spectral level. Bitwig’s interface is different, though – there’s clearly room for both, and it’s exciting to see development in this largely neglected area. (For existing Bitwig users, the Bitwig approach is also far more cost-effective!)
This is also notable both in that it celebrates a ton of capabilities in the free membership in IRCAM Forum. IRCAM’s offerings have evolved in past years as France has pivoted from public access to research to a hybrid public-private model. As has happened across Europe, at least in my understanding, research institutions now are asked to generate revenue from their efforts. That’s been a long process. But to those of us musicians just trying to experiment with neat tools, the results have sometimes been a little confusing, as you navigate different paid tiers, some tools that are free and some that are not.
The good news is, now a totally free IRCAM Forum membership nets you a lot of powerful tools, research, and community access. That includes some of the real meat of the ASAP plug-in set. It’s too good not to go and download … uh … “right now.” (It may be my imagination, but it seems this is a lot better organized and less paywalled/limited than it was until recently. And I do recall trying to wander into Bibliothèque nationale de France as a foreigner my first time in the country to get library access. It was … an imposing experience.)
On top of that, there are some real reasons to invest in an IRCAM Premium subscription – and those offerings are growing. I’ll try to do a full Premium review soon, but it’s looking like the most fun and certainly most nerdy subscription in sound.
More on the membership – there are also institutional memberships:
Premium also nets you additional webinars, more community features, extra tech support, and even discounts on partner products and education from IRCAM and others. The cost is 200€ / year excluding VAT (plus 50% off if you’re a student, 10% for renewals), but potentially one of the better buys in music tech. I do wish they offered a monthly subscription, though.
There’s more to say about what’s new at IRCAM, but for one teaser, they’ve got a heck of a concert coming up in January.
Watch this space.