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Sonic Charge Permut8

October 25, 2012

Sonic Charge Permut8 uses two versatile digital instructions to read from the audio memory buffer.

You may think you know about effects processors, but Sonic Charge Permut8 will mess with your mind. Permut8 is the weirdest effect I’ve ever seen. It can be a delay line, bit crusher, pitch shifter, random sample-andhold, sample slicer, ring modulator, comb filter, stereo chorus, or even signals from outer space—all through manipulating a few simple controls. Did I say “simple”? There’s madness in its method.

Delay The action centers around a stereo 12-bit, 192kb memory buffer. Twelve-bit? That’s part of the low-fi goodness. The incoming audio signal is written to the buffer continuously, as in a standard delay line. The data can then be read from the buffer in many different ways. The read “head” (if you like the tape recorder metaphor) can jump around slowly, back up, or jitter at audio rate. The clock frequency can be synced, allowing a single pass through the buffer to last for up to eight measures, or it can be un-synced and jammed up as high as 352kHz for screaming ring modulation.

An animated graphic at the bottom of the panel shows what’s happening with the write and read heads. The rest of the user interface is truly bizarre. Even after repeated trips to the manual, I’m not always sure what’s going on.

Operations The read operation is controlled by two digital instructions. The first instruction can be AND, MUL, OSC, or RND. The second can be OR, XOR, MSK, or SUB. The data for each instruction consists of two 8-bit words, and the values of the bits are set independently with the banks of switches.

In some modes, the 8-bit words produce a numerical value between 0 and 255. If you know binary arithmetic, this won’t throw you. With OSC, the first 8-bit value controls the rate of a triangle-wave oscillator, and the second value controls the amplitude. The oscillator controls the speed of the read head; with large amplitudes it can back up, producing “tape reverse” effects. RND does the same, but the modulation is stepped rather than smooth.

With MSK (mask), eight of the switches turn the effect on or off in an eight-step rhythmic pattern. This lets you create, perhaps, a dental drill burst or an upward pitch-shift of an octave that is heard strictly on the off-beats. The MUL (multiply) operation causes the read position to move faster or slower through the buffer, producing pitch shifts. The OR and XOR operations can give you even more serious audio damage.

Other Features Naturally, there’s a feedback knob. You can insert a low/highpass filter in the feedback path, or apply it to the input or output, as well as overdrive the input for clipping (if you don't enable the input limiter). The Write Protect switch freezes the buffer’s current contents, so you can modulate and manipulate it in an endless loop. Thirty programs reside in memory for quick switching. If your host supports routing MIDI to plug-in effects, you can “play” Permut8 in real time from a MIDI control surface. If not, autom8!

Permut8 will be a must-have for glitch and heavy dance music—basically, for anybody who wants to wake listeners up. There’s a three-week trial download. What are you waiting for?

Jim Aikin started at Keyboard in 1975, and has been writing about music and technology ever since. His recent books include Csound Power! from Cengage Learning.

STRENGTHS: Fresh sounds. Extremely versatile. Deliberately low-fi.
LIMITATIONS: Cryptic user interface. Deliberately low-fi.

$66 MSRP

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