|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
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.