Imagine your latest masterpiece as the soundtrack for a vintage sci-fi thriller viewed on a 1952 10-inch TV with rabbit ears. That's what Psychic Modulation's Jack Resweber was aiming for when he designed Reception 1.0, a free VST effects plug-in for Windows. You'll find a variety of free and modestly priced VST instruments and effects at the Psychic Modulation Web site (www.psychicmodulation.com). You can buy a bundle of all current and future plug-ins for $49.95.
Reception combines feedback delay, distortion, ring modulation, and lowpass filtering with enigmatic controls and an undisclosed signal path. The trick is to forget about what's going on under the hood and just play with the TV-style controls. If your plug-in host allows you to assign MIDI controllers to the numericals and buttons, all the better — the controls are set up for real-time tweaking.
The Color and Tint numericals and the little vertical slider to their left affect delay-line modulation. Low numerical settings produce phasing, whereas high settings yield chunky discrete-delay sounds. The Contrast and Bit numericals control downsampling and bit-depth reduction, respectively. The Bright numerical sets the lowpass filter cutoff.
Buttons at the top of the TV toggle the effect on and off, introduce low-level noise, and add ring modulation. The vertical slider to the right of the Ringmod button controls the frequency of the modulating sine wave. The Warning button momentarily cranks the delay-line feedback to maximum. The Noise and Warning buttons are especially effective when assigned to a MIDI switch, button, or key and played in rhythm (see Web Clip 1).
My favorites among Psychic Modulation's other offerings are Paradigm Shifter 3 and Minimal. Paradigm Shifter combines filtering and delay, and it offers step sequencers for each effect's parameters. It can produce some truly off-the-wall results. Minimal is a 4-track synthesized drum-and-bass machine. Each track has a step sequencer and can be routed to its own output (host permitting). Minimal's simplicity belies its power. Finally, honorable mention must go to phOne, a synth designed especially for telephone and Morse code sounds.