AudioNerdz Delay Lama
This one is pure fun. Delay Lama (Mac/Win; free) is the first creation of AudioNerdz, a group of four Dutch students — three studying audio design and one studying animation. To quote the authors, “We started the Delay Lama project about a year ago as a special project during our course in audio design. It eventually grew into a VST instrument, and we thought it would be nice to release this virtual singing monk worldwide for the good of Tibet.” Although Delay Lama is freeware, AudioNerdz suggests you consider a donation to the International Campaign for Tibet (www.savetibet.org).
Delay Lama started out as a Csound experiment in formant wave-function synthesis (aka FOF). That method is particularly good for simulating sounds produced by the vocal cords and resonances in the vocal tract. Delay Lama's designers converted their Csound instrument to a VST Instrument for the Mac as well as Windows. The VST control panel includes a very clever three-dimensional graphic of the aforementioned singing monk, complete with facial animation that reflects the vowel being sung.
Delay Lama features front-panel and MIDI control over seven essential parameters: voice register (baritone to soprano), vowel formants, pitch, portamento, vibrato, volume, and wet/dry mix for a built-in stereo delay (yes, the lama comes with his own monastery). The essential MIDI controls are just as you might expect — MIDI Note for pitch, Pitch Bend for vowel formant, and Modulation Wheel for vibrato — making Delay Lama very easy to play and automate in real time. MIDI Controllers 5, 7, 12, and 13 control portamento, volume, delay mix, and voice register, respectively. Delay Lama isn't Velocity sensitive, so you'll need to either ride the volume or construct a MIDI patch in an application such as Cycling '74 Max or Sound Quest Infinity.
You won't use Delay Lama in every song (and you might not use it in any), but you'll sure have a lot of fun trying. You can find MP3 examples on our Web Clips page and at the AudioNerdz Web site (www.audionerdz.com), where you can also download the plug-in.
If you've been searching for a budget modular multi-effects processor, check out the VST plug-in iONYXo (Mac; $49) from Onyxmoon (www.onyxmoon.com). You can combine iONYXo's DSP effects in a variety of signal-path configurations called Topologies. The plug-in comes in three versions — Mono, Send (mono in, stereo out), and Stereo — and each version includes 12 Topologies. You can't create your own Topologies, but you can fill a Topology's slots with modules in any way you like, and multiple instances are allowed.
IONYXo's modules fall into two categories: effects and routers. The effects include a feedback delay line (mono and stereo-panning versions), a 16-tap echo, a ring modulator, a multimode filter, and the Polynomial Shaper (for nonlinear distortion effects). Routers include a panner, crossfader, adder, splitter, and 8×1 mixer. Topologies are provided for almost any combination of parallel and serial processing you can imagine. The modules you choose to place at various points in the signal path determine the overall effect. The MP3 file StrumDrum will give you an idea of what a couple of instances of iONYXo can do to a very simple kick-drum-and-strummed guitar loop.
Perhaps iONYXo's most unusual feature is the Cycloid Modulator, which provides x-y modulation that follows cyclical paths called epicycloids and hypocycloids. For example, imagine an ant crawling around the cycloid; the x and y control values would show the ant's horizontal and vertical distance from the center. You can use the Cycloid Modulator to create complex repeating patterns and apply them to virtually any pair of module parameters. Sine and linear (triangle, sawtooth, or pulse) modulators are also provided.
IONYXo supports parameter automation and VST timing data, but offers no MIDI support. You should try the demo before purchasing, because not all VST hosts support every iONYXo feature at this time. Nonetheless, iONYXo is a very flexible effects construction kit that's well worth investigating.