iZotope Stutter Edit

Why this relates to beats: The ability to chop, slice, and process samples is a fundamental aspect of creating beat-oriented music.
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Why this relates to beats: The ability to chop, slice, and process samples is a fundamental aspect of creating beat-oriented music. However, much of this is done on an ad hoc basis, where you cobble together different capabilities of different programs to assemble the sound you want. Now iZotope, in conjunction with beatmeister/composer BT, has created a program designed specifically to streamline this process with samples. It’s possible to mutate samples in tons of different ways, and in the process, you can also make sure that anything you do syncs to the project tempo.

That’s a brief technical description. The musical description is “Wow, this is really cool.”

First contact: Stutter Edit isn’t a trivial plug-in; it’s a deep and complex program that, while easy (and fun) to use on a “dial-up-a-preset” basis, takes some effort to master. First off, it’s an audio processor that you play like an instrument since optimally, you’ll trigger its effects from a MIDI keyboard (or at least from MIDI notes in your host’s sequencer). In fact, because both audio and MIDI tracks need to be in play, the documentation devotes several pages to info on how to instantiate Stutter Edit with Live, Logic, Pro Tools, Sonar, Reaper, FL Studio, Digital Performer, Studio One, and Cubase/Nuendo.

There’s no question that Stutter Edit is initially daunting. But not unlike an analog mixer, once you figure out how to control one processor, you can pretty much have the key on how to control them all.

Digging deeper: You know how a DJ will suspend a loop for a measure and put in some amazing breakbeat before crashing back into the loop? Well, Stutter Edit would consider that breakbeat a “gesture,” in that it adds a variation—simple or complex—to what you’re doing. But Stutter Edit can place extremely complex processing gestures on a single key, which you trigger by hitting the key. The gesture could be as a simple as repeating a section of audio like a stuck CD, to adding complex delay, lo-fi mangling, and even generated noise to create transitions or sweeps.

If you’re not coming from a DJ background, then think of this as a sort of musique concrète generator that messes with the sound the same way that tape composers chopped up tape and put it back together again. Granted, I’m not explaining it that well, but no matter—try out the demo, and you’ll see why it’s not easy to explain.

A gesture can be as short as a 16th note or as long as two bars, and sets an overall range over which effects settings change or sweep. If you’re familiar with Live, you can quantize the initiation of a gesture the way you can quantize a loop in Live’s Session view. Gestures can play as long as you hold down a key, end at a specific time, have quantized duration, or be triggered and then play all the way through.

Effects that you can use to mutate the sound include gate, delay, pan, bit reduction, lo-fi, filtering, etc. You can specify a range over which parameter changes occur—for example, changing the amount of delay feedback over the course of doing the gesture—as well as determine whether these changes occur over a linear, logarithmic, or exponential curve. You can also specify which portion of sampled audio will be “stuttered,” and even repeat audio at a high enough rate that it turns into discernible, pitched notes—even create musical scales. And don’t overlook the Generator, which is mostly about injecting a variety of controlled noise options into your music.

The bottom line: I give extra credit for products that avoid the “me-too” syndrome, which means Stutter Edit gets a ton of credit. Like the AdrenaLinn Sync, this isn’t for everyone; DJs reading this will probably “get” immediately why this is so cool (if I owned a music store, I’d sell a bundle of this and Ableton Live), but if you’re a Tele-and-tubes kind of musician, your reaction to Stutter Edit might well be “why?” Well, here’s why: because Stutter Edit streamlines the process of combining multiple processors, MIDI control, and playability into a single, fun, innovative plug-in. I don’t know how much I’ll use this in the months ahead, but I do know two things: I will definitely use it, and when I do, nothing else will do the job as cleverly and efficiently.

Price: $249

Availability: Download from www.izotope.com; also available from retail outlets.