Despite some important differences, BitHeadz's flagship products, Retro and Unity, have much in common. Both are based on the virtual-analog sound-design
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Despite some important differences, BitHeadz's flagship products, Retro and Unity, have much in common. Both are based on the virtual-analog sound-design

Despite some important differences, BitHeadz's flagship products, Retro and Unity, have much in common. Both are based on the virtual-analog sound-design model, offering oscillators, filters, envelopes, and low-frequency oscillators (LFOs), and both provide the same number and type of effects. Retro and Unity also have flexible modulation routings and the same support utilities. What distinguishes the two is that Retro is a software synthesizer, so its oscillators play waveforms. Unity, on the other hand, is a software sampler; it uses samples as its sound source. I'll look at the layout of both programs, using Retro's patch-editing features as a model, and devote the remainder of “Master Class” to Unity's sampling features. If you don't own either program, head to the BitHeadz Web site ( and grab the demos of one or both.

Retro and Unity are, in fact, suites of applications: each consists of several modules (that is, separate executable programs) that are designed to handle specific tasks. Additional utility programs are intended for setup and organizational chores. That approach — having an array of programs to deal with — can be confusing to new users. The savings in memory and CPU power that result from using only what you need, however, justify the effort it takes to get accustomed to that strategy.


Retro and Unity have four main modules: Editor, Keyboard, MIDI Processor, and Mixer. Both also have a Synthesis Engine, which always runs in the background. The Synthesis Engine is launched automatically by the other modules and handles digital signal processing (DSP) functions transparently. (For details about using the Synthesis Engine's Control Panel, see the sidebar “Taking Control.”)

The Editor module is used for creating and modifying Retro and Unity programs. It is the key to building a unique sound palette. The Keyboard module provides onscreen controls for auditioning Retro and Unity programs, and the MIDI Processor module is designed for live performance — it lets you create keyboard layers and splits, and it contains a built-in arpeggiator/step sequencer. The Mixer module is your window into the Synthesis Engine and shows the settings for each MIDI channel. This article will cover each module, but first, here's how Retro and Unity manage their programs.

Programs and banks. Retro and Unity handle program and bank organization slightly differently. Retro programs are files on your hard drive, and Retro banks are folders containing those program files. The Program and Bank menus in Retro's modules display the program files and bank folders in alphabetical order. Retro's Synthesis Engine uses that order when responding to MIDI Program Change and Bank Change messages. You can control the order in which programs and banks appear in the menus by the names you give them.

In Unity, banks are files on your hard drive. Unity programs are patch configurations within a bank file, and you can arrange them in a list in any order using the Unity Editor module. You can also group bank files into subfolders on your hard drive. You control the order of Unity programs by where you place them in the Editor's program list, and you control the order of banks by how you name them and the subfolders that contain them.

Retro program files and Unity bank files must be kept in folders named Retro AS-1 Programs and Unity DS-1 Banks, respectively. On the PC, the Retro AS-1 Programs and Unity DS-1 Banks folders must reside in the System folder, and on the Mac, either folders or their aliases must be placed in the System folder. That is how the Synthesis Engine, Keyboard, MIDI Processor, and Mixer find them. The Editor uses standard Open and Save File dialogs and can open program files in any location.

The Keyboard module. Use the Keyboard module for quickly auditioning sounds. The Keyboard has Bank and Program menus, an onscreen keyboard for playing notes with the mouse, and four onscreen sliders for generating MIDI Control Change messages (CCs). Also included is an automatic-chord feature that lets you select from 21 chord types to be triggered when the onscreen keyboard keys are pressed. The Keyboard does not respond to incoming MIDI; to use a MIDI keyboard to play the sounds selected by the Keyboard, you need to launch one of the MIDI-input utilities that route MIDI to the Synthesis Engine.

Here's a trick: if you load the Editor before loading the Keyboard, you can save time when auditioning sounds because you won't have to load them to hear them. Select Keyboard from the Editor's Synthesizer menu to launch the Keyboard, and use the Keyboard module's Bank and Program menus to select the program you want to hear.

The Keyboard always monitors the Synthesis Engine and adjusts its bank and program selection accordingly. That means that when you use the Keyboard with anything that sends the Synthesis Engine Program Changes (such as a sequencer or a Retro or Unity module), the Keyboard will reflect the latest program selection. If you use the Editor, the Keyboard always triggers what the Editor is editing (assuming they are set to the same MIDI channel.)

The MIDI Processor module. The MIDI Processor is designed for live performance and is the best way to control Retro and Unity from a MIDI keyboard. It provides for keyboard splits and layers, arpeggiation, automatic chords, and even step sequences. Like the Editor, the MIDI Processor automatically launches the appropriate utility for routing MIDI to the Synthesis Engine.

In the left column of the MIDI Processor file shown in Fig. 1 are the numerous Setups that each file can hold. Setups include a Mode selector, an arpeggiator/step sequencer, upper and lower Program Selectors, and a comments area; they can be selected using the mouse or MIDI Program Change messages.

In the MIDI Processor, use the two Program Selectors (First/Lower and Second/Upper) to select two Retro or Unity programs. The Mode section (at the top center of the screen) then determines whether incoming MIDI triggers both layers, is split by Key number, or plays only the program indicated in the First/Lower Program Selector. It's important to remember that the Program Selectors control what is happening on specific MIDI channels in the Synthesis Engine. The MIDI Processor routes all incoming notes, regardless of their MIDI channel, to the appropriate Synthesis Engine channel.

The Mixer module. The Mixer provides a complete window into the Synthesis Engine's 16 channels. Use it to select programs, control tuning and mixing parameters for each channel, and manage the Global effects. The Mixer comes in handy if you're doing a live performance and intend to use several MIDI controllers, perhaps to control parameters of different Retro or Unity programs. It's also useful when controlling Retro or Unity from a sequencer, but in either case, using it does cost some CPU power.

The Mixer is one way you can save song setups when using Retro or Unity with a sequencer. Once a mix is set up in the Mixer, it can be saved and reloaded each time that the corresponding song is loaded into the sequencer. If you use a sequencer to send MIDI mix data to the Synthesis Engine, the Synthesis Engine will pass that data on to the Mixer. Therefore, the Mixer's control panel will always reflect the state of the mix. The following MIDI controller numbers are used for the channel controls: 7 for Volume, 10 for Pan, 20 for Mute, 21 for Solo, 91 for FX1 Send, and 92 for FX2 Send. To control the global-output parameters (volume, muting, and effects sends) remotely, use MIDI NRPN messages, a complete list of which is published in the Retro and Unity manuals.

Bear in mind that you cannot use the Mixer with the MIDI Processor because the MIDI Processor takes over and routes MIDI input according to its settings.

Who's on first? With three modules performing overlapping functions — many of which can also be performed directly by the Synthesis Engine under MIDI control — there are no hard and fast rules about when to use which module. Here are some useful rules of thumb.

For playing Retro or Unity from a MIDI keyboard, use at a minimum the input utility that controls MIDI input selection (Open Music System [OMS], serial, FreeMIDI, and so on), found in the Control Panel. That utility routes incoming MIDI by channel to the Synthesis Engine, which responds to MIDI Note, Program Change, and Control Change messages. Some software sequencers (Emagic's Logic Audio, for example) have built-in MIDI drivers for communicating with the Synthesis Engine directly. If you use such a sequencer, you don't need to use an input utility.

To set up arpeggiation or keyboard splits and layers, use the MIDI Processor. If you want onscreen mixing, use the Mixer module, but keep in mind that your sequencer may provide onscreen mixing. If so, you might not want to add the CPU overhead of running the Mixer module. To select programs by name, use the Keyboard module (set to the appropriate channel). You have the option of using it either to select the programs or display the names of programs selected through MIDI.


Use the Editors to create and edit Retro and Unity programs. Because Retro and Unity come loaded with hundreds of factory sounds, you may choose never to open the Editors. In this section, I'll create a series of Retro programs, each illustrating some aspect of Retro's operation. I'll use the factory default program as a starting point.

The Retro and Unity Program Editors are not identical. In addition to playing multisamples instead of waveforms, Unity has two oscillators instead of Retro's three, and Unity has no Ring Modulator or Ext. (external) input. This section will cover the Retro Editor, but you can follow most steps in the Unity Editor by importing the factory multisample named Waveforms, which may be found in the Unity folder. To import a multisample, select Import Multisample from the File menu when the Editor's Multisamples tab is active.

The Editor consists of five pages — Configuration, Modulation, Main, Effects, and Global — which are selected using tabs along the top of the Editor window. Note that the Unity Editor has separate Tabs for editing samples, multisamples, and programs; it is the Programs area that applies. The Configuration page is an interactive, graphic signal-flow view of the patch. You can add and delete modules, but you cannot move the modules or their connecting cables. Modulation paths are not displayed. The remaining Editor pages display control panels for the parts of the program indicated by their tabs. Within those pages, you can adjust parameters for the oscillators, filters, envelopes, effects, and so forth. You can also control the signal flow from within each of those Editor pages using buttons that toggle the connections between components. It's not necessary to use the Configuration page to patch components together.

Scratch. Retro's default program is a good place to begin building the first patch. Fig. 2 shows the Configuration page of the default program. Depending on the preferences you have set, you may automatically get the default program when you launch the Editor. If not, select New from the File menu. You should also see a little onscreen keyboard in a floating window. If you don't, select Keyboard from the Windows menu. Click on a key on the keyboard to hear the sound of the program — a raw sawtooth wave. If you set up Retro correctly, you should also be able to play it from your MIDI keyboard. (If you use Unity, load the Waveforms multisample; then, go to the Main page and select the sawtooth waveform for Oscillator 1.)

Fig. 3 shows the Main page of Retro's Program Editor. Three oscillators are on the left, and a ring modulator (Retro only) and two filters are on the right. Note that each component has a Speaker button in the upper-left corner. In Retro, Oscillator 1 and Filter 1 are yellow, which means they are enabled. The Configuration page shows only the enabled components, which is why you see only one oscillator. In Unity, only Oscillator 1 is turned on. This is a good opportunity to audition waveforms. Before you do that in Retro, however, turn off Filter 1 by clicking on its Speaker button. You'll notice that the Sym (symmetry) slider (Retro only) is active for some waveforms and inactive (indicated by a gray knob) for others. When it is active, move it around to hear its effect on the selected waveform. The Sym slider changes the selected waveform's symmetry. For example, when a pulse wave is selected, the Sym slider controls the pulse width.

Filter types. After auditioning waveforms, return to the sawtooth and activate Filter 1. Set up a basic filter envelope; then, audition the various filter types. Pull the Cutoff slider in the Filter 1 panel down almost to the bottom of its range; next, click on the Modulation tab to go to the Modulation page (see Fig. 4). Notice in the Configuration page that Envelope 2 has already been set up for Filter 1's Cutoff, but the default settings are different from those shown in the Modulation page. At this point, change the settings by increasing the Amount to 100 and reducing the Sus Lvl and Sus Dcy to 0. Now play a note, and you should hear a gentle filter sweep. Next, select the other filter types and compare the results. Notice that the all-pass filter types have almost no effect and that the Comb filter has a pitch-bend-like effect.

All-pass filters are frequently found in reverb circuits. Without resonance, they don't attenuate or boost frequencies, but they do introduce a frequency-dependent delay, an effect known as dispersion. That effect is most pronounced when applied to percussive sounds, but it can also produce interesting phasing effects when mixed with the unfiltered sound or another all-pass filter. The Comb filter is really just a delay line with feedback; the envelope changes the delay length. Think of pitch-bending as a kind of Doppler effect. You can get a more usable sound from it by reducing the envelope Amount to 1 or 2 and using low Cutoff settings.

Next, we'll add an oscillator and employ it in various ways. First, choose the 4-Pole LP Resonant filter (with the Amount at 100) to get a typical synthlike filter sweep. Then, turn on Oscillator 2 by clicking on its Speaker button and choosing the Sine waveform. While playing a note, move Oscillator 2's Coarse-tuning knob and notice that it has no effect. That's because Oscillator 2 is not in the signal path, which a quick look at the Configuration page will confirm. Under Filter 1's speaker is a box named Input. Click on the Osc 2 button to connect Oscillator 2 to the Filter. Now when you play a note, you will hear both oscillators.

Modulation effects. Some of the more interesting sounds come from using oscillators as modulators. Retro provides a number of opportunities to do that. From Oscillator 2's Sync menu, select Oscillator 1. That causes a hard sync of Oscillator 2 to Oscillator 1, meaning that Oscillator 2's waveform will start over whenever Oscillator 1's does. In other words, Oscillator 2 will adopt Oscillator 1's frequency, and changing Oscillator 2's Coarse or Fine tuning will simply change its wave-form. Hearing is believing, so play a note and move Oscillator 2's tuning sliders.

Notice on the Modulation page that LFO 1 modulates Pitch. Select LFO 1 to Pitch in the upper window, change the Destination to Oscillator 2 Frequency, and increase the Amount and LFO Speed a bit. If your keyboard controller has a modulation control (for example, a wheel, slider, or knob), you can use it to control the sync modulation you just set up. If you don't have that type of controller handy, simply select and delete the Controller A modulation routing. Otherwise, the modulation amount will be zero, and you will hear no effect.

Oscillator 2 also makes a good FM source. Return Oscillator 2's Sync setting to none, take it out of the signal path by clicking it off in Filter 1's Input section, and set its Volume to 10. Select Oscillator 2 from Oscillator 1's FM menu and change Oscillator 1's waveform to Sine. Next, on the Modulation page, change the Envelope 2 routing from Filter 1 Cutoff to Oscillator 2 Volume. Experiment with the Envelope controls to hear how they affect the amount of FM. Notice that Oscillator 2's tuning has a significant effect on the sound. Finally, try other waveforms for both oscillators.

Go a step further (Retro only) by adding ring modulation to the program using Oscillator 3. Turn on Oscillator 3 and the Ring Modulator by pressing their Speaker buttons; then, set Oscillator 3's waveform to Sine and its Volume to 100. Select Ring for Filter 1's input. In the Ring Modulator, turn the Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 3 buttons on and make sure that the other buttons are off. Now change Oscillator 3's tuning while playing some notes. Notice that in many cases the results are clangorous — a characteristic of ring modulation.

As a final example, listen to the effect of dual all-pass filtering. Turn Filter 2 on and set its input to Ring. Set both filter types to 4-Pole AP Resonant using different cutoff frequencies at about 2,000 Hz. Move one of the filter Cutoff sliders or set up an LFO to modulate the Cutoff. You'll notice the filters' frequency-dependent delay, which produces an effect similar to flanging.

Although this is by no means a complete course in Retro programming, it should give you a good taste for what you can do and how quickly you can do it. For an even quicker approach to finding sounds, select Randomize from Retro's Edit menu.

The effects are the most important thing yet to be covered (see the sidebar “Side Effects”). Each program can have two Insert effects and two Global effects that affect all Retro or Unity channels. Those make for a good bit of additional sound manipulation.


Unity's limitations in Main-page programming (having only two oscillators and no ring modulator or Ext. input) are outweighed by its ability to play samples, which gives you an unlimited number of sounds to begin with. Like all samplers, Unity's oscillators play multisamples — collections of samples mapped across pitch and Velocity zones. Unity's Multisample and Sample editors should be familiar to anyone with a little sampler experience. In this section, I'll concentrate on Unity's more unusual features.

Sample slicing and stretching. You've most likely noticed the oscillators' Speed sliders on the Unity Editor's Main page. When you turn on Oscillator Stretching by clicking on the Oscillator Stretching button (the one with the clock icon), the Speed slider adjusts the rate at which slices are triggered within a sample. If you know Propellerhead's ReCycle or how to use Rex files, the process will be familiar. The first step in using slices is to create them by setting split points within the sample. You might place those so as to divide the sample evenly (say, into eighth notes) or to separate distinct sound events such as drum hits. Oscillator Stretching changes the rate at which those slices are triggered. (Think of it as slice-sequencing.) The key is that the playback speed of the slices is unchanged — Oscillator Streching avoids all pitch or time modification of the sample data.

For an example of stretching in action, load the Unity factory Bank named OSC Stretch 1.uds. (You'll find it in the OSC Stretch Examples subfolder of the 07 Loops_Riffs & FX folder in the Unity DS-1 Banks folder.) On the Program Editor's Main page, you'll see that Oscillator 1 has Oscillator Stretching turned on, which makes the Speed slider active. The multisample Time Warp has three samples triggered, in turn, by the MIDI notes C3, D3, and E3. Play any of those notes while adjusting the Speed slider to hear the effect.

Notice that as you slow things down to about -25, gaps between the slices are beginning to become audible, and at higher than +50, the individual slices begin to sound clipped or truncated. In most cases, speeds between -25 and +50 work best. When you work with samples such as the word slices triggered by E3 in the previous multisample, in which the sounds are spread far enough apart, extreme settings work fine and often produce interesting effects.

Stretching for effect. Speed changes are typically used to change the tempo of beat loops, but you can also use them to create some unique sounds. As an example, turn on Oscillator 2 on the Main page and set its controls (including the buttons on the left) exactly like those of Oscillator 1. Next, set one oscillator's Speed slider to 100 and the other's to 97. Now play and hold E3 and listen to the speech clips slowly move out of phase.

You can produce a similar effect with the Fine slider, but that changes the pitch of the samples. Set Oscillator 2's Fine slider to 10 with both Speed sliders set to 0; then, play the kick-drum sample on C3. You'll get both phasing and increasing flams as the samples loop because Oscillator 2 plays the sample faster, making it loop more quickly. Now change Oscillator 2's Speed slider to -1. That compensates for the shortening of the sample by spreading the slices slightly apart. The result is phasing without flams.

Slicing your own. Unity's Sample page provides you with the means for making slices and offers some help in doing so. Fig. 5 shows the Sample page and Split window. The markers in the Sample window mark the slice points Unity uses for Oscillator Time Stretching. You can insert and move those markers manually, but the Split function on the Munge menu gives you a head start. You can generate markers in two ways: by tempo and by amplitude threshold. If Tempo is selected, equally spaced markers are inserted according to the Tempo setting in the Sample Editor window and the Subdivision setting in the Split window. If Silence is selected, markers are placed wherever Unity finds a segment that is below the amplitude threshold for the amount of time specified by the Time setting. Tempo is a good choice for rhythmic material such as a kick-drum sample. For irregular material such as speech clips, Silence is usually the best choice. You can add, delete, and move the markers by hand as needed.

Cross and double cross. Most samplers offer Velocity crossfading; Unity offers crossfading between Velocity and pitch zones. In the Multisamples editor, select the number of zones to use (2, 3, or 4) from the Crossfade menu. Unity then decides which zones to mix for each note (see Fig. 6). That can be a bit tricky because several factors are at work: the oscillator's Switch setting, the Multisample Crossfade setting, and each sample's Fade setting. Here's an experiment that will give you a feel for how it works.

Create a new Unity Bank by selecting New from Unity's File menu. Go to the Samples page, click on the Add button below the sample list, and name the sample “Sine.” That gives you a short empty sample. Select Synthesize from the Munge menu; then, click the Sine button to fill the empty sample with a sine wave. Click twice on the Nudge Right button in the Loop End section so that the loop includes two cycles. Select Truncate after Loop End from the Munge menu. You've now seen how to create waveforms. You can use copy, paste, and the Mix operation from the Munge menu to produce an endless variety of new waveforms.

Because you need several samples to crossfade, select the sample Sine in the sample list, copy it, click on an empty section of the sample list (to deselect everything), and paste three times. You now have four samples, all named Sine. Select the three new samples, use the Munge menu to synthesize a different waveform for each one, and rename them accordingly using the Edit menu.

Go to the Multisamples page and click on the Add button under the Multisample list to create an empty multisample. Select that multisample in the Multisample list, click on the Add Multiple button below the Zones area, and add the four samples to the multisample. Position them so that there are two pitch zones, each with two Velocity zones. Finally, go to the Programs Main page and select that multisample for Oscillator 1.

Play notes across the two pitch zones with different Velocities to hear the hard switching between waveforms. On the Multisample page, set Crossfade to 2 and set each zone's Fade slider to 50. If you play the same notes again, you will hear that farther away from the pitch-transition point you get Velocity crossfading, whereas close to the pitch-transition point you get pitch-zone crossfading. Repeat the experiment with Crossfade settings of 3 and 4 as well as with different Fade slider settings. If you can't hear what is crossfading to what, assign a different Root Note to each of the four samples, and it will become abundantly clear.


Following are some additional things to explore in Retro and Unity:

  1. In Unity, explore the various options provided in the Sample page's Munge menu. You can do quite a bit of basic sample editing right there, without launching a standalone sample editor.
  2. In the Retro and Unity Program Editors, don't limit yourself to the standard signal paths. Try different filter types with the filters and use them in series and parallel. For example, using comb filters in series or all-pass filters in parallel can add a lot of motion to a sound.
  3. Don't forget that any oscillator or filter can be a frequency or filter-cutoff modulation source. In Retro, that also applies to oscillator sync and ring modulation. Applying envelope or LFO modulation to one of those audio-modulation sources adds another twist.
  4. Explore the Modulator pages. You can have as many as 24 routings per voice, and almost anything can be a destination. Don't forget that incoming MIDI can also be assigned as a modulation source. That includes MIDI Pitch Bend, Velocity, Aftertouch, and MIDI Controller messages.
  5. Don't neglect the Insert and Global effects. Consider setting aside a MIDI channel just for the control of Global effects. That will allow you to select Global effects configurations by MIDI Program Change.

Retro and Unity offer a great deal of programming flexibility. Spend a little time exploring the less-familiar aspects of the Editor pages, and you'll certainly find an array of unique features. A little imagination and the willingness to stray from the beaten path will greatly increase your sound palette.

Len Sasso writes about various aspects of software synthesis and sequencing. He can be reached through his Web site,


The Retro and Unity Control Panels are used to set up the Synthesis Engine (see Fig. A). The Configuration section controls how much computer memory and CPU power the Synthesis Engine can use. The top four settings control CPU usage. You can lower CPU demands by reducing the sampling rate (at the expense of sound quality) and by increasing the buffer length (at the expense of increased latency). Unity's Memory setting controls how much RAM the program tries to seize for sample memory. Remember that the Synthesis Engine needs about 8 MB to run and that the Editor requires enough memory to load the samples for the Banks you are editing.

The Controllers section handles the routing of MIDI Control Change messages. The controllers assigned to A through D and to the Pedal are routed by the Editor's Modulation page — any of those controllers can be used as modulators. Furthermore, by checking the Use Controller Maps checkbox and clicking on the Edit button, you can assign MIDI controllers to a number of Retro and Unity parameters directly. Finally, you can control every Retro and Unity parameter with MIDI NRPN messages. There are two assignment schemes for that purpose: the original Retro or Unity format, which provides access to every parameter, and the GS/XG MIDI standard format, which gives access to a limited number of parameters but is fully implemented by numerous hardware and software manufacturers.

You can assign one of six Velocity curves for Retro and Unity in the Velocity section. That feature is used mainly to compensate for the Velocity characteristics of your MIDI controller. Start with the Linear setting; then, if you find that Velocity Sensitivity is too high, try one of the Concave Down settings. Alternatively, if you're not getting enough Velocity response, try the Concave Up settings.

Retro and Unity have two Global effects buses, and you can control them in two ways. One way to do so is with the Mixer; choose Fixed from the Global Effects Type menu for that option. The other way uses the settings of the program on a MIDI channel; choose Channel from the Global Effects Type menu and select the desired channel number. If you use the MIDI Channel method, you can set up a bank of programs exclusively for assigning and controlling effects. (The Use From Editor checkbox at the bottom of the Control Panel determines whether the Editor controls the Global effects. You'll almost certainly want to leave it checked.)

The I/O section at the bottom of the Control Panel controls MIDI and audio input and output. Settings are straightforward — set them to match your MIDI and audio system. The Headroom setting controls how much headroom is allowed for each voice. If you set it to 0, you get maximum levels, but playing two or three voices simultaneously can cause clipping. A value of 6 dB provides adequate levels without much danger of clipping. The Record to Disk Size options are 8, 16, and 24 bits. If your system supports it, you can use 24 bits for the highest quality (the 24-bit option requires the most CPU power and disk space). At the other extreme, the 8-bit option is a resource saver that may be adequate in some situations.


Retro and Unity have four effects buses: two for Insert effects and two for Global effects. The Global effects (Delay, Reflection, and Reverb) apply to the programs on all MIDI channels, but each channel can have its own send amount (for example, you don't need to apply the Global effects to all channels). Each program can have a separate Insert effect. Keep in mind when assigning effects for a particular Retro or Unity program that they are always in a series, starting with the first Insert effect and ending with the second Global effect. Insert effects can differ from program to program, and in that sense, they can run in parallel. However, for a specific program, the order of effects, both Insert and Global, is always as described.

Retro and Unity have the same collection of Insert effects. Compression, Parametric EQ, and Shelf EQ are standard. The Chorus, Flange, and Phaser all have the same controls with identical ranges, except for Phaser Feedback, which is not bipolar. That makes it easy to audition the differences among those often confused effects. Try each effect separately with the settings shown in Fig. B. When you select a new effect from the menu, it always reverts to its default settings. The best way to do an A/B comparison of two effects is to put one in each insert slot and use their Speaker buttons to toggle between them. For a totally out-of-control chorus effect, try two Multi Tap Chorus inserts; that gives you four feedback-chorus effects in series.

The Pitch Shifter mixes a pitch-shifted version of the original signal with itself to produce intervals adjustable in semitones and cents. For interesting chordal effects, try it with a program that has its oscillators tuned to an interval such as a fifth, or try two Pitch Shifters in series. Pitch shifting can also be interesting when applied to speech.

Both the Insert and Global Delay effects are 2-tap delays with feedback. Each tap position (for example, delay time) can be set in milliseconds or note divisions (when MIDI Sync is active). Interesting rhythmic effects result from setting the delay times as multiples of each other (for example, as a 3:1 ratio). The Global Delay's lowpass filter affects only the delayed signal.

The final three Insert effects, Overdrive (tube-amp simulation), Distortion (analog-amp crossover distortion), and Degrade (bit-reduction and downsampling) add grunge to the signal. They are most commonly associated with guitar sounds but can add variety to any sound. Try extreme settings with percussion sounds, for example.

The Diffusion and Reverb Global effects typically work with Diffusion (which simulates early reflections) coming first in the signal path. Extreme Diffusion Length with Reverse or Random reflections produces interesting effects when applied to percussive sounds.