Sonic Charge, the folks responsible for the retro drum machine μTonic and the genetically engineered Synplant, are back with Bitspeek (Mac/Win, $29, AU and VST, download). Designed to resemble a children's speech toy like Texas Instruments Speak & Spell, Bitspeek applies voice-compression technology to audio passing through it— typically speech or singing. It then gives you controls for manipulating the processes. The results are as diverse as turning speech into song; lo-fi chorusing, doubling, and vocoder-like processing; and stuttering of captured syllables in sync with your DAW's tempo (see Web Clip 1).
Although intended primarily for vocals, Bitspeek can make its mark on any of your tracks. With just eight controls, it's easy to experiment, and you'll almost always find something useful (see Web Clip 2). Use the Pitch knob for transposing, or turn the Tracking knob all the way down to remove all pitch tracking and use incoming MIDI to control the pitch. The Detune knob lets you add an upper voice at any interval up to an octave. The Noise knob is for enhancing speech intelligibility, but you can also use it to add fricatives to bass, lead, and percussion.
The Frame Rate knob is one of the most useful; it lets you determine how closely Bitspeek follows changes in the incoming audio. Pull it all the way down, and you lock Bitspeek to what's currently in the buffer. Alternatively, turn Sync on and set the frame rate to a note division to capture chunks in sync with tempo. Bitspeek is great fun, and even if you use it only occasionally, it's well worth the price.