Review of Palindrome – a granular morph plotting sampler (VST/AU) by Glitchmachines

Review of Palindrome – a granular morph plotting sampler (VST/AU) by Glitchmachines

Introduction
Glitchmachines have introduced Palindrome, a unique and inspirational plugin with four granular samplers, a coordinate plotting grid and complex modulation sources in order to facilitate the creation of morphing sound effects and unusual instrument patches.

It is available in VST and AU formats as 32 & 64 bit versions from Glitchmachine’s website. It is typically priced at $69.

System Requirements
It’s worth noting the system requirements:

  • Broadband connection for download
    VST/AU host: Ableton Live, Logic Pro, etc.
    Mac OS X 10.7+ (PPC not supported)
    Approximately 1.5 GB of hard drive space
    Windows Vista or higher
    Minimum 2 GB RAM
    CPU with SSE2 support
    Minimum CPU: Core 2 Duo, 2GHz
    Minimum screen resolution 1000 X 800

I’ve highlighted the last one because it’s quite a high standard. My laptop has a max resolution of 1366 x 768. However, whilst I can resize the window in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3, I don’t have this option in MuLab.

However, I’ve subsequently been advised by Glitchmachines that there is a relatively easy solution to manually scale the UI, even if you can’t see the footer on first load, via the prefs file. If you edit the Palindrome.prefs file in a text editor, at the very bottom of the file are the two lines you need to edit “<VALUE name =”ui_width” val = “xxx”/ >” and “<VALUE name =”ui_height” val =”xxx”>” where you can input your manual width and height settings in place of the “xxx”. If you need any further help please email Glitchmachines directly – support@glitchmachines.com

Download and Installation
This is a straightforward process, the file is quite large at 1.2Gb and the installation takes up about 1.5Gb of space. This is because the download includes a very generous 1.4Gb sample library. Installation is quick with the installer, you just need to manually copy the PALINDROME_SAMPLES folder to an appropriate location on your computer and when you launch Palindrome a pop-up will prompt you for the folder location. There is no registration process.

Basic Overview
Palindrome has 4 granular samplers, each of which is represented by a quadrant on the display. You create a custom path that determines the trajectory of a playhead over time. This playhead travels across the defined path that corresponds with the outputs of the samplers which are smoothly morphed together.

You can apply up to two effects per sample and Palindrome also features 8 user-definable multi-breakpoint envelopes that can be used to modulate sampler and/or effect parameters.

The global section allows you to define the global envelope, pitch and output parameters and there’s a global reverb effect too.

Using Palindrome

I’m delighted to say that I was part of the beta testing team and have designed some of the factory presets.

Palindrome is one of those tools that is easy to start using and you can get some great sounds straight away but it also allows you to learn new techniques and discover new possibilities over time.

The GUI has a very modern look and feel and is easy to navigate. The top section contains the load sample option and waveform display. sampler controls on the left and effect controls on the right. These are the same for all four samplers selectable by the relevant tab.

Because Palindrome is geared towards experimental sound design, the samplers behave differently to other Glitchmachine plugins and have been completely recoded for this plugin. Rather than playing the whole of a sample, they loop a small portion of it. Each sampler has 3 windowing options – rectangular (no edge softening) gives a more raw and aggressive sound where triangular and hann windows applied to the grain soften the edges.

The principle operation of the samplers is to specify the start position (as a percentage of the length of the sample) and size of grain (up to 1000ms) and there are controls for pitch, fine tune, pan and amp. There are also options to reverse the sample and mute the output of the sampler.

To the right of the sample load box are the insert effects. These are processed from left to right, each has two controls which are dynamically applied to the knobs when the effect is selected and there’s also a mix control. There are low pass, high pass and band pass filters; distortion; wave folder; ring mod and delay effects.

top_gui

Any parameters that can be modulated have a small dot and range control, essentially the sampler, effect controls and playback rate.

modulatable

The central part of the display is the grid section where you plot the trajectory of the playhead. The grid is split into 4 zones that corresponds to the output of each sampler – top left = sampler 1; top right = sampler 2; bottom left = sampler 3 and bottom right = sampler 4.

The default starting grid contains one point in the top left corresponding to the maximum output of sampler one. You add points to create a path (shift + click) and you can add up to 16 points that can be repositioned afterwards.

You can specify the speed of the playhead with the rate control (free or sync’d to DAW tempo) and there are 5 modes of playback behaviour – one shot; forward, backward, pendulum and random. There are 8 presets, some of which are complex shapes and a view option that turns off the connecting lines between dots to minimise visual clutter.

path1
path_con

Modulation is when things get creative and start to get very interesting, adding movement unleashes the real potential of Palindrome.

Using envelopes for modulation gives much more flexibility and control than LFOs. There are 8 definable envelopes which can contain up to 16 breakpoints. To view the envelope editor, click the modulation button in the middle that changes colour to green and the selected envelope you are editing will also be highlighted green. You can loop the envelope and sync to DAW tempo or manually set the speed from 20ms to 20,000ms.

To create a modulation assignment you drag and drop the required numbered dot to the desired target parameter’s modulation slot.

The global section contains controls that affect the consolidated output. There are attack and release controls, amplitude and pitch plus size, mix and damp controls for the reverb.

GUI_bottom

The footer section features the preset browser, global menu and randomiser. This is a very cool feature that has been really well thought out, allowing you to isolate single sections or groups of parameters.

random

Conclusions
This is another awesome plugin from the forward thinking Glitchmachines, it’s a unique tool that offers huge scope for sound design and sound creation.

I’ve previously reviewed their other sample based instruments Cataract and Polygon. Cataract is a segment multiplexer that can create complex patterns from percussive articulations to particle sound effects. Polygon is a four slot sampler (normal or granular) but with a completely different architecture feeding into two filters (series or parallel) with Ring Mod, Stutter and Metalliser effects and extensive modulation options with LFOs and envelopes.

Palindrome offers something new and what I love is that there’s so much potential to explore. The included sound library has an excellent quality and range of sounds and offers huge potential and you can of course load your own samples to extend the potential further.

The factory presets give a great example of the sort of sounds that can be produced. I have created a few of these from dark ambient textures of ‘Benign Intentions’ and ‘What Lies Beneath’; unusual glitchy effects of ‘ChatterGlitchBot’ and ‘RoboticBirds’ to sound effects of ‘MetallicRattle’, ‘BrokenEngineTrain’ and ‘PulseShifter’. You can change the character of these sounds simply by turning the sync on, altering the rate setting or changing the playback mode.

The randomiser is also a good place to start to explore some of the possibilities although it’s worth checking parameters – especially if you’ve randomised everything – to adjust any awkward or unwanted settings to fine tune the sound.

Of course you don’t need to use all 4 samplers, you can get some cool sounds using only two, with contrasting samples or the same sample with different filter settings and a complex path you can create anything from one-shot sounds to evolving textures and use some modulation to add interesting movement. The more you use Palindrome, the more you discover such different ways of using it.

I’ve created the album ‘tattarrattat’ embedded above using Palindrome as the only sound source and it is somewhere between dark ambient, noise and drone to highlight some of the possibilities.

All tracks arranged and recorded in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3. Tracks 2, 5 and 6 used five instances of Palindrome processed with SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio), Ultratap, H949 Dual Harmoniser, Blackhole and Octavox (Eventide); Tracks 1, 3 and 4 used three instancs of Palindrome processed with Octavox, Blackhole and H3000 Factory (Eventide) and Blackhole.

I’ve also created the album ‘varosha’ embedded below. This is a dystopian soundtrack inspired by abandoned and / or creepy places. It’s electronic, somewhere between IDM, minimal DnB, dark ambient and soundscape.

It features drum patterns from Breaktweaker (iZotope) processed with Ultrachannel (Eventide); Palindrome (Glitchmachines) processed with H3000 Factory, Blackhole and Ultrachannel (Eventide) and Glitchmachines samples processed with SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio).

Both albums mastered in MuLab 7 using Magnetite (Black Rooster Audio), Elevate (Newfangled Audio), Stage (Fiedler Audio), EQ65 (Eventide) and VHL-3C (Black Rooster Audio).

Loopcloud Sounds