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9 , 2000
Test: Digidesign Bruno/Reso
Real-time effects plug-ins for Pro
by Erik Hawkins
are a lot of great TDM plug-ins available, but most of these are designed
as day-to-day work tools (compressors, EQ, gates, tube emulators, etc.)
and arent suited for serious sound mangling. During those times
when we need to morph, mutate and warp a track into something entirely
new and different, only a truly twisted plug-in will doyou know,
the kind where what goes in sounds nothing like what comes out. Although
were seeing more and more plug-ins of this ilk, really good manglers
of the TDM variety are still rare. Up steps Bruno/Reso, by Digidesign,
an innovative real-time plug-in dedicated to mutilating your waveforms.
Bruno/Reso is actually two separate plug-ins, Bruno and Reso, bundled
together because of their similarities. The plug-ins have look-alike user
interfaces and employ the same sound generation algorithm, dubbed cross-synthesis.
This technique takes an audio track as its basic tone source and runs
it through a variety of synthesizer- type effects (e.g., amplitude ADSR,
filtering, glide, detune, etc.). The resulting sound can then be played
via a MIDI keyboard, or other controller, just as you would any other
As usual, Bruno/Reso comes on a CD-ROM and is copy-protected via
key disk. Running the installer program from the CD-ROM puts both plug-ins,
Bruno and Reso, into your DAE folders Plug-Ins folder. Upon booting
your application, straight mono and mono-to-stereo versions of each plug-in
will appear among your insert choices.
Bruno and Reso can be inserted on any audio or aux channel, just like
other plug-ins. However, unlike most plug-ins, you wont hear a sound
right away. A signal isnt passed through Bruno or Reso until a note
is received. As mentioned earlier, the note can come from a MIDI controller,
assuming, of course, you have a DAE-compatible MIDI digital audio sequencer
(e.g., Digidesigns Pro Tools 5.0 or Emagics Logic Audio 4.0).
If youre working in an audio-only application, not to worry, the
plug-ins sport a handy onscreen keyboard. Its fine for clicking
on single notes, and a Latch feature allows you to hold a chord, but forget
about doing any fancy licks.
Each plug-in requires an entire DSP chip, specifically, an SRAM chip.
With three SRAM chips per MIX card, this allows up to three instances
at once. The plug-ins are optimized for MIX cards to provide a full 24
voices of polyphony. DSP Farm cards only provide eight voices of polyphony.
There arent a whole lot of presets to get you started: Bruno has
11 and Reso only has six. None of them are particularly impressive, but
then, what the presets sound like is dependent on your source audio track.
For a quick first impression, check out the demo that comes on the installation
disc. It does a decent job of demonstrating the plug-ins, although it
really only scratches the surface of what is possible. Ultimately, its
up to you to get down and dirty, tweaking parameters to really get the
most out of this software.
The difference between Bruno and Reso lies in the way they treat the audio
source track. Bruno employs a time-slicing effect, grabbing chunks of
the source track and crossfading them together. This creates a sound that
is full of movement as timbres are continually smeared and blended over
time, much like the old PPG or Korg Wavestation. Reso synthesizes new
harmonic overtones directly from the source audio. The results range from
underwater bubble tones to harsh metallic bleeps and wah-wah effects on
The front panels of both plug-ins are clearly laid out into four sections:
Timbre, Pitch, Amplitude and Voice. The Amplitude and Pitch parameters
for Bruno and Reso are identical. In the Amplitude section, theres
an ADSR envelope that you can shape by clicking and dragging breakpoint
handles or through direct numerical entry. There are also controls for
overall gain, wet-to-dry effect ratio and stereo spread. The envelope
is used each time a note is struck and is velocity sensitive. The Pitch
area contains portamento, bend amount, detune, and master tune parameters.
The detune amount can be controlled by velocitya cool performance
trickcall it the detuned crescendo effect.
The plug-ins can function in either mono or polyphonic modes and feature
voice stacking in numbers of two, four, eight or 24 (that, obviously,
is mono by default). These parameters are found in the Voice section.
Reso also sports LPF controls in this area. There are knobs for adjusting
frequency, Q and envelope follow.
Resos Timbre controls include resonance and high-frequency damping
for taming the resonators edge. Both parameters are velocity sensitive.
Harmonics can be dialed in as all, odd only or toggled between these two
settings. The Timbre section on Bruno contains a crossfade dial for adjusting
the rate at which slices are culled from the source track and faded together.
A Switch LED flashes green when slices are butt-spliced rather than crossfaded.
More switching and less crossfading makes for a choppier, more rhythmic,
effect. The amount of switching is determined by the dynamics of the source
track or an outside source.
One of my favorite things about Bruno and Reso is that they respond to
key input and MIDI beat clock. Brunos time-slicing effectsthe
switching I just mentionedcan be controlled by these sources. These
signals can also control the timing of Resos all- and odd-harmonics
switching. A threshold knob lets you adjust when the switching will take
place, and another dial lets you choose MIDI note values. Note selections
are 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16 and include dotted and triplet values. I was disappointed
that 1/32 notes arent included, as this is a popular division for
drum n bass-type riffs. Nevertheless, having all these triggering
options available opens up a whole world of ambient groove effects.
The types of effects that you can cook up with Bruno/Reso are definitely
useful, especially if youre into electronica or trance music production.
If this is your bag, I highly recommend checking it out. Hardcore sound
designers may also find it interesting, particularly for dark, droning
background noises. If more traditional music production and recording
is your gig, this plug-in probably isnt for youbut you never
know, you might find it inspiring. At $395, the package is a fraction
of the price of a comparable hardware unit. I have a feeling well
be hearing this plug-in more and more, whether we know it or not, in contemporary
arrangements. I know Ill be using it.
Digidesign, a Division of Avid, 3401-A Hillview Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94304;
650/842-7900; fax 650/842-7999; http://www.digidesign.com.
Hawkins is a musician/producer working in Los Angeles County and the San
Francisco Bay Area. Visit him at www.erikhawkins.com for more equipment
chitchat and tips on whats hot for the personal studio.
© 2000 by Intertec Publishing. Reprinted with permission.