Polyverse Music has released I Wish, a “pitch freezer” effect designed by Infected Mushroom and available in VST, AU, and AAX plug-in formats for PC and Mac.
I Wish is a very unusual effect which takes incoming audio and turns it into a single-cycle waveform synth live.
The idea for this plugin came from Infected Mushroom’s track “I Wish”, for which they apparently manually created some single-cycle waveforms from various audio sources, and used those as synthesizers. Basically, that means taking a tiny fraction of a second from a waveform – 0.01 of a second for a sound with a 100 Hz fundamental, 0.001 of a second for a 1000 Hz sound – and turning it into an infinite loop, then using that loop as an oscillator. Having done that kind of thing myself, I can confirm that it’s quite a bit of boring manual editing. This plugin basically does all that quickly, conveniently, and live.
I Wish is one of those plugins that are not quite an instrument and not quite an effect, either. It takes both the audio input for the audio material from which the waveforms will be extracted and MIDI input for the notes it creates from those waveforms. Opening it requires a few more steps than most plugins do, but the user manual provides all the steps for various DAWs, and it took me less than a minute to get it running and taking the proper inputs in FL Studio.
So, What Does It Sound Like?
It sounds hard and aggressive, basically. Single-cycle waveforms don’t evolve, just produce a specific flavor of constant buzz. If you’ve ever used a synth with a simple saw wave init setting, I Wish kind of does that, but with a distribution of overtones which is not that of a saw wave, but instead is based on the incoming audio at the moment the MIDI note is received. Because every note will result in a different sound, you get the complete opposite of those synths which produce a complex evolving organic sound, but it’s the exact same sound for every note. In this case, the sound itself is a simple buzz, but it’s a different color of buzz for every note.
One great thing about I Wish is that the notes are perfectly in tune. Tuning is one of the potentially annoying issues when making single-cycle waveforms manually, and it’s really nice to have a plugin that takes care of it automatically. It also doesn’t seem to matter much whether the incoming audio is quiet or loud. Using I Wish on a looped hi-hat resulted in a brighter sound when playing a note immediately after the hi-hat hit, and a darker sound for notes played while the hi-hat was decaying away, but both were pretty much equal in volume. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the incoming audio itself is unpitched, either – the hi-hat produced perfectly clear and in-tune notes as well.
I’d have expected that playing a lower note will result in what basically sounds like the same waveform played back at a lower sample rate. That’s not the case, though. With the default settings, playing low notes when feeding the audio input a non-bass sound doesn’t result in a deep warm note, but instead in a hollow sound consisting mainly of upper partials. The thinness and hollowness are like a guitar with its pickups out of phase. To get bass sounds out of female vocals and hi-hats, you have to turn the formant knob down.
Also, I Wish can let an adjustable level of the input sound through when no MIDI notes are sent to it. So, if you want it to add live glitches to a singer’s voice but want the singer just singing normally most of the time, it can do that. Or you can turn the dry sound off, and only get the “synth” notes.
What Can I Do With That Sound?
There aren’t any resonant low-pass filters, and though there’s an amp envelope here it’s not a typical ADSR – there’s only attack and release. So, you can’t really use I Wish to create typical plucks, for example. It can do polyphony, though, or detuning in monophonic mode with portamento.
There are two main modulators here, vibrato and envelope. Now, if you’ve read more than one of my reviews, you’ve probably gotten used to me complaining about vibrato. Well, the vibrato in I Wish is actually good, if vibrato isn’t what you want – it can do trills, sirens, wobbles and even total chaos if using the random sample and hold LFO waveform. But vibrato, in the sense of pitch moving up and down slightly, well… If you fine-tune the vibrato amount then it can do that going below the main pitch (like a saxophone player) or above the main pitch (like a guitarist). However, if you want vibrato that’s centered around the main pitch and goes both above and below it, you can only get that here by combining vibrato with a slight tuning adjustment, so that the average pitch ends up back where it would be without vibrato. On the bright side, the vibrato does have an envelope so it doesn’t have to start right at the beginning of the note, and it can also fade in gradually, which are nice options to have, and vibrato can affect both the pitch and the formant.
Similarly, there’s also an envelope for modulating the pitch, which is useful for turning sounds into pitch sweeps. You can go up or down slowly, but what I find most effective is quickly sweeping down an octave or two. That kind of quick little sweep or two at the end of a bar can really add variation and life to a melody and doesn’t require things like detuning, reverb, slowly evolving LFOs and all that other stuff which I Wish doesn’t have.
One nice thing is that even though the plugin GUI is small, the main controls are pretty large. There’s no forest of tiny knobs, which makes adjusting things on the fly quite easy, especially with a touch screen, where you can use multiple fingers to change multiple parameters at once.
Would it be useful to be able to feed this signal to a typical virtual synth architecture with filter and a modulation matrix? Sure, there are times when it’d be nice to have a wavetable synth whose wavetable gets updated live for every note that’s played, and which could maybe also offer morphing between earlier waveforms it captured… We’d be looking at something much bigger, more complicated and more expensive, though – a completely different type of plugin. Keeping I Wish small and simple, there is only one thing I think it would benefit from: detune and width controls. Sure, these can be simulated with an effect, or by feeding the same source audio and MIDI to multiple instances of I Wish, but it’s such a nice way to fatten up the sound that it’d be great if it was easier and more convenient.
In general, getting soft pads out of I Wish requires some external effects, but it excels at the harsh and buzzy side of synth sounds. If you’re going to use it as a primary lead or bass synth and not soften it with effects, it’ll be easiest to find places to use it if you produce some kind of harder electronic music – electro house, dubstep, hardstyle or psytrance. For short glitches and other more unusual roles, though, it can be used just about anywhere.
I Wish is not a conventional synth, and if you want a conventional synth you’ll be frustrated and disappointed. As a unique tool to instantly turn any sound into an unconventional synth, though, it’s very interesting and very useful.
More info: I Wish ($99)
Polyverse Music "I Wish" Review
As a unique tool to instantly turn any sound into an unconventional synth, "I Wish" by Polyverse Music is very interesting and very useful.