Stutter Edit by Izotope. RRP $249 USD. Website
There’s always something magical about randomness – a first take is so often more alive than the technically perfect tenth, soul gets quashed by quantisation , and no matter what you try, there’s always something more interesting about a hand dialled filter sweep than a programmed one. Izotope’s Stutter Edit was designed to take the labour intensive and very clinical task of creating glitchy breakdowns in your music and automate it, in the process making something that was time consuming and rigid quick and fluid. Does it succeed?
Reinventing the Wheel
Of course, Stutter Edit isn’t totally original. Immediate comparisons will be drawn with Native Instruments’ The Finger, with its keyboard based design and stuttering audio manipulation, and you may well have your own favourite glitch inducing buffer tool. Stutter Edit is somewhat a different beast to other effects of its sort though, and certainly deserves to be treated as such.
Stutter Edit cannot immediately grab audio as it passes through it, nor can it hold the audio for any longer than a bar
At the heart of Stutter Edit is a constantly refilling one bar buffer. Rather than stutters affecting audio in real time, upon activating a stutter effect the signal is routed through this buffer – meaning that Stutter Edit cannot immediately grab audio as it passes through it, nor can it hold the audio for any longer than a bar. Whilst the refilling buffer can help you achieve some dynamic effects, that Stutter Edit doesn’t work as you might immediately assume it would in that it lacks the power to manipulate audio truly on the fly did take me aback a little. To make things interesting, the buffer can be reversed and the start point of the buffer can be shifted about – the signal can be split too, allowing each stereo channel to do something different. There are some left field possibilities with the functionality being like this, too, as keys can be assigned to rhythmical stressors such as a kick that always falls on beat one and a snare that always falls on beat three to create a sort of live remixing opportunity.
On top of the stutter effect are low/high pass filters, stereo delay and bit/sample crushers. Any combination of these effects can be used in a stutter ‘gesture’, Izotope’s name for each of the presets that a keyboard key relates to, and where Stutter Edit gets powerful is its modulation capabilities. All of the effects can separately be assigned sweeping values on a timeline of up to two bars, and the sweep itself can be adjusted from a steep logarithic curve all the way to a steep exponential curve (for those who’ve forgotten their maths homework, a sweep where things start off fast and slow down and vice versa), with a central linear setting.
one of the most novel possibilities in Stutter Edit is that you can make stutter note lengths so unmusically short that they can be turned into pitches
What’s more, you can select the note lengths that fit in t0 that sliding scale, and one of the most novel possibilities in Stutter Edit is that you can make those note lengths so unmusically short that they can be turned into pitches, allowing a quantised (or, not) arpeggio to be played by pressing a key. The arpeggio is manually defined, but it would be nice to have been able to select scales perhaps from a knob to allow gestures to keep up with songs in a different key.