home | info | music | studio | metasynth | art | inspiration | artist tips | 24 Chillout
metasynth: metasynth | music station | presets | tips | resources

a short presentation of MetaSynth 5

MetaSynth is a Macintosh software that translates images to sound - or sound to images - and it gives you a lot of creative audio processing tools to manipulate any sound further. You can use MetaSynth as a complete soundfx and music production environment, or you can use it to create musical loops, sounds and samples for your favorite sequencer. MetaSynth 5.3 is the latest version (November 2011), and it is fully compatible with both MacOS 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7 (Lion).

listen to how MetaSynth can sound!

Japan Electronic Suite by Homeless Balloon

the MetaSynth Rooms

MetaSynth has a clean, logical user interface with six different Rooms. The links to each room are always visible in the menu on the top of the screen (see screen shot below). Note that each room contains an upper part called the Sample Editor where your currently loaded or processed audio file is always visible, and the lower part (the "X-editor") which will change depending of the room type you select and the tools and parameters that are available there. To listen and work in the lower window, just click the mouse within the tiny gray box that surrounds the lower region. To use the play buttons and listen to the sound file in the upper part, always remember to first click the mouse anywhere in the upper area. MetaSynth has many simplified shortcuts that will let you work fast. One example is that if you are active in the lower window, typing "a" will "select all" notes, while using the standard "Command + a" will select the whole audio file in the upper window, and in this case it doesn't matter which of the windows are active.

the Sample Editor

All the rooms except the Montage Room output their audio (when you render it) to the Sample Editor. The Image Filter Room will always treat the audio file in the Sample Editor, while the Image Synth Room may use the audio file as an input.

A few tips and tricks you will enjoy in the Sample Editor:
• Command+"a" will select the whole audio file.
• Holding down the Command key while dragging the mouse, will select a portion of the audio file.
• You play back the audio file by activating the Sample Editor area and then clicking on the Space Bar.You may also use the play buttons: The gray button will play the audio from the start, the blue button will play the selected area (if any), and the loop button will play the whole audio file in loop.

• To understand the function of the other buttons in the right upper part of the Sample Editor, just point the mouse over each of them, and a short explanation is displayed on the bottom of the MetaSynth window.

the Effects Room

When you select the Sample Editor room, you will have a lot of great sample processing effects to treat the audio file in the Sample Editor with. Each effect has various parameters that you may adjust graphically, by moving parameter faders or by writing numbers. An example: on the screen shot above, the Effects Room has been chosen, and then the Volume effect. By selecting one of the graphically curves and/or adjusting the parameters, we will raise the volume of the audio file slowly, and then reduce it again. You can save your own effect settings by using the menu hidden behind the floppy disk icon far to the left. - I suggest that you take a look in the MetaSynth4 folder on your hard drive to see where the files and settings should be saved for easy access later. The natural place to store you effects settings, will be in the "effects user" folder.

A few tips and trick you will enjoy in the Effects Room:
• Holding down the Command key while dragging the mouse, will select a portion of the canvas, and adjusting parameters for the effect will only affect this selected area.
• Holding down the Shift key while painting with the mouse, will force your lines to be straight.
• Note that the color of each curve in the canvas matches the color of the parameter faders.
• If you want to increase or decrease the overall level of the whole canvas, use the two flat curves on the left side:

the Image Synth

The most challenging room in MetaSynth is the Image Synth Room where you can build original sounds by painting with various on-screen tools or by importing images. Take a look at the large image above, where you see a raising and falling line of dots. Click here to hear how it sounds! This is the canvas of the Image Synth. When you push the Spacebar or click on the small speaker icon, you preview the sound that the canvas represents. The image plays back from left to right, and time is represented by the horizontal axis, while the vertical axis represents the pitch. To make stereo or panning effects, use the color tool: Yellow is center, red is left and green is right. In the example above, I set the tempo of the image synth window to 120 bpm and chose a Semitones scale, then painted the dots with the grid set to 8, filtered the notes to avoid notes that don't belong to the musical scale I chose, quantized the dots with the grid set to 8 and finally used a color filter to place each note in a different stereo position.


Now, to actually hear how this image sounds, pick one of the sound sources (on top of the X-editor): WaveSynth, GrainSynth, Sampler (create or import your multisampling instruments) or the MultiWaves Synthesizer (which can create complex waveforms like FM synthesis.)

I looped the image in preview, clicked on the "Edit Instrument" icon and chose the Wave Synth (image above) as my sound source. The Wave Synth is a very powerful synthesizer. Tip: By adjusting the characteristics of the waveform in real time while the image synth plays back in preview, you can more easily find the kind of sound you want. Click here to listen.

As you see on the right side of the Wave Synth window, you may adjust attack and release time, modulation and attack mode. In the lower part of the window, there are different filter settings that will also color you tone.

Back to the main Image Synth room: You can store the images you import or paint, in the Preset bank, and banks can be saved to your hard drive. When you save a preset, it remembers the sound source.

Tips: To delete a preset in a bank, hold down the Alt (Option) key when clicking on the preset you want to delete. To store a preset in a bank, first open the bank, then click on the small arrow to the left of the preset bank, and the preset will be stored in the first empty slot. To open the previously used preset bank, hold down the Command key when clicking on the preset bank icon.

the Image Filter

This room is for filtering the audio file in the Sample Editor. You have a canvas not unlike the one in the Image Synth Room, and you may paint your own "filters" or use imported images to manipulate the audio file. There is a default bank full of filter presets, and you may create new banks to save your own filters in for later use. Below is a simple Stereo left to right Pan -filter which simply will adjust the audio levels of the left and right channels to give the resulting sound a strong pan effect. Click here or on the image to hear how the imported drum fx loop will be panned. - You can use the same filters directly in the Image Synth Room, but the filter will then be used when you render the image only. In The Image Filter Room, however, you can alter the audio file in the Sample Editor area directly, and you may combine different filters in order to create much more complex effects. (As you may remember from the Image Synth, the color red represents "left", green represents "right" while yellow will place the sound in the center of the stereo field.

the Sequencer

This room is for painting notes like dots on the screen, not unlike a traditional MIDI sequencer. You may set the tempo in the lower part of the window, and the kind of scale (Major, Minor etc.) in the upper part. How the notes will sound, depend on the sound source, and just like in the other rooms, you may choose a Wave Synth or a Sampling Instrument. In the example below, (Note: The sound source you choose for playing back the sequence, will not be stored with the sequence, so remember to write it down if you plan to quit MetaSynth before you render the sequence.) I created a special Wave Synth with a powerful bass sound (in the Wave synth window placed on top of the Sequencer window). Click here or on the image below to hear the sequenced notes play back (only the left part of the Sequence is visible):

the Spectrum Synth

This is a magic room where you may analyze the sonic characteristics of a sound (that you first import into the Sample Editor) and reuse these by building new sounds. You may adjust any portion and frequence band of the sound. You may even change the order of these parts randomly. As you see on the tool bar on the left side of the screen, you may manipulate the sound spectrum visually. When you finally push the render button (on the bottom of the screen), a new, audio file is created (and loaded into the Sample Editor).

the Montage Room

Finally, the Montage Room is the multitrack audio mixer where you add all your presets and sounds and mix them to a final piece of music. You may drag presets from various Image Synth preset banks directly to the tracks (and the needed audio file will be rendered if necessary), or you may import audio files into a special bank of sounds. There are three libraries on top of the Montage Room. You may also add real time effects like filter, delay and chorus to any of the tracks. If you want your overall level of the final mix to be higher, there are two ways to do this: First, always render your presets with high volume before you save them. When you add your audio files and presets in the Montage Room, you can adjust the level for each track by using the volume fader on the bottom of the Montage Room window (it is gray). You may of course also import your bounced, final mix into the Sample Editor again, and then normalize the audio file. However, processing audio too many times, will decrease the sonic pureness and add various (usually unwanted) artifacts. Working with 24 bit audio files is an advantage if you treat your audio through several filters etc., because there are more bits and then room for more accurate calculations.

the Preferences Settings

Before you start creating any MetaSynth projects, take a look in the Preferences window (in the File menu). Are you going to burn your output audio files on an Audio CD (44100 Hz) or use them in a video presentation (48000 Hz)? If your computer is slow, you may want to set the preview sample rate to 22050 Hz. If you will be sharing your output audio files with the rest of the world, choosing AIFF is safer than SoundDesignerII (the latter format is about to disappear from Macintosh software, and it has never been fully supported on Windows).

download a free demo of MetaSynth!

If you want to try MetaSynth right away, go here and click on the "Software" link and then "MetaSynth", and you may download a fully working demo version for FREE. When you fall in love with this beautiful software, you will be happy to know that it is fairly prices at USD 599.

video tutorials

U&I Software MetaSynth Video Tutorials the fastet way to learn using MetaSynth is to watch the online video's at the U&I Software site!

listen to music by MetaSynth artists

There is a special user group for MetaSynth artists at SoundCloud. You can listen and download tracks: visit the MetaSynth Music Group at SoundCloud!

One of Homeless Balloon's most popular musical pieces where MetaSynth was used to create or manipulate almost all of the sounds, is "Japan Electronic Suite". I have also used MetaSynth in several of my pieces for the television documentary series "Mysterious China". You may listen to these compositions at the Homeless Balloon artist page at soundclick.com.

More creative software from U&I Software

MetaSynth is the work of Eric Wenger (and Edward Spiegel) of U&I Software. He has also created such innovative software as ArtMaticPro (fractals and graphic animations), ArtMaticVoyager (realistic 3D animated landscapes) and the easy to use video effect mixers VTrack and Videodelic. These are some of the most creative artistic computer tools available today!

For more tutorials, see the Resources section of my web page.

- Helge Krabye (August 2011)

copyright 2007-2012 Helge Krabye