Sonic Charge’s Permut8 – a delay-based plugin that embraces the sounds of ‘primitive signal processing hardware’ has been the talk of Twitter. We put the 12-bit orange meany through its paces.
I love myself a bit of Sonic Charge. Always have. Undoubtedly always will. Among the endless dearth of super saw upon super saw-stacked EDMoshillated VSTs, it’s refreshing to see someone doing something different. Not just uniquely different, but instantly usable and easily affordable.
No doubt it’s these same qualities that have ensured Synplant and MicroTonic an integral part of many a sonic arsenal for years. So when I had the chance to review Permut8 – after witnessing the excited twittering from Tony Senghore and Mason – I jumped at the chance to put it through its paces.
Permut8 is a unique effect based around 12-bit digital delay lines. The delay time can be modulated and controlled via a pair of step sequencers, which means that the resulting sound is unlike any delay you’ve ever heard. In fact, at times Permut8 can sound more like a distortion or a filter than a delay. But more of that later.
The first thing you’ll notice about Permut8 is its retro-styled orange GUI, reminding you vaguely of a circuit-bent Tomy toy of a bygone age. The controls are neatly laid-out and there’s a pulsing Knight Rider-esque faux LCD to show what’s going on in the sequencer section. Everything is accessible, easily automatable and relatively easy to get to grips with.
As with most VSTs, I patch it right into an insert, over a beat or vocal and start cursoring presets to get a rough overview of what the beast does.
There are 30 presets here across three banks, with fairly self-explanatory monikers such as ‘Octapose’ and the intriguingly titled ‘Nyquist Issues’ to get you going. A quick pull of the ‘Clock Freq’ wheel sets off the most arse-rumbling filter-cum-distortion nastiness I’ve heard since Aba Shanti‘s decommissioned Carnival rig.
At the heart of the machine is a 12-bit engine designed to yield a vintage retro crunch, and on first listen it sounds a very good emulation. The presets reveal an assortment of bitcrushed, distorted, filtered and flanged algorithms, all of which glitch the incoming audio while somehow retaining musicality and transients.
Switch it up
Of course the real meat lies behind the presets, and it’s not until you get into the dual ‘Instruction’ panels that you can really set the wheels into motion. Each module allows the user to flick a selection of 16 switches, in varying on and off states in step-time sequence with the host tempo. The sync can be deactivated and the switches can be triggered via MIDI or automation.
There is an ‘Operator’ knob for each module, allowing Boolean Logic to control the sequence in which information is fed, allowing the re-processing of audio and the reversal of what has already been passed through. This sounds like a lot of work for any CPU, yet Permut8 is surprisingly gentle on my likely under-equipped MacBook Pro i7’s ageing cores.
At its heart Permut8 has a very comprehensive MIDI spec which is the real ghost in the machine. Effects can be switched by MIDI key commands or even transposed across keys. In a live setting this would be armageddon.
The analogue emulation limiter and filter section also deserve an honourable mention, warm and crisp, they heat the end result nicely and are almost worthy of a standalone plugin in their own right.
Permut8 works well on a variety of sources. I’d personally see it employed best on glitched vocals or synths, not as much on rhythmical instruments or the entire mix, but since it’s capable of such a vast range of moods, it could as easily be used to warm up a tone as it could to blow a break into unrecognisable oblivion.
Permut8 is something of a rare beast – capable of processing audio in virtually any manner of ways, creating an end-result that is best described as genre defining and at worse damn near essential.
I’ll be keeping hold of mine, and keeping it close to my chest.
Price: $66 (plus VAT)
Purchase: Sonic Charge Permut8
The Final Word
Unique and affordable boutique plugin suitable for a variety of uses.