In a market seemingly saturated with virtual delay plug-ins, you’d be forgiven for assuming that everything possible in echo architecture was already available. But if you were looking for a new take on the classic effect, it’s little surprise the prolific developers at Sinevibes would be the ones to deliver.
Combining a multi-tap delay with a sequencer, Stream presents a fresh approach to delay programming. Rather than provide independently repeating delay lines of different, consistent timings, Stream allows you to program the timing between each subsequent tap of a single delay line, allowing for everything from chaotic glitch artifacts to intricate rhythms.
Up to 32 taps can be selected at the top of the typical Sinevibes vector-based GUI; unused tap steps are greyed out accordingly. Each tap has its own Time duration, set in host-synchronized musical intervals or milliseconds. Below, each step gets its own Filter cutoff: Low passed down to 20 Hz or High passed up to 20 kHz. Separate sequencers for volume Level and Pan of each step follow below; Pan can be governed by equal loudness or equal level attenuation modes via Pan Law toggle.
All of Stream’s tap step parameters are programmed by simply clicking and dragging the corresponding slider; dragging the mouse left or right while held quickly generates unique patterns. Each parameter sequencer comes with independent forward and back toggles to shift the pattern left or right in single step increments, while an X toggle resets all steps of a parameter sequencer to their default value.
At upper right, global timing parameters shift all steps left or right in one or four step segments, while a global reset defaults all steps with a single click. The handy Clone button duplicates all used steps as a pattern to remaining unused steps, allowing for quick generation of repeating patterns of Timing, Filtration, Level, and Pan. Muting tap steps by bringing their Level values to zero opens further rhythmic possibilities.
Curiously, the host-synchronized Time parameters are measured in fractions of a quarter-note, which is denoted here as 1. This means that an eighth note appears as “1/2” because it’s half the length of the quarter-note base unit; accordingly 1/4 is a sixteenth, 1/8 is a thirty-second, and so on – a bit counter-intuitive at first, but once you get the scheme, it’s easy enough to program.
Adjusting the global Time Multiplier slider can complicate these calculations somewhat, but that’s presumably by design, as it instantly squeezes or expands the full tap sequence like an elastic tape loop, quickly producing wild transformations. For more rhythmic results, quick buttons to snap to, say 0.25 or 0.50 timings would be nice – but these values can be automated with full accuracy, providing this functionality, in the studio at least, via a DAW.
Making good use of parameter randomization on many of their other devices, it's somewhat perplexing Sinevibes haven’t included this functionality here – globally, or per parameter. Nevertheless, freehand drawing steps in haphazardly provides a reasonably similar result in terms of quickly creating a starting point before honing in on more exacting step controls.
Along with left-right step time shifting, it would be nice to have per-parameter and global up-down incremental shifts to quickly scale values up or down. Given the fixed slider height doesn’t afford a particularly long throw, it could also be nice to have global Filter frequency settings to constrain upper and lower limits to a more musical range.
Feedback can be set to Fade the delay on a standard per-Tap basis; alternatively, in Round mode taps are faded each cycle of the sequence as a unit, resulting in a somewhat more rhythmic decay. A lush Modulation LFO features phase inversion from one tap to the next for a rich, wide character. Modern and Vintage interpolation provide two sonic flavors, both of which sound exquisite, particularly with regard to pitch-shifting artifacts. A built-in Send and Return loop allows for in-line intermittent dub throws even when Stream is being used as an insert effect.
A few dozen presets provide an ample overview of Stream’s deceptive versatility, featuring everything from grain cloud dispersions to off-kilter rhythms, flanging ping pong delays, and vintage reverb atmospheres.
What sets stream apart is the intricate programming potential that can be used to create dynamic looping rhythms out of even the most rigid source material. There might be a few parameters missing for advanced users, but even with its limitations, Stream instantly gives rise to unique sonic patterns that would be nearly impossible to generate with any other delay.
Price: $49 USD
Pros: Great interface, excellent sound, unique and powerful rhythmic results.
Cons: Mac only; filter constraints, randomization, and up-down step shift features would be nice additions.