Echoes from the fu­ture

Future Music - - FEATURE -

So what might the next few years hold for the world of de­lay? Al­low us to spec­u­late for a few mo­ments, and one day you’ll be able to look back and tell us how wrong we were.

Pro­cess­ing power was on the in­crease un­til re­cently, and with it the ana­logue-em­u­lat­ing re­nais­sance has been in full swing. We’ve seen em­u­la­tions of clas­sic ef­fects such as the Roland Space Echo, as well as ‘trib­utes’ built in the style of old tape de­lays and bucket-brigade num­bers.

As CPUs nudge the lim­its of Moore’s Law though, we may see de­vel­op­ers get a bit more sen­si­ble with their em­u­la­tions. More ef­fi­cient ver­sions may be cre­ated, and the ‘older’ ver­sions may be cheaper or sim­ply free – so a com­pre­hen­sive ana­logue em­u­la­tion in ev­ery plugin’s folder? Well, only if you’re into that sort of thing!

The mul­ti­tap con­cept has plenty of ground left to cover. Surely it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore we see a plugin with a ‘draw-your-own’ de­lay tap setup, of­fer­ing users a com­pre­hen­sive tool­box of Pho­to­shop­style im­age edit­ing tools, and pre­sets de­signed by fa­mous ar­ti­sans. Well, maybe not, but the ‘pro­gram your de­lay spikes how you like’ con­cept still has plenty of room to de­velop, and there’s plenty more vis­ual juice to be squeezed from those usu­ally in­vis­i­ble echoes.

As the com­plex­ity of mod­ern de­lay plug­ins in­creases, there’s got to be some­thing to push that in­fin­itely ex­pan­sive de­lay out of the way of the dry sig­nal, and we wouldn’t be sur­prised if there were more duck­ing fea­tures adding to the de­lays of the fu­ture. With the on­board lim­iter pro­vid­ing some pro­tec­tion, the pro­cess­ing could be di­verted into ful­fill­ing this pur­pose.

Per­haps the fu­ture of de­lay will con­verge with the fu­ture of re­verbs. Re­verb pro­ces­sors have been tak­ing the route of the ‘tuned’ ef­fect, with their al­go­rithms honed by those with bet­ter lis­ten­ing skills than GCHQ. Is it high time we saw an ‘artis­tic’ de­lay pro­ces­sor that’s been cu­rated by one of the world’s finest en­gi­neers?

Re­verb has also in­creas­ingly in­cor­po­rated EQ pro­cess­ing re­cently. Could so­ci­ety be truly ready to see a de­lay pro­ces­sor in which in­di­vid­ual taps are mod­u­lated across the fre­quency spec­trum?

Mean­while, the un­der­plumbed world of in-de­lay ef­fects has been the sub­ject of a few ex­plo­rations. Take the case of Blue Cat Au­dio’s Late Replies, which lets you process in­di­vid­ual taps each with a chain of up to four of its built-in ef­fects, for some half-de­lay-half­ef­fect-se­quencer ac­tion. Late Replies also of­fers four ef­fects slots on in­put, four on out­put, and – even more in­ter­est­ingly – four slots for each of its two feed­back loops. We’ll ex­plore Late Replies’ state-of-the-art stylings on the next page, but does this feed­back con­cept point to the next stage of de­lay’s evo­lu­tion?

Feed­back loops have been a vi­tal part of de­lay pro­cess­ing since the very be­gin­ning, but it’s rare to find any way to process the loop it­self. By tweak­ing the feed­back sig­nal ev­ery time it makes an­other pass through the de­lay, you can set up ev­er­in­creas­ing ef­fects that change as time goes by.

With even most mod­ern de­lay ef­fects of­fer­ing sim­ply a feed­back loop with no way to process it, this area is ripe for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. We’d love to see feed­back loop ef­fects be­come a sta­ple of the dig­i­tal de­lay, and we can’t wait to see what cre­ative pro­duc­ers will do us­ing a tech­nol­ogy like this. What glitches did for IDM, so feed­back loops could fol­low along be­hind.

And fi­nally, as the rest of the world moves on and be­comes used to the high level of de­lay pro­cess­ing that we see in the fu­ture, it can only be good news for free­ware de­lays and those found in your DAW. As the stan­dard in­creases through the rest of the plugin world, you might soon have an ab­so­lutely com­pre­hen­sive tool­box free to ship with your host of choice (if you haven’t al­ready), as well as sev­eral ad­di­tional pro­ces­sors to give you more va­ri­ety – all for no ex­tra money on top!

Blue Cat Au­dio’s Late Replies lets users get cre­ative within its feed­back loops

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