This clever plug‑in could breathe new life into your old loops and projects.
Like Zynaptiq’s original PitchMap, PitchMap Colors is essentially a polyphonic pitch‑domain tool, but whereas PitchMap was geared towards changing tuning in a fairly natural way, PitchMap Colors is intended to make more obvious transformations to the source material.
It works by splitting the incoming audio into chromatic pitches, then shifting them to match notes on the on‑screen keyboard, in an existing MIDI track, or in a live MIDI input. The outcome is that any piece of music, in any key, can be conformed to fit the notes or chords that you decide are appropriate — and that makes it a wonderful tool for processing sample loops to make them fit your current project, or potentially for reworking some of your existing material. Interestingly, PitchMap Colors can even apply harmonic characteristics to atonal or noise‑like sounds, so even industrial sound recordings can be turned into something melodic.
Instructions for how to set up PitchMap Colors in all of the popular DAWs are included in the documentation, revealed via the question mark[?] button, while the 'comment' icon to the left of this activates mouse‑over prompts for the various control functions.
The GUI looks fairly straightforward, with three large mode buttons above the virtual keyboard. Below the keyboard are five buttons, four of which (A, B, C and D) can store preset chords. The fifth enables external MIDI control. A further row of parameters is shown along the bottom of the screen. There are three operating modes with different sonic characteristics, specifically Sick, Insane and WTF. Sick is the smoothest and stays the closest to the original input’s sound, but it can miss capturing all the harmonics of the input on some types of material, which can lead to a slightly detuned effect. Most of the time, though, it works petty well. Insane is the most processor‑intensive mode but isn’t as mad as it sounds — it imparts a resonant, shimmering texture and is better at capturing harmonics, though it can miss capturing transients. WTF is similar to Insane but uses less CPU and this adds a somewhat reedy character to the sound, giving it a slightly robotic quality.
Scale Shift does as it implies, moving the whole pitch up or down, while Pitch Rounding dictates how the incoming pitches are mapped: to the nearest chord note, or the nearest upwards or downwards chord note. The next button can be set to Mute or Bypass and determines how notes outside of the pitch mapping range are treated. Transient Bypass is an important one, as it can restore transient detail to those modes that need it by adding transient information (up to 200 percent) back into the output, though when active this feature increases the CPU overhead.
Formant Shift moves the formants of the mapped audio up or down in semitone increments (or one‑percent increments using shift‑drag, numerical entry or automation) without changing the pitch, while FMT Gamma sets how strongly formants are exaggerated. When moused over, the curves seen either side of the keyboard reveal the minimum and maximum pitch value settings as well as adjustable high‑ and low‑cut filters. That leaves the arrow keys to either side of the keyboard, which steps the current note or chord up or down in semitone steps.
Hearing a familiar piece of music suddenly conform to your own chord sequence is uncanny.
PitchMap Colors works extremely well. Its processing sounds very smooth and it’s capable of some extraordinary results, whether adapting a loop, conforming to a new chord structure or simply creating drones. The four chord memory buttons can be automated, but it’s great that you can just work from a MIDI track or live MIDI input. Hearing a familiar piece of music suddenly conform to your own chord sequence is uncanny.
The only down side really is its thirst for computing power. Used with Logic Pro X and a live MIDI input, my i9 MacBook Pro struggled initially to keep up with the most processor‑intensive permutations unless the buffer size was set at 1024. My M2 Mac Mini fared somewhat better but still needed a 512 buffer size when using Insane with the Transient Bypass feature turned on. These large buffer sizes are recommended by Zynaptiq because the underlying FFT process is pretty intensive. Note, though, that in Logic Pro X the CPU load drops to around half if the instrument track isn’t set for a live input — if you’re using a pre‑recorded MIDI track to control the plug‑in, ensure the red R on that track is not illuminated. For computers of lesser power, the only option would be to do an offline bounce to capture a clean result, and I suspect that most users would choose to bounce the results anyway before adding other high‑CPU plug‑ins to their project.
Nevertheless, if your machine is up to snuff, there’s a lot of creative potential to be explored here and Zynaptiq have to be given their due for daring to go where other developers fear to tread.
An impressive polyphonic pitch‑processing audio plug‑in capable of responding to a live MIDI input — assuming your machine is up to the job.