StarChildDemo is a universal binary Audio Unit plugin (PPC, 32 bit Intel and 64 bit Intel) that does a variation on the old Ursa Minor Space Station, but different. It’s a high purity stereo-only rendition of a raw and grainy antique digital spacemaker, all vibe!

Here’s how it works. Back in the really crude old days there were only delay lines. StarChild is doing a series of delay lines in a primitive, fixed point digital delay with a subtle pitch shift applied in an interesting, crude, grainy way characteristic of these really old processors. Is it low bit, for that low-res grit and crunch? Yes and no… that’s what the ‘grain coarse/fine’ control is for. It uses sustain duration to give roughly the amount of ‘hang time’ on the effect, but then the grain control determines how densely packed the delay taps are.

It’s implemented in such a way that coarse grain is insanely CPU efficient, and the fine grain is up to 162 distinct delay taps (more than antique digital processors could have done directly) and still very efficient for modern DAWs. The spacing of these taps is done using a set of hard-coded prime number delay times to keep overtones from reinforcing, so the only coloration you get is the overall ‘reverb’, and it’s done at four points in stereo to give you a spacious effect.

What does it sound like?

Like nothing else in this world. There’s a really strong ‘droning’ quality like certain Eno multitap delay effects, but concentrated on a fundamental ‘ring’ without affecting all possible harmonics of the sound. The pitch shift adds another level of strangeness and fuzz, barely noticeable but you’d miss it if it wasn’t built into the algorithm. There’s an airy quality that can also be a grungy quality at coarse grain… and the onset is softer than the rest of the sustain, making it a weird and amazingly unnatural sound that still blends with the dry signal in a very special way. And the way the attack is designed, the effect always ‘blooms out’ of a distinctly low-bit onset, which blurs and fuzzes out the attack of the ‘reverb’ keeping it from interfering with the dry signal. It’s like there’s always a little noise built into the attack of the thing, at whatever level you use, and the grain control determines how much of that you’re hearing.

It applies a super-strong flavor, but in a strangely useful way that doesn’t ruin the tone, just makes it richer and weirder. Both of the controls, sustain and grain, work to adjust the rough pitch center where all the jittering delay taps sit (they shift in ripples, one sample at a time for maximum scrunch, and one at a time rather than all at once for added texture).

For that hybrid of old-school and ultramodern electro madness, StarChild can’t be beat. It’s a true secret weapon, a bizarre little algorithm that sits sneakily in a mix just adding its alien mojo. You can have it barely audible and still it has a huge effect, or you can crank it right up and whack people with StarChild’s peculiar skronk, a texture that’s sure to jump out of any mix. You can make robot voices, electro drums, techno soundscapes, all with a glorious fuzzy digital obnoxiousness that screams ‘oldest of old school hardware box’.

StarChild is $50.