Imagine working with sound design by painting with spectra, then applying those spectra to instruments you can play in real-time, and you’ve got the basic notion of iZotope Iris. The dream of combining graphics tools, a la Photoshop, with sonic ones has been in the minds of creative computer users for some time. Iris is a major landmark, though: instead of just being an editing tool, it turns sonic selection into something you can use in a synth. It lets you do your creative sound editing, but then play those sounds live, transforming the technique into an instrument.

In fact, Iris looks like just what I dreamed of having back in the 90s when I first played with U&I Software’s graphic sound manipulation tool MetaSynth. (Developer Eric Wenger, alongside his former colleague Kai Krause, was an advocate of novel graphical interfaces in place of the run-of-the-mill, cut-and-paste UI. MetaSynth remains an amazing tool, and since Iris can import sounds, using the two together could be mind-blowing.) Since MetaSynth, we’ve seen other efforts, like selection tools in Adobe’s own Soundbooth. iZotope bested those efforts with the most powerful graphical editing tool I’ve seen yet, in their RX product. Now, at last, you can use those same tools to create new sounds, not just restore old ones, and then jam with the results.

Here’s what you get:

  • Extra spectra from a graphical view of the sound, using familiar graphical selection tools (even a handy Magic Wand)
  • Layer spectra together
  • Play the sounds from a MIDI controller
  • Use standard synth tools: tuning, amplitude envelope, LFO, modulation.
  • Send effects: distortion (tube, clipping, scream, etc.), chorus, delay, reverb.
  • Multimode filters.
  • Import your own sounds, or use one from a 4 GB library of sounds – either as the basis of your own sound designs, or using an existing preset. (iZotope promises recordings of insects, animals, machines, vintage synthesizers, musical instruments and so on. Of course, nice as those are, some of the fun will be using this tool as an excuse to go out field recording.)
  • Key mapping, so you can set up a performance multi with various presets – ideal for live performance and experimentation.

For more high-quality sound libraries with accompanying preset content that uses them, iZotope will sell you add-on libraries beyond the 4 GB already in the tool, entitled Glass and Wood, at US$49 and US$29, respectively. (I’ll let you figure out what sound content those cover.)

In fact, the only thing missing here, really, is the ability to manipulate the spectral stuff itself live. The selection is mainly still an editing process, but once you do have your spectra selected, everything else is playable in real-time.

Iris available now. It’ll eventually cost US$249, or $299 with the Glass and Wood libraries bundled, but for now, those are reduced to $149 and $199 until May 4.

This video provides the best explanation of how the interface works:

And here are some of the sounds you might make:

I’m excited to begin working with this one; it looks like something really unique, entirely distinct from the various work-alike instruments out there. You could almost make a whole album with this one tool … and a lot of (very enjoyable) time. More on working with Iris hands-on soon.

A demo is available – including ten days unlimited use, followed by a demo mode.

Iris runs standalone, or as a VST, AU (on Mac), or RTAS on Mac/Windows.

http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/iris/

  • smuff

    Having used RX Izotope, AudioSculpt, Kyma, Alchemy and Metasynth, this seems a little basic in its sound manipulation capabilities.( from my experience of the demo). However the sound quality is exceptional this is one of the cleanest sounding spectral processes I have heard. I found I was very quickly layering up sounds and playing them. I found some of the workflow not what i expected and the documentation is not great. I have other Izotope products and this one seems unfinished by comparison. To that end I think the price seems a little steep even as a introductory price. I thinks with some additional playback options and sound transformation capabilities this could be exceptional.It is certainly very playable. This could be a new era of sound transformation especially with the forthcoming spectral layers

    • smuff

      I take it back the documentation is ok. It is the little things like no undo shortcut cmd-z.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

       In standalone mode? Undo won’t work if it’s running as a plug-in.

    • smuff

      yep in standalone I mean the shortcut not the undo button at the top al though that wiped everything rather than the last iteration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nay.seven Nay Seven

    yes, seems a really cool and creative tool ,but  bad news : Vat is not included in the price, this means 178$ or 144€.. :-(

  • http://danielottinimusic.tumblr.com/ Daniel Ottini Music

    Great…just when I though it was safe to put my wallet away! This looks amazing…I’m not a big iZotope user, would anyone who has a history with them be able to comment if they can forsee there being export to other formats (Kontakt, etc.)… couldn’t find anything in the little documentation provided and have not yet had the chance to try the demo.

  • j-

    First impression: it looks like GRM Tools 3 ‘Fusion’ but with free painting instead of straight lines.

  • Bendish

    I found Alchemys spectral section a bit clunky. Also Metasynth while awesome could definitely have been integrated more into the daw. This looks interesting as it might cross the gap. 

  • http://twitter.com/ritec Ri

    This would be awesome, if I made New Age music.

  • Jurgen

    I’m playing around with the demo version and I find it very frustrating to work with – it looks like a beta to me.
    - One can only make one type of selection at a time: If the user selects the eraser for example then he can only use the eraser of frequencies but nothing else – there is no 2nd selection.
    - there is no ‘the stretch’ tool that would allow the user to align the length of 2 samples in one preset.
    - the interface is very awkward to use, there are no keyboard shortcuts.
    - accessing a sound from the library opens additional windows which need to be closed by hand.
    - there is no way to set the size etc of brushes, no way to set the range of the magic wand that I have found yet.
    - Th possibilities are actually very limited at this point – that’s why iZotope supplies a huge library of samples. 
    So far I feel reluctant about the software although the approach is so promising. And it is VERY pricey I think

  • http://ahsquared.com/ Andre Hayter

    Photosounder is another nice tool in this genre (without live playing capabilities) http://photosounder.com/

  • teej

    Just playing with the demo now. As someone else mentioned, the fidelity is very impressive. Big Alchemy user here. This doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the modulation capability, but the sound quality is way up there, and has more than Alchemy in the graphical editing department. This is clearly specialized for one thing, and it appears to do it very well. Will probably buy this.

    *Am I the only one experiencing this? When running as a plugin (both VST and AU) I don’t get any of the right-side “Synth” panel functionality. The tab isn’t even there. In standalone mode, it’s complete. 

  • StoreyMusgrave

    Pips and crackles on retrigger when using the Radius RT mode (i.e. the mode that is the whole point of this tool). Just like Kontakt 5, there seems to be a problem with the coders getting over this pips issue when in a high quality stretch mode.

    Also where is the length parameter, tools like Mach 5 and Kontakt5 allow you to change the playback rate of your sample….

    No easy means to change the start position of your sample, there is ‘offset’ instead, at the bottom, which doesnt’ respond very well, and shows no visual indication of where your start point is in the wave.

    The arrows to select left and right the next wave in your folder at the top right, are about 1.3 microns across, I’m not even sure if they are fully using one pixel on my display. Another reason plugins endlessly fail to inspire.

    The Radius RT high quality mode sounds great in terms of playing at different pitches, but the pips are a show stopper, sorry iZotope, fix this before you sell it to people, shame on you.

  • StoreyMusgrave

    The saving dialog is also a bit crud, like many software instruments of today it assumes a massive preinstalled library, and offers no means to save a preset as a self contained file, so if you wanted to share a project with someone at another location, you’d have to hunt down the preset file in your library and hunt down which sample it’s using and give them to the other person, and they’d have to ‘refind’ them when their daw inevitably asks for missing samples. This seems to be the norm for sample based instruments nowadays and creates massive headaches for anyone who needs to save patch data with a song/project folder.

    I think this behaviour comes about because developers assume that very few people will sample their own sounds, but will instead go with the modern lazy laptop-to-soundcloud-in-20-minutes approach of using whatever is inside the provided sample library, so why would they need the means to export a patch in it’s entirety?

  • Gesslr

    Wow. Tough crowd. Cut the ‘Topes a little slack! It’s a v1 and does what it does fairly well. (I have not run across crackles or pips in RT mode.) That said, three comments caught my eye: the ability to stretch two samples so as to align them (I have not tried this yet and am surprised if that it isn’t there), the ability to size the selector, the need for undo. All of these things should be in there somewhere and hopefully will be in the first (free) update.

    Props to Chris Randall over at AudioDamage on the GUI. I think it’s pretty kick *ss.

    • Soundeditorrrr

      Have you really used it? It has an awesome multiple undo feature- one of the things I love the most about it that NI’s products lack.

  • Heinrich Zwahlen

    This technology has a lot of potential for the future of synthesis for sure.
    Extracting spectra from one sound and applying them to another can also be done with Kontakt’s AET filter. It is very easy and intuitive to use. Of course we dont have the great visual editing tools that is see hear. If it works reliably in Iris NI will have some upgrading to do in that regard.

  • Tedd Terry

    Hello folks!  I work with iZotope’s QA department.  Thanks for your feedback and comments.  It’s exciting to watch the reception of Iris as people play with it and figure it out a little.  We take the quality of our products very seriously, and I wanted to speak to a few of the comments here:

    * You can easily resize the brush and eraser tools with cmd/ctrl-mousewheel or with the size selector in the lower left corner.  If you hold alt while using the brush, it ‘inverts’ the tool and becomes the eraser.  This is much like the interaction with this tool in RX.  If you enable the Frequency ruler in the options, you can use the mouse wheel to zoom on the frequency ruler and probably achieve more interesting and targeted results with any selection.

    * As mentioned in the manual, the “Save” feature in the Global section saves a “skinny” patch that does not include the samples.  The “Export” feature in the Full Patch Browser saves a “fat” patch that includes every sample 

    * If you are experiencing “crackles or pips” with Radius RT, please try increasing your buffer size or, if you’re using the Windows Iris standalone app, switching to ASIO.  We recommend a buffer size of at least 512 to strike a good balance between quality and performance timing, but you may need to go higher depending on your machine.  Also note that, as we mention in the documentation, Radius RT requires some pre-rendering when triggered and while you may be able to get 8 voices out of it total, you may not be able to trigger all 8 voices at once (for example).

    * Stretching samples, groove mapping, and other tempo manipulation is very high on the feature backlog for future versions.

    * Keyboard shortcuts akin to what we have in RX is very high on the feature backlog for future versions.

    * Not seeing the Synth panel is probably a legitimate bug due to having the ability to resize the window.  We tested this pretty thoroughly in the latest version of about 20 different DAWs between Windows and OS X so most hosts and plug-in formats should be covered, but not every host or plug-in format supports this gracefully, and it’s kind of a mixed bag.  We tried to blacklist the resize feature from hosts we couldn’t make it work well in, but it’s possible that your DAW is either not in our testing matrix or we didn’t check the specific version of the DAW you’re running.  If you run into an issue where part of the Iris UI seems invisible or unreachable in your DAW, please contact support @ izotope.com so we can resolve the issue in a patch or find a good workaround.

    I hope I’ve been able to address some of the common issues that people are experiencing, and I really hope you guys just generally have fun with Iris and create something interesting!  We’re always open to feedback and our software is always made better by an open dialog between us and our customers.

    • teej

      Thanks for chiming in. Definitely enjoying this so far. The missing Synth panel in the plugin version seems to be specific to Audiomulch for me. 

      One thing has me scratching my head a bit, and that’s the lack of being able to import images. Seems like it would be a given in a graphical spectral analysis synth. Any thoughts on this? 

      Kudos to your and your team. Job well done.

    • Tedd Terry

      We considered image import but wanted to keep the focus of this release on the exploration of found sound.  If enough people want it, we can definitely look into it!

      I’m not familiar with Audiomulch, but thanks for responding with your host.  I’ll look into it and see if we can fix it or refine our support for the resize feature (which is probably what’s causing the trouble).

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Image import is not unlimited in its utility, I find, but it can be interesting for special effects. Note – people could use something like MetaSynth to synthesize sound and then import. ;)

    • teej

      Gotcha. The direct image import/processing is usually a mixed bag as far as useful sound generation, as Peter said. 

      Forgive me if I missed it, but is there some kind of standard or tool for distributing Iris presets, or is it just a matter of getting the samples and patches into the library? Absolute vs relative file paths etc.?

    • Tedd Terry

      Hey teej, looks like I ran out of comment depth to reply directly, but here’s the deal: samples installed by our installer will go into the Iris Library and (unless you move them) always stay there.  Most of the factory patches will build a relative file path based on where your Iris Library is located.  All of these patches are “skinny.”  Imported patches stay “fat” and won’t dump more files into the Iris Samples Library, but keep them embedded in the patch file.  Patches you make in Iris will probably have an absolute file path, so if you plan on moving stuff around, you’ll probably want to export then re-import your patches.

    • Nathaniel Reeves

      I’d love to see a multi-out vst included — would supply a lot of flexibility and design opportunities for me working in Bidule. +1 for image io!

    • http://twitter.com/ganesh_hananda ganesh

      Hi Tedd,

      Interesting tool indeed. For the first release I think you guys nailed it right: an instrument with a very very clear and intuitive interface (kudos!). In fact I bought it a few days ago!

      After a few days of usage, I come up with these suggestions:

      A sufficient audio editing that we could find in a good wave editor should be in place, such as cut copy paste, fade in out, etc. Then we also need good spectral manipulation tools, such as better harmonic selection, and manipulation e.g. letting us access and pitch up and down partials and fundamentals such as in melodyne, perhaps? 

      Also as an addition, IMO the FX and especially the modulation section needs more depth in it. e.g. instead of just an LFO it would be great if you provide at least 2 with each of them switchable between ADSR, AHD and LFO (or even stepper like in Massive). Also probably let us modulate knobs as oppose to just amp pitch and pan? Though the downside is that it might detract us from the actual power of the synth, which is in sample manipulation.
      My verdict, it’s pretty good for a first release, but I still fail to see how the selection tools are more than what I call glorious filter modulator. Besides that feature, the synth has got practically nothing else in its sleeve.

      I think that for a synth that is priced as expensive as NI Massive it still lacks lots and lots of features in it. So I hope that I could see lots more features being added in the future.

      Cheers!

      Ganesh

  • Chris R Gibson

    It’s really a fantastic new instrument. most welcome into my toolset. Well thought out and pretty damn stable here. HIGHLY appreciate Izotope keeping 10.5.8 compatibility also. Well done, thanks for the informative write up CDM ;-)

  • Chris R Gibson

    btw, because of my remote location I only have internet via radio dish at max 1Mbps so REALLY appreciate the included  ’downloader’ app for the library. It took over 8 hours (again because of my limitations) but it it did download without problem which is not my experience with normal browsers with downloads this massive. Another appreciated detail ;-)

  • gesslr

    I think the thing rocks Tedd.

  • StoreyMusgrave

    Thanks Tedd for coming on to speak about it, I should let you know the pips I am experiencing are not CPU or asio/coreaudio related. I tried setting the driver buffer to 512, and 1024 just to see but this doesn’t change the issue (my machine is normally 32samples buffer). The pips are actually at the retrigger, not constantly throughout the sound. I was easily able to hold down enough notes with long tails in the high quality Radius mode without any pips in the lengthy playback of those sounds, I can even set the polyphony to something like 24 and it doesn’t grumble (shows about 2% cpu used even with that polyphony – Mac Pro 6 Core 3.33ghz with RME Fireface). It’s something about the attack phase of each note triggered. Interestingly it is much less pronounced with mono samples, but stereo samples are exhibiting it on more or less every sound.

    Cheers for pointing out the Export function I had missed that at the bottom of the dialog, I see it exports the preset as an Iris file including the wave, so this would work for sharing.

    I still think the icons for left right on the wave selector are miniscule and should be larger, I keep misclicking in empty space next to them.

    Stretch/shorten capabilty like Alchemy/Kontakt would be much appreciated for the RT mode as sometimes the source sample you want to turn into a synth just has a momentary very short but classic sound that you want to draw out some, and while the looping  is great (especially pleased to see forwardbackward mode available in a resynthesis), if you can’t stretch the sample then even the looping will be back around on itself too quick and just create ringing sounds instead of something usable.

    Looking forward to seeing how this develops, and sorely tempted by the great offer at Time & Space, I would have jumped immediately if it wasn’t for the pips driving me nuts!

    • Tedd Terry

      Ah, thanks for the response.  We’ll look into it.  If the Attack envelope is set to 1ms (which is the default) and the sample start is in the middle of the waveform, you’ll probably get a discontinuity, but if lengthening the attack time (even slightly) doesn’t work, please e-mail me at tterry @ izotope.com and I can get the sample you’re using under the lens here and see what’s up.  

  • http://twitter.com/renderful renderful

    I’m loving this tool. A few hours with the demo, and my wallet instantly became lighter. I find the simplicity the best part, both in interface and functionality. Musically interesting sounds came immediately.

  • Magneticpitch

    Izotope:  why not offer a cheaper version without the sound library?  ( i certainly don’t want to waste the time &/or disk space of a huge download, and i’m quite happy to use my own source sounds ).  seems VERY expensive for a tool without time-stretching of samples — i would’ve thought that’d be fundamental to the concept / workflow

  • http://www.facebook.com/nay.seven Nay Seven

    Thanks Ted for the cool tips, i ‘ve add them to a KVR post about Iris, hope it’s ok ( http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=4895273#4895273 )

  • arachnaut

    I like what I hear so far.
    It would be nice to have a shortcut key to go to next preset (or, even better, some way to do a rapid preview of banks – such as play a short MIDI file).

    • arachnaut

      Actually, now that I undock the browser window I see the cursor works just fine for this.

  • tritone

    When you paint to highlight, can you paint with different intensities to change the amplitude of certain sections of the spectrum as you brush over them?  It seems like you would be unable to create, for example, a “resonant” filter effect if you can’t emphasize certain partials, for example, at the top of the selection you painted.  I get the impression you can only “mask” partials (on or off) with selections, but I hope I’m wrong.

  • Mixdsp

    Visit us at http://www.MixDSP.net for your lowest price on Izotope’s Iris!

  • andy

    This is by far one of the best vst’s i’ve ever come across, only thing i would suggest is a prompt to auto find the samples and ”drawing” settings when moving project from machine to machine, basically what im trying to say is when it asks you to load a missing sample it shouldn’t wipe your drawing settings when u reload the sample again, i know u have to export it and all, but this can catch people out in my opinion. keep up the excellent work though izotope u guys run things!