Alpha Forever is the unexpected modular sound design environment from Hungarian brothers Gábor Gyutai and Balázs Gyutai. They called it “Alpha Forever” to reflect their confidence in ever getting it to beta, let alone a release quality version. But here we are and the reality of this strange, grey environment could be something very interesting indeed.
I’m not sure I’ve got to the bottom of what it’s all about yet but the promo videos are stunning, both in terms of animation and the sound coming out. The sound, of course, comes directly from Alpha Forever. Check this out.
The description says that the music in the video was generated and processed with 42 instances of Alpha Forever in real time. There were no samples used. It’s all node based procedural synthesis capturing different forms of physical modelling, wavetable and virtual analog. And not just synthesis, but also effects and audio processing wired together in elaborate ways. It has flavours of Reaktor about it, Max and Audulus.
What’s completely fascinating is that they’ve got another video that takes you through what makes up the sounds in the promo video. This gives an amazing glimpse into the capabilities of this software. I wish more developers did this sort of thing!
So do we know what it is yet? Well, in terms of features they talk about the sound quality being uncompromising. They say how the interface is like playing an instrument more than programming and you can play and control them as you build them. It has a flexible user interface and can be zoomed all over the place. And Alpha Forever is polyphonic. That seems to be it – it’s a very strange way to describe a modular sound design instrument. What sorts of synthesis is being used? How does it work? What sorts of sounds can it produce? These are the sorts of questions that spring to mind.
Digging into the manual we discover that it’s all about nodes. A node is a small device that processes or generates signals. It appears as a box with inputs and outputs and controls. Alpha Forever acts as an editor and manager of these nodes. There are nodes categories such as logic, controllers, wiring, dynamics, reverb, filters, mixers, oscillators and so on and you can select nodes from within those categories as the building blocks of the sound you are designing.
There are 3 views within the main designer window of Alpha Forever. A “normal” layout and wiring view shows your nodes with wired connections. A “Plug-info” view adds descriptions, information and values to all the in/out ports. And then there’s the “Scope” view which gives a visual oscilloscope style readout on every signal path.
Despite the rather dull appearance, it seems completely captivating. The sounds it seems able to generate are amazing. And when you download the demo it’s just a pair of DLL files. There are a load of presets built in to give you a flavour of what’s possible. And it also lets you marvel at the complexity of it and wonder how on earth you’d ever put something like that together. There are a couple of helpful “Tutorial” presets which cover a few basics. Starting with a blank grey page I was able to get some sound out of a sawtooth oscillator with a fair bit of fiddling. Suffice to say that it will require a bit of time and concentration to start developing your own sounds. But give yourself a rainy afternoon and you could discover something fabulous in here.
Alpha Forever is only GBP 49 and runs on 64-bit Windows.
- Alpha Forever website.