Today’s review shows how to create a beat, mangle its sounds, and manipulate the unique BreakTweaker sequencer to achieve evolving rhythms that won’t create repetition fatigue. Compatible with any DAW software, BreakTweaker could be the first step on the path to music production or the new secret weapon in a well-equipped producer’s studio.
Reviewed: iZotope BreakTweaker synth/sequencer plug-in
Price: $249 /$299 for the Expanded version with extra soundpacks
Supported Audio Formats: AIFF and WAV (all bit depths and resolutions)
Windows: XP, 7, or 8; 32/64 bit; host software supporting AAX, RTAS, or VST formats
Mac: OS 10.6.8 or higher; Intel-based Macs only; host software supporting AAX, RTAS, VST or Audio Unit formats
The Good: Innovative MicroEdit Engine lets you create intricately and rhythmically sliced audio quickly. Excellent sample + wavetable synthesis options with 3 synth layers per track. Flexible “isorhythmic” sequencer lets you create tracks with varying lengths and speeds that evolve the beat over time. High-level drum and synth sounds in the included 2GB library, and you can also import your own samples. Undo and Redo of edits.
The Bad: Sequencer notes must be input from the mouse; no MIDI note input for the sequencer. Less suited for live performance because the tracks go out of sync when changing their lengths or speed values in real-time.
The Bottom Line: BreakTweaker’s unique beat-creation tools — the MicroEdit Engine and isorhythmic sequencing — are what make it most interesting to producers who will be willing to buy it at this price. It comes with excellent audio content, but it’s important that you can also import your own WAV and AIFF files and put them through the MicroEdit grinder, as well as the well-rounded complement of synthesis tools.
BT + IZOTOPE
BreakTweaker represents more than a decade of dreaming, planning, and scheming from producer/composer BT and iZotope, his development partner for a previous successful plug-in, Stutter Edit. BreakTweaker blows up Stutter Edit’s premise of real-time audio fills, sweeps and stutters into a full beat production environment.
BreakTweaker includes about 2GB of drum and synth audio material geared toward all current styles of electronic music, as well as film scoring and general sound design. It runs as an Audio Unit, VST, AAX and RTAS plug-in, and it’s available at a 10-day unrestricted trial. Even if all you have is GarageBand, you could be making sick rhythms in BreakTweaker today.
SEQUENCING IN BREAKTWEAKER
The video shows how to create step sequences in BreakTweaker. You create notes in one of the six tracks by clicking on a segment in the timeline. For sustained notes, drag the right edge of the segment to the right for as long is you want it.
You can drag the track length to be longer or shorter, so you can have tracks of different lengths repeating within the same pattern, which can create variations that evolve over time. You can also independently control the speed of each track. By default tracks playback at 1x speed, but you can change them to 1/3x, 1/2x, 2/3x, 3/2x, 2x, or 3x to create cool rhythmic variations among parts. When you change a track’s length or speed, you generally will need to restart the Preview playback of the pattern to sync the tracks back up.
By right-clicking, you can quickly copy and paste individual notes, whole tracks or the whole pattern.
The video covers the basics, but the sequencer also offers basic mixing tools, and lets you output each track to a separate input within DAW software, so that you can fully mix, as well as further process, each BreakTweaker track individually.
BreakTweaker’s MicroEdit Engine definitely helps define the product more than any other single feature. It lets you slice up a note in the sequencer and modify the slices in amazing ways much faster that you could hope to in another program.
The MicroEdit window shows up when you select a single step in the sequencer. In the MicroEdit Type column, you can select the number of slices to divide the step into, then move over to the Slope column, where you can apply Tension and Rotate to the slices, which algorithmically spaces them apart to create a kind of motion in the sliced playback that would be painstaking to say the least to recreate outside of BreakTweaker.
Additional options not shown in the video include variable gating applied to the slices, fade ins and out, and effects that you can apply to the MicroEditing sections, such as Chorus, Aliasing, and Lowpass or Highpass Filter.
Each track’s sound in BreakTweaker can consist of three layers, and each layer is either a sample (AIFF or WAV files accepted) or a synth tone.
The video shows a second kick drum sample being layered over the first. You can select samples in the menu from the included sound library and expansion sounds, or drag in your own from the desktop.
Once loaded, there are tons of sound-shaping options to apply to the sample. You can set the start and end points, reverse playback, loop playback and set the Gain, Coarse pitch and Fine pitch levels. Those three parameters can be modulated by any of the four envelopes or four LFOs available, which you can also customize.
There are also distortion and filter modules, whose parameters can also route to the envelopes and LFOs for modulation. In all, there’s an incredible amount of sound design you can perform on just one of a track’s three layers.
A wavetable synthesizer provides the other option for a track sound layers. These will send you down another rabbit hole of sound shaping. Each synth generator has two oscillator slots, and there are dozens of wavetable choices for the oscillators, ranging from the basic to the bizarre. And the wavetables are only starting points, since the Shape slider below them can twist their forms in myriad ways to create a spectrum of different sounds.
Similar to the Sample Generator, the synth’s waveform has pitch and gain properties that can route to envelopes and LFOs, as well as distortion and filters that can also receive modulation from the envelopes and filters. That’s only half the fun though, because the second oscillator can either be added to oscillator 1, multiplied with oscillator 1 (ring modulation), or be a modulator to an aspect of oscillator 1 to create AM or FM synthesis.
The Synth Generator is another feast of sonic proportions. To fully explore all the possibilities of each generator and the effects of layering 3 within one track will be a real treat for sound designers.
“ISORHYTHMIC” STEP SEQUENCING
We wanted to give a closer look to what iZotope calls “isorhythmic sequencing” in BreakTweaker. This is the ability to create tracks of differing lengths and playback speeds, in order to create progressively evolving polyrhythms.
The video shows a synth line being extended from 4 to 5 beats, so that its sounds then begin to fall at different portions of the supporting beat. It also shows a 16th-note shaker pattern being slowed down to 1/3x speed, so that it then triggers in slow triplet pattern off of the rest of the beat.
These videos should give you an appreciation of what BreakTweaker can do, but it’s really up to each individual to explore the rest of the iceberg beneath the surface. You can try a 10-day unrestricted BreakTweaker trial from iZotope and get into the nitty gritty. The good news is that no matter how deep you get, BreakTweaker remains user friendly. If you can follow what’s happening in the videos, you’ll be able to master the whole enchilada.
The folks at iZotope have offered up a copy of BreakTweaker Extended and a copy of StutterEdit for us to give away to our readers – use the widget below to enter:
W0W That Waznt a “fixed” contest at all now was it? Sry to feel this way but the only 1 person who won is Jake. Who has never posted a message on any other dJtt article, never made any comments to this article, and the only comment he has made here, is that he won. Notice the profile http://disqus.com/disqus_oHsk41bKfY/
i guess ill just pass on the next contezt and sit back see what happens but i just have a funny and bad taste in my mouth on this one. Sorry DjTech but its just how i feel
…hmm so that was a bit uncalled for IMO but not everyone can be pleased. Im happy to say ill be purchasing this on its next release. My trial ran out before i can install it but when i finally got it working, i installed in into FL studio and it seems to have a place. Someone made a good point, Many plugins do what this does but i have found this can do the processes of about 11 plugins for ONE price. STIL Lway much cheaper
I get how this looks, it does seem like that is very possible. To be honest, after i found out that I won, i only then made an account to thank DJTT. I put in my email to any contest on their website i see just to humor myself on the off-chance that I might win. I highly doubt there is any way it was rigged as i have not been a very involved member in the past, it seems as they have just randomly selected my email. I am not an employee of DJTT, but I’m sorry you feel this way.
I WON! Thank you so much, DJTT, I can’t wait to get started! Thanks again 🙂
so who won?
Just curious, how to check if I win the contest? Thanks 🙂
would like some contests to not be limited to twitter & facebook as I’m not on either…just saying…not everyone is on social media.
Steve, by not being on social media, you win at life every day.
+1 buddy. i have a facebook for my radio station but honestly, i almost NEVER log into it to check people out or see what everyone is doing
You can place your entry with your email
i cant even get the program to open
it installs but there is no DLL file to run it. And there is VERY limited and poor help on their site
Sorry if I’m misunderstanding your problem, but BreakTweaker is a plug-in only. You need to run it in host software, rather than launching it as a stand-alone.
Thanks Markkus. Yes that is the problem. I have ableon live 9 and i cant launch it in there. It should show up in the PLUGINS browser but it doesnt find it.
Weird… I run it in Live 9 just fine, but I’m on a Mac. For me it’s in: Plug-ins > VST > Local > iZotope BreakTweaker. Good luck!
strange. in ableton i click on PLUGINS and the only thing i see is MASSIVE in the list. Nothing else. Im sure its the LOCATION of where BT is installed. Where did you install yours? i know the answer MIGHT not help (you = MAC / me = Windows)
ok i was able to load it in Fruity Loops on my XP machine but i cant get it going on my Win7 64bit at all in ableton. Now i just need to see how to automate it and do things in FL studio
BT is the man when it comes to glitch. I use stutter edit in the studio and live performance, only problem I had with it is that it was wayyyy too intrusive, but I suppose that is what it was made for.. what I’m trying to say is that I had to dial back the intensity on nearly every patch in order for it to flow right as an expressive live effect… cool story bro.
I’m not sure what gap in the market this is supposed to fill?
Me neither. Odd as it may sound, I think some companies still occasionally make products just because they believe in their value, rather than seeing a market gap to fill. That could be naive though; I don’t know their absolute motivations.
I think it’s just BT’s way of exploring and innovating. It creates it’s own market.
lets also not forget this is basically a first launch. Im sure with improvements some serious release changes will take place
this is definitely an awesome production tool! now we can all make crazy twisted beats that were all the rage in the early 2000’s in a few minutes rather than a few days. 🙂
I can’t determine your exact sarcastic/earnestness ratio, but either way, I like it. 🙂
no sarcasm! 🙂 i tried it out for a few hours and really loved it. too bad it takes a huge toll on my outdated CPU.
and i’ve always been a huge fan of incredibly glitched out beats
Yeah, that’s one of the big bummers about computer music: until there’s a true next-level innovation in processor architecture, the hardware’s not going to keep up with what software developers are going to want to create. I personally hope some forward-thinking computer company will get a lease program going, where new hardware gets swapped out on an interval basis.
I don’t know much about CPU use and whatnot, but what if they try to code them for maximum efficiency, like super multithreaded or taking advantage of GPU/HSA?
i have a i7 and for me the CPU is not even on 45%….. and that is with running live loopmidi etc etc.
but i have 2 say these 4 or 8 cores are not really doning anything half of the time thanks programmers 😀