Kyma for sound design

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Kyma for sound design

Post by Marbury »

I was reading an interview with Jim O'Rourke, who has made some astonishing works with sound collage. Also, a guy called Thomas Dimuzio who both talked about something called the Kyma system, a processor with it's own special software cited as "The most powerful sound design workstation on the planet" Curious, I have looked into it, still not fully understanding what it does but intrigued to learn more. However, I already use some very good ipad apps, and some incredibly good Max software for granulation and musique concrete techniques from the Audiobulb company for very little money. However, the Kyma system is incredibly expensive in comparison for a few grand.
I am just curious to know if anyone here knows about it, has it or can tell me it is worth investing as I am serious about going in this direction. Is it really "The most powerful sound design workstation on the planet" , or can high quality results be achieved using other, cheaper various software ?
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by resistorman »

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who uses it too. Sure is a lot of hyperbole in the copy but it seems pretty interesting. The firewire ports are off putting however, it would appear to be some pretty old technology for the money.
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Wonks »

Please note that the "the most powerful sound-design workstation on the planet" quote about Kyma X was made in Electronic Musician 2005, so things will undoubtedly have moved on since then, though it is still a very powerful tool. But it does need a lot of deep diving and time spent with it (like any modular) to start to get to know it. Months to years have been quoted.

BJG145 on here acquired an old unit in 2019, so he should be able to provide some insights.
https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/view ... ma#p585388
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Marbury »

In that case I will give it a miss as I already have some amazing software. My ears pricked up because I respect Jim o' Rourke's work and thought there must be something in it if he is using it. The quality of his recordings is second to none.
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by BJG145 »

I messed around with a Capybara for a while before selling it on. Just to add a few thoughts; yes, the current hardware models (Paca and Pacarana) are expensive, and don't often appear secondhand. Occasionally you can find the older system, the "Capybara 320". For instance there's currently one on eBay for £390.

The hardware

If that's genuinely a complete, working system, that's a fair price - but note that they need a separate Firewire interface and cable; without it they're worthless. (They're unobtainable.) You occasionally see ancient 160s, but I wouldn't bother with those.

The processing power of the new ones is significantly faster than an unexpanded Capybara 320, though expansion cards turn up sometimes. They're expensive though. Here's one on Reverb for a couple of hundred; that's about par for the course. The Capybara can nom up twelve.

However...my understanding is that the processing power is about "live" or what you might call "online" rather than "offline" performance. If you want to perform and mangle sounds live, you might need a more powerful system. But AFAIK even a basic unexpanded system can still "render" the same audio output offline, via the "timeline", if you're willing to wait.

The software

There's another significant different bewteen the old and new hardware, which is that the new hardware runs the latest version of Kyma, v7.1, whereas the Capybara can only run the older Kyma X. It can still do a lot; there's a lot of overlap; but it can't run the latest patches.

https://kyma.symbolicsound.com/whats-new-in-kyma-7/

So, why not "Kyma native"...? The Capybara seems like some antiquated PC taking up unnecessary space. It's more like a dongle than a DSP monster. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but the main reason seems to be, so they can still sell this expensive system without any risk of piracy. Fair enough.

The experience

I liked experimenting with it; it's fun. You could probably achieve similar results with Max and Reaktor, but it's like synthesisers; they all have their own workflow, and their own community, doing cool things with it. From what I can tell, the Kyma community is more focussed on abstract tech-savvy sound design than "phat analog synth sounds"...and there are fewer of them. But it's still a smart bunch of people doing some interesting stuff.

The closest comparison is perhaps Nord modular, which is also a hardware/software DIY kit. I'd be interested in taking a look at that sometime.

I even wondered about putting in an offer on that eBay listing above myself, if it's genuinely complete (I just asked)...but I'm more focussed on instruments than sounds really, and although there's a lot of presets to play with, it's quite graphical-programming-heavy to do new and interesting stuff.
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Martin Walker »

Wow - great answer BJG145!

I've sometimes wondered myself what all the fuss was about with Kyma, but you summed it up beautifully for me :clap:

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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by resistorman »

:clap: yes, thanks! :thumbup:
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Marbury »

Excellent detailed review BJG145, thanks. I still feel there isn't a convincing pull to Kyma as again, you can do amazing things to achieve the same results with Max and some clever ipad apps. Worth a look into it though as I don't want to overlook potential gold.
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by BobTheDog »

I have a Pacarana here which is rarely used, the problem with Kyma is it is very deep, it would take a very long time to master.

It's main strength I would say is in re-synthesis and spectral morphing, but it does a crap load of stuff. Lots of which you would not be able to do in Max/Msp/Gen or Reaktor.

Its worth having a look at this pdf of mind maps to see the areas it covers:
http://pedrotrotz.com/trotz/wp-content/ ... s-v0.5.pdf

Lots of parameters in each module accept other modules as inputs or a real time language called CapyTalk which allows you to have algorithms running as inputs, look at pages 45 to 58 of the Mind Map pdf to see the sorts of things you can do with CapyTalk.

Another powerful part is a smalltalk like scripting language that allows you to "configure" a patch at startup, this can be used with Replicators to turn what look like simple patches into much more complex beasts when they are run.

Also the way everything works is you can just grab patches from your library and quickly add then is as inputs or output processing at any point in your current patch, it can be a bit mind boggling to say the least.

Kyma needs a serious investment in time and a fair bit in cash, if you buy a Paca or a Pacarana you also need to factor in the cost of an Audio Interface for it to use, when mine was setup I used a Konnekt48 for its audio interface and then used ADAT from that to my main interface.

I think unless your job is a sound designer for film or some such thing it is all total overkill, if you have the money and time and like messing around with sound though, why not!

Christian Vogel does more Musical/Instrument type stuff with it: https://www.cristianvogel.com/neverenginelabs/
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by BobTheDog »

I have searched back in the past and found some stuff I did on the scripting side of things to try to show how that can be used: https://electro-music.com/forum/post-244368.html
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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Martin Walker »

BobTheDog wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 8:39 pm I have searched back in the past and found some stuff I did on the scripting side of things to try to show how that can be used: https://electro-music.com/forum/post-244368.html

Nice work BobTheDog! :clap:

I'm enjoying your KymaResonatorFX.mp3 sound right now, and it's strangely appropriate, since in the last hour I succumbed to buying Audiothing's new GongAmp plug-in ;)

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Re: Kyma for sound design

Post by Marbury »

Thanks again. Yep, it's all a bit off my technical radar as the learning curve would be huge, and I still have software/hardware (ie, the Pulsar 23) to learn already that will take time, leaving hardly any time for the fun creative stuff. I still think just as amazing things can be achieved (from what I have heard with my ears from Kyma so far) using Max and some of the more leftfield ios music/sound apps etc. I tend to use my ears and make artistic judgements on what sounds good after playing around, but not fully understanding what exactly is going on under the bonnet. Never say never though.
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