This nuts AI-powered effects plugin uses neural synthesis to let you "play another artist's brain like an instrument"

Artificial intelligence is fast revolutionizing the world of music software; just yesterday, Google and Adobe both announced the next steps in their experimental adventures into AI-powered tools for music-making. 

The latest development in this sphere is one of the most intriguing AI-based plugins we've seen in recent months. Combobulator from DataMind Audio processes incoming audio through neural networks trained on the music of artists and sound designers, resynthesizing the audio using a process called "style transfer" to recreate the style of another artist using your sounds. 

DataMind says that this allows you to play "another artist's brain like an instrument" by synthesizing new audio based on a combination of the input signal and the information in the neural networks. In practice, Combobulator acts more like an effects plugin that applies a new timbre to a sound while preserving its rhythmic and melodic content.  

Open up the plugin, and you'll be able to select which neural network, or Artist Brain, you want to use on the left-hand side. The plugin arrives with two Artist Brains, but more can be downloaded through DataMind's Model Marketplace. Each Artist Brain is developed in-house by musical AI experts and 50% of all sales are paid out to contributing artists.

"We're trying to set up a new standard and a new cottage industry for music producers to make income on AI that's trained on their likeness," explains DataMind's Ben Cantil. "We like to think we're doing farm-to-table AI."

"We're trying to set up a cottage industry for music producers to make income on AI that's trained on their likeness"

At the centre of the plugin's interface is a visualizer with two sliders around the outside to control Scale and Offset. Both of these parameters control "how the neural network thinks"; increasing the Scale amount applies a broader range of new timbres to the source signal, pulling more information from the neural network, while decreasing it gradually flattens the sound until it becomes monotone. 

Offset changes where in the neural network you're pulling the timbres from. The further this is from the centre, the more distinct the results will sound from the original timbre chosen by the network and applied to the source signal.

Spread around the outside of the central visualizer are controls for gain, a three-band EQ, and a transient shaper. On the right is a width knob that applies Offset to the left and right channels of a signal inversely, creating a sense of stereo width and separation. There's also a modulation section with five LFOs, five envelope followers and MIDI input that can be applied to any of the plugin's parameters.

Combobulator is certainly an intriguing proposition. While the Model Marketplace currently only offers eight Artist Brains, we're looking forward to hearing what the plugin can do once it's trained on a broader range of more well-known artists. 

Combobulator is priced at $129 in DataMind's launch sale. Visit DataMind Audio's website to find out more.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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