For our Bitwig spring update, we focused on greater control and sculpting possibilities for all sounds, whether coloring audio sources or reinterpreting note messages in new and adventurous ways.
Today's update looks at Bitwig’s modular concept thru a slightly different lens.
Modularity means many things, but its main advantages is to offer the producer the right tool at the right time. Just as instruments are intended to offer expression without distraction, Polymer is a new instrument borne of that model. And along with the other updates, the aim is to extend and focus the musician's workflow when doing sound design, editing, and offering a world of wavetable. Welcome to Bitwig Studio 3.3.
Watch the announcement video here:
New Features Overvie
Polymer, a Hybrid Modular Synthesizer
Polymer starts simple: pick an oscillator, a filter, and an envelope generator. Swapping out Grid modules within a dedicated synthesizer is both fast and quick, helping craft production-worthy sounds from minimal controls immediately.
Beside the three modules are a streamlined set of support parameters, such as a Filter Envelope Generator [FEG] that can also be freely routed to other parameters; a switchable Sub oscillator and Noise generator, which can either stay loud or be shaped by the FEG; a High-pass filter with variable slope; and gain, pan, and velocity sensitivity controls for each voice. And from this deceptively small package, a bouquet of synthesis is available:
- Phase distortion, using any of the five algorithms in the Phase-1 oscillator (with optional Formant injection); or try other morphing shapes with either Sine or Triangle and their Skew and Fold parameters
- Phase modulation [PM] (similar to frequency modulation [FM]), available in all seven oscillators by opening the purple phase modulation attenuator knob, which uses the Sub oscillator component as modulator; or produce self-modulation with Feedbackin the Phase-1 oscillator
- Hard sync, available in all seven oscillators by using the Sub component as sync master, connected by clicking the ↑Sub toggle; or by using
- Pulse width modulation [PWM], by using the Pulse oscillator and controlling its pulse width with either of the two built-in envelopes, or any of Bitwig’s 36 modulator devices
- Wavetable, by modulating the Index of any file loading with the new Wavetableoscillator (more on that below)
- Unison approaches, ranging from simple stereo detune of any primary oscillator or the Sub; the Swarm oscillator’s stack of detunes waves; or the special unison modes built into Wavetable (again, more info below); or applying Bitwig Studio’s Voice Stacking technology to Polymer, allowing layering of any instrument and custom spread of any parameters (not just pitch)
- Subtractive by chasing any oscillator with one of five filters, including: both Sallen-Key and ladder style low-pass options (Low-pass SK and Low-pass LD); a state-variable filter (SVF) that includes high-pass, band-pass, and extreme resonance; the hybrid XP, inspired by Mr Oberheim and with 15 configurations; or a Comb filter, with resonance set in milliseconds and other-worldly tones
Each of these possibilities is between one and three clicks — and they are not exclusive. By placing Grid modules into a direct interface like Polymer, the trade is fewer overall parameters for more (and quicker) results.
But to duplicate a module, add a new idea, or just rewire the system, Polymer can also be converted to Poly Grid for complete control. Another advantage of modules, modulators, and FX devices that are truly members of one body.
New Wavetable Module
The Wavetable module brings another method of synthesis to Bitwig. True to The Grid, this oscillator can be controlled by stereo control signals, accessing different parts of a wavetable at once. And it offers three specially designed unison modes for making a small universe out of each note played:
- Fat is big, creating a flat pile of all detuned voices.
- Focused is targeted, keeping in-tune voices near the center and louder.
- Complex is magic, producing polyrhythms between voices (and providing smoother retriggering).
Wavetable is accessible both in The Grid and Polymer, using a visual browser to preview all files, side by side. Currently we include 120+ wavetables in five categories: real-world Acoustic instruments, various Analog and Digital synthesis techniques, recursive Fractal spectra, and various series of Harmonics. And for browsing this library are a trio of Polymer presets that are plucked (Wavetable Plucky), step sequenced (Wavetable Steppy), and read with LFOs (Wavetable Wavy).
Plus any WT file can be read directly, and Serum- and WaveEdit-compatible WAV files, etc., can be imported.
Two New Modulators
A couple new modulators made sense with this update’s feature set:
- Vibrato is an LFO tuned for this musical purpose. Since Polymer keeps the focus on sound design, having an LFO automatically controlled by mod wheel saves another five clicks. Or switch it to Pressure for full MPE use.
- Ramp takes the set time to go up (or down), which is nice when reading thru wavetables. Its other parameters are curve, total range, and looping, which changes this simple envelope into a per-note sequencer of sorts.
Updated Devices and Additions to The Grid
Besides adding new devices and modules, we’ve also added some new functionality to existing ones:
- Arpeggiator can sequence pitches, a Skip Step option is a new way to evolve those lines. A nice touch for mixing things up when using the pitch Transposition sliders to create melodies or bass lines.
- As Polymer makes use of The Grid, it was a good time to add a Sub oscillator, a one-channel Pan knob, Octaver for octave offsets, and Velo Mult for velocity sensitivity.
- A few other new Grid modules have appeared, including a Ratio control for working with multiple oscillators, Gain In and Pan In to receive note expressions from Bitwig’s sequencer, and Ø Split for taking a single phase signal and cleanly dividing it.
- Because Wavetable is uniquely interesting in stereo, five Grid modules (Bend [Level] and Ø Bend, Ø Reverse, Ø Shift, and Ø Skew [Phase]) gained stereo processing options.
- And Micro-pitch got a new EDO mode, dividing any musical interval into a set number of pieces. Some presets are included with the beta, including some existing presets that made more sense this way (Bohlen–Pierce 13 ET and Quarter-tone ET, for example), as well as some new examples (like Wendy Carlos’s Alpha, Beta, and Gamma scales).
Editing, Workflow and Then Some
Free Content Scaling. Whatever is selected in the timeline can now be stretched directly. Just select a bunch of notes, and then ALT-drag the right-hand boundary to scale them relative to the left edge (or vice versa). Same with audio events or clips or any time selection. Or type in a percentage with the Scale… command for precision.
Project Sections Page. The Project Panel has gained a new Sections page, which lists all Arranger cue markers and Launcher scenes side-by-side. So now there's a reserved space for scenes and markers, even when a huge mixer, Grid patch, or whatever takes over the screen.
Preserve Your Transients. Always a goal of Bitwig Studio, version 3.3 extends this thinking to fades, allowing you to fade in from where your audio starts or to go back before it begins, automatically extending the clip and keeping the sound as edited. And adjusting crossfades, sliding edit boundaries, and adjusting gain only take one click now with improved gestures.
Modulation Enhancements. While modulators could always control each other, any single modulation routing can now be scaled by a modulator. And each modulation routing now has various curves, either for shaping the signal or making it responsive across only part of a knob range. So positive knob values (past 12 o’clock) might change one parameter, while negative values only change a different parameters, and so on.
The Bitwig Studio 3.3 release is planned for Q4. It is a free upgrade to everyone with an active Upgrade Plan for Bitwig Studio. Polymer and the new modulators (Vibrato and Ramp) are also part of Bitwig Studio 16-Track. View the full Bitwig feature comparison chart here.
The Bitwig Studio 3.3 Beta is available for download as of today. Everyone with an active Bitwig Studio upgrade plan has access and is invited to download the installer from their account.