Press Release

Release Date: 26 September 1998

CONTACT: Carla Scaletti / +1-217-355-6273 / Email:
Symbolic Sound Corporation / PO Box 2549 / Champaign IL 61825-2549 / USA
PRODUCT INFO: 1-800-972-1749 / /

New Hardware for Kyma Sound Design Workstation Delivers 500% to 800% More Processing Power at a 25% Lower Price

Symbolic Sound Announces the Capybara-320: a 28-Processor Sound Computation Engine Based on the New Motorola 80 MHz DSP-56309

September 26, 1998, Champaign, IL - Symbolic Sound Corporation announces the Capybara-320 Sound Computation Engine, a multi-processor hardware accelerator for the award-winning Kyma software sound design environment. Based on the new Motorola DSP-56309 chip running at 80 MHz, the Capybara 320 base unit is now available for US$3300 and provides a minimum of four DSPs (expandable to 28) with multi-channel I/O, synchronization to external clocks, and 96 MB of sample RAM (expandable to 672 Mb) in a low-noise, rack-mountable package connected to a desktop or laptop Macintosh or Windows PC.

This new hardware gives you 5 to 8 times more real time processing power than was previously possible. That translates into more polyphony, higher sampling rates, more I/O channels, denser textures, and more computationally intensive algorithms such as full-blown spectral analysis and additive resynthesis, all performed in real time.

Sound designers for music, games, film, and advertising have been using the Kyma software environment (commercially available since 1991) to design unique sound synthesis and processing algorithms that they can then fine-tune or perform in real time using the Capybara hardware accelerator (without having to rely upon the memory or processing resources of the host computer for sound generation.)

Hardware Specifications

Basic Configuration
Expansion Card
Inputs and Outputs
External Synchronization
Interface options

Requires only a single slot on your host computer (all 12 expansion slots are on the Capybara itself)


To give some idea of the new hardware's capabilities:

You can use a 66-band vocoder in real time on a basic system. On a fully loaded system, you can create a 600-band real time vocoder.

On a basic system, you can perform additive synthesis with 192 sine wave partials, each sine having its own independent frequency and amplitude envelope with any number of breakpoints in it. On a fully loaded system, you can perform real-time additive synthesis with 1743 partials.

You can create a granular synthesis cloud with 93 simultaneous grains on a basic system. A fully loaded system can generate clouds of 837 simultaneous grains.

You can use 60 voices of samples on a basic system, and a fully loaded system gives you 545 voices.

Upgrade Paths

Current Kyma users can choose to exchange their Capybara-66 expansion cards for a substantial discount on new Capybara-320 expansion cards (each one 5 times more powerful than one of the current Capybara-66 expansion cards) that can be plugged into their existing motherboards. Alternatively, they can opt to trade in the entire system for a discount on a new Capybara-320 motherboad with "four-on-the-floor" (four DSPs right on the motherboard) plus multichannel I/O, external synchronization inputs, and up to 12 expansion cards (with 2 DSPs and 48 MB on each).

Pricing & Availability

The price for a new Capybara-320 base unit is US $3300 (includes a 4-processor unit with 4 channels of analog and digital I/O, and external sync inputs and outputs, the Kyma software environment, and your choice of PCI, PC(MCIA), ISA, or NuBUS interface cards). Up to 12 expansion cards can be added to the base unit, each of which provides two more DSPs and 48 MB of additional sample RAM for $595. A four channel I/O upgrade is available for $995.

For technical questions or ordering information, please contact Symbolic Sound:

Symbolic Sound Corporation / PO Box 2549 / Champaign IL 61825-2549 / USA
TEL: +217-355-6273 FAX: +1-217-355-6562 EMAIL:

Kyma at work in the real world

Kyma and the Capybara have been in use and in a continual process of evolution and improvement since the very first version of Kyma was written in 1986. Here are just a few examples of Kyma at work in the real world:

Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Composer Stephen James Taylor used Kyma for granular sample synthesis and microtonal tuning to build tension in his score for this current Warner Brothers film.

Sound designer Francois Blaignan at Media Venture used Kyma for scary sounds and processed voices in a national ad campaign for Blockbuster Video this summer, and he used Kyma to morph from crickets to birds in a new CGI ad for Hollywood Gum directed by Tim Burton. Blaignan has also used Kyma to process the voice of the BORG for one of the Star Trek films and the voice of the cyber villain in Virtuosity.

Atom Heart has used Kyma for freeze-framing and synthesis on several of his most recent albums including Schnittstelle and Naturalist.

The Away Team are using Kyma for granulating voices, vocoding, and also more standard kinds of signal processing (like guitar distortion and reverb) for their Letters from Subspace album-in-progress.

Pete Johnston, of the Tape Gallery in London, has used Kyma to produce eerily realistic audio morphs in advertisments for the EuroStar, Smirnoff, Malibu, ESSO, and Walkers Crisps.

Mike Radentz at Technisonic in St. Louis used Kyma to morph from screams to pig squeals in the bumpers and opening music for a weekly television program covering motorsports for the Fox Midwest Cable Sports network, and to create an ethereal morph from women's choir to the sound of the wind in a beautifully-shot ad for Phillips.

Greg Hunter (formerly sound engineer for The Orb) used Kyma for granular chopping and ringing vocoders on Artificial Dream, a track from Alien Soap Opera's latest album.

Marcus Satellite used Kyma on his debut album, From On High, for microtonal tunings, distortion, sound collages, and simulated Devil Fish filters.

Diane Thome, winner of the 1998 commission award from the International Computer Music Association, used Kyma to produce her composition, to be premiered at a dance concert on 3 October 1998 at the International Computer Music Conference in Ann Arbor Michigan.

The graphical depiction of signal flow supported by extensive tutorials and the breadth techniques available as modules within the environment, also make Kyma ideal for teaching sound synthesis and processing techniques to the next generation of musicians and sound designers. Kyma is being used in hundreds of music and engineering courses in conservatories and universities all over the world.

This is just a small sampling of what people are doing with Kyma; there are many others (visit the Symbolic Sound website for more stories on who is using Kyma and what they are producing with it).

Kyma Background

Winner of an Electronic Musician magazine Editors Choice Award for 1998 and featured in the March 98 Wall Street Journal Entertainment Technology insert, Kyma is modular, software-based audio synthesis and processing accelerated by DSP hardware. Sound designers use a graphical signal flow editor on the screen of either a Macintosh or PC to specify how to synthesize and process the sound. The signal flow diagram is turned into a program for the multiple-DSP Capybara hardware (which connects to the host computer via PCI, NuBus, ISA, or, for laptops, a PC card).

Kyma provides modules for granular synthesis, sample granulation, analog-style synthesis and sequencing, cross-synthesis, alternate tunings, true spectral morphing (not to be confused with crossfading), highly intelligible vocoding, live spectral analysis & resynthesis, cross-synthesis, additive synthesis (synthetic spectra or spectra from analysis), Shepard's tones (the endlessly rising glissando illusion), and more (For additional information see

To give some idea of what reviewers are saying about Kyma 4.5, here are some quotes taken from recent reviews:

The world's finest sound-design tool

Dennis Miller, Electronic Musician 1/98

If you're a professional who needs to do original and distinctive work, Kyma is definitely for you.

Joel Chadabe, Keyboard 8/98

...if your career rises or falls on your ability to truly push the sonic envelope, Kyma could easily end up being the most cost-effective- and fun- instrument in your studio.

Craig Anderton, EQ 10/98

..les limites de Kyma sont vraiment celles de votre imagination!

Christian Braut, Home Studio Recording 6/98

Ein geniales Produkt für alle Klangtüftler, di handelsübliche Sounds mehr als satt haben und ein Synthesizer, der mit Sicherheit auch nach der Jahrtausendwende noch nicht veraltet ist.

Thomas Alker KEYS 1/97

To request complete reprints of Kyma reviews from Keyboard, EQ, and Electronic Musician, please contact Symbolic Sound.

More Background on the Motorola 56309

Announced in January of this year, the 80 MHz 56309 DSP from Motorola is the latest in the 56000 series of DSPs long favored by professional audio hardware manufacturers--including Digidesign, TC Electronics, Eventide, Peavey, Event, and others.

Besides running at the faster clock speed of 80 MHz, the 56309 executes an instruction on each cycle, has a normalize instruction, and can do a multiply and accumulate in one instruction. It does 24-bit arithmetic and has a 56-bit accumulator, providing a signal-to-noise ratio of 336 dB.

Assuming the peak parallelism of a multiply, an add, and three on-chip memory fetches per instruction, at the 80 MHz clock rate, the 56309 provides an effective clock rate of 5 * 80 = 400 MHz. Thus, a fully-loaded Capybara-320 with 28 processors provides an effective clock speed of 28 * 400 = 11,200 or 11.2 Gigahertz devoted exclusively to generating and processing audio.

If you prefer to think in terms of operations per second, assuming a peak parallelism of a multiply and an add on each instruction, the 56309 can reach 2 * 80 = 160 million operations per second. Multiply that by 28 processors and you get 4.48 Giga operations per second--that's 4.48 billion operations per second.

Who Uses Kyma?

Kyma is being used in live performances and by sound designers in music, advertising, film, computer games, television, toys, radio, theatre and other immersive environments to design and perform custom sounds that would be difficult or impossible to obtain in any other way.

Symbolic Sound

The Symbolic Sound Corporation designs, produces, and markets hardware and software for digital audio. The first Kyma system was delivered in January 1991, and since that time, there have been six major software upgrades, three hardware upgrades and ports from the original 680xx Macintosh platform to Windows machines, PowerMacs and to laptop PCs and Macintoshes. A minor software upgrade is shipping with the new hardware, and a seventh major software upgrade, Kyma version 5, is scheduled to for release in 1999.


The Capybara-320 makes Kyma 5 to 8 times more powerful while lowering the cost of admission by 25%.

For additional information
Contact Symbolic Sound Corporation
Toll free: 1-800-972-1749 (US)
Voice: +1-217-355-6273
Fax: +1-217-355-6562