Press Release

Release Date: 24 September 1999

CONTACT: Carla Scaletti / +1-217-355-6273 / Email:
Symbolic Sound Corporation / PO Box 2530 / Champaign IL 61825-2530 / USA

Kyma.5 Preview – "Recombinant Sound"

Symbolic Sound Unveils New Version of Kyma Sound Design Software, Featuring a New Graphic User Interface Plus Additional Tools for Sound Design, Sampling, Synthesis, and Live Effects

September 1999 Champaign, IL - Symbolic Sound Corporation will be demonstrating a major new release of the award-winning Kyma sound design software – Kyma.5 – at the Audio Engineering Society's 107th Convention in New York City from the 24th through the 27th of September 1999 at the Javits Convention Center booth 1356.

According to an anonymous source at Symbolic Sound, "We're calling it 'recombinant sound' because Kyma goes beyond the traditional sampling, layering and pitching-up or down that have defined sound design in the past. In Kyma, sound designers can actually get in and cross-modulate the parameters of one sample with another. By combining characteristics of one sound with those of another, you can create sounds that have never been heard before – it's like splicing a string of DNA from a cat onto the DNA of a dolphin to create a furry land-dwelling lap dolphin – but doing it all in sound."

New Features

Kyma.5 provides a new, high-level Graphic User Interface between the Capybara sound computation engine and the user, making it easier for beginning Kyma users to do complex sound design right out of the box and streamlining the entire sound design process for experienced Kyma users.

New features include:

Virtual Control Surface – Kyma users can design their own virtual devices and custom virtual control surfaces without having to write a single line of code. Kyma does an initial layout for you automatically. If you'd like to make changes, you can do it by graphically adjusting the positions, ranges, names, sizes, colors and types of widgets – no programming required.

Hardware Control Surface – Kyma.5 includes software support for the Motor Mix™ worksurface from CM Labs – turning it into an integrated MIDI controller for Kyma. When you play a sound in Kyma.5, the sound's parameters are automatically mapped to MIDI faders on the Motor Mix for you. Not only that, but each parameter name is displayed on the Motor Mix's LCD scribble strip just above its MIDI fader. If you've saved a preset for that sound, the motorized faders on the Motor Mix automatically jump to those preset positions as soon as you play the sound.

Hot Sound Library – Locate, get info on, play, and even test combinations of all the sound-related files on your disk using the new Hot Sound Library. You can try out different effects and combinations right in the file list without even opening an edit window. Kyma comes with over 400 examples in its sound library, but even more interestingly, you can add to the sound library, saving either a finished sound or the process by which you arrived at a great sound.

Preset Lists – Every Kyma Sound now comes with its own list of presets that you can modify or extend. Instantaneously switch between presets by tapping a switch on the Motor Mix or selecting a new preset from a menu.

Rolling the Dice – Sometimes the quickest way to explore the possibilities of a synthesis or processing algorithm is to step through some random parameter settings. Rolling the dice can be an efficient way to stumble upon parameter combinations you might never have tried on your own and to discover new synthesis and effects settings that have never been heard before.

Timeline – A new timeline window lets you graphically mix and sequence your sounds in time. Control the sound parameters live from MIDI, record your fader moves, or simply draw the control in the editor. Live and automated controls can be slaved to one another, scaled, inverted, offset and otherwise transformed. Kyma's timeline is different from a MIDI sequencer or a DAW in that each bar in the Kyma timeline represents a synthesis or processing algorithm – not a MIDI sequence or disk track. It's as if a new synthesizer or effects box would appear in your studio each time a new bar starts up.

Drag & Drop Effects – If you want to apply an effect to one of the sounds in your timeline, just drag the effect's icon into the timeline and drop it onto the sound you want to process. No editing required.

Multichannel Panning – Assign sounds or effects to specific channels or specify the location of a virtual sound source in space. Do live panning and spatialization with up to eight channels using MIDI continuous controllers.

Conveniences – Conveniences like fly-by help, color-coding of sound sources, sound modifiers, control signals in the signal flow editor, as well as other improvements to the user interface add to the general sense of the system's responsiveness and intuitiveness.

Optimizations – Numerous software optimizations have resulted in more efficient use of the DSPs and memory – meaning that Kyma users will be able to squeeze even more realtime sound out of their Kyma systems using the new Kyma.5 software.

Real world applications

Kyma is being used for sound design in film, advertising, live and recorded music. Listen for Kyma in these recent projects:

and many others. (For up-to-the minute Kyma user news, visit the Eighth Nerve online newsletter.)


Winner of an Electronic Musician magazine Editors' Choice Award for 1998 and featured in the March 1998 Wall Street Journal Entertainment Technology insert, Kyma is a modular, software-based audio synthesis and processing environment 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

The Capybara-320 Sound Computation Engine is a multi-processor hardware accelerator for the Kyma software sound design environment. The Capybara 320 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.

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


To give some idea of the hardware's capabilities:

You can use a 75-band vocoder in real time on a basic system. On a fully loaded system, you can create a 675-band real time vocoder.

On a basic system, you can perform additive synthesis with 200 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 1856 partials.

You can create a granulated sample cloud with 108 simultaneous grains on a basic system. A fully loaded system can generate samples clouds of 972 simultaneous grains.

You can use 70 voices of samples on a basic system, and a fully loaded system gives you 640 voices.

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 seven major software upgrades, three hardware upgrades and ports from the original 680xx Macintosh platform to Windows machines, PowerMacs and to laptop PCs and Macintoshes.


In Kyma.5 "Recombinant Sound", you can create "new audio life forms" with greater ease and efficiency than ever before.

For additional information: Symbolic Sound Corporation / P.O. Box 2530 / Champaign IL 61825-2530 / USA
Voice: +1-217-355-6273 Fax: +1-217-355-6562 Toll free in the US: 1-800-972-1749
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