Aphex Twin collaborates with UK startup on microtuning synth plug-in

ODDSound’s MTS-ESP system allows for the use of non-standard tuning.

Aphex Twin – real name Richard D. James – has collaborated with UK-based tech startup ODDSound on a new plug-in and software suite that lets users utilise non-standard tuning. 

MTS-ESP acts as a master tuning device for compatible synths, samplers and effects in a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, environment. The ODDSound website lists Audio Damage, Expert Sleepers, Xfer Records, TAL, Audiorealism and more as compatible software, with more companies joining weekly.

MTS–ESP was born after developers Damon Hancock and Dave Gamble (of UK audio brand DMGAudio) went looking for a way to showcase the world beyond 12 TET, aka 12 Tones of Equal Temperament, which is the standard system used when tuning a piano. ODDSound considers this concept, which has long been the norm within western music, to be a constraint. “Pop hits often have similar melodies,” says the company, “leading to the all-too-common lawsuit and our ears have grown so accustomed to this single tuning we can find anything else discomforting (something TV and film composers have leveraged for decades now).”

When Aphex Twin joined the project, he showed the pair his vintage Rhodes Chroma synth with custom firmware. He demonstrated how he could author new tunings by ear and then transfer them to other instruments. These ideas were then “consumed into the project” says ODDSound, with producer and coder Oli Cash also joining the team. 

The MTS–ESP system features a selection of tools. There’s MTS–ESP Mini, a free version of the software. This allows users to import .scl, .kbm and .tun tuning and mapping files, retune all connected MTS-ESP client plug-ins with the selected tuning, and includes a bypass button to return to 12 TET “instantly”. Meanwhile, the full version lets users create new tuning systems (manually and algorithmically), automate tuning changes across all plug-ins and MIDI devices, visualise and compare tuning systems, convert compositions from one tuning system to another and more. MTS–ESP can also be used for tuning with the virtual Eurorack modular synth VCVRack, plus the visual programming environment Max/MSP, via free modules provided by ODDSound.

“You now have 63,050,394,783,186,944-128 more frequencies to play with,” says Aphex Twin in the press statement. 

The full version is priced at £80, with a 30-day trial available. Find out more here and check out a new Aphex Twin GIF below.