Ina-GRM Spaces by Tommy Zai
Spaces by Ina-GRM is a fascinating three component audio processing plugin suite that enables users to greatly influence the manner by which multichannel (2 to 32) sound sources resonate and move through the sound field — freeing audio from the confines of two dimensionality and enabling 3D excitement. Each unique plugin (Spaces, SpaceFilter, and SpaceGrain) comes in all the common plugin forms and a Standalone application.
My current workflow and setup is not multichannel; however, I work extensively with the nuances of stereo signals. The interface of each plugin is well-organized and graphic, clearly illustrating the location and intensity of the audio sources as they travel through the sound field. I spent several hours noodling and enjoying each component. I took another users advice and played with the presets of each plugin. In all three cases, I was quickly impressed with how fast and easy it is to ascertain results that range from smooth and subtle to wild and unexpected. I then freely slid the sliders all over the place to see what kind of mess I could create. To my surprise, this multichannel effects trio proved useful for a simple, two-channel stereo setup. Along the way, I accidentally discovered some really cool effects. Note: *The Agitation feature helped add random variation.
1. Spaces allows users to control the audio movement by repositioning and redirecting the source in a multichannel space. This can be done freely, randomly, or via preset trajectories. The spread and distance parameters yielded fine adjustments. Manipulating the global doppler in real-time worked wonders on repetitive rhythm tracks — changing the apparent and/or perceived tone, measure by measure. Yet, I had the most fun adjusting the source controls (orientation, size, rotation, and aperture). I created a shimmering gate effect for my melodic tracks and an overall mix that was hypnotic — perfect for segments of my EDM and psychedelic vintage tracks. In addition to producing distinctive effects, this primary plugin of the Spaces suite could be used to fine-tune aural positioning of the channels in relation to one another, and the graphic interface really helps.
2. SpaceFilter allows users to divide a signal into four frequency bands and spatially manipulate and move them individually around the multichannel space. This provides much control over the depth and direction of the identified waves. I found the presets to be an audio and visual blast. Seeing the four frequency bands zipping, whizzing, and swirling around the sound field is amazing, and the graphic representation of the waves in the top portion of the interface provides an excellent reference that illustrates the differences between the bands, which may have different degrees of delay and feedback assigned to them. Separating frequency elements can be done in tempo, which creates a nice pulse to help drive a beat. The application for this plugin is vast, especially for dance genres. At the very least, adding resonances could add some much needed juice to dry, boring tracks.
3. SpaceGrain allows users to generate up to 100 grains for placement in a multichannel sound space. Of the three components, this one seems to be capable of the most destruction and deconstruction of the original sound source. The results are often like some sort of unusual delay whereby pieces of the signal are sent into oblivion, only to return at a random or pre-assigned point in time and space with a bit of grit. My initial experimentations mostly led to a big mess. Adding delay and feedback to the grains created additional chaos. But once I realized how to work the sliders, I was able to control the grains and make some beautiful noise. The duration and random duration sliders became my friend. They seemed to be the key to the degree of madness as well as the overall mix level, which (like most effects) can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of effect.
PROS (my favorite features)
• Easy to install and activate.
• Efficient, user-friendly interface.
• Window resizing.
• Responsive X/Y pad.
• Complete automation of positions and trajectories.
• Effects range from subtle to otherworldly.
• CPU Efficient with display illustrating usage.
• Midi Controllable.
• Innovative developer.
CONS (my least favorite features)
• iLok required. This might be a con for some and for others it might be a pro as it provides greater protection.
• Multichannel only. Limited use on mono audio files (SpaceFilter being an exception).
• I am hopeful future updates will include a more extensive library of presets.
• I have read that Spaces is also useful for those who have a multi-speaker diffusion network. I only have a simple stereo flat-response monitoring/mixing/mastering system.
Overall, this plugin trio enables lots of control over the spatial positioning of sound and the ability to shape it and steer the direction it flows. Programming with headphones is the way to go — very trippy and addictive. As with all Ina-GRM audio software, Spaces can be controlled by MIDI, which is an important feature for certain types of music. My experimentation with two channels (stereo) yielded impressive results that were either slight or severe. I can only imagine what Spaces could do with 8, 16, 24, or 32 channels! It would be fun to use these plugins with a 5.1 system. I’m sure the results would be exponentially greater and possibly mind-blowing. Two channel home studio users probably won’t get the most out these plugins; yet, they may provide enough power and surprises under the hood to justify an eccentric purchase. At the very least, I think it’s worth checking out.
Spaces provides a great deal of creative command over the width and direction of multichannel audio content as it flows through time and space. Therefore, I highly recommend this plugin suite to any eMusician, producer, film and game scorer, sound designer, etc., who works in multichannel and is looking to free their music from the limitations of an ordinary sound field. I also recommend this for DJs, eMusicians, etc, who work exclusively in two-channel stereo and want more control over positioning, need automated panning, band spatialization filtering, and/or some unique effects. Spaces is excellent for musical creation and post-production. It lives up to it’s name, SPACES, by delivering freedom, movement, distance, and directing sound. Tommy Zai gives Spaces multi thumbs up. Thank you, Ina-GRM, for developing such a unique and useful audio software package.