£20.00 plus VAT

‘SpaceMan is a sound designer’s dream… really dishes out chaotic tones. Essentially, what would happen if you built a future-music-logosynthesiser out of springs’ –
Future Music magazine

Strange and evocative spring-based oscillators

Three flavours of further contamination to add complexity and erratic movement to the sound – hear the springs scraped, tapped, brushed, blown on and otherwise abused!

Uneven, uncertain, chaotic tones a speciality 😀

66 factory patches plus Glitch Control to generate brand-new random sounds with a single click

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 2 customer ratings
(2 customer reviews)

spring-reverb-1-of-3 Spring reverb tanks have helped add a shimmery wash of shiny metallic ambience to electric and electronic sounds ever since someone had the genius idea of bolting a little tin spring inside a guitar amp and running the signal through it. Since that day, spring reverbs haven’t really evolved all that much – the biggest development in sophistication seems to have been, ‘Add more springs!’ – and their unnatural sound, slightly harsh overtones and tendency to go SPOING-OING-oing-oing-oing-oing when accidentally bumped soon made them the poor man’s choice when compared to plate reverbs, echo chambers and, eventually, digital machines from the likes of Lexicon.

Still, the sound of the spring reverb is indelibly grafted into our musical race-memory; it’s played an integral part in defining the guitar sounds of many a legendary rocker; and it’s found its way onto countless synth and keyboard tracks too, courtesy of that same reverb-in-an-amp route.

Nowadays, spring reverbs are a bit of a niche product. But we have a kind of indefensible soft spot for them. And our absolute top-notch fave has to be the Ekdahl Moisturizer – a spring reverb built to be abused, with its three springs all exposed so you can get at them, plus a multi-mode filter and LFO built right in. This thing isn’t designed to add tasteful hints of reverb to your tracks… it’s built for sound design and sonic mayhem, and it forms the core of SpaceMan.

SpaceMan is what would happen if you built a synthesiser out of springs. Seriously. Imagine if every note of your synth, instead of triggering an electronic oscillator, started oscillating a spring to a set pitch: that’s the core of SpaceMan. We used the same E-Bow guitar techniques we incorporated in Uproar only this time we used them in conjunction with the Moisturizer’s inbuilt filter to generate some erratic, wobbly, springy core waves. With around a minute’s worth of sampling per note, and randomised start points, these waves are wonderfully unpredictable and you dial them up using the Spring Tank Oscillation Level knob. The basic sound is of course heavily reverberant, metallic, uneven and, er, springy.

spring-reverb-3-of-3Then we turned to the Dark Side for a bit, using brushes, bows, fingernails, screwdrivers, rack bolts and cable ends to touch, jiggle, scrape and otherwise interfere with the three springs, while adjusting the filter to taste. This cruelty has also been looped and randomised and can be dialled up in three different flavours of ContaminationType 1 involves scrapes, brushes and sustained contact sounds; Type 2 covers taps, touches and momentary contact sounds; Type 3 explores breath sounds, feedback and tonal components. These can be engaged individually or in combination, and have their own level control.

Then there are some further synth-style elements ready to be roped in: Scale Noise from the lovely Korg 770 (we said we’d be using this a lot, remember?); a one-knob Harmonics generator which adds progressive amounts of harmonic-series overtones; a Sub-osc sine wave to beef up the sound; and a comprehensive set of Filter circuits including both a High-Pass filter and a Multi-mode resonant filter with two strengths of low-pass mode and one band-pass. Tie this to its dedicated LFO and you can get wonderful swoopy, swooshy drifts through the sound spectrum.

Separate Contact and Mute controls determine how much (if any) initial contact sound and note-off damping are heard; they simulate ‘playing’ the springs by tapping them and then stopping them manually. And rounding things off we have full Envelope control and the ever-popular Glitch Control to generate musically-intelligent random patches with a single mouse click. See how easy we made it? 😀

SpaceMan is intended for left-field atmospheric sound design, strange warbling rushes of reverberant noise, unique background textures, and synthesis with a very unusual sonic fingerprint. It sounds superb layered with conventional synths to add weirdness and complexity to staple sound; equally, it can bring colour and movement to a whole range of musical genres, including EDM, trance, soundtrack and ambient. Open the pod bay doors, HAL!

(All our Kontakt instruments require a full copy of Native Instruments Kontakt v4.2.3 or higher (including all versions of Kontakt 5). Kontakt Player is not supported: instruments will load, but will time out after 15 minutes. See the FAQ for further information.)

\\\”From Rhythmic Robot, the instrument that goes \\\’boing\\\’. I\\\’m trying to think who else would collect 38MB of samples of a 1920s laboratory tuning fork and make them into a Kontakt instrument, but the list is pretty short. In common with all the RR instruments I\\\’ve encountered so far, the sampling is clear, impeccable and 24‑bit; just what\\\’s needed to reproduce noisy, nasty technology from the dark ages! There\\\’s no installation as such; you unzip into the folder of your choice, point Kontakt in the right direction and you\\\’re away. Incidentally, as usual, it\\\’s the full version of Kontakt that\\\’s required; any version past 4.2.3 will do.

You\\\’re greeted by an interface rendered in simple, attractive graphics. There are just two panels, one of which holds Spark Gap\\\’s effects. Under the main panel\\\’s image of the sparking tuning fork, a mere eight knobs are offered for adjustment by mouse or MIDI. They consist of an ADSR envelope, twin filters and a level control for \\\’key off\\\’ samples. This innocent‑seeming knob introduces random sparks, hums and glitches whenever you release a note. With over 60 samples in total, key‑off adds a heck of a lot of character to the base fork tones that form the core of the instrument.

To better appreciate what a laboratory tuning fork is, I recommend a peruse of RR\\\’s web site and its typically entertaining tale of sampling this rare device. Instead of the pure tones usually required for tuning, the tetchy antique\\\’s efforts are constantly contaminated by the shaking of screws or the buzz of the spark gap as it arcs. This latter component proved so attractive that Spark Gap was chosen as the instrument name. When played polyphonically, the grumbling, not particularly house‑broken relic becomes strangely attractive. Using its Sine control, an untainted sine wave is introduced, which helps bind the samples into a more conventional instrument.

So what is Spark Gap good for? Clearly, there are relatively few points of control. The filters provide shaving tools for the upper and lower frequencies of the fork\\\’s output and the envelope holds no surprises either. Sonically, Spark Gap could pass for a broken electronic didgeridoo. Some of the random scratches bear a striking resemblance to my violin playing (at least in the effect they have on my wife). Or, with a suitably fast attack, the sine wave turned up and a little \\\’key off\\\’ sprinkled into the mix, you get a freaky electronic piano for your troubles. Wonky pads are an easy envelope tweak away too, especially if you use the filters creatively. Finally, if you lose the sine wave altogether, there\\\’s a source of edgy, fidgety atmospheres ideal for that reality show about gastric bands you got landed with.

Although you\\\’ll undoubtedly have a better reverb and delay in your DAW, those that are included fit Spark Gap\\\’s character well. For a final dash of sonic seasoning, you can process the output through the convolved impulse responses of a studio condenser microphone or a vintage‑style graphite mic.

Spark gap isn\\\’t hugely versatile but it does have a certain charm. I don\\\’t mind a one‑trick pony as long as it\\\’s a good trick; this one continues RR\\\’s honourable tradition of finding beauty in the old and the knackered. It costs a bit more than you\\\’d expect given its niche oddness, but that\\\’s my only criticism.\\\” – Sound on Sound magazine review.

2 reviews for SpaceMan

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Martin (verified owner)

    So, if you’re reading this you already know that RR is the place to come to for quirky, unusual, retro VSTs, and SpaceMan doesn’t disappoint.
    Upon installation you’re presented with an interface that looks right out of the Cold War, with a useful selection of clearly presented dials and switches, and none of those hidden sub-sub-sub-menus of other overly complex VSTs.

    The main ‘Panel’ has the usual suspects of base oscillator, adjustments, envelope functions, filters, etc., all of which explain themselves when you run the mouse over them, so no need to go hunting the manual to decipher any cryptic alphabet spaghetti. The most fun of these is the ‘contamination’ section that lets you get the original spring tank sound dirty, nasty, and downright characterful. There’s also a ‘glitch’ button which randomises everything, often creating something useful in and of itself, or made so with a little intelligent tweaking.

    Under the ‘Effects’ tab there’s a chorus, phaser, delay, rotary, reverb, and five cabinets to choose from, all of which some with a few dials for further tweaking.

    To get you started the SpaceMan comes with 66 presets plus a base ‘init’ preset, a goodly amount of presets that shows off the capabilities of the synth and also don’t overwhelm you with 1000s of so-similar presets.

    So how does it sound? Wonderful. It’s capable of both sharp punchy hits and also longer evolving sounds, all of them sounding to me like something I’d’ve listened to over a shortwave radio in the 1960s or 1970s. It’s a great instrument for lofi sounding tracks that sound analogue, the kind of thing the early pioneers of electronic music would have used. It works great as the main voice of a track, for characterful noises, or even for background ambiences.

    All in all, a great ‘zero day’ buy I’m totally happy with, and would cheerfully recommend to anyone who wants a retro synth that doesn’t sound like lots of other synths…but that’s why we’re here at RR in the first place, isn’t it?

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Robert (verified owner)

    If you have gone this far into RR’s website you too are the kind of computer musician who enjoys dressing up your tracks with burbles, clanks, squeaks and the like. It was amazing good fortune for me to have discovered these guys a few years ago. I must now possess over fifty of RR’s creations.

    So what does a spring-based instrument sound like? Weird. Very weird. Like many of the other inventions you can find in the laboratory, you won’t be banging on SpaceMan and saying, “Wow, this sounds just like Eric Clapton’s guitar on Layla” or the like. So how will I use it? I have no idea, but eventually these laboratory devices all end up on my tracks. It’s certainly capable of making unusual pitched instruments as well as those bumps in the night to spice up your tracks. And let’s admit it: All of us here love to jiggle with all the controls available. Subtlety or the lack thereof are all in your hands.

    In the future I am hoping that Rhythmic Robot makes an all-in-one steampunk instrument that wheezes, coughs, whines, bangs, hisses, whooshes, clunks and othewise sounds like something Eric Clapton, dressed as pirate in some past wooden, wire and watery world, would jam with. Or Jules Verne. Until then, SpaceMan will fill a part of that weird void in my music-making that mere Les Pauls and Teles just can’t fill.

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