YMCK releases Magical 8bit Plug 2, an updated version of its freeware chiptune VST plugin for Windows and macOS.
When our reader Christian H. emailed me about the Magical 8bit Plug update (thanks for the info, Christian!), it felt like a trip down memory lane. After all, YMCK’s Nintendo-inspired virtual instrument was one of the first free VST plugins I ever installed.
You see, I was crazy about chiptunes and 8-bit sounds back in the late 2000s, just as I was starting my musical journey. I wanted to record an entire album using only a drum kit, a guitar, and a chiptune synth for bass and leads. The album never happened, but I used Magical 8bit Plug in various projects, and it earned a special place in this bedroom producer’s heart.
So, this recent update brought a wave of nostalgia, and I was super excited to see what YMCK did to upgrade the magical noisemaker.
But before we get to that, here’s a short overview of the original, or dare I say vintage, version of Magical 8bit Plug.
In theory, it’s easy to make a chiptune synth. After all, it’s just an oscillator with a handful of basic waveforms (sine, saw, triangle, pulse) and an envelope. You could say it’s just a barebones synthesizer without all the extra bits.
But unlike most chiptune plugin developers back in the day, YMCK gave special attention to the waveform quality (or rather lack thereof). They took the extra effort to make the waveforms sound authentically lo-fi and chiptune-ish. In particular, Magical 8bit Plug’s triangle waveform and noise generator sounded lovely, almost exactly like the Nintendo sound chip.
The plugin had some drawbacks, though. It featured a very basic GUI and didn’t offer portamento, an essential ingredient of chiptune-style leads.
And that’s where Magical 8bit Plug 2 steps in. The new edition includes everything that was great about the original while introducing a new user interface, portamento, a 1-bit noise generator, and, wait for it…
… an arpeggiator!
Now that’s something I never expected to see in Magical 8bit Plug 2, and it’s a game-changing feature. You can use it to build-pseudo chords, aka arps, one of the defining chiptune musical components.
A fast, minor chord arp is the very essence of 8-bit music if you ask me.
Magical 8bit Plug 2 makes generating those sounds super easy. Set the polyphony to 1, choose one of the available arpeggiator modes, and set the speed interval to the desired value. Done! Play several keys at the same time on your keyboard, and you’ll hear the sweet song of hundreds of short notes recreating your chord like it’s 1985.
If you’re not into 8-bit synths, you’re probably wondering what the hell I am rambling about at this point. But I’m sure that at least a few readers will share my excitement over this update.
Magical 8bit Plug 2 is available in 64-bit VST2, VST3, and AU plugin formats for Windows and macOS. Want to go full retro? You can still download the original version from the product page linked below.
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